Opinion: Kenney’s inquiry into oilpatch foes is welcomed

The Jason Kenney government’s decision to spend $2.5 million on an inquiry into the campaign against Alberta’s oilsands isn’t likely to expose fresh scandal, but that doesn’t mean the exercise isn’t worthwhile.

Researchers, most notably Vivian Krause, have followed the money and proven that groups and activists working in Canada to keep Alberta oil landlocked are being bankrolled by foreign sources.

The most worrisome assertion is that these entities and foundations, many of them American, want to keep Canadian oil off the international market so our country has no choice but to sell it to U.S. buyers at a steep discount.

It’s a damning claim, but it isn’t without merit. Environmental groups talk excitedly about shutting down the oilsands, but they show no desire to oppose America’s energy industry, which has transformed its country from being an oil importer to being the largest oil producer in the world.

Perhaps the saddest fact is that mischievous environmental groups have found such fertile ground in Canada. If the public recognized that oil is a necessary ingredient for modern life, at least until renewable energy is more plentiful and reliable, well-financed attempts to hobble Canada’s energy industry wouldn’t be so successful.

As Parliament broke for the summer, for instance, it passed Bill C-48, which bans the transport of Canadian oil on environmental grounds along the northern B.C. coast. The legislation is deservedly perceived as an attack on western Canadian oil, because it doesn’t prohibit the shipment of other products, such as liquefied natural gas.

If Canadians are concerned about oil tankers, their attention should be focused on the Atlantic Coast, where 85 per cent of the ship movements occur.

The Atlantic Coast is a home to the beleaguered right whale, whose numbers have been reduced to about 400 worldwide because of entanglements with fishing gear and collisions with marine traffic.

How come there’s little public discussion about the environment along the Atlantic Coast, given that it’s the site of the lion’s share of tanker movements? These are much larger tankers than those that ply the West Coast, and are vessels that carry fuel from questionable regimes such as Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

It’s estimated a whopping 192 million tonnes of oil move along the Atlantic Coast each year.

On the Pacific Coast, meanwhile, Canadian shipments account for just six million tonnes of oil a year, compared to the 37 million tonnes carried by American tankers through Canadian waters.

“Tankers currently represent about two per cent of total ship traffic visiting the Port of Vancouver,” says Clear Seas, a group that charts such statistics.

Clear Seas says approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the source of endless handwringing, protests and court delays, would increase the number of tankers visiting the Port of Vancouver from five to around 34 per month, or just 14 per cent of total shipping traffic.

Any marine vessel can be the source of an oil spill.

Interestingly, of the larger spills reported in Canadian waters, 78 per cent involved fuel used to power the ship itself, rather than oil being carried as cargo.

It’s time Canadians gained some perspective about the real threats to Canada’s marine environment, and the foreign forces that are funding the hysteria.

Let’s hope Kenney’s inquiry nudges us all a little closer in the right direction.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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