Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for December 8th, 2016

Mea Culpa

with 4 comments

I have been doing something I shouldn’t have, feel bad about it and will now stop.

I recently read Jordan Bateman’s book about how he – almost singlehandedly – defeated the transit referendum. You cannot get it from the library or indeed most bookshops except as a print on demand. Amazon has it as an ebook for Kindle, but I am not recommending it. His technique was to stick to two simple statements and two figures. And, the key point, is that it did not matter that they were not true.

We have, of course, now become used to the idea of a post factual political landscape since both Brexit and Trump followed a similar strategy. And even though it might be effective it doesn’t make it right. The ends do not justify the means.

I have wanted to defeat the Kinder Morgan Transmountain Pipeline expansion proposal. Mostly because the expansion of the Alberta tar sands defeats Canada’s commitment  to the Paris Agreement to combat climate change. But I have noted that most people here do not  pay much attention to that. Mostly it is – as you would expect – concerns about spills. Or the noise disturbing the orcas.  Local environmental impacts score more immediately with people than distant more widespread issues. So I have been writing – and saying – “Dilbit Sinks”. Good pithy slogan. But unfortunately, if you read any of the material cited in the previous blog posts, not exactly the whole story. In fact we have had a dilbit spill from the existing KM line into the Burnaby terminal and it did get into the Burrard Inlet, and the recovery rate was very good. Which is much better news than the ongoing problems from another dilbit spill into the Kalamazoo River – which is not at all like the Salish Sea. The problem is that, as usual, the behaviour of dilbit when spilled is largely a matter of conjecture based on modelling and laboratory type simulations. So the data is both incomplete and inconsistent – a wonderfully complex and nuanced message no-one is actually going to be bothered to read about until they have to. We do know that the recent oil spills that got so much attention here – the Marathassa  and the Nathan E Stewart – are not actually a very good guide to what might happen here with dilbit since they involved Bunker C and diesel respectively. And both those products behave differently in seawater to dilbit. But they did have an impact on the Government of Canada, and the commitments to improving spill response.

Since no-one is going to spill dilbit into the sea in bad weather deliberately, just to see what happens, we will not know until disaster actually strikes. Now, if we actually had a government in Ottawa really committed to data driven policy making the precautionary principle would apply, and the pipeline would not have been approved. And it is still not too late to defeat it. Indeed we must continue the fight against it. But important though that fight is, I cannot in all conscience employ the tactics of Donald Trump, Jordan Bateman or Nigel Farage. Indeed I reserve the right to lambaste them for their lack of integrity – and cannot do that if I am guilty of the same sin of commission.

UPDATE Max Fawcett in the National Observer

But jamming up a single pipeline does nothing to achieve CO2 reduction. The concerns that I think are fair are the ones around, you know, certainly the whale population in the … the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the spill concern.

I think the spill concern is being overstated. The risks are pretty insignificant. But if it happens, it’s a disaster, no question.

And now DeSmogBlog weighs in: Review of 9,000 Studies Finds We Know Squat About Bitumen Spills in Ocean Environments

Written by Stephen Rees

December 8, 2016 at 12:39 pm

Posted in blogging, Environment

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