Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Activists push policy change for oil pipeline (Trailbreaker-- through to Portland, ME)

Activists push policy change for oil pipeline

At present, oil is piped to Sarnia from Alberta through pipelines that pass through Saskatchewan, Manitoba and numerous U.S. states, and from foreign distributors through Line 9 via Montreal. Enbridge's proposed program would reverse the flow on Line 9 from Sarnia to Montreal to carry oil from the tar sands through Ontario and Quebec to Portland and on to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The project would also require the flow on the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line to be reversed. Embridge does not own this pipeline.

Environmentalists warn Enbridge plan would limit Ontario, Quebec consumers to carbon-heavy crude
Jan 21, 2009

MONTREAL–Environmental groups are hoping the delay of a major pipeline project that would tie Quebec and Ontario consumers to oil from the Alberta tar sands will allow public awareness of the program's potential ecological impact to grow.

The pipeline – Enbridge's $350 million Trailbreaker project – is primarily intended to carry heavy oil from northern Alberta to Montreal, and then on to the Maine coast, where it would be shipped to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries.

Quebec would, for the first time, get oil from the tar sands – a controversial and politically sensitive subject for Quebecers because of the heavy environmental impacts.

And, according to a report released this week, the project's implications for Ontario are even starker: the province could in future be supplied entirely with oil from the tar sands, the most carbon-heavy oil in the world.

"If this project goes ahead, all of our oil will eventually be from the tar sands, and no one's talking about it," says Matt Price of Environmental Defence, which published the report. Enbridge announced last Friday it was putting Trailbreaker on hold as the global economic downturn sends oil prices into free fall. A spokesperson for the Calgary energy company said he was confident it would resume in the future.

Currently, Ontario's refineries – at Sarnia and Nanticoke – are supplied with crude by two Enbridge pipelines. One originates in Alberta. The other, Line 9, from Montreal, brings in crude from sources such as Algeria, Britain and Nigeria.

Trailbreaker would reverse the flow on Line 9, effectively removing a source of oil for Ontario, while carrying up to 200,000 barrels of oil-sands crude daily to Quebec. Unlike Quebec, Ontario already gets about 25 per cent of its crude from the oil sands. Trailbreaker would increase that by effectively scuttling one of Ontario's main sources of "cleaner" crude. Imported oil tends to be the "sweet, light" grade.

That oil "will have to be replaced by western Canadian crude, which will create some challenges," says Spencer Knipping, oil adviser with the Ontario Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure.

"We'll have to replace that with the same kind of oil in Western Canada, but that oil is in declining supply. Or we'll have to retrofit our refineries to use bitumen."

The report puts it more bluntly: "Ontarians would be denied a choice at the gas pump. Either dirty oil or dirty oil."

Price says we're at a crossroads – we either wean ourselves off fossil fuels or "make things worse" by sourcing fuel that has a heavier carbon cost than even conventional crude.

Meanwhile, the delay in the Trailbreaker project, says Price, "provides breathing room to have a conversation about our energy future."

The report demands that when Enbridge finally asks the National Energy Board – an independent federal agency that regulates pipelines – for approval, the Ontario government intervenes to reject it.

Estimates suggest producing a barrel of tar sands oil creates up to three times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil. As the tar sands have become one of Canada's main economic drivers and attractors of foreign investment, it has also led to the widespread environmental damage in the north.

Environmental groups want no part of it. They say the pipeline will mean a tacit endorsement of tar sands expansion and huge greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change.

Quebecers in particular have been skeptical of the oil sands. In polls they say they would prefer oil companies find ways of reducing environmental harm before exploiting the resource any further. They also greatly favour the Kyoto Protocol.

"If I run my car on fuel from the oil sands, how can I say I'm making every effort here in Quebec?" says Karel Mayrand, director general for Quebec of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Knipping acknowledges the environmental challenge for Ontario, especially in light of a commitment Premier Dalton McGuinty made in 2007 to reduce carbon from transport fuels by 10 per cent by 2020.


Oilsandstruth.org is not associated with any other web site or organization. Please contact us regarding the use of any materials on this site.

Tar Sands Photo Albums by Project

Discussion Points on a Moratorium

User login


Syndicate content