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Northern Gateway Pipeline Agnosticism

The range of opinions about the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline runs the full continuum of extremes. Here are some of the arguments for and against this pipeline development.

A spill is inevitable

Many believe that a spill along the pipeline or tanker route is inevitable and that any spill would have much more environmental impact due to the special nature of the environment in British Columbia than in most of North America.

Pipelines are the safest, most efficient way of transporting oil products

Statistically, pipelines are today safely transporting oil products all over the world. Pipelines have a better track record than alternatives such as tanker trucks and rail. And none of the alternatives can match the volume of a pipeline.

The proposed tanker route is too hazardous to consider

The proposed route from Kitimat goes through tricky passages and environmentally sensitive areas.

Tankers safely traverse similar waterways every day around the world

Tankers in Europe, Alaska, and other places around the world safely travel through similar passages. Spills are rare.

Tanker traffic would disrupt local ecosystems

The tanker route has delicate and unique ecosystems that would be disrupted by high tanker traffic. Noise and wash would interfere with the local environment.

First Nations communities will benefit from jobs and programs to improve living conditions

Many of the First Nations communities suffer from under employment and a lack of services. Employment opportunities, economic partnerships, and tax revenues from pipeline project can help improve life for people in the area.

First Nations have the most to lose if a spill further disrupts their lifestyle

What is left of the natural resources that First Nations have traditionally relied on could be lost if there is a spill.

Tax revenues from the oil industry benefit all Canadians

Sometimes it is worth following the money. Most Canadians enjoy roads, hospitals, health care, social programs, and many other things that create a good standard of living. Some of that money comes from taxes generated by the oil industry. What would your community look like if all tax-supported programs and infrastructure were removed?

The oil should be used to support Canadian industry and eliminate oil imports

Canada, and especially British Columbia, has struggled to become more than simply a source of raw resources. There are some good arguments for refining the oil near the source and using our oil products to fuel Canadian industries and to reduce or eliminate the need to import oil. There are also some economic challenges.

The world needs our oil

As the world population grows and Asia industrializes, demand for Canadian oil is increasing. Canadian oil exports are important for keeping the world economies from collapsing and for supporting the Canadian economy.

Continued development of difficult oil and gas reserves is destroying the environment

Fracking, oil sands development, and advanced oil extraction technologies are creating damage to the environment with long-range impact that has not been adequately studied. What will be the ramifications for the people living in the development regions in future generations? What are the ramifications today?

Continued use of oil and gas products is killing the planet

Evidence of climate change is hard to ignore even if people disagree on the causes. Many believe that human population growth and global warming are taking us towards irreparable damage and the possible destruction of life as we know it.

We are losing control of our resources

Some communities feel that they do not have a voice in decisions that effect them. Changes in environmental protection acts, sales of Canadian companies to Asian companies, and international trade agreements may further reduce the say that communities, provinces, and perhaps even the country has over future energy projects.

The risk and effects need to be assessed in context

All of the views above have some degree of truth and validity to them. How much weight we give to any view depends on our personal perspective. Someone living close to the land on the waterways of the pipeline and shipping route will likely be more concerned with environmental issues than someone living in other parts of the country looking at the overall impact of the economy.

We live in interesting times. There was a short article published in the Vancouver Sun a while back that looked at the contribution of oil spills to environmental pollution compared to what we contribute by simply living in a city like Vancouver.

Click here to read the article

Greg Dixon

January 6, 2013