Enbridge's Pipeline of Distortions
Enbridge's pipeline of distortions
By Harsha Walia; January 19, 2012 - Vancouver Sun
With President Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipe-line yesterday, tar sands lobbyists in Canada are frantically trying to spin-doctor and sell the Enbridge pipeline.
Delightful commentaries over the past few days have taken Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver to task for their desperate theories about radical foreign environmentalists and socialist billionaires hijacking the Enbridge Joint Review Panel hearings.
These attacks are largely laughable because their hypocrisy is so obvious. The oil industry is a multi-billion trans-national industry backed by a Tory government that peddles the tar sands to any foreign buyer who will bite - from Canadian diplomats in Washington hustling the Keystone XL pipeline, to another upcoming visit to China by Harper and his corporate entourage. At the Enbridge Joint Review Panel hearings, 10 out of the 16 intervening oil companies have foreign-based head-quarters, for example America's Exxon Mobil, Britain's BP, France's Total E&P, and Japan's Canada Oil Sands Ltd.
On the other hand, Environmental Defence reports that all of the intervening environmental organizations are based in Canada, and 79 per cent of those registered to speak are B.C. residents. Given colonial governance over indigenous peoples, Nadleh Whut'en Chief Larry Nooski's quip is most apt: "We're not foreign - these are our lands."
The sanctimonious rhetoric of 'sabotage by foreign interests' is a recent spin from a longer campaign that tries to pitch the tar sands as ethical. Billing itself as 'non-partisan,' the oxymoronic Ethical Oil campaign was initiated by Alykhan Velshi, staffer for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and now director of planning for the PM. Velshi has been succeeded by Ann Coulter wannabe Kathryn Marshall. In a recent CBC Power and Politics panel, Marshall refused to answer whether Ethical Oil received Enbridge funding. The group has also been unable to explain Enbridge's unethical partnership with Chinese state-owned Sinopec, linked to repression in Sudan and Myanmar.
As Naomi Klein has pointed out, much of Alberta's tar sands - which receives a chunk of the $2.9 billion of state subsidies to the oil industry - is exported to the U.S. to fuel its unethical military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or simply ask the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, down-stream from the tar sands that are being diagnosed with high rates of cancer, whether this industrial giga-project that emits over 45 million tons of greenhouse gases each year is 'ethical.' David Suzuki has written, "In today's world, all fossil fuels are unethical."
The $5.5-billion proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would cross 1,000 rivers and streams, including the Fraser and Skeena headwaters. Supertankers, with capacity of up to two million barrels of oil, would criss-cross along coastal waters.
What is encouraging, however, is that the chorus against Enbridge and the tar sands is growing, as the call for sustainable economies outside of restrictive industries is amplified. The recent financial crisis, alarming rates of climate change, and growing inequality have made clear that not only does this fundamentalist system destroy the planet, it simply does not work for any of us.
The proposed pipeline traverses the territories of 65 first nations, of which at least 61 have declared their opposition. According to the Save the Fraser Gathering of Nations Declaration, "We will not allow the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines, or similar Tar Sands projects, to cross our lands, territories and watersheds, or the ocean migration routes of Fraser River salmon." Even the oh-so-radical Union of British Columbia Municipalities has voted against the pipeline and coastal tanker traffic. According to shore worker Arnie Nag, the Enbridge proposal is also opposed by the United Fishermen and Allied Workers' Union.
In the tar sands, multinational corporations prefer cheap, exploitable, and disposable labour, especially migrant workers. Last year, the Petroleum Human Resources Council sought an additional 100,000 migrant workers to work on tar sands infrastructure.
Harsha Walia is a Vancouver-based activist and writer trained in law.