A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

The following is an edited version of a piece by Elizabeth May.  It was edited only for brevity. 

Many people believe what is being said about the Kinder Morgan pipeline.  They think it is a good thing or, at the very least, that there is a valid argument for it.  There isn’t.

Stated lies:  1. Kinder Morgan’s expanded pipeline was thoroughly reviewed.
2. Kinder Morgan’s pipeline is in the national interest.
3. Alberta’s economy depends on moving solid bitumen to export markets.
4. Eventually British Columbia must back down and accept the pipeline.

Here’s the problem with those assumptions (lies):

Kinder Morgan’s expanded pipeline was not thoroughly reviewed.
Prior to the 2012 omnibus budget Bill C-38, repealing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the National Energy Board (NEB) had had no role in environmental assessment. Thanks to C-38, it was put in charge of pipelines. 
The NEB felt forced by time limits imposed by C-38 to alter its usual quasi-judicial process. Intervenors were denied procedural fairness — such as being allowed to cross-examine industry experts, or even to be allowed in the room.  The abuse of normal rules for procedural fairness was breathtaking.

The result was a hearing that left the NEB without actual evidence. It had a pile of worthless assertions, untested as evidence.

The Royal Society of Canada, concluded that we lacked the science to know if it is possible to clean-up dilbit. The NEB ruled that accepting the Royal Society study would be unfair to Kinder Morgan.

The NEB was unperturbed when a Kinder Morgan expert committed fraud, whiting out the word “draft” from a US EPA spill dispersion model, then introducing that plan to the NEB claiming it was the approach used in the US. Another intervenor, economist Robyn Allan, contacted the EPA only to discover that they did not use this model. 

There is no independent review making the case that Kinder Morgan’s pipeline is in the national interest. The NEB never conducted a review remotely capable of meeting the average citizen’s understanding of what is in the public interest. The largest union in the oil sands, Unifor, intervened before the NEB. Unifor attempted to enter evidence that building Kinder Morgan would cost jobs; shipping out unprocessed solid bitumen to refineries in other countries ships out Canadian jobs at the same time and increases the carbon footprint of the product. Shipping solid bitumen diluted with toxic fossil fuel condensate for export bypasses the last remaining refinery in Burnaby. The refinery cannot process bitumen. It has already cut its workforce by 30 per cent and if Kinder Morgan goes ahead, it will likely close. The NEB refused to accept the evidence. It ruled that its mandate did not include jobs, or climate, or upstream or downstream impacts.

So, “national interest,” according to the NEB, does not include energy security, net employment benefits, environment, climate, GDP, or anything other than getting the pipeline approved.

Alberta’s economy does not depend on moving solid bitumen to export markets
When former Premier Peter Lougheed envisioned an oil sands industry, he said the first rule was “Think like an owner.” He had planned for bitumen to be processed in Alberta for a Canadian market. The idea that pipelines to ship out solid bitumen (with diluent to make a solid flow) was essential did not emerge until after the 2008 financial crisis. That pipeline was Keystone, straight south. And as late as 2011, Stephen Harper’s position was that no pipeline should be built to the B.C. coast as no bitumen should be exported to countries with lower environmental standards than those in Canada.

All of this does not even touch on the fundamental issue of how Indigenous peoples and First Nations were treated throughout this process.

“I am choking on the lies and hypocrisy of Kinder Morgan, the NEB and now the Trudeau Liberals.”   E. May.  

12 thoughts on “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

  1. Without a doubt this pipeline debate has been troubled by equivocations, sleights of hand, misdirections, extrapolations, court judgements, misreporting, underreporting, false deadlines, jibes, jeers, false claims, arguments of necessity, claims of lack of will, conspiracy theories, claims of incompetence, claims of it being mandate ending, that it is without solution, threats, claims of a crisis of confidence, smears, treats to confederation and a great deal of editorializing biased and balanced. One of the arguments pivots around how this pipeline impacts the future of BC waters. On one hand we hear not worth the risk and on the other hand a calculated risk that can be managed. Each side is competing for the same hill, ‘moral high ground.’ Both sides are using arguments that some find do not resonate or address the core issue. BC is split fifty/fifty on this pipeline issue. In Alberta it is an economic issue of taxes and jobs and a conceptual issue around the transportation of oil.


  2. Let me be perfectly clear! I do not, nor does anyone else, consider me an expert, or even well educated on this subject. That doesn’t preclude me from adding my two bits worth.
    IF, and that’s a pretty big if, there is a need for Fossil Fuel energy after the almost certain demise
    of the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) then there are other ways to accomplish it than shipping
    diluted bitumen through a pipe? Refine it at source. A refinery is not cost effective?
    Surely the cost of a pipeline for transport, the facility for recovering the dilutent, the marine shipping. transferring, handling costs involved would go a long way to subsidizing a refinery, and overcome most of the objections to it.
    Surely the opportunity to make Canada energy self sufficient is worth consideration, especially if one believes fossil fuel consumption has a future. No more quasi-certainty over reliable middle
    east/Venezuelan sources.
    Failing a refinery, there is technology for solidifying bitumen into briquettes, perhaps introducing air in order to create buoyancy, and shipping it by rail/pipe. Then if/when fossil fuel dependency ceases there won’t be a stranded pipeline asset. Just stop shipping. Park the railcars.

    Court cases, approvals, financing, resistance are all going to prolong actual construction of this ill-conceived (at this time) venture far beyond its financial viability.

    And that’s my opinion!


    • There are E.May’s reasons. There is your logic and there is, of course, the logic of climate change mitigation but how surprised will you be when it is announced that it is going ahead anyway? And whose logic will prevail then? Kinder Morgan’s and the logic of the corporate shareholder. Making Canada great again?


    • Once again, we agree. But E.May backed up all her statements. Even Harper was against shipping dilbit. So…..you inside with us westcoasters that the sludge should be refined in Alberta? If not, why not? More jobs. More ownership. More money, money, money. Shouldn’t you be rooting for BC?


  3. I totally agree that the tar sands goo should be refined here in Canada.
    Dibit is a nightmare, toxic, impossible to clean up, expensive to render into a liquid, etc..
    Unfortunately, there hasnt been a refinery built in Canada since the 1970’s and what refineries we do have are being shutdown and scrapped ( Burnaby’s Shellburn Refinery, Dartmouth , Nova Scotia’s Imperoyal Refinery were the latest to close in the last 5-10 years.).
    NIMBY activists will stop any new refineries, anywhere in Canada …..period.
    Refineries are also very expensive to build, run and maintain.
    Most oil companies loathe building them.
    Long story short.
    We have two choices….ship dilbit or shut down the tarsands……


    • “”Dibit is a nightmare, toxic, impossible to clean up, expensive to render into a liquid, etc..””
      Dilbit is no more toxic than conventional crude,
      clean up methods are different than light crude but are as readily available as for light crude,
      Dilbit may be more expensive to refine than light crude but feedstocks of light crude are dwindluing so overall, all refining is geting more expensive.
      Also, several Canadian refineries have capability to accept dilbit as feedstock (up to 100% in some cases).


      • Sounds good, John. You coming to clean up with us? You gonna replenish birds and fish stocks! They don’t pay good money for birds, ya know? Collateral damage. And how do you get it all back, John? How do you get birds and fish back with money sent to politicians? Money is not adequate. It buys nothing I want. I want the birds and the fish. No money. Just birds. Just fish. No money. Can you understand that? No money. Nature is priceless, John. Get it?


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