Remember the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill? Remember the thousands of greased-up birds and other wildlife that died horrible deaths? Oilsand extraction in Alberta could mean the same catastrophes in our precious British Columbia oceans.
Oil spills are accidents, and yet they are inevitable. None of the available technologies for transporting oil on land (via pipeline) or ocean (via tanker) eliminate the risk of spills — they merely reduce the probability. Given enough time and enough tankers through B.C. waters, spills will happen. And they will devastate our coastal ecosystems.
There is a moratorium on oil tanker traffic in B.C.’s inside waters. But the vast quantities of oil in the oilsands must get to market somehow if Canadians are to profit from them. The solution proposed is to build a pipeline that would bring Alberta’s tar sand oil through B.C., to Kitimat, where oil tankers will haul it to lucrative Asian markets.
We are told that our demand for oil makes oil spills a necessary evil. We don’t buy it: We can collectively reduce our energy needs greatly and switch to alternative energy. This will require policy and business leadership well beyond Earth Hour events. We may be too late to prevent spills in our oceans, but we do have choices, and those choices profoundly impact the future.