Pipeline to Seattle

Commentary, Energy, Brian Giesbrecht

Canada is in trouble. Half of the population believes we are in a climate crisis, one requiring shutting down our oil and gas industry. The other half recognizes that our oil and gas industry is vital, and our ecological problems can be managed. To make matters worse, the fault line for these competing sets of beliefs runs roughly along an east-west divide, and the re-elected Liberal Party ran on an unwritten policy of “screw the West – we’ll take the rest”. This country is in serious trouble.

There is talk of separation in the west, and it is not just angry talk of rabble rousers. Some influential and serious people are considering redrawing the map to have the western provinces function as a separate country. The election result will accentuate this divide.

Alberta bears the brunt of the attack on fossil fuels. Luminaries, such as Elizabeth May and Greta Thunberg, would have Albertans give up their oil and gas careers and find new jobs, while Alberta is forced to transport oil on creaky railway cars and sell it at a ruinous discount. The combination of unreasonable environmental demands, Indigenous “duty to consult” shakedowns, and a clueless federal minority government has hit Alberta very hard. Combined with obstructionist British Columbia and Quebec provincial governments, it is not difficult to see why westerners are so disillusioned about their country

But, there might not be just a stark choice between separation or the status quo available; a pipeline that can transport Alberta’s oil to the west coast does not necessarily have to go through British Columbia. In fact, it is roughly the same distance from Calgary to Seattle as it is from Calgary to Vancouver. What about a pipeline that goes through Montana and Washington? While there would be complications with such a plan, I bet that ideas like this are being discussed in private by thoughtful people.

Canada is the only oil and gas exporting nation in the world intent on committing fossil fuel suicide. By contrast, the United States has gone from being an energy importing nation to energy self-sufficiency; in 2020, it will be an energy exporter. And, its emissions have gone down, not up, with increased natural gas consumption emitting less than half the carbon dioxide per unit of energy produced by coal. 

I visited what was then the major coal-fired electricity generating station for the American Southwest (Paige, Arizona). It was converting completely to natural gas and is now 100% gas-fired. What was a major source of pollution (sulfur and nitrogen dioxide) has become a clean energy producer through innovation and commonsense.

Canada has huge natural gas resources, but we are afraid to develop them. We let special interest groups and our ideological federal government stop us from marketing cleaner energy to the world. Our gas could replace some of the much dirtier coal plants now relied upon by Asia and Africa. Pipelines are necessary for that to happen. Here, now, we let teenage gurus and virtue-signaling politicians run the show.

Will there ever be a pipeline to Seattle? It is sad such ideas need to be considered. The climate crisis religion is tearing this country apart, and the recent federal election has only made matters worse.

Originally posted on The Winnipeg Sun.