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Local Paper's wishy washy pipeline editorial and my response.  RSS feed

 
Roberto pokachinni
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First: Some Background:

There is an existing pipeline going from Alberta up the Athabasca River in the Rockies and through Jasper National Park and down the Fraser River through Mt Robson Provincial Park, to Valemount where it crosses the headwaters of the Columbia River, before descending again this time on the Thompson River (which eventually joins as a large branch of the Fraser River) and down to the coast at Burnaby.  It crosses thousands of streams besides these named rivers. 

The pipeline was originally built for the purpose of bringing oil to refineries in Vancouver and Burnaby, B.C. and in Washington State, and meet the energy needs of the Greater Vancouver/Greater Seattle region.  In it's initial phase (1952-2005) the pipeline moved natural gas, jet fuel and alberta crude oil and was owned by the B.C. Gas Company.  Although not environmentally ideal, the old project had these as it's foundation: Local Resources, Local Markets, Local Ownership.  On the scale of continents, This Was A Regional Inititive.

In 2005 Kinder Morgan purchased that company and have revamped the pipeline in 2007 to move diluted bitumen (raw extracted oil sand crude (different than the Alberta Oil that was previously shipped) mixed with petrochemical solvents to dilute it for flow).  Now, the pipeline is supplying bulk raw diluted bitumen to tankers for overseas refineries/markets and may require the ocean channel to be dredge to accommodate larger tankers.  It should not be understated and bears repeating:  diluted bitumen is not oil, it is a complicated mix of very thick raw oil sands sludge with up to 30% powerful chemical solvents (the exact recipe is a trade secret, but cancer causing benzene is a known additive).  Kinder Morgan has opted out of conducting any studies of the health impacts of diluted Bitumen, how it reacts in a marine environment, and choose instead to treat it as crude oil.

The present pipeline proposal is to 'Twin' the line, (meaning add another one)-in this case a much larger one rather than an equal twin, greatly expanding tanker traffic for export to Asia through the already heavily impacted but remarkably still thriving ecosystem of the Salish Sea.

The Dec 8th edition: The Editorial in the goat can be found here:      Going With The Flow (Of Oil)  

There were so many talking points in the editorial that I found it hard to focus on what I wanted to write about, especially since the Paper requests that submitted letters be under 400 words.  I could have gone on for pages and pages on several of the topics.

And my submitted response (which was greatly edited but is still over 400 words) is here:

While I am not free of carbon footprint hypocrisies, I do consider my decisions in this regard and feel very free to voice opposition to diluted bitumen pipelines and the hypocrisies of others, especially Justin Trudeau who said the National Energy Board's broken process could not approve pipelines.  The pipeline ends in Burnaby (at a refinery which can't process this product), and so, perhaps in the thinking of Kinder Morgan are the corporation's responsibilities, but Coastal First Nations as well as many non-indigenous folk have other things to say about it.  The increased Tanker traffic is a huge concern to them, and rightly so.

Decreasing our own personal demand (carbon footprint), while worthy of thought and action, does not address the issues of oil sands expansion, increasing Canada's raw hydrocarbon exports, increasing B.C.'s oil spill risks 7 fold, or allowing overseas exports to pollute other lands, waters, or our common atmosphere.
 
Kinder Morgan, Notley's Alberta and Trudeau's Feds call this an economy, but booming mega projects such as Trans-Mountain only really fit well with corporate profits, short election cycles, and taxes, not with stable economies, national or local.  Pipelines greatly effect refinery and oil sands workers in Alberta for the negative; Unifor, their largest union acted as an intervener against Trans-Mountain saying that it will hurt the economy and Canadian jobs.  Why import refined Venezuelan oil while not upgrading our own bitumen?  It's a false economy based on fast track globalized profiteering for the few. 

If we invested in local renewable initiatives we would provide solidity to a true economy which extends much further into the future.  Landing the guilt for taking responsibility for this debacle, and silencing critical voice of locals who have no mass transportation infrastructure, does this issue a vast disservice, especially when not offering some solutions for carbon footprint reduction or creating any alternative projections for a different future. Going with the flow (of oil) is not in our interest. 

