Keystone XL and Enbridge Northern Gateway are dangerous

The Graveyard Laugh
Rolf Auer, 7 May 2013
One might feel a chill when one walks past a graveyard and realizes that one’s life on Earth is finite. Timor mortis conturbat me: fear of death disturbs me. Then one mentally shrugs off the chill and gives a nervous laugh: the graveyard laugh.
Ecocide—defined as total destruction of an area of the natural environment, especially by human agency—“by a thousand cuts” also elicits the graveyard laugh.
Among the ecocidal cuts are oil spills by pipeline ruptures. Of particular concern are ruptures of pipelines carrying bitumen crude. These types of oil spills are more difficult to clean up than conventional ones.[1]
Medical ailments contracted as a result of contact with oil spills include skin lesions and shortness of breath.[2] Wildlife that has ingested oil has resultant maladies such as brain lesions, internal bleeding, damage to kidneys and other organs, stress, and pneumonia.[3] One could be easily forgiven for wondering if similar, or the same, sicknesses would either be passed on to or be contracted by humans.
A recent report—“Legacy of a half century of Athabasca oil sands development recorded by lake ecosystems”—makes associations between Oil Sands developments in Alberta and carcinogenic afflictions.[4]
The Alberta Oil Sands developments produce bitumen crude oil.[5] It is corrosive and in order to transport it by pipeline, it must be heated to higher temperatures than conventional crude oil.[6] Pipelines coming out of the Alberta Oil Sands have ruptured 16 times more often than conventional crude oil pipelines.[7]
Because bitumen crude is heavy, a spill of it penetrates the ground right to the water table.[8] Again, given the correlation between occurrences of cancers and contamination by bitumen-crude chemicals in the Oil Sands, one could be easily forgiven for wondering if bitumen crude pipeline ruptures also produce such sicknesses.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline, if built, would be a bitumen crude pipeline.[9] A scientist working from known data estimated that about 19 ruptures per decade would occur in it.[10] Enbridge’s proposed Line 9, already the subject of protests, would transport bitumen crude and traverse Canada from Alberta to Quebec.[11] The Enbridge Northern Gateway line in BC also would be a bitumen crude pipeline.[12]
Comparing oil resource development policy between the countries of Norway and Canada tell two very different stories.[13] The Norwegian government carefully husbands its oil profits for investment in the country in the future, for the benefit of its peoples. In Canada, the Harper government—because it is oil-revenue dependent—caters to the oil-company greed and permits exploitation of oil resources to proceed as fast as possible, while the needs of the people are overlooked, glossed over with empty platitudes such as “jobs, jobs, jobs” and so on.
Because oil companies deem environmental regulations as being detrimental to their gluttonous, bloated profit margins, Harper et al quickly moved to relax or completely eliminate these.[14] Where more than a million lakes and rivers were once protected, now a mere handful are, clearing the way for pipelines and pipeline building. Agencies once acting as environmental law enforcers no longer exist. First Nations peoples adversely affected by Oil Sands developments are ignominiously ignored.
Harper’s environmental betrayal of Canada is complete. Harper’s laugh might be a graveyard laugh. However, Canadians will have the last laugh, at the polls. And, as the saying goes, “He who laughs last, laughs best.”

[3] In Deep Water, Peter Lehner, 2010, p.125
[6] ibid, p.6
[7] ibid, p.8
[8] ibid, p.7
[9] ibid, p.5
[14] fn. 4

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