Last weekend, I have attended an Earth Day panel discussion at the Vancouver Public Library where British Columbia’s most controversial energy topics were discussed.
As BC is situated between Alberta’s dirty tar sands in the North and the energy-hungry United States in the South, the negative effects of possible pipeline leaks, tanker accidents and other environmental catastrophies for BC’s wonderful landscape and coasts are omnipresent. Due to the health, climate and environment conscious lifestyle of many people here, fracking in BC and tar sands in Alberta are viewed very critically.
According to Ben Parfitt and his study “Fracking up our water”, BC’s carbon emissions from shale gas fracking are expected to double until 2020. Apart from the negative effects on the climate and the environment as well as the huge water consumption, only 12.8% of the produced gas would stay in BC. In contrast, a considerable amount would be exported through pipelines to the US and the overwhelming part (55.7%) would be brought to Alberta with the tar sands industry being the biggest buyer.
This should be made clear: The gas whose exploration is the most energy intensive and environmentally damaging will be largely used for the most energy intensive and environmentally damaging form of oil exploration!
In fact, oil exploration from Alberta’s tar sands is expected to grow five-fold by 2020 which would mean that tar sands will then produce more GHG emissions than all cars and trucks in Canada! Not to mention the enormous water consumption, the possible negative health effects (fish with tumors are reality) and the dangers to the drinking water, the soils and the Canadian boreal forests. Moreover, two pipelines through BC and 300 oil tankers in Vancouver are not only a danger to BC’s environment but also to its economy and jobs which depend on its intact landscapes (tourism, fisheries, etc.).
So, why do politicians take on these risks? The answer is simple: Three quarters of Alberta’s revenues are from Big Oil, its tar sands industry has bought the politicians and its population is happy about low taxes. Or, to say it in Tria Donaldson’s words: “There’s a lot of American money in Canadian Politics and foreign money in tar sands.”