I did get an email in response yesterday morning:

Thank you for your letter, Rob!
Lots of good points. We appreciate it.

Best,


Evan Matthews, Editor
 
John Wolfram
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Pipelines certainly are getting all the press these days, but all the various petroleum transport options certainly have their relative pluses and minuses.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/04/26/pick-your-poison-for-crude-pipeline-rail-truck-or-boat/#770d9af75777
 
Tyler Ludens
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If it is for petroleum exports, "none of the above."  Exporting petroleum products is not an appropriate means of growing the economy, in my opinion.  So we are NOT obligated to "pick our poison."





 
Roberto pokachinni
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John Wolfram wrote:
Pipelines certainly are getting all the press these days, but all the various petroleum transport options certainly have their relative pluses and minuses. 
Thanks for posting that link. While I agree that the press is giving a lot of play to pipelines these days, that is because so many pipelines are in advanced stages of being planned or approved.  The amount seems to be unprecedented in my lifetime.  And that, alone, is concerning.  I agree that pipelines can transport oil safer than many options...

...But that's not the issue (in fact there are many), and I'm not sure if you read any of what I wrote, John, because I'm not expecting the oil sands products to be moved by something other than pipelines.  My opposition to this project is not anti-pipeline, but to this particular project being expanded, and for many reasons.  Most of them are listed above, in the background preceding portion, or my letter.  There are many options that might be considered worth implementing. 

These options include, but are not limited to, 1.)refining the raw product local to it's source, 2.)upgrading it into products/markets which provide vastly better secondary and tertiary economics as opposed to raw resource exports, 3.) locally marketing, instead of importing refined oil from Venezuela. 2.) and getting off the hydrocarbon cycle by exploring renewable energy projects instead of pointing the finger at consumers (and making them feel guilty) for continuing to use fossil fuels... when alternatives are not yet present.  I'm not personally terribly interested in the oil sands under the boreal forest being further expanded at all, or with pipelines being built, but that is not what this letter was about. 

I believe that people are willing and wanting to embrace a different model, but that is going to take investment by government and a re-focus of industry away from the present model.  So in that regard, I am anti-pipeline. I consider myself to be more pro other things, including a green local economy and definitely getting into local/regional resource use rather than exports (particularly bulk, raw exports).

What's stopping Kinder Morgan from investing in renewable energy projects, or secondary and tertiary industries, except that they are very narrowly focusing on something else (pipelines).  By stopping the further expansion of the pipeline/export model, we slow the pattern down, and we send a message not only to government, but to industry, and the world that we expect something different.  We give industry a chance to catch up to what consumers actually want, which is to have meaningful rewarding jobs, products that are freer of guilt, and a clean safe environment to hand to the next generation (towards regenerative/sustainable/permaculture...).  The result of that message goes to the rest of the world that those options exist as well, and the entire market changes.  It's a big deal. 

I do appreciate you giving your input here, John, and I look forward to discussing this further.   
 
Roberto pokachinni
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If it is for petroleum exports, "none of the above."  Exporting petroleum products is not an appropriate means of growing the economy
  I agree.  Any pipelines that should be built would be within the area of production/refining/manufacture.  They should not be trans-provincial, transnational, or global in economics.  The old pipeline served a purpose for when it was built (1957) before the post oil paradigm was even a thought (let alone setting the global post carbon agenda), and it worked for what it did in the time that it was used.  Now, perhaps we should even be considering dismantling that aged system, and focusing on locally appropriate energy projects.
 
John Weiland
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@Roberto P: "Local Resources, Local Markets, Local Ownership."

In a similar vein, I've been dropping some hints locally that North Dakota in the US should consider the same with respect to the Dakota Access Pipeline.  Interestingly, North Dakota is uniquely poised and has historical precedent to do just that.

Some background:  Back in the 1920s in some financial struggles between the farming sector of the Great Plains states and the large grain mills and elevators of Minneapolis, Chicago and the like, there were actually some downright radically, progressive thinking (i.e., socialist-leaning) politicians in North Dakota, not duplicated in the other surrounding states.  So strong was their thinking that, unique among states of the Union, they created a "State Bank of North Dakota":  http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/economy-prompts-fresh-look-at-nds-socialist-bank/

and the "State Mill of North Dakota":  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Dakota_Mill_and_Elevator

[Edited to add additional good story on the Mill here (may have to cut and past link without semicolon):  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/31/opinion/pragmatism-on-the-prairie.html ; ]

the latter of which, "was built by the state as a way of bypassing what many area wheat farmers considered unfair business practices on the part of the railroads and milling facilities in Minneapolis, Minnesota...... After freight costs to Minneapolis were deducted from Minneapolis market prices, North Dakotan farmers received a low price for their wheat. The North Dakota Mill was established by the Nonpartisan League leaders, who then controlled the state government, to help solve this problem and benefit local farmers."

Both of these entities (a) exist today, (b) have survived North Dakota's heavily leaning Republican political climate, and (c) are a net contributor to the state budget, rather than a financial burden.

With that as a backdrop, I would propose the creation of a North Dakota State Refinery.  (1) Buy out the Energy Transfer Partner's current pipeline that extends from the Badlands to the contested Missouri River crossing, (2) Establish a refinery outside of the Badlands and closer to Bismarck, within close driving distance to the interstate for access reasons. (DAPL issue with Standing Rock evaporates...AND we don't have to worry about big oil doing an end-around the death of XL-Keystone by hooking up to DAPL in the future!) (3) Just as North Dakota farmers grow the "crude" wheat that gets "value added" by the North Dakota State Mill by processing into flour, the crude oil will get refined into the various petroleum products for domestic use. (4) Profits above and beyond those monies to salary the workers and operate the refinery get plowed back into the state general fund, just as happens with the other two state entities right now.

When I elaborated this plan to a local, their response was "I suppose we should rename the state as North Venezuela, right?..."

The resistance will be typical; the precedent...quite unusual.
 
David Livingston
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Well it could have worse at least they are not activly campaigning for it . One wonders if they are getting some advertising out of this some how .
I found the silent majority argument interesting bollocks of course and the mayor in question should be asked to stand down and stand again on this issue he won't of course because this scare stuff is rubbish and he knows he will loose .
Why don't you write a number of letters or offer to write an opinion piece on this ? Local press are suckers for free content .

