The recently announced plan to build a refinery in Kitimat is a double-edged sword; it cuts both ways.
It’s hard to argue with the concept of keeping jobs in B.C., which is exactly what the refinery being proposed by David Black would do. Processing the crude oil pumped through to the coast from the Alberta Tar Sands through the proposed Enbridge pipeline, the refinery proposed by Black (who owns the Penticton Western News) would stymie the plans of those who would prefer to ship the crude to be processed at out-of-Canada refineries operating with cheaper labour.
The same thing happens with the problematic shipping of raw logs. By allowing multinationals to cut down trees and ship them out of the province with no further processing, B.C. misses out on most of the production chain — meaning we lose jobs, taxes and the development of a range of economic spinoffs and industries in the wood products sector.
Black’s argument that shipping gas, kerosene and diesel is safer for the environment is also valid. Compared to a spill of crude oil or bitumen, a tanker spilling gasoline, is likely to have less long-lasting effects than heavy oil coating beaches or sinking to pool in masses on the sea floor.
But that’s not to say a gas spill couldn’t or wouldn’t cause a major ecological disaster. And that’s where Black’s sword cuts the other way. There is no such thing as a “good” environmental disaster. And no matter how good the “world-class” safety practices that Enbridge uses in building and operating the pipeline, an eventual spill is almost inevitable. Likewise shipping toxic substances up and down our coast.
It’s as inevitable, in fact, as a pipeline is. For if Enbridge isn’t successful in its bid, someone, sometime, will be. Let’s face it, oil is too valuable a resource to expect that such a pipeline can be forever stalled. Better, as Black suggests, to make sure that B.C. benefits as much as possible.