Canada’s newly-elected left-wing government placed a moratorium on crude oil exports leaving British Columbia in the name of fighting global warming.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sent a letter to his transportation minister Friday asking him to “[f]ormalize a moratorium on crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast.” The ban on Northwest crude oil tanker exports comes just over a week after President Barack Obama vetoed the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.
Trudeau’s move also comes just before United Nations delegates are set to meet in Paris to discuss a possible international global warming treaty. Like Obama, Trudeau is concerned with how the rest of the world perceives Canada’s seriousness about tackling global warming — blocking oil exports could bolster the country’s “green” image.
“If we are to tackle the real challenges we face as a country – from a struggling middle class to the threat of climate change – Canadians need to have faith in their government’s honesty and willingness to listen,” Trudeau wrote in his letter.
Environmentalists cheered the decision because it endangers the viability of another major oil pipeline. Karen Mahon, the head of ForestEthics Advocacy, argued the ban “ends the dangerous Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.”
Pipeline company Enbridge received regulatory approval for the 684-mile Northern Gateway pipeline last year. The $7.9 billion project would send unrefined oil sands from Alberta to British Columbia’s northern coast where it would be loaded onto tankers and sent around the world — most of it would likely come to America.
“Without tankers crude oil has no place to go, that means no pipelines, no oil trains moving tar sands to the northern BC coast,” Mahon said, saying this is a victory for those who want to stop global warming.
Trudeau may have just cut another lifeline to Canada’s struggling oil industry. There may be room for exports of refined oil, but the hit to Canada’s economy could be massive.
Canada’s booming oil industry has created a massive amount of wealth for the country, making up more than one-quarter of exports and contributing $26 billion to government revenues. Canada’s oil export economy has been shipping out record levels of crude this year despite low oil prices. Trudeau’s shipping ban endangers this development.
Before his election, Trudeau promised to kill the Gateway project over fears increased oil tanker traffic in the region would harm the environment. Environmentalists have also been looking to stop the pipeline in order to keep companies from extracting oil sands which they say will exacerbate global warming.
“If I win the honor of serving as prime minister the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline will not happen,” Trudeau said. “Many British Columbians make a living off this pristine coastal waters, this is not the place for a pipeline.”
Earlier this month, Obama blocked the Keystone XL pipeline from getting the presidential permit it needed to start building its northern route from Canada to the U.S. Obama said approving the project would “undercut” America’s commitment to fighting global warming — even though Obama admitted the pipeline would have no impact on the climate.
“America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change,” Obama said. “And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership. And that’s the biggest risk we face — not acting.”
While Trudeau objected to Obama’s Keystone decision, his ban on crude oil shipping casts doubts on how serious the left-wing prime minister is about revitalizing Canada’s natural resource economy.
“Money has to come from somewhere. For the good of Canada, we have to consider jobs, monetary benefits, we have to obviously consider environmental aspects,” Joanne Monaghan, the former mayor of the British Columbia town of Kitimat, told CBC News.
“Is there a difference between crude oil being spilled down south and crude oil being spilled in the north?” Monaghan asked.
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