The Northern Gateway pipeline proposal would move oil from the tar sands in Alberta, west to Kitimat, on the coast of British Columbia. Shipping oil from Kitimat would mean navigating oil tankers thru narrow turning channels before reaching the open ocean. The most cost effective way to ship oil to Asia is with supertankers. Because of the nature of the port of Kitimat, building a supertanker loading facility is very difficult. If built in the port proper, supertankers would be operating in very tight quarters, if built out past the islands that surround the channels leading to the port, the cost of piping running to the loading faculty would be tremendous.
Last month I wrote about the British Colombian Premiere announcing support for the Northern Gateway pipeline. For many the take away was bleak. Last week some good news came out of Canada, their largest Private Sector Union publicly announced opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline.
The Northern Gateway pipeline would deliver 525,000 barrels of Alberta oil to a tanker terminal in Kitimat, on the Pacific coast of British Columbia. The proposed pipeline route goes thru First Nations lands. The First Nations and the Yinka Dene have been solidly opposed to to the pipeline proposal and have refused to let the pipeline go thru their land.UNIFOR, is the same union that recently called for a stop to gas and oil fracking in Canada. From Thinkprogress.org
On Thursday the union vowed to join First Nations in protesting the project if it were to proceed.UNIFOR has more than 300,000 members including the Canadian Auto Workers, Communications, Energy, and Paperworkers Union of Canada as well as the oil and gas industry. The B.C.’s Teachers’ Federation, 41,000 strong and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment also signed the Save the Fraser declaration:
“We signed in solidarity, so we’ll be there in solidarity to support them,” McGarrigle told the Globe and Mail. “We support lawful and peaceful protest. We know what solidarity means: It means you stand together with a sense of purpose. We have a saying in the labour movement: We’ll be there one day longer.”
an accord that aims to ban all tar sands projects from First Nations territory and from the ocean migration routes of the Fraser River salmon. In a speech, Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor’s B.C. director, said a “good jobs revolution,” with opportunities in clean energy and expansions in public transit, would bring better opportunities to B.C. than the pipeline would.The issue for Enbridge is that they can't get to Kitimat with a pipeline without going thru First Nations and Yinka Dene lands, effectively stalling the pipeline for the last few years. But these recent developments indicate that both sides are acquiring allies. The British Colombian Premiere has allied with the tar sands, while these labor unions have aligned with the First Nations.
"When on dangerous ground maneuver, when on deadly ground fight".
Some of you may recognize the Sun Tzu quote, it applies to all of the tar sand pipeline fights. With the Keystone XL in the center and the Northern Gateway to the west, in the past the effort to stop the tar sands development can be thought of a 2 front war. With the west and central fronts stalled, the tar sands partners are maneuvering to the east, resurrecting 2 previously shelved pipeline proposals. One of those proposals are shown on the map below. They have opened up a 3rd front.
The Tar Sands are land locked, if the tar sands partners want to export the majority of the proposed 8 million bpd of tar sands production, then their goal will be to build 8 million bpd of pipeline capacity. Opposition groups have stalled nearly 4 mbp of pipeline proposals. this puts tremendous pressure on the tar sands developers, who have built only 2 pipelines over 50 years. Even shipping by rail car doesn't relieve the pressure, tar sands removal projects are stalled at current production.
To make matters worse the tar sands project consumes tremendous amounts of energy, the Mackenzie Valley gas pipeline proposal is an idea that dates to the 1970's and still hasn't been built. Significant trillions of cubic feet of natural gas sits undeveloped in Alaska with no way to move it.
TransCanada and Exxon Mobil are partnered in the Alaska gas pipeline proposal that will directly link nat gas production in the North Slope of Alaska thru Alberta to the US mid west. This project may be the same as the Denali proposal, and was reintroduced to the Senate in Feb, of 2011. There are also at least 2 variations. The map below shows the Mackenzie Valley and Alaskan Hiway natural gas pipeline proposals.
The Alberta tar sands project may be at a crossroads, they lack access to the natural gas they need to fully expand production, and they lack the pipeline capacity to even expand capacity from current production.
And UNIFOR just drew a line in the snow......
More to read from my Tar Sands series: