Pipeline Pipedreams

By Robin Tress

In “An Argument for New Pipelines (Globe and Mail, November 21 2011),” Neil Reynolds glorifies the oil industry, ignorantly citing Canadian pipeline technology as ‘pure saga’. This is reminiscent Orwell’s 1984, where the mighty dollar is held above all else.

To quote Mr. Reynolds’ statistics, which I’m convinced are a conservative estimate at best, a spill rate of 2L/million L oil moved still means that about 25,000,000,000,000,000 L of oil and gas are spilled every day, contaminating up to 25 billion cubic metres of soil or 25 trillion litres of water every day.

Old pipelines are an argument for new pipelines, he says? Not when you consider that the building of new pipelines only reinforces and expands our oil dependency, which will result in the continued growth of green house gas emissions. IPCC climate scientists, IEA economists, and countless prominent public figures will tell you that we have no more than 5 years to peak our GHG emissions and reduce them, quickly.

This glorification of the age of manufacturing and human’s domination of nature by digging through “the Canadian Shield – 1000 km of rock” is simply ridiculous. The idea that this kind of environmental destruction can be considered heroic is blasphemous to not only the earth’s ecosystems, but also to the humans who have been displaced due to drilling projects, fallen ill due to increased environmental carcinogens, suffer from respiratory diseases due to poor air quality, have lost their livelihoods due to oil spills, and have lost their homes and lives due to a changing climate.

The economic argument for building pipelines doesn’t hold water  if you look anywhere beyond the short-sighted nature of oil infrastructure – there are increased costs to health care, water treatment, food safety, and disaster relief that directly and irrefutably result from the exploitation, transportation, and combustion of fossil fuels.

Let’s not forget about the social disintegration caused by workers leaving small towns across Canada to work in various oil-related jobs in the west. This phenomenon has been occurring for decades, and is leading to the social and economic deterioration of rural communities, as well as the creating of transient towns like Fort McMurray riddled with homelessness and drug abuse.

Pipelines are not the way to restore Canada to the manufacturing-based middle class country that Reynolds praises so highly. A better, safer, healthier, and fairer investment in our energy production and economic future is clearly in the renewable energy industry. If we create green jobs in renewable technology research and development, expand renewable technology programs in colleges, and give engineers job opportunities outside of the oil industry, Canada will not only reduce unemployment and green house gas emissions, but become a world leader in the growing renewable energy market.

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