Opinion Editorial

Editorial

Pipelines remain economy's lifeline

A cyclindrical component sits on blocks  at the site where a canceled BA Energy upgrader would have been located, west of Bruderheim, Alberta on Jan. 11, 2012. (IAN KUCERAK/QMI AGENCY)

A cyclindrical component sits on blocks at the site where a canceled BA Energy upgrader would have been located, west of Bruderheim, Alberta on Jan. 11, 2012. (IAN KUCERAK/QMI AGENCY)

According to Natural Resources Canada, the country's crude oil and natural gas pipeline network is over 700,000 kms in length and extends to all provinces and territories except P.E.I. and Nunavut.

The safety record of this huge and vital national energy distribution system for the past few decades is impressive, but the reality is not every drop gets to its intended destination. Accidents are going to happen.

Recently Enbridge, Canada's largest operator of pipeline systems, has been accused of carelessness in its handling of a number of spills that have occurred in both Canada and the United States.

Environmentalists and B.C. Premier Christy Clark cite these as evidence that plans for the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the B.C. coast are too dangerous and that Enbridge is too incompetent to execute such a project safely.

As usual, the naysayers are loud in their denunciation but quieter when it comes to common sense alternatives.

That's because there aren't any. The world's economy runs on oil, and will for decades to come. Pipelines, while hardly foolproof, are both the safest and most economical way of transporting oil from field to refinery.

Without pipelines, roads would be choked with tankers and the chaos and carnage that would cause make the spills we're reading about pale in comparison. Don't worry, that won't happen -- there aren't nearly enough tankers to keep up with ever-growing demand.

Enbridge and other pipeline companies do have to up their game. But it's already evident that newer installations, taking advantage of improving technology, boast even better safety records than aging lines that are getting the bad publicity.

They also know the spill drill -- they're liable for any costs related to cleanup, just as Enbridge was in 2010's 20,000-barrel spill in Michigan. So the risk Clark warns her province would face with Northern Gateway are completely mitigated.

If the environmental dangers B.C. faced were truly apocalyptic and irreversible, money wouldn't be part of the discussion.

But money figures very prominently. Because when it comes to Clark's opposition to this project so critical to Canada's economic future, it's all about B.C.'s cut of the action -- and about a premier so mired in the polls that survival tactics outweigh the national good.


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