Monday, December 8, 2014

The Best Pipeline is the Pipeline that does not get Built

Slowing or stopping the building of fossil fuel pipelines is an important part of efforts to decrease emissions. In addition to a series of delays for pipelines originating in Canada, Russia has recently been forced to cancel a major pipeline to Europe.

Russia's annexation of Crimea and ongoing destabilization of the Ukraine has resulted in the cancellation of the $29 billion, 63 billion cubic meter South Stream gas pipeline project. Gazprom confirmed that the pipeline is being diverted through Turkey and Greece, instead of going through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Austria.

Although European countries have been trying to reduce their dependence on Russian energy, they still get 33 percent of their gas supplies from Russia. In 2014 they will receive 155 bcm from Russia in 2014, half of which will flow through Ukraine, and the rest through Nord Stream, Yamal and other, smaller pipelines.

Russian difficulties building the South Stream pipeline are a scaled down version of the difficulties being faced by the Canadian government as it seeks to find a way to export its tar sands oil. All of canada's pipeline projects, including the southbound Keystone XL, the westbound Northern Gateway, the eastbound Energy East pipeline and the northbound Arctic Gateway, have met with strenuous opposition. As has the Edmonton to Burnaby pipeline know as the Kinder-Morgan.

Each day that a fossil fuel pipeline is prevented from being built is a victory for the growth of clean energy and efforts to curtail emissions. A report this fall showed how delaying the Keystone pipeline in North America prevented $17 billion in new investments in the tar sands of Canada. These investments would have produced carbon equivalent to 735 coal-fired power plants.

The more pipelines we have the more carbon will be burned and the more emissions will rise. If we are to have a chance of staying within the internationally agreed upon 2 degree temperature increase, three quarters of existing fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground. In this context it makes little sense to keep building more pipelines.

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