Above Photo: C: Emma Cassidy, Greenpeace
As the clock ticks down until the May 31 deadline over the controversial Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project, which will triple the amount of tar sands being transported from Alberta to the British Columbian coast, the campaign against its expansion is spreading abroad.
Yesterday in Seattle, over 200 km south of where the pipeline hits the coast, hundreds of “kayactivists” took to the water to protest against the pipeline.
They were part of a demonstration by the US environmental group, Mosquito Fleet, Greenpeace US and Sierra Club that organised a rally in the city against Kinder Morgan’s proposed pipeline expansion.
Tensions are certainly rising. Kinder Morgan has given the Federal government of Canada until the end of the month to resolve outstanding financial and legal issues surrounding the pipeline. Last week, in order to appease the Texan oil company, Trudeau’s Government announced that it will effectively give the Kinder Morgan a “blank cheque” “to indemnify” the pipeline “against any financial loss,” suffered if they build the pipeline.
The move sems to have backfired and emboldened everyone fighting the pipeline. And as the May 31 deadline gets closer, there is a growing awareness not only of the threat that the pipeline poses to the climate, but also to marine life as it would massively increase the tanker traffic up the West Coast of Canada and US.
Indeed, last week the US environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), warned Kinder Morgan that the pipeline project, could be “illegal” under the US Endangered Species Act, which is seen as one of the world’s strongest species protection laws.
“It’s not just about the spills, it’s not just about the orcas,” said Graham Clumpner one of the paddlers with the Mosquito Fleet: “The bigger issue that we are all facing is climate change,” he said. “We are going to not allow Kinder Morgan to finish this pipeline.”
Ben Smith from Greenpeace USA added “It would make climate change worse, it would trample Indigenous rights, it would run over our clean water here, and it would decimate the final 76 remaining orcas, the Southern Resident killer whale in our waters.”
At the rally yesterday, one of the speakers was Cedar George-Parker from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, who have been leading the community opposition to the pipeline in British Columbia. “They want to bring that oil through here, but we say that we will stop Kinder Morgan,” George-Parker said. “It is not happening.”
Not only is the growing resistance from the local community, indigenous rights groups and local and US-based environmental groups to the pipeline, but even the financial community thinks the economics and changing energy market is stacked against it. Wal van Lierop is president and CEO of Chrysalix Venture Capital.
Writing in the Globe and Mail yesterday, Van Lierop pointed out what many people having been saying to Trudeau for months, but what the Canadian Prime Minister has flatly ignored: “There is also growing consensus that the world is going through an energy transition,” he wrote, before likening the current the energy transition to a baseball game, where “we could see the stages of its progression over the past decade.”
In the first inning, argues Van Lierop “coal lost to gas in the competition for power generation in North America and Europe; solar and wind lit up the scoreboard with incredible cost reductions in the second inning; but in the third, shale oil and gas rallied, creating an energy boom in U.S. gas and making that country the international swing player — supplanting OPEC in that position.”
Van Lierop adds: “Now we are entering the fourth inning, with a playing field of abundant cheap energy and midway through the ball game it looks like the players highest on the cost curve will be the ones striking out. Those players will likely include both new projects in Arctic oil and the oil sands, as their business case makes them weak in a game where cost is key.”
He even goes as far as to warn, because the pipeline makes no economic sense due to the expensive tar sands extraction and transportation costs, that “we would have to presume that the Alberta and federal governments hadn’t seen the Kinder Morgan order book before they announced an intention to financially support the company’s pipeline, because that may show a rapidly deteriorating business case.”
He is not the only one who thinks Trudeau is in trouble here. Indeed, as Bloomberg pointed out at the end of last week, “Justin Trudeau’s pipeline nightmare may be only getting started … the prime minister could end up fighting for an asset that hardly anybody wants.”