In my last post I bemoaned the lack of intellectual rigour among the activists fighting pipeline expansion in BC, Ontario and Quebec. I thought I had presented three pretty solid examples where the opponents of the Trans Mountain Expansion (TMX) and the Energy East Project were demonstrating their lack of insight/intellectual rigour. Well in the last few days I have come to realize that I have not come close to plumbing the depths of this topic. This week it has become clear that for some of these anti-pipeline activists it is not just a case of them making honest mistakes; instead it appears that for many of these activists the facts don’t even appear to matter.
The basis for this post started with a tweet from the Dogwood Initiative:
The tweet included an embedded video of a question posed by one of the TMX Ministerial Project panelists to the people making presentations at a Public Open House. This started a discussion between myself and Will Horter of the Dogwood Initiative that concluded with him reiterating a “fact” that I had repeatedly shown to be wrong. This was subsequently followed by another conversation, this one with a representative from PipeUpNetwork, that ended the same way. These incidents make it clear that many of the people on the “anti-” side of the pipeline debate are so lackadaisical that they can’t even be bothered to become informed about the project they are fighting.
To explain, let’s start with the Dogwood Initiative tweet. In the video embedded in the tweet Mr. Penikett, one of the three panelists, asks “how many of them [the activists] own motor vehicles?” The Dogwood Initiative representative was outraged because “bitumen exports don’t fuel BC cars” and likened the question to one posed repeatedly by noted rabble-rouser Ezra Levant, who likes to ask anti-pipeline people whether they drive an automobile? The intention of Mr. Levant’s question is to demonstrate the hypocrisy of the protestors by pointing out that they rely daily on the product against which they are protesting. Mr. Penikett’s question was a bit more nuanced and addresses a common misconception about the Trans Mountain upgrade: that the pipeline upgrade is only about bitumen and only about overseas exports, both of which are demonstrably untrue.
That misconception was highlighted in a brief Twitter exchange I had with Will Horter from the Dogwood Initiative where I sought clarification about the tweet. On Monday, Mr. Horton retweeted the Dogwood Initiative tweet with the comment:
I replied by noting the obvious fact that the TMX includes an expansion of the capacity of the system for refined fuels that would indeed “fuel BC’s cars“:
His reply represents complete befuddlement. He simply did not know that the TMX expansion included the existing pipeline:
My reply was to explain that it was all in the National Energy Board (NEB) filings:
This discussion pretty much sums up the state of the debate on the TMX project. The people fighting the project literally do not know what the project they are fighting entails! To explain, the Trans-Mountain expansion has two proposed lines: Line 1 would consist of additions and improvement on the existing pipeline which will allow it to transport 350,000 b/d of refined petroleum products and light crude with almost no heavy crude.
The filings make it clear that Line 1 is intended to be primarily for refined products and light crude. Line 1 has the possibility of helping to mitigate the supply bottleneck that has Vancouver drivers paying such high prices for gasoline and diesel and leaves us high and dry when a refinery in California has a failure or an unplanned shutdown happens in the Puget Sound. Ironically for the people who claim we should “refine bitumen in Canada”, Line 1 will make it possible for the new Sturgeon Refinery to get the liquids fuels, it refines from bitumen, to market. The Sturgeon refinery is exactly what the activists are asking for: a refinery that turns bitumen into refined products in Canada, but it has one difficulty; it lacks access to markets for that refined fuel. Here we could refine bitumen in Canada and sell the refined product in Canada, if only we have the capacity to transport that material to market?…and the activists are fighting the project that would make it happen?
The proposed Line 2 would have a capacity of 540,000 b/d and is allocated to the transportation of heavy crude and bitumen to Vancouver for export but, apparently unbeknownst to the activists, those “foreign exports” include supplying the Sumas pipeline to the Puget Sound. This will reduce the amount of crude that has to travel to the Puget Sound by rail or via tanker (you know the tankers that the activists do not realize have been shipping up to 600,000 b/d of Alaskan crude have down the coast of B.C., in tankers, and into the Puget Sound for the last 20 years). The Puget Sound refineries supply much of the coast with its current refined fuel needs.
This new pipeline and configuration setup would, add 590,000 b/d to the existing system for a total capacity of 890,000 b/d. If you only listened to the activists, as demonstrated by Mr. Horter’s comments, you would think that the project only involved Line 2 and Line 2 was 100% dedicated to bitumen exports overseas, both of which are demonstrably not true.
Now to be clear here, I am not quoting from “top secret” documents that Russian hackers pulled off of a well-defended server somewhere. I am quoting from the regulatory filings for the Trans Mountain project. Yet the project lead from one of the biggest, best-funded and loudest groups fighting the pipeline expansion apparently does not know this information?
Now if you think this is simply a one-off you would be wrong. I had a similar discussion with Michael Hale from PipeUpNetwork where he made the same error.
As with my previous discussion I sent him to the NEB filings which demonstrated that his claim did not hold water:
He proceeded to sidestep, ignoring what the filings actually say, and changed the topic to discuss the Chevron facility in Vancouver and exports to Puget Sound. We had a long discussion where I pointed out that much of our current “exports” actually consist of oil shipped via the Sumas pipeline to the Puget Sound and is then re-imported to BC to meet our refined fuels needs. These exports via the Sumas line have actually resulted in a severe reduction of the marine exports of oil from Vancouver. So having shown him how the export of bitumen actually ends up serving the BC market what was Mr Hale’s conclusion?
So after an hour of discussion, the representative of a major activist organization, fighting the pipeline, continues to repeat errors that have been thoroughly debunked by the actual documents in the NEB filings.
Now if it were simply a couple activists it wouldn’t be a big deal, but these misconceptions about the pipeline expansion are widely held; as I pointed out in my previous post about the Langley Open House. You can imagine Mr. Penikett’s frustration at this point. He has to sit there day-after-day listening to people who talk endlessly about their opposition to a project that only exists in their fevered imaginations. They talk and talk about massive bitumen exports to China while ignoring the fact that, according to the NEB filings, much of the pipeline capacity will be used to feed the Puget Sound and California refineries that supply British Columbia with much of its liquid fuels. These people have no clue about the real TMX project and instead are fighting a bogeyman created for them, whole cloth, by the activist community. These activists, meanwhile, appear not to have even bothered to read the submissions for the project they oppose. Instead these activists appear to be just making things up and seem totally okay with that idea. Is there any question why Mr.Penikett asked that question? Frankly I don’t know how he keeps from screaming “read the NEB submission” at least a dozen times a day?