This Blog Entry is part of the Tar Sands Reporting Project special report See the full report

Alberta's oilsands pipelines promise massive non-stop brand-Canada carbon spills

Each proposed tar sands pipeline, like Enbridge's Northern Gateway, requires a massive new climate pollution spill to go with it. The size of any one of these new CO2 spills far exceeds all of BC's current emissions.  These pipelines literally can't function without these CO2 spills starting and continuing for decades. They are part of the deal. And those deals are starting to lock Canadians into a lose-lose future.

Corporations like Enbridge, Kinder Morgan and TransCanada know that they are proposing projects that demand massive CO2 spills -- that can't be stopped -- for them to make their money back and to profit from it. The scale of the CO2 pollution required for these projects dwarfs anything else in Canada's economy. Yet despite locking us in to huge risks, neither our governments nor the corporations are even talking about it.

For example, the required CO2 spill for either Northern Gateway or Keystone XL pipelines runs up to 175 million tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2) per pipeline per year. Either pipeline would require a new on-going spill larger than the combined emissions from:

  • Saskatchewan (45 MtCO2)
  • British Columbia (44)
  • Nova Scotia (19)
  • New Brunswick (17)
  • Manitoba (11)
  • Newfoundland & Labrador (8)
  • PEI (1)
  • Northwest Territories (1)
  • Nunavut (0.5)
  • and Yukon (0.5)  

Kinder Morgan's proposed new Transmountain tar sands pipeline to Vancouver's harbour will require a continuous multi-decade commitment to spill up to 75 MtCO2 per year. That is more than either the provinces of BC or Quebec (63 MtCO2) emit. Both provinces have pledged to cut emissions dramatically. But this one pipeline would wipe out any possible CO2 savings the people of BC or Quebec could ever make in their efforts to prevent dangerous climate change.

Building a lose-lose future

Agreeing to build these pipelines will paint Canadians into a lose-lose corner -- both morally and economically -- as the climate crisis grows more extreme. Once built we are left with a choice to either continue these gigantic CO2 spills unabated for decades or to strand billions of dollars in capital assets.

Each pipeline is effectively inflating a multi-billion dollar carbon bubble directly in the path of Canadians ability to slow or halt global warming. It places the economic interests of powerful multi-national corporations in direct conflict with Canadians desires to build a climate-sustainable economy. Do we really need even more obstacles in our way to preserving a safe climate for our kids?

The International Energy Agency (IEA), one of the world's most authoritative sources on energy markets, recently calculated that humanity already has so much existing fossil fuel infrastructure that we are very close to being "locked in" into dangerous climate changes beyond 2 C of warming. Continuing to pile on more fossil fuel infrastructure, like these "must-spill-massive- CO2-for-decades" pipelines, is forcing Canadians and humanity to have to make bitter lose-lose decisions. Either:

A ) Suffer the ravages of a dangerous climate.
As the IEA put it: "The world is perfectly on track for a six-degree Celsius increase in temperature. Everybody, even the schoolchildren, knows this is a catastrophe for all of us,"  

… or …

B ) Strand capital assets and destroy value.
As Mark Jaccard, a professor at Simon Fraser University and lead author for sustainable energy policy in the coming Global Energy Assessment wrote: "we would have to blow up our factories, electricity plants and vehicles" to avoid dangerous climate impacts.

Up the down staircase

It is not just energy experts and climate scientists that are worried.

More in Climate Snapshot

"Carbon tsunami" lead by Enbridge Northern Gateway takes aim at BC

A flood of mega-carbon projects threaten to quickly turn British Columbia into one of the world's dirtiest economies.

Car Carbon series: cool new animation, plus the jaw-dropping impact it left out

What weighs sixteen billion pounds yet hides in plain sight?
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What is the other alternative? Haul a million loads of crude down to the gulf of Mexico or the BC coast with diesel trucks pumping millions of tons of toxic exhaust into our atmosphere. Trucks having accidents all along the way and spilling crude all over the place. Is this the enviromentalists way of moving crude? So many people don't want the pipeline, they talk and protest without offering up any other solutions to moving crude. The world demand for crude will never stop until we are out of crude. There-fore we need a way to move it.

Good article...

Good article, except for the euphemism. They're Tar Sands--and they’re ours. But we Canadians are not getting much value for our natural resources and assets.  We used to, back in 1951 when corporations were still Canadian-owned. When I was a kid, the corporations contributed to all town sports, schools, hospitals and roads.  They subsidized housing.  Today’s foreign corporatists just take and take, then fake bankruptcy and run (i.e. the Lapointe Partners).

 Today, Canadians hardly own any enterprises, yet we pay the taxes.  Foreign-owned corporations don't even pay municipal taxes.  The affected towns have resorted to overtaxing their citizens to compensate for that corporate welching. Still, the corporate pollution continues to poison anyone in its airflow or waterflow or nuclear power circle.  The taxpayers still breathe it and die.  Secondary industries suffer -- like fishing-- because of that effluent. Even when the industries shut down for good, related disasters continue,but now the locals have no income and no extended health benefits.  Moving is expensive and they won’t get much for their now de-valued homes.

  Even our BC Hydro is pretty much operated by our lovely neighbours to the south and has blackmailed us into accepting more radiation in our homes and ever higher bills.  Meanwhile, own government gives away our waterways to foreigners who are allowed to dam them and sell hydro back to our own hydro, at inflated rates! I've been informed that people in Seattle pay less for their hydro then we do in BC.  It was the same in Wacky Bennett's day.  We flooded all that land for nothing.

 We own no department stores anymore.  Everything is made somewhere else--things that we used to make ourselves, only we made them better. A toaster used to last 30 years.  A fridge lasted darn near a lifetime. Our natural resources are taken by ship to Asia, using an enormous amount of fuel. There, they are made by virtual slaves into something else that we used to make ourselves, only better.  Then these goods are shipped back, using even more fuel, for us to buy them here.  How wasteful!  And people wonder where our jobs have gone. 

 Hell, we don't even know the truth anymore.  Our textbooks are mostly made in the States and the knowledge-base of our graduates since 1964 had been nothing short of deplorable.  They know zilch about Canada and even many teachers couldn't find Winnipeg on a map, never mind Ottawa.  The CBC has been gutted and gagged, and so we've been lied to for years by the corporate media. Worse, our labour leaders have fallen under the spell of Friedman’s economics and believe that profits can be “created” out of thin air, instead of taken from the lives of other speices, the environment and other people’s wages, health and future.  The prevailing BS is so bad, that I don't believe the official versions of anything, from the moonwalk in '68 to how those 3 towers imploded--only two of them with a plane in them.

 Do we even have democracy in our country, when Oil Barons, Monsanto, Big Pharmaceuticals, Agribiz, Big Healthuncare, and other international cartels have so much money, they could afford to bribe every single politician?

And they must have, because the politicians sure as heck aren't working for us, the people.


Thank you Mr. Saxifrage and The Tyee

for that mind rattling journalism.  Our federal government is run by a pack of no-brainers who are fond of making money and pleasing their bankers. We will remember Harper et al as the crew that kept Canada running in the race to the bottom.

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Athabasca tar sands, photographed by Andrew S. Wright

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