Today is Saturday December 18, 2010

Fierce debate about Enbridge's Northern Gateway project -- which would feature a proposed pipeline from the oilsands development in Alberta to the B.C. coast along with a port in Kitimat -- has run its course.

Native groups in the area affected and Opposition parties want a ban on all tanker traffic off B.C.'s northern coast, which would make the project impossible. The Conservative Government and proponents of the Enbridge scheme, meanwhile, do not support such a ban. Both sides are dug in and it's time for some fresh ideas, says Daniel Veniez, businessman and federal Liberal candidate in the riding of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country.

So, how about a rail line to transport the oilsands petroleum to waiting markets across the Pacific Ocean?

Veniez says a broad transportation plan is needed to carry Canadian resource wealth to India and China where demand will be escalating by leaps and bounds in coming years. Developing countries will also need Canada's potash, coal, iron ore, timber, natural gas and wheat as well as oil.

He's suggesting a new rail line that would link Hazelton, in northwestern B.C., to Valdez, Alaska where a port already exists. "A new rail line would facilitate the development of ... mines in B.C. and the Yukon, move oil sands product in an environmentally safe fashion through Canada for shipment from a port that's already there and built to accommodate such traffic.

"Today, we are limiting the conversation to this: are you for or against the tanker traffic off B.C.'s North Coast? Our conversation should be about something much bigger, the development of a new frontier."  Veniez says he's disappointing that the Harper Government is not leading such a discussion.

Now, it's true that transporting oil by rail is not quite as simple as by pipeline and the rail option is not immune to accidents and spills. A U.S. consultant's study on the topic [How Pipelines Make the Oil Market Work -- Their Networks, Operation and Regulation, December 2001] notes that the costs of moving oil by train "remain a multiple of pipeline and waterborne alternatives. Replacing a 150,000 barrel per day pipeline with a unit train of 2,000 barrel tank cars would require a 75-car train to arrive and be unloaded every day, again returning to the source empty, along separate tracks, to be refilled."  In the U.S. about 2 per cent of oil transport is by rail.

Still, in B.C. it might be an option if the Enbridge pipeline should prove politically unworkable.

At the very least, Veniez should be credited with trying to come up with an alternative to break the current debating logjam.

He writes of his idea here:


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