The Province

Oil fuels economy, not pedal power

- Jon Ferry jferry@theprovinc­e.com

Eco-correct Vision Vancouver councillor­s have been ultra quick to oppose plans for increased oil-tanker traffic in our port, saying they want Vancouver to become the greenest city in the world by 2020.

But I believe the far greater danger is that, by constantly trying to kill such economic opportunit­ies, the city will instead become the world’s most pointless.

The point being that Vancouver is a port city. Our port is Canada’s largest, and one of the biggest in the world, handling hundreds of millions of dollars of cargo a day.

So before we say no in knee-jerk fashion to Kinder Morgan’s multibilli­ondollar pipeline/tanker expansion plans, we should consult extensivel­y with the harbourmas­ter and others who have real knowledge in these matters.

Mayor Gregor Robertson, Coun. Geoff Meggs and their bike-riding covisionar­ies do not.

Now, it may be heresy to some, but I don’t hate the oil industry.

Indeed, the other night I was staring out across the water from my North Shore condo at the twinkling lights of Chevron’s Burnaby refinery and thinking how magical it was.

You could call it my Malcolm Lowry moment, after the boozy Brit novelist who, living in a nearby squatter’s shack, reportedly used to gaze out at a giant Shell sign across the water. The problem was the “S” had burnt out, so it read “Hell” not “Shell.”

No, oil may not be heaven. But it’s still crucial for continued Canadian economic and social progress in a way that pedal power, I suspect, will never be.

Oil fuels pretty much everything we do. And the Chevron refinery, which employs 250, is responsibl­e for 30 per cent of B.C.’S gasoline, 25 per cent of its diesel and 40 per cent of the jet fuel used at Vancouver Internatio­nal Airport.

Diesel? That’s the fuel powering the “Freedom Train” now transporti­ng B.C. natives protesting Enbridge’s controvers­ial proposal to transport oil and natural gas by pipeline between Alberta and the Kitimat area.

Yes, for all its faults, oil really is the great liberator.

But back to the Burnaby refinery. As Chevron spokesman Ray Lord told me Thursday, it uses convention­al light sweet crude from Alberta transporte­d via Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton.

Lord could not say exactly what impact Kinder Morgan’s expansion plans might have on the refinery.

His corporatio­n, though, supports “diversifyi­ng markets for Canadian resources” . . . and the jobs that go along with it. And it thinks it can be done safely.

Kinder Morgan, of course, shouldn’t be allowed to do whatever it likes. But instead of simply nixing its plans, our government officials should at least see if they can’t get some direct revenue out of it, perhaps through a tax on each litre of oil shipped.

Long time burnaby heights resident Alena Torn, meanwhile, has strong concerns about the Kinder Morgan proposal and the prospect of additional tankers moving under the Second Narrows Bridge.

But Torn also points out that few folks today are free to chose a lifestyle without oil and the motor car.

“I think there has to be a balanced view on the whole business,” she told me.

I totally agree.

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