New battleground emerges for Alberta’s oil sands

Report warns of environmental consequences of planned pipeline to B.C.


After the Harper government reacted to Washington’s push-back on TransCanada’s Alberta-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline by vowing to export oil to Asia instead, a new report warns that a planned pipeline to Canada’s West Coast poses serious environmental consequences as well. Enbridge’s proposed $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to B.C. threatens native communities, the salmon fishery and wildlife habitat, according to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Pembina Institute and Living Oceans Society.


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New battleground emerges for Alberta’s oil sands

  1. Why Alberta insists on shipping raw materials instead of finished product is beyond me.  Think of the jobs, tax base and wealth that would be created for Alberta if the powers that be decided instead to add value to the raw material before selling.  I guess their corporate masters won’t let that happen.

    • Alberta is short at least 150,000 workers to provide labour for any projects

      • No. There are always more workers than jobs.

        • Not so I am afraid….2006 & 2007 it was bizarre how short of workers we actually were. If you could breath you had a job. It was normal in Calgary to get lousy or non existant service everywhere. No employees to be had. I wouldn’t have believed it unless I actually lived it – you actually can outgrow yourself and growth then becomes self limiting.

        • What they need are “skilled labor” and in Alberta and Saskatchewan, they are in short supply compared to projects.

          • That is true so anyone with some kind of post secondary or additional training could get a job easily making a very good salary. That leaves a huge part of the service economy with no employees to draw upon and that’s what happened. While skilled workers are important it takes everyone to run a city and a country for that matter.

    • It’s not the corporations it;s the nimby’s who wont let them build the refineries here!

    • CA: You make a very valid point, and one that isn’t addressed nearly enough in the media. Which is unfortunate, because there are some very good reasons to build the pipeline and not refineries. 

      Refineries are massive, complex, and very expensive facilities. They cost a huge amount of money and time to build. While there are a couple new refineries going up in Alberta, they can only process about 150,000 barrels per day. Oil sands production is in the millions of barrels per day – it’s a drop in a bucket. Anyone with the technical and financial capacity to build the refineries to process that much oil already has idle refineries sitting around elsewhere (South Korea, Japan, Texas – hence Northern Gateway and Keystone pipelines). They aren’t about to build $50 billion in new refineries when Enbridge could ship it down for a tenth that price. And Philiphelsdon is right – the labour shortage doesn’t make it any easier.

      This would ad value to Canadian producers – all of our bitumen is process in either Alberta or the Midwest US, which has more oil than it knows what to do with. We get paid a lower price for it (supply and demand). Shipping it down to Texas/Asia would open up a world of demand and give us better prices.

      • Jacob, thank you. That’s the best response I’ve seen to the same type of question I asked not  long ago.

        However, what about a refinery as a public works project? Private business will of course take the cheaper route wherever they can,whether that route puts money into the pockets of Canadians is irrelevant to them. However, might there be some logic to the government of Manitoba building a refinery?  They would thus employing a lot of people during construction, a fair number of people after construction, and ensuring a medium to long-term source of revenue for the province in processing the heavy oil.  

        And it would put these jobs in places where we need them, rather than simply putting money into the pockets of shareholders.

        • Building a refinery in Manitoba would require a new pipeline to be built from the oilsands to Manitoba to supply the crude. Then you’d have to build at least one more pipeline to ship the refined products into the existing distribution network, wherever that would be. I’m guessing in the direction of Chicago, but maybe it could tie in at Minneapolis or somewhere closer. 

          Given how difficult it is to build just a single pipeline through Nebraska, why would we expect it to be any easier to get one built through Saskatchewan and into Manitoba, and then more pipeline approved to ship the refined product to major centres? With the amount of idle refining capacity that currently exists, the economic case for a new refinery in Manitoba, along with the new pipeline infrastructure to support it, simply isn’t there.  If there’s no economic rational for the industry to do it, then governments face precisely the same scenario.

      • I think there is also the time it would take to build the refinery.  Someone on the blog said 10 years? due to restrictions in Canada.

      • Us? Us? Who is the us? Will the average Albertan or even Canadian be one of the us getting a better price Jacob Robinson?

        Thwin you do have a good idea but like all similar projects (remember Petrocanada? remember Telus?) once it is built and benefiting Canadians, it will be sold off by the government.

        Healthcare Insider I agree, the logistics of building a refinery must be mind boggling, not to mention the ‘not in my backyard’ factor. How long have the oilsands been operating? Thirty or forty years? You would think that is an adequate amount of time for the planning and construction of several refineries.

        The oilsands can’t even plan for the toxic filth they are generating in the area, get in, get the money and get out, that is the extent of corporate planning, and the Alberta government is sanctioning it. Free sulfur anyone? Perhaps it can be stored in the parliament buildings in Edmonton?

        • Cleargreen, I know you do not want to hear this but oil companies in Alberta are under a lot of scrutiny and if you read the Calgary Herald today you will find out about all of the ‘green’ measures being undertaken to improve the safety of extracting the oil from the ground.  In the meantime, to correct your misconception, “we” do have refineries in Alberta but just not enough. Another comment you made asking “who benefits from the oil?  That oil pays for social programs like our free healthcare.  Now before you say “it isn’t free”, in Alberta it is truly free because citizens pay no premiums.  That oil also pays for social programs for other provinces that are considered “have not” and receive money from Alberta.  The soil that the oil is extracted from is saturated with oil and is not suitable for any other use, therefore we have decided to remove the oil and benefit the citizens with the profits.  If you took the time to research you would see that the oil sands are only responsible for 6.5 % of Canada’s total carbon emissions and that you should be focusing your venom on coal mining or perhaps farming which produce far more emissions but for some reason are not popular “whipping boys” for political reasons.

