The May 5 letter to the editor on the Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion to the West Coast suggests this is an environmental disaster waiting to happen and therefore, should not be built.
In a perfect world, there would be no pipelines, no oil tankers, no oil refineries, no gasoline driven engines. We would have clean electric energy and everyone would live happily ever after. Unfortunately, all the solar, hydroelectric and wind energy sources combined today make up only a small fraction of our energy needs. While their share is increasing because of technology and need, even the most optimistic views still see fossil fuels filling at least half of the world’s energy needs for another 30 years.
Given that time frame, should we put the kibosh today on oil pipelines that would allow oil to go offshore? This, in turn allows Canadian oil to get the world price and pay royalties based on that number which all Canadians benefit from or we can force that oil into the U.S. where it will continue to get the Canadian discount as it has no place else to go. The lower pricing for Canadian oil will keep production lower which means more coal will be burned instead to meet our energy needs. In case you don’t know, burning coal is harder on the environment than oil and gas.
There has been a huge increase in the amount of oil moving around North America on trains by tank car because of the concern of oil pipeline spills. The energy consumed to inefficiently move oil this way and the safety risk with the surface crossings and derailment possibilities make this choice questionable at best.
We all want a clean environment but we have to make the best choices in the transition. Oil pipelines have continuous monitoring systems and with proper maintenance have excellent safety records. Most of the oil pipelines in North America are more than 50-years-old so proper maintenance programs are the thing to focus on. Oil tankers move around the world and again with proper oversight, do so with minimal risk. The Persian Gulf has oil tanker traffic that would dwarf any potential tanker volume off our west coast but except for the Iraqi war related incident has had no spills.
Diligent oversight and strong safety procedures are a better way forward than currently available alternatives which are worse.