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Asia’s exploding demand for energy has set that region’s sights on Canada, and has piqued the interest of Canadian oil and gas companies. In 2009, China became the world’s top energy consumer, and Japan and South Korea have actively expressed interest in developing long-term access to Canadian oil and gas. Asia’s growing energy demands can decrease Canada’s heavy dependence exports to the US, and can raise revenue for provincial governments. But there are also environmental dangers in exporting oil and gas thousands of miles to Asia, namely, the potentially devastating environmental impact of pipeline leaks and tanker spills. Moreover, these energy shipments would pass through First Nations lands where the communities rely on the natural environment for their livelihoods.
What exactly are Canadians interests and who should decide whether to export energy to Asia?
Six years ago Enbridge approached the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council (CSTC) communities to seek our consent to use our unceded lands (treaties between CSTC communities and the Crown were never signed in our territory) as a right of way for crude oil and parallel condensate pipelines. Our initial reaction was one of concern as we did not fully understand the implications of the proposal.
At the outset Enbridge was a conciliatory actor that sought our permission. They hired Aboriginal consultants from Alberta and in their words they were, “committed to building a relationship.” The CSTC communities decided to perform their own due diligence on the proposal and the company. We undertook a comprehensive Aboriginal Interest and Use Study (AIUS). Enbridge financially supported this work with the understanding that we might or might not accept their proposal.
After 18 months of internal deliberations, archaeological and environmental research, and a review of Enbridge’s safety record, our people decided that the risks of their proposal far outweighed the benefits. Enbridge has had more than one spill a week in their North American network with the most notable one occurring in the Kalamazoo River in Battle Creek Michigan last year. That’s why we question if Canada can export oil to Asia in an environmentally safe manner.
Immediately after releasing the AIUS Enbridge took a hostile approach and told the Chiefs the pipeline would be built with or without our support. They said we must negotiate a deal now or risk receiving no benefits. Those comments strengthened our resolve and united our people. Enbridge filed their application to the National Energy Board and in the summer of 2006 we filed a federal lawsuit. Weeks later Enbridge withdrew their proposal and disappeared from our radar screens.
In 2008 Enbridge “revised’ their pipeline proposal. However, it was not much changed from their original 2005 proposal. Enbridge hired a new team of vice presidents and Aboriginal consultants and have been ignoring our right to free, prior and informed consent on this major development. Through the media the company unilaterally offered a 10% equity stake in the pipeline. The Chiefs and our membership immediately rejected their proposal. As original stewards of the land, First Nations seek responsible development from companies that respect us and our rights. Enbridge is not one of these companies.
Our communities have spoken and we have said no the Enbridge pipeline. More importantly, we have rights and title to our land and have a say in what can or cannot be developed. We are prepared to meet with any company that respects us the way we respect our lands.
The CSTC represents eight First Nations from British Columbia, and provides support to its member-nations on political and technical issues. The Tribal Council also acts as an advocate for its member-nations in areas such as fisheries, education, economic development, forestry and treaty negotiations. Further information on the CSTC is available at www.cstc.bc.ca.
It’s pretty much Marketing 101 – when you have products to sell, it’s best to have access to as many customers as possible.
Market diversification is critically important to our industry because companies are required to make large, long-term investments to develop Canada’s abundant petroleum resources. Our business relies on export markets, in the same way Canada’s forestry, agriculture, high-technology and automotive industries rely on exports.
According to the International Energy Agency, worldwide energy demand will increase by 36 per cent between 2008 and 2035 with more than 90 per cent of the growth coming from China and India. The study says fossil fuels will continue to meet the bulk of demand and remain the dominant energy source in 2035.
We have the resources. Asian and other markets need and want the products. But before we can meet the demand, we need greater access to international shipping points on the west coast. We import many products from Asia and this will provide an opportunity to bring more balance to that trading relationship.
Greater access will help to establish transportation networks that facilitate global supply chains between Canada and the growing Asian economies. New pipelines and liquified natural gas terminals will strengthen Canada’s economy by providing new sources of revenue and jobs for Canadians.
It’s important to recognize local and regional perspectives on proposals for greater access and balance these with the perspective that responsible development and operation of new pipelines, terminals and tankers are feasible, necessary and in Canada’s national interest.
Effects on the environment, including wildlife, fisheries, proximity to shipping routes for fishing and marine areas, air quality, coastal marine life and communities, environmental standards and increased access to sensitive areas are examples of the issues to be addressed through the extensive, open and thorough Canadian regulatory process.
The industry has a proven safety track record respect to marine transportation of crude oil, the result of consistently applying industry best practices and adherence to the stringent regulation that governs shipping in Canadian waters.
Over the last 25 years, more than 1,500 tankers carrying petrochemicals have safely entered the Kitimat harbour. Last year alone, there were 180 tanker calls carrying oil, jet fuel and gasoline to the Port of Vancouver, where there has been no navigational incidents in 50 years. And in Atlantic Canada, tankers continue to safely move hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil every day.
Canada is a trading nation and a global resource powerhouse.. We need to improve access to oil and gas markets to strengthen and build Canada’s position as a safe, secure and reliable global energy provider.
CAPP represents companies that find, develop and produce natural gas and crude oil throughout Canada. CAPP’s members produce more than 90 per cent of Canada’s natural gas and crude oil and provide a wide range of support services to the industry. Together these members form an important part of a national industry – the largest single private investor in Canada – with revenues of about $100 billion a year.
This question is premature until you answer another question: Can Canada develop the oilsands and unconventional gas in a way that meets our international climate obligations and addresses unresolved environmental impacts in development areas?
The facts clearly show Canada is currently failing on both counts. Recent data from Environment Canada indicates that Canada is set to miss its Copenhagen commitment to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by a massive 178 megatonnes by 2020, with projected unconstrained oilsands development as the primary culprit. Supporters of expanded oilsands or shale gas production for Asian markets should explain how such expansion can be achieved in a way that is consistent with our international obligations to reduce greenhouse gas pollution while following Canadian laws.
Meanwhile on the ground in Alberta, cumulative limits to inform what level of oilsands development is acceptable have not been set. To fill the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would require a 30 per cent increase in daily oilsands production and result in enough toxic tailings to fill B.C. Place Stadium 1.5 times each day. Alberta still has not implemented a land-use plan to guide responsible oilsands development. Meanwhile, the federal government is four years overdue in releasing a legally required recovery strategy for woodland caribou threatened by oilsands expansion.
For shale gas, analysis by the Pembina Institute and David Suzuki Foundation shows that Canada's governments should be slowing — not accelerating — the rate at which they approve new natural gas production capacity if they are serious about meeting their climate change commitments. That is particularly the case when governments have not yet put in place policies strong enough to meet their targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In B.C., projects like Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline are facing growing opposition from First Nations and local communities. Taking such opposition into account is a critical part of decision-making.
Canada is missing a national clean energy strategy, which would help address these growing challenges by prioritizing and informing energy development decisions in Canada in ways that meet both environmental and economic objectives.
Discussing plans to export our oil and gas to Asia before we have implemented appropriate policies at home and cleaned up our own act is a clear case of putting the cart before the horse. It perpetuates the same disconnected and fragmented decision-making that has come to characterize energy development in Canada.
Nathan Lemphers is a senior policy analyst with the Pembina Institute in Calgary. He is author of Pipeline to Nowhere? Uncertainty and Unanswered Questions about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline.
Les opinions exprimées dans la série « Dialogues » sont celles des auteurs et ne reflètent pas forcément les vues de la Fondation Asie Pacifique du Canada ou de ses sociétés affiliées, commanditaires ou partenaires.