Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Big oil's aggressive plan to run more pipelines through Super Natural B.C.

Proposed pipelines
Proposed pipelines

Big oil's aggressive plan to run more pipelines through Super Natural B.C.
Barry Saxifrage
Nov 30th, 2011

This is the second part of a two part series. The first part explored the dramatic decline in American oil imports and why they won’t absorb much more of the tar sands expanding flows. Today’s second part explains just what that means for Vancouver and BC as a proposed string of gigantic tar sands pipelines target our coast.
Lots and lots of new tar sands pipelines

Let’s be clear about one thing: Big Tar is planning to build lots of new pipelines. Keystone XL was just one of many. The tar sands industry says they plan to increase their production by 4.5 million barrels per day in the next 25 years. Here is how many pipes they will need to move that extra oil:

* 15 new pipelines the size of existing Kinder Morgan Transmountain into Vancouver, or
* 8 more pipelines the size of the proposed Enbridge “Northern Gateway” giant to Kitimat

However you slice it, Big Tar has very aggressive plans that require slapping down a big new tar sands pipeline project every two to four years for decades.

All the routes they are now talking about run right over us in BC. And if we act right now, they will throw in, every day, a supertanker carrying four times more oil than spilled from the Exxon Valdez, to plough the twisting, vulnerable waterways of Vancouver harbour, through the Great Bear Rainforest and past Haida Gwaii. What’s not to like?

Round one

For the very first round Big Tar have their sights on a new tar sands pipeline into Vancouver plus two more tar pipes across BC and dumping out at Kitimat. Just like in the USA, many locals are pretty darn unhappy when they learn they are going to be stuck with the pipes, leaks, supertankers, spills and billions of tonnes of climate destabilizing pollution while the oil and profits go elsewhere.

Let’s take a closer look at Big Tar's plan to use our BC wilderness and coastline as the jumping off point for the largest carbon bomb in the hemisphere.
Say hello to lots of supertankers

So far, the only existing tar sands pipeline that makes it to saltwater is the Kinder Morgan Transmountain pipeline that ends right here in Burnaby. In 2005, one oil tanker filled up there every two and a half weeks. By last year oil tanker traffic in and out of Vancouver harbour increased to one every five days.

As the Tyee reports, Kinder Morgan now have plans to increase tar sands crude up to six times into the Burnaby tanker port. Part of this entails adding new pipeline capacity (TMX2 + TMX3) to their existing pipeline route. If so, oil traffic in Vancouver harbour will approach one supertanker per day by 2016.

If you aren’t keen on the supertanker tango starting up in your “Super, Natural” British Columbia you can join over 65,000 others in signing the NoTankers.ca petition.

100% spill guarantee

For those worried about oil spills, you might want to know that these tar sands pipeline are guaranteed to spill every drop. Whatever crude isn’t accidentally spilled across our beaches, wetlands and Fraser delta will definitely be intentionally spilled into our atmosphere when burned. Either way we lose big. Some of that tar sands climate pollution spill will overheat our climate, flood nations, damage crops, kill forests, melt permafrost and fuel super storms. And some will acidify our struggling oceans even further.

Oh, and by the way, those climate damages come with a thousand year money-loss guarantee. That is how long climate pollution takes to disappear.
BC: the new climate villains?

Let’s start with the smallest of the BC tar sands pipelines...

The climate pollution unleashed by the existing Kinder Morgan Transmountain-To-Our-Atmosphere pipeline is equal to all the climate pollution from all fossil fuels burned in BC. Over 50 million tonnes of CO2 a year pulses through just this one existing pipeline. (Math alert: 300,000 barrels a day * 365 days * .516 tonnes CO2/tar sand barrel = 56 million tonnes of CO2. )

Adding Kinder Morgan's proposed Transmountain TMX2 + TMX3 extension in the next few years would up add another 400,000 barrels a day and push the combined climate damages to 130 million tonnes of CO2 a year. That is more than the fossil fuel emissions of Ireland, Norway and Bangladesh -- combined. It is ten times the CO2 emitted by all vehicles in BC. Again, all this is just from one Kinder Morgan pipeline route into Vancouver.

It is bad enough that our “World’s Greenest City” port already boasts the largest climate pollution export facility in North America – Pattison’s Westshore Coal Terminal. That company brags: “Canada’s No. 1 coal export facility, easily surpassing the combined coal shipments of all other terminals in Canada.” It exports over 50 million tonnes of climate pollution each year and is expanding to handle 67 million tonnes soon. And it isn’t even Vancouver's only big coal port.

Not to be outdone, Big Tar wants to toss in two more “Tar to Sea” pipelines in the first round:

1. Kinder Morgan’s "Northern Leg to our Atmosphere" pipeline at 400,000 barrels a day
2. Enbridge’s "Northern Gateway to our Atmosphere" pipeline at 550,000 to 800,000 barrels a day

These two would enable an additional 220 million tonnes of CO2 every year. All together, Big Tar and Big Coal want BC to become the enabler and doormat for 350 million tonnes of climate pollution out of the tar sands and another 80 million tonnes from coal mining.

That is more CO2 pollution than 172 of the world’s national economies emit from all fossil fuel burning. It is 100 tonnes per BC resident. It is more than Brazil, Spain, Turkey or Thailand burn. Not bad for a province with a population many times smaller than some cities.

