It’s time for Cana­di­ans to end oil­sands sham­ing

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - OPINION - Joseph Maloney is in­ter­na­tional vice-pres­i­dent for Canada of the Boil­er­mak­ers Union. JOSEPH MALONEY

Enough with the guilt trip. I’m proud to rep­re­sent peo­ple who work in the oil­sands. They’re proud of the jobs they do. And they should be.

As a union leader, I rep­re­sent thou­sands of oil­sands work­ers. These peo­ple are ex­tremely skilled at keep­ing our oil plants and re­finer­ies op­er­at­ing. And guess what? They care just as much about the en­vi­ron­ment and global warm­ing as the peo­ple who want to shut the in­dus­try down.

It might not be pop­u­lar to say so, but the peo­ple who work in our oil­sands are cru­cial to our way of life. Nearly 200,000 Cana­di­ans de­pend di­rectly on the oil and gas in­dus­try for their jobs, al­most three-quar­ters of them in Al­berta. Hun­dreds of thou­sands more in just about ev­ery in­dus­try in Canada couldn’t work with­out re­fined oil prod­ucts.

Our lives de­pend on Al­berta oil — and I’m not just talk­ing about the oil and gas that lu­bri­cate and power our ve­hi­cles. Even if we could elec­trify ev­ery car in Canada overnight, we’d still need oil, and lots of it.

Most peo­ple don’t re­al­ize how much oil is used to make the as­phalt and ce­ment in our roads and build­ings. They for­get that plas­tic is a pe­tro­leum prod­uct. They don’t even think about in­dus­trial lu­bri­cants, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, fer­til­izer, re­frig­er­ants, food preser­va­tives and dozens of other com­modi­ties. With­out oil, mod­ern life would be un­sus­tain­able.

Why then, is this in­dus­try be­ing de­mo­nized? I’m not talk­ing about peo­ple who want to see a cleaner oil in­dus­try that makes less of an im­pact on our car­bon emis­sions. I am talk­ing about the peo­ple who claim Al­berta’s oil is “filthy” and want to leave it in the ground.

They don’t want Cana­dian tankers in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but don’t men­tion the ones from Alaska and Rus­sia that sup­ply oil for B.C. driv­ers. The re­finer­ies of Wash­ing­ton state could get their oil by pipe­line from Canada far more safely. Cer­tainly, the oil and gas in­dus­try has a lot to an­swer for. But in Canada, peo­ple do care about the en­vi­ron­ment and our gov­ern­ments have lis­tened. They’ve made reg­u­la­tions over the years that have made the in­dus­try cleaner, safer and more be­nign in its en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact. They’ve forced the in­dus­try to adopt prac­tices that are not com­mon in other parts of the world.

As a re­sult, we have ex­haus­tive hear­ings be­fore ma­jor projects are un­der­taken. The in­dus­try has bol­stered en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion with tech­nol­ogy and pro­ce­dures that make the ex­trac­tion and ship­ping of Al­berta oil cleaner all the time.

The ex­am­ples are many. Shell’s car­bon-cap­ture project north of Ed­mon­ton and one of sim­i­lar scale in Saskatchewan will soon pass the twomil­lion-tonne mark an­nu­ally in car­bon re­claimed. The new­est tech­nol­ogy makes oil from the sands as clean as in­ter­me­di­ate crude from Texas. A ma­jor new re­fin­ery in Al­berta col­lects and re­claims car­bon by pipe­line from in­dus­tries as much as 100 kilo­me­tres away. Two pro­posed new re­finer­ies in B.C. claim they will be car­bon neu­tral.

Canada is lead­ing the world in de­vel­op­ing new ways to ex­tract and ship oil sus­tain­ably and safely. We’re cer­tainly do­ing more than Don­ald Trump, who wants to turn back the clock to the 19th cen­tury. And as far as the other big oil ex­porters, like Rus­sia, Saudi Ara­bia and Nige­ria, let’s not even go there.

World­wide de­mand for oil is fore­cast to in­crease un­til about 2050. Coun­tries where de­mand is grow­ing will buy their oil from some­where. Why shouldn’t it be from us?

Canada and Cana­dian oil work­ers have noth­ing to be ashamed of. In fact, they can be proud of the en­vi­ron­men­tal, labour and hu­man rights reg­u­la­tions and pro­to­cols un­der which our oil is pro­duced. Canada needs to sell the world more oil, not less.

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