Hakai Magazine: The Race for Arctic Oil (infographic)

Oil exploration began in the Arctic almost a century ago, long before the words “climate” and “change” were paired with “human induced” and the ushering in of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Paradoxically, even as the science emerged, the world’s reliance on oil grew—globally, we use about 35 billion barrels of oil each year.

The sea ice melts. Oil prices rise. The sea ice melts. Oil prices fall. The sea ice melts. There’s an oil glut. The sea ice melts. There’s an oil shortage. And the sea ice melts, creating better conditions for building remote oil platforms in the frigid waters and for land-based drilling operations that can take advantage of newly-thawed shipping routes.

Read more here. Research by Jimmy Thomson and Ami Kingdon; text by Jude Isabella; illustration by Mark Garrison.



More British Columbians oppose Gateway pipeline after map controversy, ad blitz: poll

This originally appeared on the Tyee blog, The Hook, on December 11, 2012

A new poll suggests that 60 per cent of British Columbians now oppose the proposed Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline. And according to the results, controversy over Enbridge’s tanker route map — which omitted 1,000 square kilometres of islands in the Douglas Channel — didn’t help: 58 per cent of respondents who saw the map said that it worsened their opinion of the project.

Commissioned by the Gitga’at First Nation and carried out by Forum Research, the poll (hosted on this website) is the most recent survey of public opinion surrounding the pipeline project. Forum Research contacted 1,051 British Columbians, asking the same central question as in two other polls they have conducted on the issue: “Are you in favour or opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline which would carry crude oil from the Alberta oil sands across the Rocky Mountains to the BC coast at Kitimat to be shipped by tanker to refineries in Asia?”

The poll comes six months after the start of a major, multimillion dollar ad campaign from Enbridge, which included TV and radio spots, and newspaper and online ads. It found that 86 per cent of respondents had seen some advertising from Enbridge in the last six months. Of those 86 per cent who had seen ads, 46 per cent had not changed their opinions, while 37 per cent said it made their impressions of the project worse.

“We don’t have the resources to fight Enbridge’s multi-million dollar advertising campaigns,” said Cam Hill, Gitga’at councillor, in a statement released with the polling results.

“What we do have is the truth, and the truth is that a single oil spill in B.C.’s coastal waters could wipeout the traditional foods that feed our people. We don’t want dead water.”

Last August, critics attacked Enbridge’s depiction of the Douglas Channel, minus the channel’s many islands, in a promotional video, accusing the company of misleading the public. An Enbridge spokesperson, Ted Nogier,told the Times Colonist that the map was for “illustrative purposes only,” and that it wasn’t to be taken as an accurate depiction of the channel.

Earlier polls from Forum have given similar results, but the trend in their results points toward growing opposition. Last January, opposition was 46 per cent, and by April it was at 52 per cent.

The Tyee has not yet been able to reach Enbridge for comment.

Jimmy Thomson is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

The legalization rally that was an Enbridge rally

Walking today towards a rally that I had looked forward to for weeks, I overheard a conversation between two middle-aged women at a stoplight:

“What’s that rally for?”

“Oh… marijuana legalization, I think.”

The rally was against the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

The thing is, I can’t blame the two ladies for having no idea what was going on; from what I saw at the rally, a good portion of the protesters didn’t know either.

Rallies make great media moments: they bring together, all in one place, hoisting signs and banners and shouting slogans, a representative number of people who care about the cause at hand. Reporters snap photos and record video, and that evening and the next morning, people will see images that symbolize the movement – in this case, the resistance to the pipeline.

The trouble with rallies is that they depend on energy. Education and well-balanced arguments are difficult to shoehorn into short, snappy statements that will hold an audience’s attention and inspire cheers. The result is a series of passionate, sometimes eloquent, and almost always somewhat fallacious statements from the stage. There’s no room for a thoughtful discussion of a very complex issue when you need to make a lot of people angry all at once.

One of the more on-topic signs, as the march began towards Centennial Square

Furthermore, because of the nature of this particular discussion taking place in Canada – that being our natural resource riches and how best to use (or not use) them – the issues people were bringing up were so wide-ranging that I am not at all surprised that the rally was mistaken for a pro-pot rally. In some ways, it was. I saw signs suggesting investment in solar power, demanding the prime minister’s resignation, pushing a ban on fracking, and, inexplicably, one that just read “WTF | LOL” with two pictures of the Earth from space. I was handed leaflets on food security and, yes, marijuana legalization.

To be sure, it was an event attended by mostly like-minded people who can find common ground on many of these issues, and many of them (such as solar power, oil sands, and fracking) are related, so I can see why people would take the opportunity to bring some of them into the mix. However, the feeling that I got was that besides a core of activists and political types, many of the thousands of attendees might as well have been at a rally protesting Corn Pops.

The take-away message for me was that this very significant, very controversial proposed project (and its cousin, the Kinder Morgan TransMountain pipeline) is not going to be beaten by rallies, marches, and drum circles. These are a good way to spread the message that there is an issue to be discussed, and to give the media a visual representation of the resistance, but not an effective tool for resistance. Rather, it will take the focused efforts of truly interested and educated groups who are willing to consider a multitude of sides of one issue, rather than one side of a multitude of issues.