Friday, August 2, 2013

Breaking News - New Tar Sands Pipeline Goes East to Follow the Path of Least Resistance

It would appear that TransCanada is pursuing the path of least resistance in the announcement of yet another pipeline. Unlike the Keystone XL and the Northern Gateway, TransCanada is expecting far less opposition to the proposed Energy East Pipeline project that would ferry tar sands oil from Alberta to New Brunswick.

On Thursday August 1, 2013, TransCanada President and CEO Russ Girling announced the new Energy East Pipeline during a news conference in Calgary, Alberta. The planned $12 billion oil pipeline will ship Western Canada's tar sands crude to refiners on its east coast. From there it will be shipped to markets around the world.

This new pipeline is a signal that resistance to the Keystone XL and the Northern Gateway are succeeding and TransCanada may is seeking alternatives. The Energy East Pipeline announcement also comes as American energy needs are increasingly being met by natural gas from fracking.

TransCanada plans to convert 3,000 kilometres of the company’s main natural gas pipeline to carry the oil. It will also construct another 1,400 kilometres of new pipeline, mostly in Quebec and New Brunswick. About 70 pumping stations will have to be built along the pipeline to move the oil. The supply of natural gas reaching the East is not expected to be impacted by the conversion. The completion date to reach Quebec refineries is 2017, and New Brunswick a year later in 2018.

To reach international markets, Irving Oil said it plans to build a $300-million marine oil terminal in Saint John, N.B. and another as yet undetermined marine terminal will be build in Quebec. A big new oil hub will also have to be built somewhere in southeastern Saskatchewan.

Trying to appear impartial Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver lifted a line from Obama's approach to oversight on the Keystone XL “Our government will only allow energy projects to proceed if they are proven safe for Canadians after an independent, science-based environmental and regulatory review,” the minister said.

From the ruling Conservative's past record on the tar sands, oil pipelines and fossil fuels in general we can expect an expedited and cursory regulatory review from the federal government. In an email, Oliver showed his support for the project saying that the pipeline would enhance the country’s energy security and reduce its reliance on foreign crude.

It is widely understood that the primary way we can address climate change is to curtail our use of fossil fuels. To make matters worse, tar sands oil is some of the most greenhouse gas intensive oil on earth. The pipeline will help double oil production in the west from 3 million barrels a day to more than 6 million barrels a day by 2030.

The Energy East Pipeline will transport more than 1 million barrels of crude eastward per day.

TransCanada is counting on the fact that there is less organized opposition in the East. However, the Council of Canadians have vowed to start a national campaign to stop the pipeline.

“While there has been a lot of talk about Atlantic energy security, this crude will actually go to the highest bidder. India, China, Europe and the U.S. are in line,” said Maude Barlow the council’s national chairperson.

Girling himself acknowledged that the market will decide where the oil ends up. No matter where it goes more tar sands oil will only increase emissions and make it harder to combat climate change. In addition increased tanker traffic will threaten the east coast of North America.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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