Return to all News Releases and Op-Eds

News Releases and Op-Eds

Op-Eds >>

D’Avignon: B.C. could be world leader in safe transportation of energy products (Vancouver Sun)

The West Coast Spill Response Study outlines issues that need to be addressed to prevent oil spills and ensure an effective, coordinated response should one occur in the future. Such spills could stem from B.C.-originated marine traffic or transitory traffic near our coast involving the shipment of oil or oil products from Alaska to the nearby centre of oil-refining complexes across Georgia Straight at Cherry Point in Washington state.

We need to recognize that B.C. has had a risk of terrestrial and marine oil spills for more than 60 years, with a resident pipeline that terminates in Burnaby and refining centres that support our economy, households and jobs. As an oil and energy producing and consuming nation we will continue to face these risks for the next 30 years at least, even if we decided to stop using oil today given the time required to transition to new fuel and energy sources. In fact, many oil companies are already focused on that transition.

If we are honest with ourselves, we would also acknowledge that our fuel for airlines, vehicles, buildings and materials we use every day rely on the transportation of Canadian oil products through pipelines and marine transport. Vancouver Island would shut down in a week if not for the oil barges that leave Vancouver's harbour several times a week to supply demand from homes, farms, businesses and vehicles up and down the Island.

Honest assessment will also point to the thousands of B.C. residents and hundreds of communities whose economic prosperity is directly linked to oil through weekly flights that enable British Columbians to work in the Alberta energy industry. There are also hundreds of B.C. companies that produce machinery, materials and services that are "inputs" purchased by Alberta oil producers to assist in the safe and efficient extraction of energy from the ground.

What the report highlights is a unique opportunity for B.C. and Canada to lead and project our values, skills, economic strengths, and environmental and entrepreneurial drive with the rest of the world.

With the prospect of oil being shipped in greater volumes from North America to help meet the demand from an emerging three-billion-person middle-class in Asia, let's be proactive and opportunistic.

The report underscores the need for industry, all levels of government, First Nations and educational institutions to work together to develop the world's best marine and terrestrial prevention and spill response model in the world - one that, if successful, could be exported to other markets. This would create jobs, investment and prosperity, and would strengthen B.C.'s existing reputation as a centre for global excellence in environmental protection.

We could aim to be a centre for regulatory and process excellence that other oil producing and consuming countries would learn from, a centre that develops leading technology and marine response and monitoring approaches, using B.C. know-how, and that taps the expertise resident in our research universities and technical colleges. This includes schools that focus on advancing our already world-leading engineering expertise on pipeline design and installation. B.C. can be a jurisdiction that engages successfully with First Nations, employing their people, spurring the development of new First Nations businesses and incorporating their local knowledge to manage land monitoring and energy transport, and to ensure effective strategies and processes are in place to rapidly attack a spill should one occur. B.C. could be the place for the next generation of marine safety, with a focus on vessels and instrumentation that expands on the safe double hull and new navigation and monitoring technology used today, in part, thanks to the work of B.C. companies and universities like Port Metro, Seaspan, UVic, and UBC to name but a few.

This report is the start of a new energy chapter for B.C. and Canada, if we choose it. Oil and energy generally are a foundation for all of our communities' quality of life. Transitioning to new fuels and technologies is inevitable, but will take decades and only be accelerated and be affordable for the benefit of our planet and future generations if we are smart about generating the financial resources derived from existing energy sources to fund discoveries to be used tomorrow.