Oil pipelines are simply an economic necessity.
If we want a strong economy, we need to export resources to willing buyers; there are willing buyers for our oil, and to get that oil to them we need to construct pipelines to our coasts.
The proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline is necessary to move our oil from landlocked areas of our country, towards the coast of British Columbia. From there it will head to where there is a large market for Canadian oil. Growing economies, such as China and India will require more oil well into the foreseeable future.
Those who oppose projects like the Northern Gateway Pipeline are allowing politics to interfere with common sense. There is a cost to this attitude, and the cost could be paid in jobs and economic growth.
Many, who consistently oppose projects of this kind, simultaneously call for large increases to government spending. They can’t have it both ways. You can’t weaken the foundations of the economy and restrict growth while at the same time expecting the revenues necessary for government programs.
Let’s be clear, the pipeline is a win-win situation. Many Canadians will find employment due to the growth of our energy industry, while rapidly growing economies — China, India, and others — continue to lift countless people out of poverty. It is also clear that pipelines are an environmentally friendly way of transporting petroleum. Pipelines are sustainable, and don’t burn fossil fuels while transporting oil, unlike tankers and trucks.
Public opinion research shows clearly that more British Columbians (who live where the pipeline will be constructed) support rather than oppose the pipeline. An Ipsos poll showed that 48 per cent supported the pipeline, while 32 per cent were against it.
There will always be certain groups and individuals who oppose pipelines. It often seems that, if they had their way, we wouldn’t approve any new economic projects. Where would we be today if we said “No” every time a new idea was proposed?
Some people go as far as saying we need to stop using fossil fuels, or at the very least make draconian cutbacks to their use. If this is their view, they need to explain what the alternative is. If they don’t have one, then their energy could be better used studying alternative energy sources and coming up with solutions. I don’t say this to be dismissive. If the energy that was put into stopping or slowing economic progress was put into researching and testing solutions we could make improvements in energy usage even faster than we do today.
Canadians should not feel ashamed of our resources. Our energy sector enables us to prosper while contributing to the prosperity of others. Allowing emotion to override logic on this issue could have a devastating impact on our future economic success.
Being conscious of the environment is important. But this is not a black and white issue. We could easily eliminate carbon emissions, if we wanted to. If we took all the cars off the road and shut down all economic activity pollution would be a thing of the past. Nobody in their right mind advocates this; we all recognize that economic activity and growth is positive, not negative.
Those who wish to shut down this pipeline to make a political statement need to ask themselves whether the potential loss of jobs and economic growth is worth it.
There is a fundamental difference between being opposed to development and supporting responsible development. We should all strive to keep our environment clean and preserve it for the next generation. A pipeline is probably not going to destroy the environment. Exporting oil is a positive, not a negative. People can support the environment and support trade and economic development at the same time.
There will come a time when oil is not our main source of energy. This time will not be sped by blocking every project involving oil, it will happen as alternatives are created and economies shift and adapt. The process will be gradual, and will not be encouraged by demonizing the Canadian energy industry or damaging our economy.
Spencer Fernando is the comment editor of the Manitoban.