Refineries and smelters add to public debate around oil pipeline and gold mine proposals

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.

Kinder Morgan video screen shot.

Kinder Morgan video screen shot.

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 “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.

About Mel Rothenburger (6803 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on Refineries and smelters add to public debate around oil pipeline and gold mine proposals

  1. Sean McGuinness // May 12, 2014 at 9:09 AM // Reply

    Why not build decent bycycle paths in our cities so that people can bike to work? This is what they’ve done in Denmark, aside from the wind turbines. Why does the discussion have to be about building pipelines or refineries? Why is there so little discussion about how we can reduce our consumption of oil and fossil fuels? Does producing more oil and bringing it to consumers faster make this a better planet? The most recent report on global warming has sounded all kinds of alarm bells and here we are talking about expanding pipelines. Take a look at all the gas-guzzling vehicles on our roads.

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