The Tar Sands Dilemma - Transporting by Train, by Pipeline or Not at All ?

by Linda Fraser

The present day costs of petroleum are heavy. Besides the cost of more expensive fuel at the gas pumps, our cost also includes the loss of a large section of our Arctic wilderness, disappearing forever. Since the tar sands began operations, Arctic caribou herds have been decimated.    

     Other costs to us include the price of oil pipelines that run through the breadth of our province, crossing all of southern Ontario's river systems and aquifers, running right through everyone's drinking water. I worry about pipeline ruptures contaminating someone's drinking water.  Other pipelines across North America filled with bitumen, like the Enbridge pipeline through Marshall, Michigan ruptured in the Kalamazoo River. Those noxious chemicals are still not cleaned up three years later.
     Alternatively, our cost could be train loads full of bitumen rolling through our towns and cities, like Lac Megantic Quebec and more recently, Gainford, Alberta, possibly including the billion dollar clean up, cost or health risks associated with exposure to the train's contents of noxious chemicals present in diluted bitumen.  Maybe, the tar sands will become so productive we will eventually have both pipelines and trains filled with bitumen rolling through Ontario everyday.  How much do we love our petroleum? Is it possible to survive without it? 
     We can always bet on the off chance, that no corrosion or explosions will occur and that Enbridge takes excellent care of their pipelines in much the same way train companies are expected to take excellent care of their tracks. It is way too expensive for companies to perform this level of competent maintenance, so what alternative options do we have?   
     If we vote "NO" to pipelines and we vote "NO" to trains transporting bitumen, are we willing to give up our dependance on petroleum? Will we be riding bicycles to work, or using electronically powered transportation? Do we want to get the oars out and row that boat back to the cottage? And yes, there is our computers... like mine, made from processed oil products. Just what are we willing to sacrifice here? 
     The people of Durham seriously need to weigh these risk factors and these cost options. Is your future invested in petroleum and do you want it to be? Students at universities in various parts of the world are holding rallies and sit-ins to get their university to "divest" take the universities' money out of petroleum futures and reinvest the money in more ecologically friendly markets. Some feel, like scientists around the world will tell you, that investing in petroleum futures is unethical. 
     Scientists will also tell you our dependance on petroleum products is destroying our planet. Scientific American: How Much Will Tar Sands Oil Add to Global Warming? In the future, where will your money be going and how will you be getting to work? Is your future with petroleum or do you have both oars in the water? Send me an email and let me know if you are struggling with this 'loyalty to petroleum' thinking as much as I am. Maybe you have some fresh insights.