Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Economic downturn shuts down Trailbreaker reversal (tar sands in Montreal)

Economic downturn shuts down oil pipeline proposal

By Canwest News ServiceJanuary 18, 2009

Environmental activists are relieved by the indefinite shelving of an oil pipeline proposal that they say would make Ontario too dependent on "dirty oil" from Alberta and bring it to Quebec for the first time.

However, activists with Environmental Defence and ForestEthics are concerned the project put on hold by Calgary-based Enbridge could be resurrected in the future.

So they will go ahead Monday with the release of a joint report asserting the project would soon make Ontario totally dependent on Alberta's tarsands for energy security and would undermine the Ontario government's commitments to reduce carbon pollution.

The Trailbreaker proposal is aimed at creating a delivery trail for Alberta tarsands oil to refineries on the U.S. East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

The environmental organizations say Ontario would be caught in the middle, stuck with a sole source of oil from the tarsands within a few years just as it is embarking on efforts to reduce energy consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

"Ontarians just dodged a bullet with the shelving of this project," said Matt Price, project manager with Environmental Defence. "Trailbreaker would take away Ontarians' choice of oil - it would be dirty oil from the tarsands and nothing else."

Trailbreaker would reverse the flow of a pipeline that now carries crude oil imports from Montreal to refineries in Sarnia, Ont. Instead, Alberta tarsands oil would flow via Sarnia to Montreal and by pipeline to Portland, Maine, where it would be shipped to U.S. refiners by tankers.

"The impact on Ontario would be to force its refineries to rely exclusively on oil from Alberta, since other sources now imported from Montreal would be cut off," the report said. "Given that Alberta is running out of conventional oil, the proposal would mean that Ontario would receive its oil from the tarsands, which produces three times the greenhouse gas emissions as regular oil."

The environmental groups had intended to time their report with an anticipated application by Enbridge to the National Energy Board for the approval of Trailbreaker. The report also urges the Ontario government to weigh in against the application, which has been delayed since November while the company awaited support from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

That support was not granted and published reports Friday quoted a company spokesperson saying the project is shelved indefinitely because of economic conditions.

ForestEthics campaigner Gillian McEachern said the proposal has provoked public debate in Quebec since the fall when ForestEthics, Environmental Defence and Equiterre, a Quebec environmental group, campaigned against the import of tarsands oil into the province. By 2012, one tarsands company alone would increase carbon emissions by 15 million tonnes, the same amount as Quebec's target to reduce emissions, the groups said. The organizations had urged the Quebec government in the fall to oppose the Enbridge application. In a statement Monday, Steven Guilbeault, Deputy Executive Director of Equiterre, said the shelving of the project presented "a great opportunity. Ontario and Quebec spend tens of billions of dollars each year to secure a piece of the increasingly unstable supply of an energy commodity whose long-term price projection is skyrocketing. We must start making the transition away from fossil fuels and pursue aggressive energy security policies that are both sustainable, make sense economically, create green jobs at home while fighting climate change."

The report on Ontario said rather than increasing consumption of tarsands oil, the province should reduce dependence by expanding residential and business development in and around city centres to reduce auto use, increase public transit, invest in fuel-efficient vehicles for the provincial fleet and find more alternative sources for the electricity grid.

It said more than 200 million barrels of petroleum products are consumed in Ontario annually. That's 33 per cent of consumption in Canada. About 60 per cent of Ontario's current oil supply is from Western Canada and the rest is from the North Sea, OPEC countries and Eastern Canada. Twenty-two per cent of western oil brought to Ontario is from the oilsands, the report said. It cited an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey that 80 per cent of oil from Western Canada will be from the tarsands by 2015.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald


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