Society subsidizing our future destruction

Once the bitumen is loaded onto a tanker, Enbridge is not responsible for any of the clean up costs associated with a spill

A recent study done by engineers, which include two emeritus professors from the University of B.C., on the proposed supertanker traffic in the Douglas Channel showed that: “In fact, consistent with a 200-year return period, there is a probability of 22 per cent that there will be at least one spill during the 50-year operational lifetime for the project,” that “When the analysis added the liquefied natural gas tanker traffic projects already under construction, approved or awaiting approval for the port of Kitimat (432 tankers per year), the return period of an incident (tanker collisions or groundings) decreased to 38 years, or a 73 per cent chance of at least one such an incident during a 50-year operational lifetime.”

When there is a spill of diluted bitumen, the condensate separates from the bitumen which “forms a toxic cloud, poisonous to all life around the spill,” and that unlike conventional oil “bitumen sinks to the bottom in freshwater and to a level below the surface in saline water.” It showed “In both cases it is almost impossible to clean up and tides and currents can spread it over vast areas, with severe and catastrophic consequences for fisheries, marine life and human safety.”

Sounds fun. The kicker here is Enbridge hasn’t even accounted for this in the company’s spill response plan. You want to know why? Because there is no technology to clean up bitumen from the sub-surface ocean.

Under Canadian oil spill regulations, once the bitumen is loaded onto a tanker, Enbridge is not responsible for any of the clean up costs associated with a spill. Canada is a member of the international oil spill funds that will cover the costs once the tanker owner reaches $140 million, Canada has a domestic fund of $155 million. All added together with this international fund, it equals about $1.3 billion dollars in total coverage.

But if the cleanup costs from a spill exceed this amount, the taxpayers of B.C. pick up the tab. One of those proposed supertankers can hold between 700,000 and two million barrels of oil, the Exxon Valdez spilled 270,000 barrels at a cost of $3.5 billion to clean it up and that was conventional oil. Not only would taxpayers be flipping the majority of the bill for cleanup costs, but think about all the people in those affected communities who would need to go on social assistance cause a spill put them out of work. Think about the hundreds of millions in damage to the northern economy or permanent extinction of the ecology which still provides subsistence for the indigenous cultures who live on the coast. The cost would be astronomical and you as a taxpayer would be flipping the bill, not Enbridge.

What we have here is a privatize the profits, socialize the losses type of scam. Alberta, China, Ottawa, Enbridge and the over 70 per cent owned foreign companies in the tar sands are colluding together to defraud the taxpayers of B.C. and turn our coast into a giant toilet for the oil patch. Instead of asking whether or not this garbage can be transported by train or how much money B.C. could haul in, why not ask why we keep sacrificing large swaths of the Earth’s ecology to service an abstraction like neoclassical economics and capitalism?

Why is our society subsidizing the destruction of our kids and grandkids future? The present system is unsustainable and fraudulent, and instead of doing more of the same we should be working on ways to scale back the damage we do to nature. There are ways out of this mess, we’re not locked into this system.

Cody Young

Penticton