Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Pipeline aimed at tar sands raises green ire

Introductory minirant:

While absolutely correct to be calling the federal government on the final destination of the gas for the MGP, it is problematic to call for the greening of the Mackenzie
Gas Project. The fact is that the MGP is not one pipeline, and the tar sands in Alberta are a possible destination. The tarsands cannot move forward without the MGP-- and seeing the pipeline as a critical component means realising we need to stop the construction of the pipeline period-- regardless of any location being pre-determined for this amount of energy.

The companies involved in both the tarsands and the consortium building this supply of massive volumes of energy for the tarsands process-- the Mackenzie Gas Project-- are conceptually one and the same. Our climate can't take either, certainly not both fused together. Yet they cannot stand independently. Stop the tar sands, end the talks around the Mackenzie Gas Project.


Pipeline aimed at oil sands raises green ire
Mackenzie project plans derided
Feb 27, 2007
Globe and Mail

CALGARY -- The federal government should prevent the proposed Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline from providing fuel for oil sands production because of global warming issues, several environmental groups argued at a regulatory hearing yesterday in Edmonton.

The amount of natural gas needed to power the oil sands could double by 2015, according the National Energy Board. The additional gas required in the oil sands is roughly the volume expected to move down the Mackenzie pipeline, a 1,200-kilometre link that would connect the Mackenzie Delta in the Northwest Territories with northern Alberta.

"Why shouldn't the National Energy Board set some rules about contracts of the end-use of Mackenzie gas?" Stephen Hazell, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in an interview. "Why not try to make this a green pipeline rather than just feeding Canada's greenhouse gas emission by fuelling the tar sands?"

The issue has been raised before and has been dismissed by Mackenzie's main backer, Imperial Oil Ltd., controlled by Exxon Mobil Corp., but the environmental groups yesterday highlighted a detailed map drawn up by TransCanada Corp., a gas pipeline company that is working on Mackenzie. The map, available on TransCanada's website, shows proposed new links in Alberta to move Mackenzie gas to the oil sands.

Natural gas emits less carbon dioxide -- the main greenhouse gas -- than coal. Oil sands are already a major emitter of carbon dioxide and will become an even bigger source if aggressive development continues unabated.

The Sierra Club, alongside the Pembina Institute and others, wants to see the Mackenzie gas replace coal as fuel for existing power plants in Alberta, which are among the dirtiest industrial operations in Canada. Using gas in the oil sands has been derided for years as a bad idea, burning a clean hydrocarbon to convert raw bitumen into usable synthetic oil, an arduous process that produces large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Oil sands production is predicted to triple by 2015, greatly increasing emissions, though emissions per barrel are projected to fall. The environmental plan being prepared by the federal Conservative government is expected to focus on emissions per barrel, rather than absolute emissions, allowing the oil sands development to continue essentially unrestricted.

The environmental groups made their presentations yesterday before the joint review panel, which is looking at the environmental and social impacts of the proposed Mackenzie gas pipeline. The panel will eventually present a report to the National Energy Board, which has conducted its own pipeline review, and the board will make the final decision, to be submitted to the federal government.

Mr. Hazell said the primary problem with the reviews of the board and the panel is they didn't place enough emphasis on broader questions of global climate change, choosing not to carefully consider how the gas from the pipeline could fuel the oil sands.

"The main message is that the panel should be considering the end-use of the gas," Mr. Hazell said. "Using the gas in the tar sands is bad in general, and from a climate-change perspective, it's just bad."

Mr. Hazell proposed that the National Energy Board put regulations in place to restrict the usage of Mackenzie gas. He said he is a believer in free markets, but added that while restrictions appear aggressive, it is time for unusual remedies. Mr. Hazell pointed to Sir Nicholas Stern, the former World Bank chief economist who produced the report last year declaring that doing nothing about climate change was the "greatest market failure in history."

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