Pipelines, Energy Needs, & The Global Environment

Pipelines, Energy Needs, & The Global Environment

Presenter: Barrie Webster

May, 2015

Human existence and our market economy around the world is currently firmly wedded to the petroleum industry. Canada’s resource-based economy is easily affected by the price of oil. Demand for petroleum products is increasing. However, scientifically based recommendations warning us of the role of fossil fuels in promoting climate change urge us to alter course significantly. Given the importance of fossil fuels, and the status attached to its use, it is remarkable that companies involved with the transport of raw petroleum products by pipeline appear at best to be careless and at worst too often wilfully not to comply with the law.


Examples abound regarding unintentional release of raw petroleum and fossil fuels into the environment. Although relatively small scale, the recent leakage of bunker fuel oil (not actual tanker cargo) into English Bay shows the problem is close at hand. With the prospect of increased tanker exports from Greater Vancouver, we can expect accidental release into the marine environment to be increasingly probable and orders of magnitude more serious than the recent small bunker fuel spill.

Tar sands oil leaks into the environment can occur at all steps.


First Nations consider the ‘big picture’


Contamination occurs in tropical countries, too The problems are international in scope. Nigeria is a particularly sad example of a country seriously contaminated by careless oil exploitation. Peru is another.

1. We have been made aware of the risks of pipeline transport of petroleum. So is rail transport a
viable alternative? Should we consider transportation to be the real problem? Or should we be
pursuing something more fundamental to the survival of humanity and a viable ecosystem on the

2. Should we be taking this opportunity to make drastic changes to our energy consumption patterns?
If so, how do we get there from here? Sudden change is potentially disruptive.

3. Given the prediction that fossil fuel demand will outstrip supply unless more resources are
developed, what energy-related infrastructure should we be building? If we don’t build it, what sort of
disruption to our lives should we be prepared to accept? If we do build it, what should be our overall

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