Introducing Energy East – an export pipeline, not for domestic gain

TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline project generates a lot of headlines. But did you know another risky TransCanada project – even larger than Keystone – is on the horizon and could put hundreds of communities across Canada at risk of an oil spill?

TransCanada’s Energy East is a pipeline plan to get tar sands oil from Alberta to the east coast, in one massive hail mary pass. The plan would see an old natural gas pipeline converted to ship heavy oil from Alberta through to Ontario, and a huge new pipeline built across Quebec and New Brunswick. The oil would then be exported through massive new export tanker terminals in the St. Lawrence River, and the Bay of Fundy.

Backers of Energy East want us to believe that this pipeline plan is mainly about getting cheap western oil to eastern refineries. But, as a new report shows, Energy East is an export pipeline – not a made-in-Canada energy solution. It is intended to export vast quantities of unrefined tar sands oil.

How much oil? Energy East will have a staggering capacity of carrying 1.1 million barrels per day. Of that, between 750,000 to 1 million barrels would likely be exported unrefined via tankers.

That’s because refineries in eastern Canada will already have most of their oil demand met from alternate sources,  like offshore platforms in Newfoundland, imports of cheap U.S. shale-oil by rail and barge, and from other pipelines from the west. Energy East just isn’t needed to supply eastern Canada’s refineries.

In fact, Valero, the owner of one of only three refineries along Energy East’s path, stated last week that it has “no firm interest” in oil from Energy East because it already has enough oil from other sources.  And, TransCanada’s project description for Energy East, filed with the National Energy Board, states the project includes “marine facilities that enable access to other markets by ship.”

Energy East will put communities from Alberta to Atlantic Canada at risk of an oil spill, with few benefits. Communities in New Brunswick have good reason to ask why in spite of promises, there have been so few concrete examples of job creation as part of this proposal. If the pipeline exports most of the oil unrefined, there will be few economic opportunities for eastern Canadians. It’s an awfully big risk for hundreds of communities in the path of the pipeline and tanker terminals to accept the possibility of a major rupture from an oil pipeline or tanker, with so little in return.

So, why does TransCanada want to export so much oil? Like all the other oil pipeline schemes that won’t supply oil to Canadians or create refinery jobs, this project is for one purpose and one purpose only – fattening a company’s bottom line while facilitating the oil industry’s reckless plans to triple tar sands production.

Energy East pipeline & tanker map

If Energy East isn’t built, the oil industry will have to slow down its irresponsible expansion plans. Current plans to triple tar sands production would mean the industry’s global warming emissions, already the fastest growing source of GHGs in Canada, would quadruple. This would mean Canada would not be able to meet any reasonable climate target, at a time when the world is already grappling with the impacts of a warming world.

It also means that vast tracts of Canada’s boreal forest, the northern lungs of our planet and home to endangered herds of woodland caribou, would be strip-mined and fragmented irreversibly.

Even now, the Athabasca watershed, part of the vital Mackenzie river system is being polluted by vast tar sands operations, a direct threat to the health and wellbeing of First Nations, northern communities and ecosystems downstream.

An export pipeline is about sharing the risk, not sharing the wealth. If Energy East is built, Canadians will see more pollution, more global warming and a growing risk of devastating oil spills. Most of the benefits, however, will flow only to the big oil companies. Energy East will benefit TransCanada’s bottom line, but it won’t benefit the millions of Canadians who live along the pipeline’s path.

Canada should not be putting our economy at risk by building our future on oil – a single, volatile commodity —  in an increasingly carbon constrained world. We know that because tar sands projects are so expensive to develop, they are more vulnerable than other fossil fuel projects to economic downturns.  Major reductions in fossil fuel use are inevitabile as the world ramps up action to prevent further global warming. Energy East is a ‘get while the getting is good’ type of project based on a narrow and short-term mentality. Increasing Canada’s dependence on the tar sands is not a wise investement long-term.

Canada doesn’t need another gargantuan export pipeline. Around the world, other countries are powering their economies with modern, safe clean energy. Canada is at risk of  being left behind as we cling to last century’s dirty fossil fuel.

We need investment and leadership to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. We need to join other leading countries like Germany who are moving towards a modern, safe, clean energy.

Prioritizing growing the areas of our economy that won’t cook our climate, pollute our communities and poison our water is the only responsible path.

Learn more about the Energy East export pipeline here.

Live in Ontario? Tell Ontario to say no to Energy East here.

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