Letter to The Editor| Bitumen Spill in Northern Ontario: Silver Lining?


A lot of hand wringing has been made of the recent oil tanker spill of bitumen from the Alberta tar sands into the Northern Ontario wilderness near Gogama.  Truth be told, no one has come out a winner in this case.  We have all lost.  Had that bitumen reached its destination, it would have been a horrific event, whereby it would have been refined to be used as intended – that is, to cause climate change. 

However, spilling into the Northern Ontario wilderness, while all good intentioned and probably the least harmful application, was accompanied by its ignition and burning, meaning all those carbon emissions still resulted…and more.  The resultant cleanup efforts (and here we say efforts, because the local ecosystem will never be the same) has caused many more emissions than if that mess would have actually reached its final destination.

However, there is one shiny lining – the price of petroleum, if in some small way, might rise. Now that again is good and bad news.  Due to demand rising from an ever so slightly reduced supply, consumers might notice a slight tick upwards of gasoline prices.  Now were enough of these supply constraints to occur, that price uptick might actually be noticeable, generating in some small way, a reduction of petroleum use and pollution, and reduced climate emissions.

Sadly, however, many spills causing a reduced supply would only raise prices as supply and demand diverge, encouraging more extraction of this gooey messy bitumen, and many more spills of this sort due to reckless disregard of the environment and planetary life.  As prices rise, the break even point for evil bitumen extractors ignoring the pollution and human costs of their actions by government decree in Canada, would only encourage additional extraction and destruction.  We have, already this year, seen some promising downtowns in the tar sands industry, and with steady low prices, we can only keep our fingers crossed more will follow.

Derailments, were enough to occur, would only act to encourage more extraction. Certainly all of that would be music to the ears of federal conservative politicians, but really, no other Canadianwishes for that outcome.  So in total, the spill, and others like it, are irrelevant.  The discussion should turn to whether we should be extracting this messy, expensive polluting stuff in the first place. 

To answer that question, we only need to look to alcoholics anonymous for answers – where the first step to recovery is to admit your addictions. 

That’s where Canada needs to begin…or should we say, the conservative government, because this addiction of theirs has destroyed Canada’s financial situation, even after the enormous losses and sacrifices Canada has endured to accommodate radical foreign corporate takeovers in the tar sands extraction industry.

In fact, in our local economy, we have already seen this one sided economic policy wreak havoc on local residents, many of whom are now out of a job because our decision makers choose to subsidise local tube manufacturers rather than supporting an economy that is not based on death and destruction.  These decisions are undermining Canadian security and stability by turning a blind eye to the very real risks of climate change. 

The solution? 

This flood of tanker derailments and pipeline spills must stop, as must the extraction and use of the worlds most recent petrostate industry, the tar sands.



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