BY PETER LANG
First published in the Chronicle Journal Oct 13, 2017

MAKE no mistake about it, we were played, big time, by TransCanada Pipelines (TCP) and Big Oil producers over the Energy Ease pipeline proposal. And while Energy East is now cancelled, we, the little people, should still try to understand what happened. For it’s never over when the game is for big profitsÉ

When they told us that the re-purposing of the existing mainline gas pipeline was to supply Eastern Canada with domestic oil from Alberta our tendency was to approve the conversion from natural gas. But then we discovered that the ‘oil’ was actually dilbit (diluted bitumen), and that the Eastern Canada refineries really didn’t have the capacity or the massive capital needed to refine dilbit. By their ‘tidewater marketing scheme’ TCP really wanted to export it.

The fact is that the tarsands are remote and landlocked and, compared to conventional oil, dilbit is very costly to extract. It’s also too heavy, too voluminous, and thereby too expensive to ship by rail. Yet the Alberta tarsands are the third largest deposit of fossil fuels in the world. So in order to expand and exploit that resource, the big oil producers ‘needed’ TCP to ship their product by a designated pipeline – Energy East.Ê

As for natural gas, in 2013 the mainline natural gas line had lost capacity across Canada, as cheap, fracked gas had been discovered in the eastern U.S. So rather than shipping by pipeline across the continent the gas producers opted to ship it north from those new eastern sources. Thus TCP ‘needed’ more product to fill its east-west mainline gas pipeline.

Meanwhile, with the spectre of the deadly explosions in Lake Megantic, we were being duped by another falsehood. We were told that we needed to ship ‘oil’ by pipeline because it was safer than shipping it by rail. But the Energy East proposal was never a plan to ship conventional oil. It was never an either/or possibility as we were repeatedly told by TCP, NOMA and some of Thunder Bay’s city council. Ê

The reality is that the light crude oil from the vast Baaken oil fields in southern Saskatchewan and North Dakota always did and likely always will be shipped by rail. Rail systems are extensive and link most resource fields to refineries, ports, and domestic consumers. Accordingly, from 2008 until today rail shipments of conventional crude oil have expanded exponentially.Ê

Oil producers have built rail loading and unloading infrastructure that was faster and cheaper to build than pipelines. They load what they call ‘unit trains,’ with up to 100 tankers in a single shipment. The Lake Megantic shipment, bound for the Irving refinery in New Brunswick, carried 72 cars of Baaken oil.

As it was, we, the little people, objected to the Energy East project, mainly on the grounds that dilbit endangered our pristine Lake Superior watershed. We were right, of course, but now the game has changed.

On the one hand we would like to think that we won, and that our protests changed Big Oil’s game plan. To some degree, maybe it did. However, based on economics there were two major happenings that may have been more influential than our protests.Ê

Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau have approved the Keystone XL and Kinder Morgan pipelines both of which will take Alberta dilbit to refineries in the U.S. and Western Canada tidewater ports. As well, the National Energy Board has just levied a new shipment price on natural gas which will induce gas producers to fill TCP’s mainline gas pipeline to capacity.

So ‘now’ here’s the game: 1) Dilbit won’t be coming our way in the near future; 2) We’re back to the reality of an old and potentially explosive natural gas mainline pipeline running north of us; and 3) Baaken oil will continue to be shipped by rail, some of it through our city.

If we are to understand anything about the fossil fuel issues that affect us most directly we must first understand that there are three quite different products in the form of dilbit, conventional oil, and natural gas. Each of these three products is subject to the corporate market forces which will always tend to manipulate us for profit. As voters and citizens we must address these issues separately, and with due diligence – in order to take control away from the manipulators.

Peter Lang is a retired teacher, paralegal, and a member of CUSP, and the coalition which opposed the Energy East pipeline. He lives in Kaministiquia

May 27, 2017
By Ruth Cook

Special to The Chronicle-Journal

On Monday, May 29, Thunder Bay’s city council will once again consider a resolution asking members to vote in principle against the TransCanada /Energy East Ltd.’s Energy East Pipeline. This resolution has been deferred for two years due to concerns about lack of complete information ( as well as unforeseen administrative delays).

A group of representatives from five local groups have been working on understanding the implications of the Energy East pipeline for five years now, and are adamantly opposed to the development of such a pipeline.

The Energy East pipeline would be the largest oil pipeline in North America. It is to be partly newly constructed, and partly be repurposing an old natural gas pipeline. The part passing through Northwestern Ontario is the old to-be-converted pipe, some of which has been in the ground for 50 years. More »

22. April 2017 · Comments Off on Are we hard-wired to ignore climate change? · Categories: Activism, Climate Crisis, Climate Policy, Energy Policy, Pipelines-Tarsands, Social Justice, Writers

This article by Environment North board member Lucy LaFramboise was first published in the Chronicle Journal in April 22, 2017.

Something to Think About

“How is it possible, when presented with overwhelming evidence, even the evidence of our own eyes, that we can deliberately ignore something – while being entirely aware that this is what we are doing?”

