Sunday, September 09, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 237: Pipeline

One Saturday afternoon when I was a kid, my dad piled us in the car and we drove a few miles to where the Trans-Canada pipeline was being laid across Saskatchewan.

Pipelines weren’t much on my radar at that age. But I was told it was a really big deal and would take oil from Alberta and my home province down East and maybe all over the world.

The process was actually very cool to watch. Bulldozers ploughed a path, followed by these circular diggers that made a trench.

After them came gigantic claw arm thingies that picked up a line of pipe that seemed to stretch from one horizon to the other and lowered it into the trench as another machine wrapped it with something that looked like tar paper.

After that another line of bulldozers filled in the hole and steamrollers came last tamping it all down.

It didn’t seem to take long at all and within a couple of hours the long line of welded pipe that had greeted our arrival was replaced by flat prairie.

I don’t know if there was a lot of discussion about provincial and Aboriginal rights let alone a debate on its environmental impact when that line was built. Probably not.

At the moment, there are two major pipeline debates going on in Canada. One revolves around the Keystone Pipeline taking Alberta oil to refineries in Texas.

The other concerns the Enbridge Northern Gateway which will carry it across Northern British Columbia to the port of Kitimat.

I’m not going to get into detailed pros and cons of either. But I gotta say I don’t fully understand why we’re building either one.

As far as Keystone goes, it escapes me why we can’t just build a couple of refineries here and create the 10,000 – 50,000 jobs that its supposed to realize South of the border.

I heard somebody from the Alberta government say it was because we didn’t have the technical expertise to do that -- which kind of offended me on a bunch of levels and made me wonder how all the refineries we already have got here.

Meanwhile, both American presidential candidates have assured their electorate that the USA will no longer import foreign oil in 8-10 years. So why is anybody spending billions on a pipeline that won’t even be paid off by the time it is no longer needed?

Or do Americans think Canadian oil isn’t foreign?

As for the Northern Gateway, you gotta wonder if all the anger and division already associated with it will be worth whatever the final product brings.

If we want to ship oil to China, fine. But can’t it come down the same line or one built along the already negotiated right-of-ways that now carry oil from Edmonton to Vancouver?

How come it has to go across (and potentially put at risk) a vast expanse of pristine wilderness?

And if those presidential candidates are correct and Americans kiss oil from the Persian Gulf good-bye in a few years, why wouldn’t China buy what it needs from that region? Because no matter what route you take, it’s an easy thousand miles of Ocean closer than Kitimat.

So I get to wondering what’s really going on here. That pesky “Qui Bono?” question.

And those suspicions were heightened a little while ago when an animation by Vancouver Province editorial cartoonist Dan Murphy was pulled by publisher Postmedia after Enbridge threatened to pull its advertising from the newspaper chain.

Luckily, we still have Youtube for those who missed it.

And even luckier, it’s tough to keep a good cartoonist down. Because Murphy is back, his sharp sense of humor completely intact –- and perhaps greatly motivated.

This can’t be going over too well in somebody’s boardroom.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

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