Welcome to the 21st Century
On January 21, Mayor Denis Coderre, speaking in the name of the 82 municipalities of Montreal ‘s Urban Community said “NO” to TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline. True, he has no legal authority to block the pipeline. However, his moral leadership expressed the social consensus of its 3.9 millions citizens. And the other half of the population of Quebec also agrees with his analysis that Energy East offers few economic advantages, but unacceptable environmental threats. This project failed to meet the criteria of a thorough analysis.
In Western Canada, there is great indignation about this political stance. Premier Brad Wall says that Mr. Coderre can’t say anything about the environment because he dumped raw sewage in the St. Lawrence last fall. True, I was outraged by this “flushgate.” But it was a temporary action lasting a few days to repair a tunnel. Before any westerner starts to do some “holier than thou” finger pointing, I would remind them that, Victoria, the beautiful capital of British Columbia is dumping all its raw sewage in the Juan de Fuca strait and has no immediate plan to remedy the situation. What is good for the goose should be good for the gander!
There is also a nationalistic argument about buying Canadian petroleum instead of foreign oil. Let’s look at the facts: Eastern Canada’s three refineries (Suncor in Montreal, Valero in Quebec City and Irving in St John, N.B.) have a total capacity of 672 000 barrels/day. In order to supply these refineries, one has to remember that Enbridge’s line 9B has a capacity of 250 000 b/day. And the offshore production of the Maritime provinces produces at least 100 000 b/day of Canadian petroleum. Neither should we leave the 300 000b/day of U.S. light crude out of the equation! Furthermore, those three refineries are not equipped to refine tar sands. They don’t appear to have clear plans to invest in the expensive equipment necessary to process dilbit.
In other words, the East can’t use your tar sands. So don’t wrap yourself in the Canadian flag! Energy East has one purpose: to export your crude on world markets. But there is opposition everywhere to that obsolete policy. British Columbia and the First Nations don’t want Northern Gateway, nor Kinder Morgan. The President of the United States blocked Keystone XL. Your third choice, is an expensive route to the Atlantic. Quebecers are just as smart as British Columbians, indigenous people or Americans in rejecting your self interest as well as your self-righteous anger! Again, what is good for the goose should…
Mr. Coderre also pointed out that this decision must be consistent with the Conference of Paris. The last report of IPCC has clearly stated that climate change is a major threat to mankind; to prevent a catastrophe, 80 per cent of fossil fuels must remain in the ground. The total footprint (strip mining, production, transport, refining and combustion) of 1 100 000 b/day of tar sands will boost Canadian production of GHG (green house gases) through the roof. To come anywhere near our international commitment, Canada has to export its GHG (and its jobs) to foreign buyers by selling unrefined bitumen.
Selling unprocessed raw natural resources was OK for a colony at the time of Confederation; but it was a no-no for industrialized nations such as Britain, the U.S., France or Germany. These 19th century nations used the raw materials of other countries — and their colonies — to enhance their manufacturing capability and their wealth. Unfortunately, for the past ten years, Canada has pinned all its industrial strategy on selling unrefined petroleum. A loonie on the par with the U.S. currency has crippled the manufacturing capability of central Canada. Now, that petroleum skydived to $ 30/b, this antiquated policy has sent the Canadian dollar below the 70 cents benchmark. An undiversified economy could possibly push us into an economic depression.
Yet, Energy East wants to force the Canadian economy in this 19th century straight-jacket for the next 40 years. As a member of the G8, we need an economy based on know-how, renewable energies, manufacturing as well as refining our natural resources. Mr. Coderre is right in rejecting TransCanada’s antiquated project. Welcome to the 21st century!
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