This is the second of two columns addressing what I see as the greatest threat to the B.C. environment in our lifetime.
The Alberta oil industry’s Northern Gateway plan is to export bitumen to Asia via tankers from the B.C. coast. Under no circumstances should we allow that to happen. A bitumen spill at sea could destroy our coastline, together with the fish and wildlife that depend on it, for hundreds of years.
My first column discussed the light oil spill by the Exxon Valdez and the terrible toll it took on the Alaskan habitat and fishery. It also gave proof that a bitumen spill would be far worse. A bitumen spill would be almost completely unrecoverable because it would sink and stay on the bottom of our seabed.
The solution that is best for Canada is to build a refinery in Kitimat. I am promoting and backing this solution. It will convert the bitumen to very light fuels that would float and evaporate if ever spilled. There are other enormous benefits:
• There will be a major reduction in greenhouse gases. We will use new cutting-edge Canadian technology in our refinery. It will be so clean that in combination with oilsands extraction there will be less CO2 than in the huge conventional oilfields and refineries of Iraq and Nigeria. In other words, the Kitimat refinery will neutralize the extra greenhouse gases generated in Canada’s oilsands. This refinery will be built in Asia if not in Kitimat, and if so it will emit double the CO2 of our new design. This is the reason that Andrew Weaver of the BC Green Party is in favour of a Canadian refinery.
• An Asian refinery will also generate 100 train cars a day of very dirty coke (much fouler than B.C. coal) which will be subsequently burnt in the atmosphere to create power. The Kitimat refinery will not result in the production of any coke. As we all live on one planet, it is far better for the global environment to build this refinery in Canada.
• Construction of the refinery will create 6,000 jobs in B.C. for five years. Operations at the refinery will result in more permanent jobs than any project has ever created in B.C. with approximately 3,000 direct jobs. These will be highly paid permanent jobs. These jobs will be available for the life of the refinery which should be in excess of 50 years. In addition there will be thousands of other jobs created in spinoff local petrochemical companies and in indirect employment throughout the province.
• The Canadian and provincial governments, local regional districts and municipalities, and many First Nations, will share in billions of new tax dollars each year.
Unfortunately our Canadian oil companies are not interested in building a new major refinery. They are focused on extraction which is more profitable than refining. One of them challenged me to spearhead the refinery myself, so I am doing that. We have a solid business plan and as a consequence Chinese banks and other institutions are prepared to lend us most of the funds required to build the greenest and most efficient refinery in the world. We are currently moving ahead with engineering design and environmental work.
We will also build a safe pipeline from Alberta to the refinery, with the active participation of First Nations. Modern pipelines can be built and operated safely. Leak data is available for everyone to see on Canadian and U.S. government websites and it proves recently constructed pipelines are not leaking. Furthermore some of the best pipelining companies in the world are based in Canada.
In addition we will build a fleet of new tankers, powered by LNG rather than Bunker C oil, to transport the refined products to Asia. This way we know the tankers will be state-of-the-art and as safe as possible. The fleet will be owned by a company based in B.C. so it cannot shirk its legal liability if there ever is a spill at sea.
Let me be up front about my biases. I am for creating thousands of good permanent jobs in B.C. I am for creating billions of new tax dollars for government coffers. I am for reducing the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. I am for building an oil pipeline that will never leak. I am for building a modern tanker fleet that carries only refined fuels that float and evaporate if spilled. I am against shipping bitumen in tankers.
If you agree that we should not put bitumen in tankers please contact your local MP and say so. The Canadian government makes a decision on Northern Gateway next month.