CALGARY, AB, Jun 22, 2014/ Troy Media/ – There is no need to build the recently approved Northern Gateway pipeline, or any other pipeline for that matter, if the rate of bitumen production in northern Alberta was not increasing.
To solve this problem, Albertans should assert their rights as owners of the bitumen and force a reduction in its rate of production by both applying pressure on the current government and by supporting only those candidates who support such a reduction in the next election. As individuals, Albertans must also begin to make choices that express their rejection of the hydrocarbon-intensive way of life.
The problems with Northern Gateway have been described ad nauseam. But what we hear much less about is how the alleged need for it could be eliminated completely. Here’s how it could be done:
1) the Alberta government should refuse to sell any additional bitumen leases until the methods of producing bitumen satisfy appropriate environmental, social and ethical standards. Industry, after all, insists such standards can be reached. Once these standards were met, it would be acceptable to let bitumen production expand.
2) the government should explore the feasibility of buying back the leases where development has not yet begun. The cost of doing so might be prohibitive, but it’s a possibility that must be examined.
3) all possible measures should be taken to reduce the rate of bitumen production until such time – see 1 above – as the methods of producing bitumen satisfy the environmental, social and ethical standards the world and Albertans ourselves should expect.
What would some of those measures be?
Environmental regulations have to be made much tighter and, where needed, new laws have to be put in place. For example, the “guidelines” which are supposed to result in the shrinking and eventual elimination of the tailings ponds, which are regularly violated with impunity, must be made legally binding.
Canada’s commitment to lowering GHG emissions by 2020 must also be made legally binding within Alberta and directly applicable to bitumen production. It is generally accepted that, unless major changes are made, Canada will fail to meet its commitment to reduce GHG emissions by 17 per cent by 2020 from 2005 levels. While it won’t be easy to figure out exactly how to formulate legally-binding requirements to lower GHG emissions from bitumen production, it has to be done.
All such laws, both existing and new, must then be rigorously enforced and the penalties for breaching them have to be sufficiently severe so as to deter violations. Otherwise they are but a façade, meant to make things look good (deceive) without having any meaningful effect.
But let’s return for a moment to my claim that there is no need for Northern Gateway, or any other pipeline proposal, at all, if there is no increase in the rate of bitumen production. Opponents to my proposition would say that, notwithstanding everything that is wrong with bitumen production and the harmful impacts of all the proposed pipelines, more Alberta bitumen has to get to the B.C. coast if we are to reach world markets paying higher prices than in the U.S.
I would reply that pursuing more money without regard for the harm done in the process is called greed, and greed – contrary to every cynical joke to the contrary – is not good. It is despicable. The truth is, if we need more money in Alberta and other parts of Canada we can raise it in other ways. We don’t need to, and should not, be trashing our precious values for a few more dollars.
That’s a stupid economy – one that shoots itself in the foot. In a smart economy – one that we are, I am sure, fully capable of – we will find better ways.
Janet Keeping is leader of the Green Party of Alberta.
Troy Media Marketplace © 2014 – All Rights Reserved