George Marshall, an environmentalist and leading expert in climate change communications explores this in his book Don’t Even Think About It, Why Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change. For this book he has interviewed people as diverse as Nobel Prize winning psychologists, scientists and Tea Party members.

Marshall says that we engage with the world on both a rational and emotional basis. The rational part of us hears the facts and theories but they don’t always engage us enough to act. Climate scientists are perplexed by this so they double down and show more facts. However, it is the emotional part of us that spurs us to action but our emotional brains are not effectively engaged to deal with climate change. To counter this scientists need to get the facts out in a more user friendly way and become more personable themselves. More »

18. January 2017 · Comments Off on If there ever was a time . . . · Categories: Activism, Climate Crisis, Climate Policy, Energy Policy, Pipelines-Tarsands, Scott Harris, Social Justice

by Scott Harris

First Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2017 in the Chronicle Journal

Right-wing Fraser Institute’s Ken Green champions the “rule of law” vs “special interests” (Protesters Aren’t in Charge – Guest Column, CJ, Jan. 16). He states that pipeline protesters should take heed.
He qualifies that civil disobedience “is most appropriate when a group faces oppression without representation.” How better to describe future, unborn generations, a group which has no voice, which nevertheless has a right to a tolerable climate, but whose present-day governments don’t see it that way.

Our own Liberal government acknowledged this right by signing on to the Paris Agreement to limit the greenhouse gases that threaten that right, but then, inexplicably, made it impossible to follow through by approving new tar sands pipelines.
Naomi Klein got it right. The immediate threat of global warming changes everything, and the promises of politically compromised, deal-making governments are meaningless in the face of it.
If ever there was a time for civil disobedience, it is with respect to the issue of new bitumen pipelines.
Scott Harris
Thunder Bay

13. January 2017 · Comments Off on Common Voice Northwest out of turn on pipeline · Categories: Activism, Climate Crisis, Climate Policy, Energy Policy, Pipelines-Tarsands, Social Justice, Tom Cook

First Posted: Friday, January 13, 2017 in the Chronicle Journal

I would like to take this opportunity to comment on the Jan. 2 article about Common Voice Northwest and their Energy East forums. Who is Common Voice Northwest?
They are a Thunder Bay-based non-profit group which was formed via a collaboration of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association (NOMA) and the regional chambers of commerce. NOMA is an ‘old boys’ network’ of representatives from Northwestern Ontario municipalities to share information and concerns, and to promote business in the area. Their president is Mayor Dave Canfield from Kenora and board member, Coun. Iain Angus from Thunder Bay is executive director of Common Voice Northwest.
Unfortunately, NOMA sometimes makes pronouncements such as support for the Energy Pipeline proposal which has not been supported by either Thunder Bay city council or Kenora city council. Given this situation, I have some concerns about a possible bias in Common Voice Northwest research. More »

05. October 2016 · Comments Off on Confirmation bias: Science and the Internet form a double-edged sword Story · Categories: Activism, Climate Crisis, Climate Policy, Corporate Irresponsibility, Economic Policy, Energy Policy, Fouling the Earth, Scott Harris, Social Justice, Transformative Ideas

First Posted: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 in the Chronicle Journal

By Scott Harris
For The Chronicle-Journal
‘By either stressing or ignoring the information that bombards us, we create our own reality” (author unknown). Such, perhaps, is what it means to be human. Our own opinions are formed by our own unique experiences, cognitive intake and reflection.
The advent of universal, electronic transmission tools such as the Internet amounts to an information strafing unlike anything we humans have experienced before.
But the Internet is a double-edged tool. With the current availability of electronic information, one can find validation for virtually any opinion, no matter how bizarre. On the other hand, there are impeccable, peer-reviewed sources which help us separate truth from fiction. That distinction is becoming increasingly important, as we begin to address global issues triggered by human behaviour. More »

22. June 2016 · Comments Off on EBR moose and coyote regulation: CUSP submission · Categories: Activism, Climate Crisis, Social Justice

EBR Registry Number: 012-6073
Comment ID 192372
Contact name: Lynn Palmer
Organization Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet (CUSP)

CUSP is a group of citizens that live in or near Thunder Bay who are committed to promoting healthy communities, a healthy environment, and social and ecological justice. CUSP strongly opposes this proposal, as we do not believe is likely to benefit moose and which may actually result in negative impacts.

