Many people think that tarsands pipelines and their risk of oil spills are just the price of progress. Some argue that moving away from oil, coal and gas can’t happen overnight so we need to keep using things like pipelines until renewable energy becomes a more mature industry. Unfortunately such impressions miss a few vitally important points.
Even banks like HSBC and oil industry insiders like the International Energy Agency warn against new pipelines.
Pipelines like the Energy East tarsands pipeline planned to run within Ottawa city limits are only needed to support a vast expansion of fossil fuel extraction in Alberta. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers predicts that daily production from the tarsands will expand to 632% of what it was just a few years ago. This isn’t continuing fossil fuel use until we can move away from it, this is dramatic increase.
The expansion of Alberta’s tarsands is so dramatic that according to Environment Canada the resulting industrial emissions alone are cancelling out all other greenhouse gas emissions reductions achieved across Canada. That’s the production of the tarsands oil, not the burning of it.
The reason oil and pipeline companies are in such a rush to exploit Alberta’s tarsands is that international agreements aim to keep global warming below 2°C. To do that scientists now predict that much of the oil, coal and gas that has already been discovered has to stay in the ground and never be burned. The Alberta oil industry knows that if they don’t get the tarsands out now and make their money on it, they may never be able to get it out.
The International Energy Agency indicates that to avoid overshooting 2°C “more than two-thirds of current proven fossil-fuel reserves” will have to remain in the ground unexploited. HSBC says “between two-thirds and four-fifths of current reserves cannot be commercialised.”
Building a pipeline is expensive and once corporations have invested so much money, they have an ongoing interest in fighting measures that might stop them using the pipeline. The International Energy Agency points to “the long lifetime of capital stock in the energy sector” and warns that “failure to deter additional investment in emissions-intensive infrastructure, thereby ‘locking in’ emissions for decades to come” will only make addressing the challenge “more costly and difficult to achieve.”
To stop the Energy East pipeline join Ecology Ottawa’s Tar Free 613 campaign.
See also - What can you do to fight climate change? The Countdown:Ottawa Climate Pledge