FACE TO FACE: Should oil tankers be allowed off B.C.’s north coast?
If a spotted owl has to move its nest a few hundred metres to allow an upgrade of the Sea-to-Sky highway, most of us are OK with that. If a pop can sneaks into our garbage, most of us are not going to sift through the coffee grounds to remove it.
Other than a radical few, most British Columbians are an environmentally committed, but pragmatic, bunch.
But when Conservatives try to sell British Columbians on the idea of an annual fleet of 225 oil tankers off the west coast of B.C., carrying 525,000 barrels of oil per day from Kitimat to Asia, they’ll have even the most tepid environmentalist among us Googling Greenpeace and chaining ourselves to Stephen Harper’s campaign bus.
I refer, of course, to the proposed oil pipelines to run between Edmonton and Kitimat to allow Enbridge to ship Alberta tar sands oil to China and Asia. China’s voracious thirst for black gold will allow Enbridge to get more per barrel than from the U.S., which thinks tar sands oil is dirty and only valuable at discounted prices.
Tankers carrying oil from the proposed pipeline would wind their way through narrow fjords from Kitimat to Hartley Bay, into Hecate Strait, either north or south of Haida Gwaii, whichever they can get away with. The prospect of oil tankers daily cruising past some 650 salmon spawning rivers and slaloming past grey whales through rougher waters than those faced by the Exxon Valdez makes British Columbians shudder.
But, then, I suppose Mr. Harper, as someone who has been lobbied by Albertan oil types, cannot be expected to understand the reverence we British Columbians hold for our coastline.
Regardless of the incredible new safety features of oil tankers and the “world-class” safety measures my colleague Palin-esquely insists Enbridge will embrace, will there be a huge oil spill if these tankers move daily up and down our coast? Inevitably, yes.
We are being asked to accept inevitable environmental disaster in exchange for allowing a private Albertan company to make billions from China for oil we all own.
I think Stephen Harper and Enbridge, should take their double-hulled tankers and world-class safety standards and “drill baby drill” — preferably someplace, other than B.C., where the sun don’t shine.
Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.