          • There is no misconception Healthcare Insider on my part regarding refineries, if you read my comment it was in response to your comment stating “I think there is also the time it would take to build the refinery. 
            Someone on the blog said 10 years? due to restrictions in Canada.”
            My comment was “How long have the oilsands been operating? Thirty or forty years? You
            would think that is an adequate amount of time for the planning and
            construction of several refineries” Where is there a misconception?
            It is nice to see there are finally some ‘green measures’ being considered in the oilfield, when I worked drilling rigs in the 80s, the only ‘green’ thing of concern was money.
            I lived in Alberta for 28 years, I recall in 1979 or 1980 Alberta health instituted a monthly premium for healthcare… it was NOT free. This may have been recently changed, but when I left Alberta in 2006 it was still in place, I still have bills to prove it. It was NOT free in Alberta from 1980 to 2006.
            Some pittance from oil tax revenue may find it’s way to some social programs, this may well be very true. but don’t pretend that the programs in other provinces benefit from provincial taxes in Alberta. The oil is owned by private corporations and I state again, where is the ‘we’ that are getting better prices?
            You are very selective in your redirection Healthcare Insider, however your rebuttals don’t hold up to people that have done their research. And it seems you totally disregard issues like the state of the Mackenzie river system; it is being drained and killed stone dead to acquire the water that ‘we’ have decided to use extracting ‘our’ oil from ‘unuseable’ soil.

          • Yes, you left Alberta six years ago and since then healthcare premiums are no longer levied against citizens.
            Yes, Quebec is known for its great social programs but it is also a “not-have” province so you figure you it out who is paying for those programs.
            Had you and Robert Redford chosen to read the December 02/2011 Calgary Herald, you would have seen that Alberta and the oil sands are under more environmental scrutiny than almost any other carbon emitter and are actually working hard to come up with green solutions to reduce the emisions but you and Mr Redford are only satisfied if oil sands production is halted….even if it is not actually a huge emitter and they are finding ways to not polute any rivers.  I don’t disregard the Mackenzie river system but I do embrace the industries’ efforts to find to alternatives to using fresh water.  You did not even bother to address my questions regarding environmentalists failure to address coal mining and farming , which create far more greenhouse gas emmissions because they are politically sensitive in the US.   Tell me, Cleargreen, I am sure you are a vegan…why not take on the beef eaters and the coal miners?

          • You present as having a need to attack, label and continually drop points I have backed up Healthcare Insider. When did I state production in the oilsands should stop production? Point that out please.
            No I am not a vegan, nor am I a vegetarian.
            I didn’t address your secondary commentary because it is unrelated to any point I made or discussed in my first post. You seem to be extremely defensive, throwing commentary unrelated to any comments I did make into the mix and then accusing me of many things I did not state or comment on in my post. Things that are entirely unrelated to the comments in my post.
            It is nice to see the oilsands finally starting to address the issues, after almost half a century. I guess they are getting scared.
            Sorry I don’t fit into your pre-constructed automatic thought process for the labeling and blaming of those that oppose your viewpoint. That really would have made it easy for you.You have a nice day anyway.

          • 30 or 40 years, tarsands , hmmmmm

  2. The Natural Resources Council,Pembina Institute and Living Oceans Society all ride bicycles they don’t need Gasoline.

    • So, if you don’t practice what you preach, you’re a hypocrite and shouldn’t be listened to (as some accuse Al Gore).
      On the other hand, now if you do practice what you preach, you aren’t part of the system, so shouldn’t be listened to.
      Well. Isn’t that conveeeenient.

      Tell you what.. how about we just don’t listen to people like you?

      • ouch!

      • Well Al Gore does live in a 10K square foot house…hardly “inconvenient” by anyone’s standards.

        • That’s because it’s housing plus offices plus the secret service.

          • If you check Wikipedia, he only had the secret service protection for 6 months after leaving his post as Vice President.
            At any rate, if he is living in the California mansion…there is a tour of it on the Huffington Post…no offices but it is only 5.8 thousand square feet.  If he is living in the Nashville mansion, it is 10 thousand square feet…even if 5 thousand square feet are for offices, he is still not living in cramped quarters by anyone’s standards.

          • As former VP, he is entitled to protection for life.

            And there are at least 2 offices in the homes.

            My home is 3500 sq ft

  3. A negative report by these organizations is the same as a positive report by CAPP…

  4. Ontario and Quebec need their federal welfare cheques, this pipeline will go through.
    Thankfully the West is hard at work paying all the bills.

    • Lol Turd, add Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia to that welfare list. Oh, well, 1 out of 4 isn’t bad, for an obvious guess.

  5. This is the “dog bites cat” variety of news. Or rather, it is the “cat releases press release on the dangers of dogs, and the need to neuter all existing dogs, and Macleans publishes it as news” variety of news. Hire a reporter

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