Monday November 24, 2014


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Extolling the pipelines


A trail derails in northwest New Brunswick, causing several rail cars carrying crude oil to derail.

It's the latest in a series of derailments involving crude oil shipments in North America. Lac Megantic, Quebec, was the worst – nearly 50 people were killed by a derailment and explosion in that community. But we've seen incidents in Alberta, North Dakota and other communities that have reinforced the risks of transporting crude oil by train.

Shipping oil via train is largely safe, but it carries inherent risks.

The ardent environmentalists will look at these incidents and use them as fodder for their anti-oil propaganda. They'll say that oil shouldn't be shipped by train, and that it's time to distance ourselves from crude oil, and find other sources of energy.

Yet they don't grasp that they share part of the blame, because of their objections to pipelines.

Pipelines are the fastest, most efficient and safest means to transport crude oil and natural gas. It delivers the commodities to ports and refineries. If necessary, it'll be shipped to overseas markets that want North America's oil.

The odds of a pipeline leak occurring are minute, and when they do happen, it typically doesn't involve a relatively new pipeline.

For those with the anti-oil agenda, however, even the smallest pipeline leak is an indication of what they perceive to be the inherent and growing dangers of oil shipping.

When the Joint Review Panel approved the Northern Gateway Pipeline late last year, that was a step in the right direction. There are conditions with the approval – a mere 209 of them that will further enhance Northern Gateway's safety, while creating more consultations.

Landlocked oil will now be able to reach overseas markets. 

Hopefully the Energy East pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline will enjoy similar fates. Keystone XL might go down as a case study and a cautionary tale. It should have been approved once it was rerouted from the environmentally sensitive areas. But instead, it sits in limbo, waiting for either final regulatory approval, or a death blow, while the environmental movement lobs its pot shots towards the oil sands.

Pipelines are also great for the economy. Once the new pipelines are built, much-needed royalty money will be injected into the provincial and federal governments' coffers, which, in turn, can be spent on health care, education, highway improvements and social programs.

Rail shipments of oil won't be disappearing entirely once the pipelines are finished. There has been too much money invested into transload facilities, short-line railroads and terminals – such as the one being constructed at Northgate – to eliminate this relatively new means of oil delivery.

But the completion of pipelines will significantly reduce the amount of oil that is shipped in Canada. Some of the transload facilities might shut down. Short line railroads might need to find another commodity to transport. For those communities that have a railroad cutting through the heart of the community, residents will be able to breathe a little easier.



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