Vice.com has analyzed the unmentioned but very real costs associated with the Trans-Mountain pipeline and the numbers are, dare I say it, "appalling."
What's interesting is that the Vice numbers only encompass "upstream" costs, extraction and transmission to "tidewater." Not included are the "downstream" costs, the refining of this crud and the emissions from burning the high-carbon petro-sludge.
Kinder-Morgan promises that the pipeline will bring a windfall of $2.3 billion a year shared among the federal government, and the provincial governments of Alberta and British Columbia. That's where it all gets very murky.
Although Canada’s government agrees there are real costs to decisions that result in releasing more CO2 into the atmosphere—costs that are reflected in our tax bills, insurance claims, and ill health—politicians never seem to total up those costs. Here, we gave it a shot.SCC - The Social Cost of Carbon
Canada and the US have assessed the cost of those impacts at C$45 per ton of CO2 (all figures in Canadian dollars). This is known as the social cost of carbon, or SCC: a monetary measure of the incremental damages expected from an additional ton of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Some experts say $45 is far too low. One Stanford study, published in 2015, concluded that $275 is closer to the mark.
Production and processing of an additional 590,000 barrels a day to fill the new TMX pipe would emit 13 to 15 million tonnes of CO2 a year, according to a 2016 report by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). These are called upstream emissions, while downstream emissions are produced by the refining and burning of the product.
Still, upstream emissions of 15 million tonnes of CO2 a year is lot: It’s equivalent to adding another 3,750,000 passenger vehicles on Canadian roads.
So 15Mt of CO2 per year, at a social cost of carbon (SCC) of $45 per tonne, means TMX would result in $675 million a year in economic impacts. That number will climb over time: As emissions accumulate in the atmosphere, so does the cost of damage from every additional tonne of CO2 emitted. In 2030, the SCC is expected to rise to $54.50, pushing the climate damage from the pipeline to $817 million a year.
Of course, it’s not just Canadians who will have to deal with this. The impacts will be global, with the poorest countries hit hardest.
Experts continue to debate how accurately SCC reflects the real costs of climate change. Economists Joseph Stiglitz and Nicholas Stern, for example, wrote in 2017 that current SCC estimates “fail to consider many vitally important risks and costs associated with climate change.”
Specifically, the SCC used today fail to account for biodiversity losses, ocean acidification, long-term impacts on labor productivity and economic growth, impacts on the poorest, as well as the possibility of extreme and irreversible changes, they said.
This suggests the $45 SCC is likely too low. I ran the numbers with the $275 SCC estimate published by Stanford University. In that case, the economic costs of the upstream emissions of the TMX expansion that Canadians and the rest of the world will pay is just over $4.1 billion a year. For comparison, Alberta’s entire royalties from all tar sands operations totalled $1.48 billion in 2016-17, which was more than the previous year.
To summarize: The climate impacts of the TMX will cost at least $2.1 to $8.7 billion upfront, and at least $675 million a year [up to $4.1 billion per annum], for as long as the pipeline operates. As for the downstream emissions of 105 Mt per year, maybe someone else will foot the bill?Maybe we should do the planet a favour. Scrap this pipeline and just go back to flogging asbestos to the Third World again.