David
 
David Livingston
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As a socialist of longstanding there is one thing you forgot I think in this idea of letter writing . You need to organize find other folks to help you or you help them . Together we are strong
Do you think one person can stop this pipeline ? Worthy as you are,  you are still only one person .
How many folks is in  the propaganda department of the pipeline company?
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I found the silent majority argument interesting bollocks of course and the mayor in question should be asked to stand down and stand again on this issue he won't of course because this scare stuff is rubbish and he knows he will loose . 
  The female mayor of Fort St John is Lori Ackerman.  Fort St John is at the center of B.C. North East's natural gas/fracking sector, (a little piece of Alberta in a way... on the East side of the Rockies) and she is not likely to lose an election for taking this action.  Somehow, due to very strange political boundaries, my local Federal Member of Parliament is also from Fort St Jonn, and is very conservative and well entrenched in oil and gas... so petitioning him in any way in this regard is pointless.  He doesn't even come down here to campaign.  He couldn't care less about us, and neither does she.  They have the prime interest in their very local constituents jobs/'economy' and that's it.
As a socialist of longstanding there is one thing you forgot I think in this idea of letter writing . You need to organize find other folks to help you or you help them . Together we are strong 
  I'm not the lone voice, but I may be one of the few in this town willing to speak truth to power on this issue after that particular editorial.  There is pipeline support in this area, including the local First Nation who signed an agreement with Kinder Morgan.  I just couldn't let the editorial stand alone as it seemed to be convincing people, in title and content, to allow this to happen, and there are many who don't think it's a good idea, or are sitting on the fence, and they don't need to have that piece stand alone.  In addition to me, and many others in the area and the province in general (57%polled against it) there are thousands that hit the streets of Vancouver since the Feds gave conditional approval.  The mayor's of Vancouver and Burnaby are set against it, as well.  The newspaper who printed that ad, The Vancouver Sun, is owned by conservatives.  I'm more of a social anarchist than I am a socialist, but I agree with your sentiments on the united front.
Why don't you write a number of letters or offer to write an opinion piece on this ? Local press are suckers for free content . 
I am considering a column of my own.  The paper is locally owned, and run.  I know the owners.  The other paper in the valley, though, is corporate run, and I often don't even read it, though I should.  I'm positive that there is no advertising gains from this editorial.  The interesting thing is that I was surprised by the editorial.  It wasn't that well written, it seemed to try to give a variety of perspectives, but it was weak on facts and seemed to skew things in ways (i think unintentionally) to create a point of view that didn't look as unbiased as the content could have been had more research been done/utilized.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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John Weiland; I think that your idea might have merit (and I had a feeling that someone might come up with this argument, and I'm glad you did, especially in the way that you did with such examples), but...  The pipeline moving diluted bitumen is not something I want to see being piped the full length from Northern Alberta down across the border and beyond... it's simply too far.  I would rather not see long pipelines at all.  There is too much risk for the limited gains.  The majority of Albertan's seem deluded enough to not see the risk though, and seem hell bent on exporting raw oil for quick cash, so they might go for it.  The local aspect of the refinery in North Dakota would not make the Canadian Unions very happy... just sayin.  They would want the refinery North of the border.  
 
John Weiland
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@Robert P: "Now, perhaps we should even be considering dismantling that aged system, and focusing on locally appropriate energy projects."  -AND- "The pipeline moving diluted bitumen is not something I want to see being piped the full length from Northern Alberta down across the border and beyond... it's simply too far."

I may have not made my description clear on this point.  What I was envisioning here was Bakken (North Dakota) oil that would be used exclusively in the refinery.  And although the argument has been made time and again over the DAPL that it would only be transporting North Dakota oil, I have no idea how long those oil fields would last until completely played out.  Also to be clear that I agree we are talking about the "lesser evil" here, but the notion of more localized power sources and generation I think is a good concept.  Hence, Arizona has more solar potential than North Dakota, which has oil and wind (AND solar, just less).  And in all cases, where homes/buildings are built with greater energy sustainability in mind, and use what geothermal benefits they may derive from their location,  the dependence on the petroleum/nat. gas energy is reduced.

So as for Alberta, I was not actually thinking of using tar sands or other oil from that region for the North Dakota refinery.  (Disappointing to see that the Nouveau Trudeau is onboard with these large and antedeluvian pipeline concepts.)  Rather, I was thinking that "what's extracted in Alberta, stays in Alberta"......**as a crude product** that gets refined within the province.  And just like the North Dakota State Mill, a portion of whose milled flour is sold outside of the state as part of profit generation, Alberta could refine and prioritize sales of the various petro products first and foremost to Albertians (?), second to neighboring provinces, third to Canada as a whole, and last on the international market.  Clearly this model leaves many locations that do not have sourcing, production, and refining ability out in the (literal) cold.  But it still seems prudent to work first with those sources available locally (geothermal supplemented by wind, solar, various petro/nat gas sources), extracted/captured in as low-impact manner as possible, and then import what may be necessary to make up the difference.  Dismantling infrastructure that is no longer needed seems ideal, but even stopping the long distance flow of current crude would be a good start.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I may have not made my description clear on this point.  What I was envisioning here was Bakken (North Dakota) oil that would be used exclusively in the refinery.  And although the argument has been made time and again over the DAPL that it would only be transporting North Dakota oil, I have no idea how long those oil fields would last until completely played out. 
Yeah, I was almost in another book, let alone on the right page!  Clarity recieved.   The oil might not play out that quickly if it was mostly used locally particularly if sustainable/renewable options were also explored.    
 
