by Miranda HolmesMany voices have been heard during these hearings, yet one has remained silent: the oily character at the centre of the debate. I think that’s a shame and so I am using my time before the panel to allow this character’s case to be made.
Hi, my name’s Dil Bit. That’s short for Diluted Bitumen, but I feel like I’m amongst friends here, so let’s not be too formal.
I come from the tar sands and, as you know, Alberta totally digs me. Alberta’s so generous she wants to share me with everyone.
If she gets her way, I’ll be passing through British Columbia a lot in the future, so I thought I should introduce myself properly.
As fossil fuels go, I’m a bit unconventional. But, as Alberta’s favourite son Steve will tell you, I’m totally ethical. (And don’t let those jet setting celebrities tell you any different.)
I’m also way better than conventional crude oil.
For instance, my total acid concentrations are up to 20 times higher than conventional crude. My sulphur content is up to 10 times higher and I’m up to 70 times thicker. Pretty impressive, eh?
Yeah, it’s true I can be a bit abrasive. Bits of quartz, pyrite, silicates, sure I carry them around. It’s just the way I’m made.
So conventional crude doesn’t have my grit. So what? No need to point out, like those granola eaters at the Natural Resources Defense Council did, that putting me in a pipeline is “like sandblasting the inside of the pipe.”
I don’t know why the Americans have taken against me, because – like so many of them – I pack some serious heat. Thanks to my true grit and my thickness (I like to think of it as strength), I make pipes hotter than conventional crude - and harder to monitor. In fact, pipelines carrying me are16 times more likely to leak.
See? I told you I was better.
I’m Alberta’s most precious resource. You think she and Steve are going to let just anyone transport me? No way.
For my travels through British Columbia, they’re going to use Enbridge, a fine, upstanding company with an excellent track record. Why, it took Enbridge 10 years to spill half as much oil as the Exxon Valdez. And they didn’t just spill it in one spot – they spread it around.
Regulators in the US thought the three million litres of me Enbridge spilled in Michigan was so funny they compared the company to those great comedy characters the Keystone Kops.
If Enbridge maintains its current success rate it should be able to meet Steve’s federal standards, which allow undetected pipeline leaks of less than 2% of capacity per week.
For the Northern Gateway project that means Enbridge could legally leave 11 million litres of me a week behind on my way to Kitimat without getting into any serious trouble. And why should they? Eleven million litres of me would be more than three times funnier than Michigan, right?
That’s good news for me, because I’ve heard there are some mighty pretty places in northern BC and I think it would be a shame not to get to know them better.
And it’s good news for BC, because your premier’s promising lots of jobs out of oil and gas exports, and cleaning up after me will sure keep people employed.
Sorry if any of the spots I’m going to wreck is one of your favourites, but I’ve got to keep Alberta happy. You know what she’s like.
Miranda Holmes is a former journalist who spent a decade working on toxics and genetic engineering for Greenpeace and other environmental organizations in Canada and the UK. She has also worked on human rights and development issues. She is now an associate editor of the award-winning Watershed Sentinel magazine. She made this presentation to the JRP in August in Comox.