Wednesday, September 25, 2013

And We Thought All We Had to Deal With Was Enbridge.

Nexen, the Chinese Communist Party's anchor in Athabasca, is urging Canadian National Railways to start shipping bitumen by rail car to Prince Rupert where it can then be loaded on supertankers for transport to the Peoples' Liberation Army and other users.

Apparently China is getting impatient with Comrade Steve's inability to make headway on the Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat and so they've taken matters in their own hands.  For some strange reason, opponents of the Northern Gateway aren't mollified by the proposal to ship bitumen across B.C. by rail.   This will give you some idea why:

Much of northern British Columbia is mountainous.  We don't build rail lines over mountains but around them, through the valleys.  Really scenic stuff.  Something else runs through those valleys - rivers.   You can blame that on gravity.  That's the same gravity that would send a bitumen spill in the same direction, downhill, right into those rivers as they wend their way inexorably to the sea or, as the Harper government calls it, "tidewater."

Now a little bit of bitumen goes a long way.   Just ask the people of Kalamazoo, Michigan.   The river in the picture isn't like the Kalamazoo River.   In Michigan, spill workers were dealing with a slow moving, soft-bottom, shallow river surrounded by open, level ground with easy road access.   As the photo above reveals we have very fast moving, very rocky bottom rivers, that are extremely hard to access and may not have a road anywhere nearby.   What the photo doesn't reveal is that these rivers are where our salmon come from.   They feed the spawning beds.

In oil spill recovery, rapid containment is the name of the game.   How in hell do you contain a bitumen catastrophe in a raging, mountain river in the wilderness of northern B.C. at all much less rapidly?

The totalitarian government's attitude (China, not Ottawa) seems to be 'just get the stuff to a northern port and our supertankers will take it from there'.   We're still back to the same supertanker threat as the Kitimat proposal but that's obviously no problem for the Beijing Politburo.   Like the Harper government, his Chinese masters could care less about coastal British Columbia.

And so, Canadian National, should they decide to accept Beijing's overtures, is as much a threat to British Columbia as Enbridge.  Just another fight.


the salamander said...

.. astounding photograph .. location ?

My great uncle was Canadian Pacific Gen Mgr western division and had his own rail car to inspect & ensure proper diligence, safety and upgrades were in place ..

Grand, old school men like him had zero tolerance for incompetence or blather .. things were black or white.. you were on track, on time or you were risk.. even extreme risk..

At the risk of being alarmist .. or fatalist ..
Alex Colville 's painting sums it up for me right now

That's us.. (horse) Canadians and democracy..)
That's our runaway government.. Harper et al (train)

I'm Inspired by Colville.. as he was inspired by
the 1954 work of poet Roy Campbell:

... 'Against a regiment I oppose a brain
And a dark horse against an armored train' ...

The Mound of Sound said...

Other than northern B.C., I don't have a specific location, Sal. What I do know is that there are plenty of rail crossings like this that it's almost generic.

Whether they build pipelines or resort to rail tanker cars the inescapable fact is that they're going to follow water courses through the wilderness and the rivers they will skirt and cross will make standard oil spill containment/recovery impossible.

gingersnap said...

Harper is so rabid with greed, it is disgusting. The Chinese have the key to the tar sands. China was permitted to bring their cheap labor. Petro-China had even offered to build the Enbridge, very quickly and very cheaply. China tankers the oil back to China. They use their cheap labor, to refine the oil.

Harper and his Cons and the Campbell/Clark BC Liberals, have done enough dirt to BC, the F.N. and all of us. Enbridge used every dirty tactic in the book, to lie, deceive and to force their pipeline into BC.

karen said...

And you must remember, MoS, around the time CN bought the BCR, there was a big spate of derailments. Seemed like one a week for a while there.

I know that one of the things opponents say is "It's not if, but when an accident happens." And I know that the supporters think that's just overdramatization, but it is true. I teach industrial safety. One of the things I talk to my students about is the number of workplace incidents. In the last 20 years, we have more regulations, more state of the art safety equipment, more policies than ever before, and yet the number of incidents has not decreased. Because humans have not changed. It was not lack of regulations, lack of technology or lack of hazard assessments that ran the Exxon Valdez aground, began the BP accident in the Gulf of Mexico,allowed the Kalamazoo leak to go unnoticed for 17 hours, set off the events that led to the tragedy in Lac Megantic or sank the Queen of the North in Hartley Bay. It was human error.

E J Baatz said...

Looks like Cheakamus River - 500,000 salmon killed

August 5, 2005

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Karen. There's been talk of transporting a million barrels a day by rail. By my rough calculations, that would entail moving about 1,400 tanker cars a day in and out of Prince Rupert. That would be a traffic nightmare and really jack up the odds of a catastrophic accident.

@ EJ. I think you're right. Thanks for the link.