Bitumen is not safe for pipelines

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend from Calgary Midnapore should know that when pointing out that oil has been transited on the west coast of British Columbia without incident, it is important to note that from 1972 until very recently, there was a moratorium, a ban on the movement of oil in large-scale tankers that applied to the very coast that this bill will now legislate. The moratorium was honoured by provincial and federal governments over that whole period.

I also want to note that the terms “oil”, “crude oil”, and “bitumen” are being used interchangeably in this debate, which I am afraid leads to some assumptions that are incorrect. For instance, a previous Conservative speaker, my friend from Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, claimed that everyone knows that pipelines are safer than trains. If bitumen is being transported, the opposite is true. It is quite correct that no one should transport Bakken shale, the material that blew up in Lac-Mégantic, by train. I do not know how safe Bakken shale is by pipeline either. It is a violently combustible, unstable material, based on fracking for oil.

However, bitumen, by train, can be transported as a solid. Virtually nothing can go wrong in moving bitumen by rail. If it falls off the track and to a great depth below, crashing open in a valley or in a river, it would be a solid blob and could be removed by a backhoe. It could not have blown up. It is not Bakken shale.

In the case of moving bitumen by pipelines, the process inherently makes a safe substance unsafe. They have to stir in about one-third of a material called diluent, which is basically fossil fuel condensate, itself toxic, and makes bitumen mixed with diluent a substance that cannot be cleaned up.

Thus, it is completely backwards to claim that moving bitumen by pipelines is safer. It is the opposite.

Stephanie Kusie – Member for Calgary Midnapore

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments from the hon. member, but no incidents means no incidents.

We could look to history and to regulation for a number of situations where there have been bans or moratoriums, and there were no incidents. That does not necessarily mean no A, therefore no B. That is illogical. Sometimes B can mean A, or C can mean A. It is incorrect logic. The reality is that there were no incidents during that time.

I appreciate the alternative methods as proposed by the hon. member for transporting different forms of energy. Of course, oil and gas is very dear to me as the member of Parliament for Calgary Midnapore, as is the energy sector. I am very encouraged by the new technologies that are becoming available for the potentially safer transport of energy, for example, the pucks that are being examined at present.

This is very exciting information and potential possibilities for the future for the energy sector, and therefore for Calgary, for Alberta, and for Canada. I certainly do not think that we can neglect evaluating all different types of transport for different energy sources.

In conclusion, I simply do not buy that because there was a moratorium it means that there were no incidents. As I said, moratoriums take place all the time, bans take place all the time, and this does not conclude that there—