MONDAY MORNING EDITORIAL — These days, there’s no such thing as far away when it comes to the development of energy sources and accompanying environmental concerns.
We wrote an item last week on three wind-power projects being investigated for the area around Merritt. Wind power is regarded by many environmentalists as a panacea yet it has significant downsides — turbines are huge, ugly, noisy things that are hell on birds. Besides which, they can answer only a small particle of our energy needs. Much is made of Denmark’s use of wind power but that country still relies on coal for much of its energy.
Recently we discussed the interesting situation in Kitimat wherein the district council put a referendum to the public on whether or not it supported the Enbridge pipeline proposal. After voters said no, the council voted to go along with that opinion and also voted to oppose the pipeline.
But the council doesn’t oppose newspaper publisher David Black’s $25-billion plan to build a refinery in Kitimat to process crude oil from Alberta. This seems contradictory but Black’s proposal is getting some traction.
None other than Andrew Weaver, B.C.’s only Green MLA, thinks it has merit. “I do,” he said in a recent story in straight.com. “I think it’s being proposed for the right reasons.”
His reasoning is that if we can avoid spilling diluted bitumen into our ocean, the environment will be safer. Bitumin, a gummy, sludgy form of petroleum, is regarded as more dangerous environmentally than other forms.
Therefore, reasons Weaver, if the bitumen could be processed into synthetic crude in Alterta and then refined at Black’s project in Kitimat, the safety level would increase.
He pointed out that diluted bitumen is already being sent through Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline — which, as we know, runs from Edmonton through Kamloops and down to Burnaby for shipment. Kinder Morgan filed its application with the National Energy Board in December for expansion of that pipeline from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.
Thus ends the analogy between Kitimat and a possible referendum on the Ajax mine project in Kamloops. Nobody has raised the idea of a new refinery in Kamloops to process Kinder Morgan bitumen — if they did, there would, no doubt, be a huge outcry, but we’d have to think about what Andrew Weaver says.
While environmentalists have expressed worry that KGHM International might have long-term plans to add a smelter to its proposed open-pit mine, there’s no credible information that it’s on the books.
While Kitimat might see benefits in a refinery, any thought of putting a smelter into the Kamloops air shed wouldn’t be tolerated. Surely, the Kamloops council would put its foot down on that one.