Emily McFiftin and Facundo Gastrozoro gather signs in Terrace to bring to the anti-Enbridge rally set to take place in Prince Rupert last night.

Emily McFiftin and Facundo Gastrozoro gather signs in Terrace to bring to the anti-Enbridge rally set to take place in Prince Rupert last night.

Pipeline called bad business

Politics, the economy, and the environment are some of the main reasons given on why Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline isn't a good idea.

  • May. 13, 2011 11:00 a.m.

Politics, the economy, and the environment are some of the main reasons given on why Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline isn’t a good idea.

That’s according to award-winning journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, who spoke to around 60 residents at the Best Western May 10 on the price of extracting oil from Alberta tar sands.

The proposed $5.5 billion twin pipeline project would transport oil and an oil thinner called condensate between Alberta and a marine terminal in Kitimat, where the oil would be shipped in supertankers to overseas markets.

Nikiforuk’s been following the project for the last 10 years.

There’s a lot of high risk associated with rapid development on this,” he said, pointing out that Enbridge’s project would require production in Alberta’s oil sands to grow by 30 per cent.

I do not think it should grow, I think it has reached a size that is….barely manageable as it is now,” he said of the oil sands.

Since the resource is poor in quality, the costs associated with extracting the oil are tremendous, he said, saying that bitumen has one of the highest carbon footprints.

The most important reason why he doesn’t want to see the industry grow has to do with a concept called ‘energy return on energy invested,’ Nikiforuk said.

It takes the energy of one barrel of oil to get five barrels from the ground, a poor return compared to other developments, he said.

Canada also has to import the thinner agent condensate from outside of the country so the raw oil product can move freely through the pipeline for export.

And since the oil is refined and value added in China or the United States, this means thousands of jobs in the industry are being exported, Nikiforuk said.

There also needs to be a national strategy for investing the resource, he said; there is no sort of pension fund being set up for the day when the resource dries up.

And what do you guys get out of this project?” Nikiforuk asked. “It’s…Alberta’s resource, you get no royalties out of it. All you get is this bitumen highway going across this remarkable salmon watershed.”

There will be leaks, there will be spills, and there will be lots of undeclared liabilities.”

Nikiforuk said that the National Energy Board, an independent federal agency created to regulate regulate pipelines, energy development and trade, got its backing changed in 1991.

Now they’re 90 per cent funded by industry levies,” Nikiforuk said of the NEB, pointing out that Enbridge exports 70 per cent of the oil in this country.

The luncheon was hosted by the Friends of Wild Salmon, Douglas Channel Watch, Northwest Watch and Skeena Wild Conservation Trust, groups opposed to Enbridge’s proposed pipeline project.

Pat Moss, coordinator for Friends of Wild Salmon, said Nikiforuk is good at explaining the detriments to the business case for the Enbridge project from a business case perspective, which is an approach municipal leaders are sometimes more interested in compared to environmental impacts.

His would be an important perspective to make to council members,” she said.

Nikiforuk also spoke in Kitimat May 10, as well as at a reception held at the Museum of Northern BC in Prince Rupert May 11 while the North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) is holding its annual general meeting there.

There has been objections from some people on the company’s involvement with the municipal government meeting.

Terrace city councillor Bruce Martindale spoke out about Enbridge’s sponsorship of the association’s annual general meeting during a council meeting May 9.

They are a lobby group,” he said. “They are not an industry, creating wealth, with a social imperative to provide that back into our community. This is a lobby group that we’re inviting into our conferences. I know it’s done, I know there are other precedents set, I’m just saying that at some point, I think that NCLGA, at least we, as members, should put the question forward, of whether or not its appropriate, particularly as an issue becomes more and more controversial, to bring those people in as sponsors….in an event where we’re getting together to have frank discussion about common issues amongst municipalities.”

He said that Enbridge being at the event limits conversation, and thinks the NCLGA should look at the criteria for sponsorship as the area gets into more controversial projects.

NCLGA members are debating resolutions that affect communities from 100 Mile House to the Yukon and Valemount to Haida Gwaii.

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