Pipelines or Heartland Power Line – Not Both

What does the Heartland Transmission Project have to do with the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline? Lots.

Fact #1: The double-circuit 500kV Heartland power line was to have brought coal-fired electricity to at least 9 bitumen upgraders in the Industrial Heartland that the Alberta Government had been promoting for many years as the new economic driver in the oil sands energy sector.

Fact #2: Because of a shift away from doing upgrading in Alberta, only one bitumen upgrader is now being considered for the Industrial Heartland. Therefore, there is no need for the Heartland power line. And besides, any upgraders that might actually get built in the Industrial Heartland will co-generate their own cleaner electricity and therefore won’t require less-clean coal-fired power via the Heartland line.

On the one hand, we have Premier Alison Redford who suggests that exporting unrefined bitumen out of Alberta to the United States and China (via B.C.) through pipelines such as the Northern Gateway Pipeline and Keystone XL Pipeline is good for Alberta’s and Canada’s economies. In fact, she is working hard to convince all of the other Premiers that this is so, in an attempt to develop a national energy strategy.

On the other hand, we have people like former Premier Peter Lougheed who believe more unrefined bitumen should be processed in Alberta and Canada to create more local employment. Or putting it another way, by processing bitumen in Alberta, many more high-paying local jobs would be created over the long term than very short-term jobs created building pipelines to export the longer-term jobs out of Canada. It’s a principle central to almost all industries – the more secondary and tertiary development of raw materials, the more diversified and sustainable the economy. Alberta can continue to be a supplier of raw bitumen to other countries who then process this raw resource while creating thousands of jobs for their respective citizens. Or, Alberta can begin to refine bitumen at home like we do with agricultural and forestry products to create a more balanced, diversified and sustainable economy. We’ll need some pipeline capacity either way, but we need to think carefully about what we use those pipelines for.

There are many arguments for and against the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines, but one thing is certain. The more Premier Redford ignores the importance of upgrading in Alberta, the more absurd her support for the Heartland power line becomes. She cannot have it both ways – either we encourage upgrading in Alberta or we don’t. Regardless of what side of the pipeline debate you are on, the inconsistent approach taken by the government underlines the fact that the Heartland Transmission Project is not needed.

~ by RETA on January 16, 2012.

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