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Page 14 ■ Thursday, February 2, 2012

NATION & WORLD A tale of two Canadian pipelines

Thwarted in U.S., Canada looks to China

By ROB GILLIES Associated Press

KITAMAAT VILLAGE, British Co- lumbia —The latest chapter in Canada’s quest to become a full-blown oil super- power unfolded last month in a village gym on the British Columbia coast. Here, several hundred people gath-

ered for hearings on whether a pipeline should be laid from the Alberta oil sands to the Pacifi c in order to deliver oil to Asia, chiefl y energy-hungry China. The stakes are particularly high for the village of Kitamaat and its neighbors, because the pipeline would terminate here and a port would be built to handle 220 tankers a year and 525,000 barrels of oil a day. But the planned Northern Gateway Pipeline is just one aspect of an epic bat- tle over Canada’s oil ambitions — a battle that already has a supporting role in the U.S. presidential election, and which will help to shape North America’s future en- ergy relationship with China. It actually is a tale of two pipelines — the one that is supposed to end at Kitamaat Village, and another that would have gone from Alberta to the Texas coast but was blocked by the Obama adminis- tration citing environmental grounds. Those same environmental issues are

certain to haunt Northern Gateway as the Joint Review Panel of energy and en- vironmental offi cials canvasses opinion along the 731-mile route of the North- ern Gateway pipeline to be built by En- bridge, a Canadian company. The fear of oil spills is especially acute in this pristine corner of northwest British Columbia, with its snowcapped mountains and deep ocean inlets. People here still remember Alaska’s Exxon Val- dez oil spill of 1989, and oil is still leak- ing from the Queen of the North, a ferry that sank off nearby Hartley Bay six years ago.

The seas nearby, in the Douglas Chan-

nel, “are very treacherous waters,” said David Suzuki, a leading environmental- ist. “You take a supertanker that takes miles in order to stop, (and) an accident is absolutely inevitable.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada’s national interest makes the

Associated Press

The Douglas Channel, the proposed shipping route for oil tanker ships in the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, just south of Kitamaat, British Columbia, Canada, is seen on Jan. 10.

$5.5 billion pipeline essential. He was “profoundly disappointed” that U.S. President Barack Obama rejected the Texas Keystone XL option but also spoke of the need to diversify Canada’s oil in- dustry. Ninety-seven percent of Cana- dian oil exports now go to the U.S. “I think what’s happened around the

Keystone is a wake-up call, the degree to which we are dependent or possibly held hostage to decisions in the United States, and especially decisions that may be made for very bad political reasons,” the Conservative prime minister told Canadian TV. Republican presidential candidate

Newt Gingrich quickly picked up the theme, saying that Harper, “who, by the way, is conservative and pro-American ... has said he’s going cut a deal with the Chinese ... We’ll get none of the jobs, none of the energy, none of the oppor- tunity.” He charged that “An American presi- dent who can create a Chinese-Canadi- an partnership is truly a danger to this country.” But the environmental objections

that pushed Obama to block the pipeline to Texas apply equally to the Pacifi c pipe- line, and the review panel said more than 4,000 people have signed up to testify. The atmosphere has turned acrimo-

nious, with Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver claiming in an open letter that “environmental and other radical groups” are out to thwart Canada’s eco- nomic ascent. He said they were bent on bogging

down the panel’s work. And in an un- usually caustic mention of Canada’s southern neighbor, he added: “If all other avenues have failed, they will take a quintessential American approach: Sue everyone and anyone to delay the project even further.” Environmentalists and First Nations (a Canadian synonym for native tribes) could delay approval all the way to Can- ada’s Supreme Court, and First Nations still hold title to some of the land the pipeline would cross, meaning the gov- ernment will have to move with extreme sensitivity. Alberta has the world’s third-largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia and Ven-

ezuela: more than 170 billion barrels. Daily production of 1.5 million barrels from the oil sands is expected to increase to 3.7 million in 2025, which the oil in- dustry sees as a pressing reason to build the pipelines. Critics, however, dislike the whole

concept of tapping the oil sands, saying it requires huge amounts of energy and water, increases greenhouse gas emis- sions and threatens rivers and forests. Some projects are massive open-pit mines, and the process of separating oil from sand can generate lake-sized pools of toxic sludge. Meanwhile, China’s growing econo-

my is hungry for Canadian oil. Chinese state-owned companies have invested more than $16 billion in Canadian ener- gy in the past two years, state-controlled Sinopec has a stake in the pipeline, and if it is built, Chinese investment in Alberta oil sands is sure to boom. “They (the Chinese) wonder why it’s not being built already,” said Wenran Ji- ang, an energy expert and professor at the University of Alberta.

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