David Livingston
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"I'm not the lone voice, but I may be one of the few in this town willing to speak truth to power on this issue after that particular editorial "
How do you know this ? you never know reach out to others make new friends .Is the news paper that powerful ? This is the age of the internet . Why would others not speak out ? Ask questions upon questions sometimes you will get answers .
 
Roberto pokachinni
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How do you know this ? you never know reach out to others make new friends .Is the news paper that powerful ? This is the age of the internet . Why would others not speak out ? Ask questions upon questions sometimes you will get answers .
  I do know.  Firstly, I have had several communications with the editor since I started this thread, which leads me very much to believe that he is actually on board with this perspective, but failed to get the point out in that particular editorial.  Second, I am not isolated from conversation, or the pulse of the valley.  I do know that there are some who will have a conversation about it, but who would never write a letter to the paper... about anything, let alone a hot button item like this.  Some of these people might post something on facebook, but won't have the conversation in person.  There are various combinations of this.  Thirdly; because there is an existing Kinder Morgan pipeline, which results in some employees living locally, there are close friendship ties with people who are opposed to expansion, and so they might not speak up, or write a letter because they don't want to offend people in this small community.  And Forth; I am part of a local environmental group, and know the voices there well.     
 
Travis Johnson
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I thought it was well written Roberto. I know they call this the "information age", but we all know it is nonsense. 1000 years from now they will look back at everything driven by the almighty gallon of oil and call it the "oil Age" instead. Myself, I know statistically that pipelines are the safer mode of transportation of oil, but since you made the points about selling off natural resources to foreign interests so well, I am in complete agreement with you.

I won't switch this into politics here, but will keep it Permie related in that I believe a given area has certain resources; some more than others, and some different, but those resources should not be exploited. In a simple statement 'some things just are not for sale". Honestly I thought it was just the USA that seemed to sell its soul to the highest bidder, I am so sorry to hear it is happening where you live.

Again, as a writer myself, having no knowledge of what your area is enduring for encroachment, I think you conveyed your ideas quite well. Once again Roberto, you impress me. If our paths were ever to cross, I would buy you a...coffee. I don't drink so it will have to do.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I know they call this the "information age", but we all know it is nonsense. 1000 years from now they will look back at everything driven by the almighty gallon of oil and call it the "oil Age" instead. 
I think the information age is a little past.  Not exactly past, because we are ALWAYS living in an information age.  What I mean is, for the most part we have the information... But this is the decision making age.  We are simply making poor decisions because we do not have a holistic framework for making our decisions. 
I believe a given area has certain resources; some more than others, and some different, but those resources should not be exploited. In a simple statement 'some things just are not for sale". Honestly I thought it was just the USA that seemed to sell its soul to the highest bidder, I am so sorry to hear it is happening where you live. 
  This is a global problem, Canada has been a raw resource extraction zone since before it was a nation (the Fur trade... the loss to near extinction of beavers).  Modern Globalization and Transnational Corporations just makes it that much more extreme, and blatant on a full ecosystem basis (meaning the rape of the old growth boreal forest to get at the Oil Sands, and turn the area instead into a tailing pond wasteland).   
If our paths were ever to cross, I would buy you a...coffee. I don't drink so it will have to do. 

I hardly drink myself, but even coffee messes with me (I'd likely rattle your ears off by talking so much, and the nervous edgy energy would not bode well for our conversation ta boot) and I only use it medicinally if I have to drive after a bout of insomnia.  I choose green tea, or mountain water for the most part.  That said, I would gladly partake of any beverage you offered.  It would be an honor and a pleasure, sir.
 
Did you see how Paul cut 87% off of his electric heat bill with 82 watts of micro heaters?
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