It is also ten times the CO2 our province will cut if we manage to hit our legislated 33% cut by 2020. All the good work by millions of British Columbians to protect our climate would be wiped out ten times over by just these two proposed pipeline to our atmosphere.

And that is just the warm up act.

By 2035 Big Tar wants to build additional tar sands outflows equal to another ten pipelines the size of Transmountain. Where are these pipelines going to go? What about the billion tonnes of climate-damaging pollution that will be dumped every year as a result?

No safety limits, no transparency, no pollution pricing. Nice.

Oh, and have I mentioned the huge liquefied natural gas export project that our Premier is currently cheerleading?
Carbon greed accelerating us off the cliff

Carbon greed seems to know no bounds anymore. As the climate crisis grows more dangerous, both Big Tar and Big Coal are pushing rapid expansion plans and calling for lots more pipelines and coal mines. Yet somehow they have no plans for putting any limit on their total climate damages as climate science says we must. And they have no plans for paying anything to help clean up their mess. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Meanwhile, the world’s climate-destabilizing fossil fuel pollution soared by an all-time record of 6 per cent last year according to the US Department of Energy. We are collectively accelerating off the cliff into weather chaos, crop failures and acidified oceans. Not to be outdone, Big Tar is aiming to increase their climate pollution by 10 per cent every year. And not pay for it.

”Ethical”? Sounds criminal to me.

The reason the tar sands corporations want to accelerate their carbon extraction is because they have so darn much to vaporize and they are apparently in a big happy hurry to shove it into our atmosphere as quickly as they can. According to National Resources Canada, the economically recoverable carbon pollution in the tar sands is six times what is in Canada’s coal reserves. Tar sands = Coal x 6. There is work to be done.

The staid and conservative International Energy Agency announced we have only five more years to reverse course on building fossil fuel infrastructure or else we will be “locked in” to “irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.”

Catastrophic sounds really pretty nasty. Probably not a good thing to accelerate into. But the radical carbon bombers in Big Tar and Big Coal just don’t seem to care -- at all.

In fact they care so little that they aren’t even willing to pay to help solve the climate mess they are causing. Not one penny of carbon taxes is levied on any of those hundreds of millions of tonnes of Crown-owned carbon pollution they want to dump off the side of BC. Zero.

The oil majors are sitting on tens of billions in cash and making record profits beyond anything humanity has ever done before. The mine gate price of BC Crown-owned coal has soared five fold in the last few years from $40 to over $200. These corporations are printing money while everyday Canadians are struggling to fund a transition to a cleaner, safer tomorrow. Our schools and hospitals are paying carbon taxes but Big Tar multi-national corporations and Big Coal multi-nationals can’t be bothered to chip in to fix the problem their own product is unleashing.

Meanwhile our government politicians are refusing to apply the BC Carbon Tax to most of our BC Crown-owned carbon that they permit to be extracted.

Instead of chipping in to help Canadians solve the climate crisis, Big Tar is now breathing down our inlet hoping to supertanker over 100 million tonnes of their free-loading climate pollution right out of Vancouver. Every year.

If their product can destabilize our weather, acidify our oceans, drown nations, wither crops and screw up our kids future then some dirty Canadian industry seems hell bent to ship millions of tonnes of it out of Vancouver. And they sure as “hell and high water” aren’t planning to either limit their damages or pay to help out.

Carbon tax fairness = billions for solutions

However, if citizens were to decide to apply BC’s carbon tax rate to these free-loading Crown-owned carbon resources it would raise over $10 billion a year. We could put that money towards helping everyday Canadian citizens, businesses and government make the transition to a sustainable and prosperous future in time. You and I have to pay that carbon tax rate on the carbon pollution we benefit from, why shouldn’t Big Tar and Big Coal?

Got any ideas how we might spend those billions to protect ourselves and maintain our prosperity in the face of a destabilizing climate system? Public transit, home retrofits, clean energy, healthcare, better schools and lots of green jobs all come to my mind for starters.

Also BC is facing a growing budget deficit which will get worse with the voted-out HST ending. So why are we also exempting Big Carbon from paying their fair share of billions in carbon taxes on our BC-owned carbon resources?
Ready or not, here they come

So ready or not, the people of Vancouver and BC are about to choose:

a) enable free-loading carbon bombers to radically expand their climate pollution via BC, or

b) make them pay for their carbon pollution like the rest of us, and use the money to slow the damage and fund our transition to post-carbon prosperity.

Big Tar and Big Coal are making record profits because we let them use our atmosphere and oceans as a free sewer for their damaging pollution. They can afford to pay the same carbon pollution taxes you and I do.

As the IEA points out the transition away from fossil fuel pollution has to start now for our own safety. That is going to take a lot of money. Either we call “game over” for free-loading on climate pollution or the laws of physics will ensure “game over” for our future prosperity.
Key Facts

1. Americans are maxing out on Canadian oil
2. Big Tar wants to build a big new pipeline every few years and all routes so far go through BC.
3. Each proposed pipeline increases climate pollution by more than all BC CO2 emissions today and will obliterate the efforts of BC citizens and biz to cut CO2 elsewhere.
4. The first round of BC pipelines would increase climate pollution by 300 million tonnes each year
5. Big Tar and Big Coal are free-loading by refusing to pay for their products’ carbon pollution
6. If the new pipelines and expanded coal ports do get built, then applying our BC Carbon Tax rate to our Crown-owned carbon flowing through them would raise around $10 billion a year to help BC create a sustainable future for our kids.


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