Energy Pipeline Review
The Globe and Mail publishes an essay by Alberta author Chris Turner, author of The Leap: How to Survive and Thrive in the Sustainable Economy.
The essay appears, on the surface, to be an even handed look at the Northern Gateway Pipeline, balancing the environmental concerns with the economy.
In the end, however, Turner sides with where he lives, the province of Alberta, and his compromise could be the destruction of an area that is a thousand or so kilometres from his home.
There’s a more recent Canadian tradition, though – the one that celebrates moderation, fair play, stewardship and compromise. It gave rise to the national parks, land-claims tribunals, Nunavut, Greenpeace and the Montreal Protocol. It argues that Canada can do more with its natural abundance than extract, export and exhaust it at maximum speed. When Enbridge touts its pipeline-safety measures and marine stewardship – the double-hulled boats, the master mariners tugging the tankers carefully past Great Bear’s salmon streams – it is sincerely attempting to participate in that vision.
Yet sincerity is not the same as authenticity. Avoiding an oil spill is not a substitute for reducing greenhouse gases. The conversation has skipped ahead a generation while Canada slept. Catching up could begin with the simple agreement that the wild land of the spirit bear is no place for pipelines – but also that there will probably be a place for pipelines, at least for the near term. But that would be just the start of an honest discussion of Canada’s uncharted energy future.
For the long term health of the planet, reducing greenhouse gases is vital for the preservation of our current civilization.
For Turner, in the end, the old argument prevails, what is good for Albertans is good for the rest of the country, Alberta=Canada.
There is little doubt that the current management of Enbridge and Northern Gateway is sincere in their efforts, or as sincere as an energy company can be. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that subsequent management will care as much after the approvals are signed and sealed and the pipeline is built.
Apart from those who may actually work for Enbridge if there is an oil spill in the future, Albertans will be able to drive into the wilderness and enjoy the Rockies while, if there is a spill, the salmon, halibut, seals, whales, eagles, gulls, grizzlies, black and kermode bears, not to mention the residents of the northwest First Nations who have been here for thousands of years and the relatively recent non-aboriginal residents will be left to clean up the mess and pay for that cleanup, while Alberta continues to prosper.