CUSP does not oppose hunting. However we do support science. We do not see strong scientific evidence in this proposal that it will have the intended effect to improve the health of moose populations. More »

20. April 2016 · Comments Off on Forests For All, Forever · Categories: Corporate Irresponsibility, Julee Boan, Social Justice, Topics, Transformative Ideas

First published in the Chronicle Journal Wed April 20, 2016

Julee Boan

Debate over the use of Ontario’s forests has intensified in recent years. At the heart of the matter: how do we determine which activities are sustainable, and which are not? How much risk is too much risk? And most importantly, who should decide?
Even in a democratic society, such as Canada, expectations for determining whether forestry activities are sustainable go beyond mere compliance with federal and provincial laws. They also go beyond assertions of sustainability from companies themselves or their industry associations. More »

11. January 2016 · Comments Off on Fracking is a bridge to nowhere · Categories: Climate Crisis, Energy Policy, Fouling the Earth, Jason MacLean, Social Justice

SUSTAINABILITY MATTERS
First published in the Chronicle Journal Jan 11, 2016

BY JASON MACLEAN
For Canada and other parties to the recent Paris climate change agreement to meet their commitment to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, “‘plan A’ must be to immediately and aggressively reduce GHG emissions.”
Why? Because there’s no plan B.
That’s not the cry of crazy environmentalists. That’s the cool-headed conclusion of a recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change entitled “Biophysical and economic limits to negative CO2 emissions” assessing the potential of what are called NETs (negative emissions technologies), which are designed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. More »

14. July 2015 · Comments Off on Is NOMA ignoring democratic values? · Categories: Climate Crisis, Climate Policy, Economic Policy, Energy Policy, Julee Boan, Pipelines-Tarsands, Scott Harris, Social Justice

By Julee Boan and Scott Harris
We have concern regarding the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association’s (NOMA) recent resolution, passed with support from Thunder Bay, calling on a number of environmental organizations to “cease and desist” their forestry “campaigns.”
While Environment North is not specifically mentioned, we are also a registered charitable organization. Since 1972, we have strived to improve and protect the ecological sustainability and socio-economic wellbeing of Northwestern Ontario through leadership, research, partnerships, education, community advocacy, information and community capacity building.
At times, we have called for changes to forestry practices and policy, including voicing questions and concerns when the province exempted the forest industry from the Endangered Species Act. We also voiced support for forest tenure reform to increase local decision making, and the expansion of Wabakimi Provincial Park, among other issues. More »

23. March 2015 · Comments Off on The terrorists we know by Peter Lang · Categories: Activism, Corporate Irresponsibility, Democracy Undermined, Economic Policy, Energy Policy, Social Justice

First published in the Chronicle Journal
Saturday, March 21, 2015
I suppose that Stephen Harper must believe that if he plays the terrorist card he will win a majority of votes in the upcoming election — but I think he’s wrong. This time I believe voters will see through Bill C-51 and its overblown scare tactics. In truth, I’m more concerned about the terrorists we know. More »

29. September 2014 · Comments Off on Walking With Our Sisters a moving experience · Categories: Activism, Peter Lang, Social Justice

Thursday was my birthday. To celebrate, my wife took me to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery to see the exhibit, Walking With Our Sisters. And, while I knew that it was commemorative in honour of murdered and missing First Nations women, I had no idea that the exhibit would affect me so deeply.

Upon entering, visitors are met and introduced to the significance of what they will see, and then ‘smudged’ by an Elder who blesses you and sets you on your way. More »

14. December 2013 · Comments Off on Slow, downsize Ring of Fire project · Categories: Patricia McCormick, Ring of Fire, Social Justice

December 14, 2013

In response to Don Watson’s question “Why the Ring rush?” (letter, Dec. 4) and Kaleigh Bahlieda’s answer, “If you can’t grow it, it has to be mined!” (letter, Dec. 5) I’d like to agree with both of them and add my own question: When would be a good time to practise sustainability for minerals supply via recycling, totally?

I ask this because eventually we will exhaust our Earth’s deposits of minerals. More »

20. November 2013 · Comments Off on Climate Justice · Categories: Climate Crisis, Scott Harris, Social Justice

Good that our Federal Government is giving $20 million on our behalf to the storm-ravaged Phillipines. That’s about 60 cents for every Canadian, the price of half a cup of coffee at the donut shop. Good also that Canadian businesses and individuals have contributed another $20 million. Bravo!

Not to belittle those individuals compassionate enough to donate personally, but this is as it should be. This “largesse” should not be interpreted simply as a reflection of our generosity, but rather a debt needing repayment, since we are one of a number of Western industrialized countries responsible for the excess carbon dioxide driving global warming. More »

03. September 2013 · Comments Off on Alternatives to Capitalism, Part 1: Perpetual growth on finite planet delusional · Categories: Economic Policy, Fouling the Earth, Scott Harris, Social Justice

A recent writer questioned the widely-held belief that free-market capitalism, based on infinite growth and supported by relatively cheap fossil-fuel energy, was sustainable (Our Ubiquitous Deadly Addiction — commentary, July 22). Freda Davies suggested we look at other economic models.

So what’s wrong with free-market capitalism?

The Cochabamba Summit: Documents of the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth (Bolivia, April 2010) is helpful: “Under capitalism, Mother Earth is converted into a source of raw materials, and human beings into consumers and a means of production, into people that are seen as valuable only for what they own, and not for what they are. It is an imperialist system of colonization of the planet.” More »