From the bad-news department.
In Calgary, the Joint Review Panel today (December 19) recommended that the federal government approve the $6.5-billion project, which would transport oil from the Alberta tar sands across British Columbia to Asia, subject to 209 conditions.
“The environmental, societal, and economic burdens of a large oil spill, while unlikely and not permanent, would be significant. Through our conditions we require Northern Gateway to implement appropriate and effective spill prevention measures and spill response capabilities, so that the likelihood and consequences of a large spill would be minimized,” the panel’s report states.
The biggest obstacle to the pipeline remains the First Nations that have the ability to tie the final approval process in court for many years.
UPDATE: Andrew Leach has a good summary of the challenges still facing the pipeline, ultimately concluding that this decision “still leaves Northern Gateway a long way from shipping oil.”
Cross responding with other article here, but can’t resist this neat summary:
“This is a report that almost physically shrugs in your hands as you read it.”
Back to reality, worse luck. We can pin our hopes on the First Nations. Some of them have died from tar sands, but nobody seems able to mention that.
No one is proposing to ship oil, Dan. This is about transporting dilbit, not oil. The Alberta government could see to it that the energy producers refined the stuff into synthetic crude oil on site but this is a high-cost, high-carbon asset already at some risk of becoming ‘stranded.’ And with Athabasca’s already massive carbon footprint the last thing they want is even more troublesome greenhouse gas emissions from refining the crud in Alberta.
The panel report was rigged from the get-go. Their shameful conduct during the Victoria hearings left no doubt.
Yes it will be First Nations leading the opposition but they won’t be alone. Far from it. Coastal British Columbians won’t stand for the Northern Gateway. As for Kinder Morgan, they’ll face powerful opposition from the municipalities of the Lower Mainland before they’re allowed to transform Port Moody into Port McMurray.
Well technically bitumen is still oil. According to Wikipedia “The World Energy Council (WEC) defines natural bitumen as “oil having a viscosity greater than 10,000 centipoise under reservoir conditions and an API gravity of less than 10° API”.”
But clearly you are correct to point out that bitumen (and the diluted bitumen flowing through these proposed pipelines) is significantly different to what most people think of as ‘oil’.
As for refining the bitumen on site in Alberta, I am not sure that is feasible. It is my understanding that refining operations are built on the coast because the components of a large refinery would be extraordinarily difficult to transport long distances overland by truck. Instead they are brought by boat to the coast and the refineries are built there. At least that is my understanding, but I admit to not having looking into it deeply,
The fact that the panel didn’t take into account the climate issue (I’ll have more to say about this soon) means that the approval doesn’t come as a surprise (unfortunately). I think Simon Donner sums this glaring omissions nicely:
Anyways, I hope you have a great Christmas (or festivus whichever you prefer) filled with friends and family.