Canada Corbella: The best thing for Canada would be to shut down Line 5 pipeline — just for a while
U.S. 'highly unlikely' to order Line 5 shut down as deadline on crucial pipeline nears, chief negotiator says
OTTAWA — The United States is “highly unlikely” to order the shutdown of a critical cross-border oil pipeline ahead of a looming deadline next week, Canada’s chief negotiator on the file says. Last November, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer called for the shutdown of Line 5, a crucial conduit that cuts across the Great Lakes and supplies oil and other petroleum products to a major refinery in Ontario. Her directive, which cited concerns over potential oil spills, sought to block the pipeline by May 13. Canadian officials have been pressing the U.S.
A part of me wantsto shut down, if only for a few months, not because I wish our country ill, but because I want what’s best for it.
What’s best for Canada is energy self-sufficiency and security, and that’s simply impossible without pipelines. Shutting down this vital energy lifeline, even temporarily, would provide a collective slap to the lives and livelihoods of Ontarians and Quebecers — along with their pandering politicians — that would help jolt them out of their anti-pipeline dreamland and into reality.
Rex Murphy: How's Trudeau going to get out of this Line 5 pickle and keep oil flowing?
Has it come to pass that an oil and gas pipeline going into Ontario may be stopped? Shut down? Closed? Was this foretold in scripture? Did St. Greta of the Hard Stare lay a curse upon the land? How can this be? Yet so it appears. The governor of the state of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, has decreed for the good of the world environment that Enbridge Line-5, which passes through her state on its way to Ontario, will be closed. The mind rebels. It Yet so it appears. The governor of the state of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, has decreed for the good of the world environment that Enbridge Line-5, which passes through her state on its way to Ontario, will be closed.
For the most part, Canadians are energy illiterate. There are people in Canada — many thousands, in fact — who believe Canadians can survive and thrive in our vast and mostly cold country without petroleum products. Those people are living in a fantasy land and only such a jolt would forcibly drag them into the real world.
Ontarians and Quebecers, who would be most affected by the shutdown of Enbridge’s Line 5, would feel the effects of the shutdown almost immediately. That’s what happens when you turn off the tap to 540,000 barrels per day of crude oil and natural gas liquids from Alberta to the Great Lakes area that finds its way to refineries in Sarnia, Ont.
Line 5 alone supplies half of Ontario’s crude oil and natural gas liquids (which are refined into propane) and two-thirds of Quebec’s. All of the jet fuel that is used at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport originates from Line 5.
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The shortage in supply would inevitably lead to spiking energy prices, an increase in truck and rail traffic, job losses, increased airline ticket costs — basically a rise in the cost of everything, from food to asphalt, to lumber to cell phones. That short-term financial pain would likely lead to long-term energy security gain.
Losing Line 5 would serve to resurrect theand help buy the social licence from Quebecers to have Alberta bitumen — what Quebec politicians call “dirty oil” — flow across their land to a refinery in New Brunswick.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an order on Nov. 13 cancelling the pipeline’s 1953 easement across the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes, giving Enbridge 180 days to shut down the pipeline by May 12.
Enbridge is fighting the matter in the courts andthat the company will not shut the line down unless ordered to do so by a U.S. federal court judge. Court hearings aren’t scheduled to begin until May 18.
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, a senior vice president and chief communications officer at Enbridge, said during a telephone interview Monday that Michigan’s citizens would also suffer should Line 5 be closed down.
“The cynic in me says: it’s interesting that the date was 180 days and not 30 because the consequences of a Line 5 shutdown would have really been felt in the dead of winter,” said Fernandez.
Line 5 supplies 55 per cent of Michigan’s statewide propane needs.
Fernandez said it’s “naive” for Whitmer and those who support the shutdown to think that they can just “snap their fingers” and the infrastructure needed to keep fuelling the economy would miraculously appear.
“There’s clearly no understanding of why we even have pipelines,” said Fernandez, who has worked in a U.S. democratic senator’s office and was a professor of strategic communication at Boston University.
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“Pipelines . . . have a less intrusive impact on the environment than shipping this stuff by rail or by truck or by ship. All of those burn fuel in order to ship fuel.
“The volumes we’re talking about is there will be a need for 10,000 tank trucks on the roads in Michigan and where are you going to find the trucks and all the drivers. It’s not like you can press a button and all of a sudden these things magically appear,” explained Fernandez.
“In her budget message to the state legislature, (Whitmer) put forward a proposal to provide propane security and part of that propane security was to build a rail line from one part of the state to the other. That’s not going to be in place in six months,” he said. “That also has to go through regulatory approvals and they’ll also have to file environmental impact statements and the amount of money that was set aside is far less than what it will take to do it.”
Enbridge had received the approval by Michigan’s previous governor,, to build a tunnel “well below the lake bed” and put new pipelines in the tunnel to replace the 68-year-old twin pipes “that have never spilled an ounce in the water” but obviously that process has been slowed down by Whitmer, said Fernandez.
Ted Morton: Canada may win the Line 5 battle, but we're still losing the war
The Enbridge Line 5 pipeline confrontation is political theatre at its best and worst. But this doesn’t mean it’s inconsequential. There is virtually zero chance that the Governor of Michigan can unilaterally close down an existing pipeline that crosses both state and international boundaries. This type of issue is way outside any one state’s jurisdiction. But this doesn’t mean that Canada will have won. We may win this battle, but we are still losing the war to Blockadia — the well-organized, well-financed crusade to block oil pipelines out of Canada, and, by extension, to shut down the Canadian oilsands.
On Friday, a ransomwareto extort money out of the company caused crude prices and gasoline prices to spike in the U.S. by six cents a gallon. The pipeline carries 2.5 million barrels a day of diesel, petrol and jet fuel.
On Sunday, President Joe Biden’s government was forced to pass emergency legislation toto minimize disruption to supply. This allowed drivers in 18 states to work extra or more flexible hours when transporting refined petroleum products.
Would Prime Minister Justin Trudeau similarly be forced to relax safety and environmental rules on barges travelling up the St. Lawrence Seaway or for drivers moving oil or propane to supply Ontarians’ and Quebecers’ thirst for oil products? Saudi Arabia’s princes would be so happy.
Remember the dire situation forwho faced losing their entire crops in fall 2019 as a result of a propane shortage caused by a rail strike? Perhaps pipelines would be in the works had those farmers’ crops rotted in their silos?
says anywhere from 3,000 to 4,900 high-paying jobs at Sarnia refineries could be lost should Line 5 be closed down and another estimated 23,000 jobs across Ontario would disappear as well.
“I wrote a letter to all the mayors’ offices in Ontario with over 50,000 population about two months ago, saying, ‘Your energy prices will skyrocket and you’ll have— which we know hasn’t always worked well in Canada — and more truck traffic and more barge traffic on the Great Lakes. So how is that environmentally friendly?'”
Shutting down Line 5 would, of course, hurt Alberta too, but if it meant that it would open the eyes of central Canadians towards the need for greater energy security it would be worth it.
Licia Corbella is a Postmedia columnist in Calgary.
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