Enbridge’s planned Northern Gateway pipeline doesn’t make sense from an economic, political or environmental perspective, says a writer who toured the northwest recently.
Andrew Nikiforuk says the pipeline is based on increasing the amount oil taken from Alberta’s oil sands.
“There’s a lot of high risk associated with rapid development on this,” he said, pointing out that Enbridge’s project would require production in Alberta’s oil sands to grow by 30 per cent.
“I do not think it should grow, I think it has reached a size that is….barely manageable as it is now,” he said of the oil sands.
The proposed $5.5 billion twin pipeline project would transport bitumen from Alberta to a marine export terminal here and import condensate which is used to dilute the bitumen so it can flow through the pipeline.
Nikiforuk, who has studied the oil sands for 10 years, says the resource is of a poor quality, requiring a tremendous amount of energy to extract.
Nikiforuk bases his position on a concept called ‘Energy Return on Energy Invested’.
In the case of the Alberta oil sands, it takes the energy equivalent of one barrel of oil to get five out of the ground, which Nikiforuk said is much lower than at other oil producing parts of the world.
Canada also has to import the thinning agent condensate and other products from outside of the country to export raw product out of the country.
And since the oil is refined and value added in China or the United States, Nikiforuk says thousands of jobs are being exported.
He’s also worried there is no provision to sock away royalties in preparation for the day when the oil sands are depleted.
“And what do you guys get out of this project?” Nikiforuk asked. “It’s…Alberta’s resource, you get no royalties out of it. All you get is this bitumen highway going across this remarkable salmon watershed.
“There will be leaks, there will be spills, and there will be lots of undeclared liabilities,” he added.
Nikiforuk said the National Energy Board, an independent federal agency created to regulate pipelines, energy development and trade, now receives the majority of its budget through fees charged to companies to cover the cost of hearings.
“Now they’re 90 per cent funded by industry levies,” he said of the board.
Nikiforuk also spoke in Terrace and Prince Rupert on a tour sponsored by the Friends of Wild Salmon, Douglas Channel Watch, Northwest Watch and Skeena Wild Conservation Trust.
All are opposed to the Northern Gateway project.