Reality Check for Canadian Pipeline and Coal Politics

Here are two interviews addressing recent political developments surrounding Canada’s future use of fossil fuels — the Energy East Pipeline and the Trudeau government’s ambition to eliminate coal power in Canada.

The Energy East Pipeline is a proposal to repurpose a portion of the existing natural gas pipeline system from Alberta to eastern Canada so that the repurposed pipe would transport oil, primarily for export from Saint John and to supply refineries in Montreal and Saint John now supplied largely by oil imported by tankers.

The interview was broadcast August 29 at 2:38 pm for about 18 minutes on the “Scott Thompson Show” with guest host Alex Pierson. The archive is here:

My main points:

Eastern Canadian natural gas consumers and TransCanada shareholders have a lot riding on salvaging value from TransCanada’s obsolete, excess natural gas pipe capacity.

I encourage people to check out the work of Vivian Krause in tracking U.S. funding sources for anti-industrial protesters in Canada.

I make two environmental and safety arguments to push back against anti-pipe protesters. If Energy East goes ahead, the overall demand for oil will not change but the effect on global oil supply would be to reduce the movement of oil over the world’s oceans. The reduction of oil movement at sea would reduce environmental risks. I also comment on the safety advantages of pipe vs. rail and note that today, some of the oil required by refineries in Montreal and Saint John is being served by rail.

I express concern about the current lack of independence of the National Energy Board and express my preference for independent, professional, and orderly public utility regulation.

I argue that for our federation to succeed, Canada must have the wherewithall to foster economic success for regions blessed with resources.

The Globe & Mail reports that the Trudeau government has expressed an interest in accelerating the phaseout of coal power in Canada but that some provinces dependent on coal are concerned.

I was a guest on the CBC TV program The Exchange on September 2, available here (minute 36:30 – 42:30)

Main points:

Alternatives to coal power, as demonstrated by Ontario’s coal phase-out experience, turn out to be costly and face many practical problems.

Nova Scotia was planning to use Labrador power from Muskrat Falls to replace some of its coal reliance, but now the Muskrat Falls project faces new and severe problems.

The only viable alternative to coal power on a large scale is natural gas-fired power. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which also depends heavily on coal and oil-fired generation, have strong political movements blocking gas resource development in the region, thereby restricting options for reducing coal power in the Maritimes.

Saskatchewan has already invested heavily in capturing and sequestering CO2 from coal power plants, but that project has proven difficult.

Nova Scotia also relies on oil for power, which is one of the reasons the province continues to use coal.

Overall, eliminating coal power would be harmful for four provinces.

One Comment

  1. Re: The Lake Erie Connector Project

    U.S. Department of Energy

    PP-412, listed 01/12/17

    View: Current Presidential Permits > Click on PP-412 for the PDF document, ITC Lake Erie Connector


    National Energy Board, January 19, 2017

    ‘A81375 National Energy Board-Reasons for Decision-ITC Lake Erie Connector International Power Line EH-001-2015’

    Chapter 2: ‘Economic Feasibility and Need for the Project’
    Begins on P. 10.

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