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

24. January 2017 · Comments Off on A Lappe consensus on Energy East pipeline · Categories: Activism, Climate Crisis, Climate Policy, Energy Policy, Peter Lang, Pipelines-Tarsands

by Peer Lang

First Posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2017 in the Chronicle Journal

In contrast to the Common Voice forum at the Oliver Road Community Centre on the subject of “significant water crossings,” there was a consensus outcome at the Lappe meeting on Saturday morning, Jan. 21. Despite slippery road conditions about 15 people attended. While the first part of the meeting was a prepared presentation to set parameters for the discussion, instead of breakdown, this time the meeting achieved consensus. And to make it clear that the meeting wasn’t ‘stacked by the pipeline opposition,’ this consensus arose from a group where only a few knew each other prior to the meeting. More »

17. January 2017 · Comments Off on Narrow scope of forums shows task force bias · Categories: Activism, Climate Crisis, Climate Policy, Energy Policy, Peter Lang, Pipelines-Tarsands

by Peter Lang

First Posted: Tuesday, January 17, 2017 in the Chronicle Journal

Having followed the Energy East pipeline issue for a number of years, I believe that the very narrow scope of the upcoming Common Voice forums, as noted in The Chronicle-Journal, Jan. 2, clearly shows its bias. To suggest that our main concern for the Lake Superior watershed boils down to identifying ‘significant waterways’ and installing supposed state-of-the-art valves is simplistic and foolish. More »

19. May 2016 · Comments Off on Pondering Pipeline Possibilities · Categories: Climate Crisis, Climate Policy, Economic Policy, Energy Policy, Peter Lang, Pipelines-Tarsands

Gordon Laxer Energy East Position Evolves.

Published in the CJ Thu May 19, 2016 as Pondering Pipeline Possibilities

Gordon Laxer spoke at the Finlandia Hall Wednesday, hosted by Environment North and the Thunder Bay Environmental Coalition. He outlined the theory behind his latest book, After the Sands: Energy and Ecological Security for Canadians. Laxer is a PhD, the founding director and former head of the Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, political economist and professor emeritus at the University of Alberta, and a prominent public intellectual. He was a founding member of the Council of Canadians. He endorses Naomi Klein and the Leap Manifesto and offers a workable framework for a transition to a green economy.

Laxer’s position on the proposed Energy East pipeline has evolved since the publication of his book. In it he had indicated that he was supportive of EE for the sake of Canadian energy security and sovereignty. He qualified this stance by stating as we phase out our dependence on fossil fuels, Energy East should ship conventional oil to Eastern Canadian consumers for another 15 years, (as opposed to rip and ship bitumen overseas). More »

First published in the Chronicle Journal May 7 2016
By Peter Lang
On April 28, uninvited and without the $450 delegate fee, I was allowed to observe TransCanada Pipeline’s presentation to NOMA’s annual general meeting. It must have been the 1,000 signatures on our petition to reject the proposed Energy East pipeline… And, as with TCP’s address to City Council last August, the corporation was spared any contrary public input.

In his address, TCP’s Stefan Baranski first implicated us in the global demand for oil by asking, “How many of you drove here today?” He then followed with projections to show that increasing demand — after which he declared — “We have the oil!”

We know that. It’s what we should do with it now that we begin to understand climate change, the science behind it, and in light of Canada’s commitments to the Paris Summit last December. More »

01. January 2016 · Comments Off on Truth about pipeline is ‘highly unlikely’ · Categories: Activism, Climate Crisis, Climate Policy, Corporate Irresponsibility, Energy Policy, Peter Lang, Pipelines-Tarsands

First posted Saturday, November 28, 2015 in the Chronicle Journal

by Peter Lang

At their open house at the Italian Cultural Centre on Nov. 30 TransCanada Pipeline Corporation (TCC) will tell you that a significant leak on their pipeline is “highly unlikely.” They will cite continuous remote sensing, regular flyovers, and the latest ‘smart pig’ technology to support their conjecture. And they will relate this at a pleasant one-on-one wine-and-cheese-type gathering which is cleverly designed to avoid a public forum — wherein together we could have asked the difficult questions, and critically weighed their answers. In fact, TCC will credit this open house as “a community consultation” when it is merely corporate flim flam. 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 »

17. July 2013 · Comments Off on The end of growth · Categories: Climate Crisis, Economic Policy, Fouling the Earth, Peter Lang

In response to Barry Beaupre’s request to The Chronicle-Journal to make climate change a priority you indicated that you had published some 299 articles on the subject over the last year (A Knowledge of Climate — letter, July 10). I have noticed, and I applaud your efforts. However, I believe that we are still missing the point — which is that we have an underlying errant belief in the myth of economic growth. And that belief is linked powerfully to our inability to stop or even mitigate climate change.

In The Chronicle-Journal editorial of July 11, entitled The Trains Among Us, you focused on the dangers posed by the exponential use of trains to haul oil, and concluded with a call for “more effective regulatory vigilance.” Yet the underlying and unquestioning economic assumption remained that oil (it would seem all of it) “has to reach markets.” After those 299 articles it leaves me to wonder when the 100th monkey will look at the same big picture and finally come to a different conclusion. More »

15. June 2013 · Comments Off on Get ready for the next round with Cliffs · Categories: Peter Lang, Ring of Fire

So, Cliffs Natural Resources has opted out of its environmental review process — for now (Chromite Mine Plans On Hold — CJ, June 13). But, without doubt, they’ll be back to offer us all jobs and prosperity when we’re ready to offer them less environmental red tape. There’s simply too much chromite in the Ring of Fire for them to disappear for very long. More »

02. March 2013 · Comments Off on Ensure environmental security of Ring of Fire · Categories: Peter Lang, Ring of Fire

Open Letter to Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Mines

It is with respect that I write to you on behalf of Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet (CUSP). From my experience I believe that you are a person who believes in doing the right thing and I believe that you have worked hard for your constituents for almost two decades.

However, I am concerned for us all with regard to the Ring of Fire development, and the upcoming negotiations with your federal counterpart, More »

23. December 2012 · Comments Off on We’re all Treaty People · Categories: Activism, Peter Lang, Social Justice

Two eagles circled in a cold, sunny, winter-solstice sky, high above the Idle No More rally at Spirit Garden, Thunder Bay. This is true. At the same time a young Aboriginal speaker was telling us that, “We’re all treaty people”. I had never considered it. Yet, if you reason that the treaties were signed between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples – indeed, we are all treaty people. Accordingly, should we not accept that together we’re all responsible to maintain the spirit and intent of the treaties? More »

25. October 2012 · Comments Off on A northern heritage fund · Categories: Peter Lang, Ring of Fire

From having followed the Ring of Fire story over the last year, I believe that it is clear that the province is not negotiating effectively on its citizens’ behalf — and I would like to support The Chronicle-Journal’s editorial of Oct. 19 (Two Approaches to Northern Mines). However, with respect to your stance on mining negotiations with the province, I would suggest that The Chronicle-Journal go two steps further. First, I’d urge you to advocate for full environmental hearings; and secondly, for a Northern Heritage Fund. More »