Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bend over and take it up the pipeline

Carping on an article in the Ottawa [Corporate] Citizen entitled “A lot of drama for a pipeline” [jeers from Old Dog appear in brackets]:

The Northern Gateway pipeline is all about dirty oil and big money trying to destroy the environment to make a buck, some environmental and aboriginal groups say. Or maybe it's about foreign-funded environmentalists with a "radical ideological agenda" who want to cripple Canada's economy, as Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver maintains.

That's sure a lot of drama for a pipeline, and what is expected to be a two-year-long approval hearing is just getting underway.

[Start by presenting the two sides as extreme positions espoused by persons with obvious agendas, and then imply that you are going to be much more level-headed: an overused rhetorical ploy.  And the title suggests that it is silly to get all up in arms about a feature of the global machine as prosaic as an oil pipeline.]

It will be the task of a three person National Energy Board panel to sift through more than 4,000 submissions looking for facts or cogent arguments regarding the proposal for a 1,172-kilometre pipeline to carry oil sands bitumen from Alberta through northern B.C. to the port of Kitimat.

The economic and financial case for the pipeline is clear.

[Throw some numbers in to establish an aura of technical authority. Then establish an economic frame for discussion while removing from consideration any question regarding the legitimacy of economic motives. Oh, and what does it mean to say that the economic and financial case is clear?  Clear for whom?  The economic and financial case for most forms of criminal theft is also clear.]

Canada has a valuable resource in the oil sands, but only if it can get that resource to markets.

[The natural world and all of its features are “resources,” neutral content to be used by those in power to enhance and extend that power.]

With the Americans leery of a new pipeline, major oil companies want a way to reach Asian customers.

[Those Americans are a skittish bunch, after all.  So why is it again that the “wants” of powerful corporations have any relevance?  Also notice the sentence did not say major “Canadian” oil companies.]

A University of Calgary report estimates the pipeline could add $131 billion to Canada's gross domestic product over 15 years. That's a lot of jobs and a lot of tax dollars.

[Two assumptions here: (1) that the transient “jobs and tax dollars” generated by the oil pipeline are somehow more relevant than the more permanent loss in “jobs and tax dollars” that will accompany irreparable destruction of forest and waterways, and (2) that an economic frame is the only relevant way of evaluating the issue in the first place.]

Many environmental and aboriginal groups say the pipeline will destroy rivers, forests, communities, and that oil spills will be inevitable. It's an emotional argument, but one with broad popular appeal.

[Any human worthy to be called a member of the species should have an emotional response to the destruction of rivers and forest communities, but it is not an emotional argument to cite the empirically-verifiable and inevitable destruction of natural systems!  The implication is that functioning natural systems are important for only aesthetic reasons and environmentalists are all a bunch of irrational soft-hearted pussies.  And about those aboriginal groups: sovereignty over ancestral lands is surely something more than just an emotional issue.]  

It will be difficult to quantify the actual risk involved.

[Only in terms of who shoulders the economic burden when the inevitable happens.  There is a plethora of hard (quantified) data about the wide-ranging environmental devastation caused by existing pipelines, but because we are limiting our discussion to economic considerations, those data don’t count.]

The pipeline company is offering every precaution to avoid a maritime spill, but one can never entirely guard against human error, and the chosen route involves navigation through difficult waters.
And pipeline leaks are always possible.

[Interesting.  The company is “offering” every precaution as if such precaution comes from the kindness of their heart.  Accidents will happen.  History shows that they are GARANTEED to happen.  But because we cannot predict them ahead of time, they cannot be factored into an economic cost-benefit analysis.]

The environmentalists have a point of view that deserves to be heard, and they will fight a good fight, but a new pipeline will be built, and it should be. The benefits to Canada's economy are too large to be trumped by risk speculation.

[There it is.  It’s a simple case of corporate money versus the environment.  Notice how the environmentalist argument has been reduced to “risk speculation,” a financial term.  Because the discussion has been framed entirely in economic rather than biological (or sociological, or psychological, or historical, or…) terms, there can be only one possible conclusion. No matter what the environmentalists say or do, the economic framing ensures they have already lost the fight.  From a global economic perspective, there is no scenario in which the corporate world loses if the pipeline is built.  If it breaks, leaks, or leads to a “maritime spill,” corporations will make money in the clean-up.]

What the NEB panel, the public and our political leaders should be focusing on is whether the Northern Gateway plan is the best. A company called Kinder Morgan already has a pipeline from Alberta to B.C. and hopes to expand it in the same corridor. Increasing its capacity could offer less risk and controversy.

[A lobotomized chimpanzee can reason better than this moron.]

Every form of oil extraction and transportation has risks, but there is a strong case for a new pipeline to the west. The pipeline's political supporters would best serve their cause by putting the risks in context, not by calling their opponents names.

[The case is strong only if you assume that the “wants” of international corporations are primary, that indigenous peoples are nonentities, that nature is composed of inert matter to be extracted and modified regardless of any potential impact on ecological systems, and that short-term economic and financial interests are the only ones that matter.  OK, so let’s put the risks in context.  But instead of a corporate-economic context, let’s use a real context, one based on the reality of the natural world rather than on the exploitation games of the global machine.  Let’s use a bear context.  Or a salmon context.  Or an authentic human context.]

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