Following British Columbia’s recent election, climate activist Kevin Washbrook and I have an op-ed in the latest edition of Business In Vancouver magazine. We make the case that fossil fuel export projects represent a clear danger to the Northwest—and that the threat transcends the border:
At a time when scientists report atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are breaking dangerous new records, the Pacific Northwest is considering a raft of ill-advised proposals to expand its carbon-intensive fuel exports. To date, the region has considered these fossil fuel projects each in isolation, an approach that makes sense no longer.
The election helped make British Columbians more aware of the controversies surrounding new oil and gas pipelines in the province. But they may be less aware of the furious debate raging south of the border, where proposals to build huge new coal export terminals in the U.S. Northwest are generating unprecedented levels of opposition.
In recent months, however, the arguments have crossed the 49th parallel.
Increasingly, Americans are worried about Canadian oilsands, as seen in national protests against the Keystone XL Pipeline and the growing unease over new tanker traffic in the Salish Sea. Just so, residents of the Lower Mainland are growing alarmed about stealthy plans to ship more U.S. thermal coal from Delta and from new facilities on the Fraser River at Surrey.
The truth is, whether we’re talking about coal trains, tankers or pipelines, all of us in the Northwest are in this together. And the stakes could not be higher.
Our piece springs from a report that Sightline released in Canada last month, Northwest Fossil Fuel Exports. We found that active fossil fuel export plans in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia would be capable of moving fuel loaded with 761 million metric tons of carbon dioxide—roughly the equivalent of seven Keystone XL Pipelines.
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In our Business In Vancouver piece, Kevin and I argue that new spending on pipelines and export terminals will undermine the region’s economic security, even as it transforms the region from a clean energy leader to a carbon export hub of global consequence.
Post-script: While I’m doing the shameless self promotion thing, I’ll note that our report has earned some exceptionally thoughtful coverage in BC, including:
- A first-rate piece by Vancouver Sun columnist Pete McMartin.
- An in-depth look at the research from Amy Huva at the Vancouver Observer.
- A post-election take by The Tyee.
- A second column at the Vancouver Sun, this one by Craig McInnes and one that is considerably less productive than McMartin’s. McInnes seems to think that there’s nothing much to be done about climate change, so BC should at least get rich by making the problem worse.
American readers should stay tuned for a US-version of Sightline’s report this summer.