Mixing oil and water has never been a good idea, and oil companies should remember that rule of thumb. The thought of another pipeline blowing up in a fresh water source in North America leaves many environmentalists shuddering in fear — and for good reason.
People are joining together to demand that the Canadian and US governments put an end to this practice. Oil pipelines are coming under fire this week with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation protests in North Dakota and the Kinder Morgan protest at Parliament Hill. Social media has blown up with over one million people “checking in” to Standing Rock on Facebook to show support for the protests and deter police from trying to gain background information about protesters on social media and knowing who to target for arrest at the protest. On a slightly smaller scale, but nevertheless equally important, was the protest north of the border, in which over 100 protesters gathered in Parliament Hill and 50 were arrested for storming the fences to demonstrate that this pipeline is not wanted in British Columbia.
The Dakota Access pipeline is a project that is set to be built near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota and crosses under the Missouri River. The pipeline would carry 470,000 barrels of crude oil and any oil spills would leave the reservation without clean water. In April 2016, a few representatives of Standing Rock Sioux Nation set up camp to block the pipeline from beginning construction on their land, and in the last few months the camp has increased by the thousands. The police have made several arrests and the tension is escalating at Standing Rock, but the protestors continue to protect their land.
Across the prairies and into Canada, the Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline transports 300,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to British Columbia and Washington. The new leg of pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby would increase crude oil transport to 890,000 barrels per day, a formidable number. The National Energy Board (NEB) approved the project with 157 conditions. Though the federal ministerial panel is conducting a series of public consultations about pipeline, the time is prime to protest Kinder Morgan because the federal government is set to end public consultations and make a final decision in December. Among many other protesters, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has strongly opposed the proposal. The expanded pipeline goes right into Vancouver at the Burnaby Chevron Refinery and if an oil explosion occurred, it would be dangerous to local residents and would cost millions in repairs. Ocean tankers having more access to increased amounts of oil is dangerous for the ocean if a spill were to occur as well. Robertson also argues that the pipeline threatens the green sector, a growing industry in Vancouver. Protestors crossed the fence to gain Prime Minister Trudeau’s attention and were subsequently banned from Parliament Hill.
Both demonstrations show a growing concern for the devastating environmental effects of oil spills in waterways. The public outcry against pipelines is the result of years of unkept promises by oil companies, who all say they will protect the waterways and then claim little responsibility when detrimental oil spills occur. This was certainly the case in 2010, when Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline burst in the Kalamazoo River and leaked thousands of gallons of oil into the river, contaminating the water source and harming wildlife. Enbridge has another pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac that was built in the 1950’s and is growing old, heightening the threat of it breaking down. If this pipeline were to burst, it would spread oil into the Great Lakes, the largest fresh body of water in the world, at a rapid rate.
Building pipelines under water requires a lot of maintenance and the threat of leaking oil is consistently an issue. Alternatives to oil pipelines needs to considered because the threat of environmental disaster is extremely high. Furthermore, the ability for oil companies to carry unprecedented levels of the product is unsustainable and dangerous because it allows them to exploit the earth to an even larger extent.
The solution — end the reign of oil.
Currently oil is a necessity for the transportation sector. Instead, more sustainable technologies need to be embraced. This can include biofuels and electric vehicles. Biofuels are made most often with ethanol, and are highly available because they are made most often from corn, a common North American crop. This form of renewable energy has a closed carbon cycle where carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is recaptured by the plant material used to make the biofuels. It is then used to produce more fuel. Cars can use biodiesels, which are a bi-product of biofuels. Another alternative is embracing electric vehicles that would make cars fuelled with oil obsolete and are a step forward to being rid of the dirty product.
On Nov. 5, protestors are joining together at Queen’s Park to peacefully march for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and call to everyone who cares for land and water to unite with them. The march will stop at TD Bank, RBC, and Scotiabank, companies that are funding the pipeline, and then end at the US Consulate. Protests will be happening worldwide to honour the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. The time to act is now before all of our waterways are contaminated. Putting in an effort to end pipeline use is the only option for a healthy future living in North America.