Could Energy East be the beginning of the end for pipelines?

by Lizbeth on October 6, 2017 - 7:41pm

The Toronto Star article TransCanada ends bid to build Energy East pipeline after ‘careful review of changed circumstances’ by Alex Ballingall discusses TransCanada’s recent decision to cancel its proposal for the Energy East pipeline and the various perspectives on the decision. The project was proposed in 2014 and would have been a 4,500km pipeline from the Alberta oil sands to refineries in Quebec and New Brunswick, carrying 1.1 billion barrels of crude oil every day and costing $15.7 billion to build.

According to TransCanada, cancellation of the project was a business decision due to dropping oil prices. This is also what Justin Trudeau responded when criticized by Lisa Raitt (Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party) for putting Canadian energy companies at a disadvantage with strict environmental standards, thus undermining projects like Energy East. President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce Perrin Beatty also expressed his disapproval of the decision to cancel the pipeline, pointing out the loss of potential jobs and the lack of clarity in Canada’s current approval of similar projects. 

However, there was also approval of the decision to cancel the pipeline, notably by Andrea Harden-Donahue, of the Council of Canadians, and Patrick DeRochie, climate and energy program manager with Environmental Defence. They both take a similar stance, stating that in today’s world of climate change and growing renewable energy sectors, pipeline projects are becoming unreasonable.

I personally think the cancellation of this pipeline is a victory for the Indigenous communities and environmental activists who have been resisting this project and many others from the start due to environmental and social justice concerns. I agree with Patrick DeRochie when he says that it doesn’t make sense to keep building pipelines when we are facing the realities of climate change and trying to move away from fossil fuels. I would add that realistically, it seems that phasing out fossil fuel use is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change from increasing carbon emissions.

As mentioned in the article, Canada has committed to reduce its carbon emissions to 30% below 2005 levels (around 532 megatons per year) by 2030, under the Paris climate accord. However, the article also references a 2014 report from the Pembina Institute estimating that Energy East would produce 32 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions per year on its own, and possibly more. It seems contradictory then to continue building pipelines when this is clearly not helping us meet important goals to reduce carbon emissions and slow down climate change.

It worries me to see Jim Carr, the Minister of Natural Resources, saying that pipelines could still be built in Canada in the future, and to see Prime Minister Trudeau still approving pipeline project (ex. Kinder Morgan). It is very clear to me that continuing to depend on fossil fuels is not a sustainable way forward environmentally, and socially as well with pipelines being built primarily on Indigenous land without proper consent and causing harm to these Indigenous communities when spills occur.  I understand that energy and the oil sands are a major part of Canada’s economy and that people depend on this industry for their livelihood. That said, the renewable energy sector has the potential to create jobs as well (Bapna, 2012), and it is possible to retrain oil sands workers for these jobs. I think the sustainable way forward includes moving away from fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy, and this will not be possible unless we put a stop to the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.

 

References

Ballingall, A. (Oct. 6, 2017). TransCanada ends bid to build Energy East pipeline after ‘careful review of changed circumstances’. Toronto Star. Retrieved from https://www.thestar.com/business/2017/10/05/transcanada-ends-bid-to-build-energy-east-pipeline-after-careful-review-of-changed-circumstances.html

Author, A. A. (Date). Title of work. Retrieved from http://www.uoguelph.ca

Bapna, M. of World Resources Institute (2012). Rio+20: Seizing the opportunity for a sustainable future. Retrieved from http://pdf.wri.org/Rio20_Opportunity_for_a_Sustainable_Future.pdf