The kingpins of the U.S. environmental movement are starting to make their voices heard on Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.
Yesterday, former U.S. vice president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore made his views known over Twitter.
"The Kinder Morgan pipeline carrying dirty tar sands oil would be a step backward in our efforts to solve the climate crisis," Gore declared.
He added that he stands with B.C. premier John Horgan and Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson—as well as all Canadians including First Nations—who "are fighting to stop this destructive pipeline".
On Saturday (May 12) afternoon, the next big-name U.S. environmentalist to speak out will be Bill McKibben, a cofounder of the globally focused climate-justice group 350.org.
He will appear in front of the media with Indigenous leaders at the Watch House created near a soccer field at 8505 Forest Grove Drive in Burnaby.
McKibben wrote his first book on climate change in 1989 and has written several more since.
He is a hero to many of those trying to keep fossil fuels in the ground, as well as those urging money managers to divest from fossil-fuel companies.
Sometimes when 350.org focuses on a fossil-fuel project, it is the catalyst for various celebrities to start raising objections.
Among those who've already distinguished themselves as climate activists are Leonardo DiCaprio, Emma Watson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark Ruffalo, Daryl Hannah, Alec Baldwin, Adam Levine, Pharrell Williams, Susan Sarandon, Woody Harrelson, and Natalie Portman.
The question then becomes: when will some of them start showing up in Burnaby to add international momentum against the Kinder Morgan project?
Serious concerns have already been expressed on the impact of the pipeline on Canada's ability to meet its emission-reduction objectives under the Paris climate agreement.
That's because of rising greenhouse gas emissions associated with more diluted bitumen production. This is necessary to feed the pipeline and would use up more of Canada's share of the world's "carbon pie".
Kinder Morgan plans to triple the amount of diluted bitumen passing through its Trans Mountain system, increasing daily shipments from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels per day.
The plan also calls for a nearly seven-fold increase in oil tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet.
However, not everyone is convinced that the project is financially feasible.
In a lengthy piece in the National Observer, journalist Paul McKay raised many red flags, questioning whether the "bitumen bubble" is about to burst because of a lack of demand for the product in Asia.
Along similar lines, former CIBC World Markets chief economist Jeff Rubin wrote a book in 2015 called The Carbon Bubble: What Happens to Us When It Bursts.
"Pipelines no longer have an economic context," Rubin told the Straight shortly after the book was released. "They're not going to be the engine of economic growth."
Just as these concerns about the financial risks of pipelines are being articulated, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta premier Rachel Notley are trying to figure out ways to bail out the pipeline's owner.
Texas-based Kinder Morgan has issued a May 31 deadline for assurances that it can go ahead.
"As KML has repeatedly stated, we will be judicious in our use of shareholder funds," chairman and CEO Steve Kean said in a news release last month. "In keeping with that commitment, we have determined that in the current environment, we will not put KML shareholders at risk on the remaining project spend."
Kinder Morgan already spun off its Canadian operations into a separate publicly traded company called Kinder Morgan Canada. That brought more equity into the project and shed 30 percent of the risk to new shareholders.
If the Alberta and federal governments provide even more equity or huge tax breaks, that will further dilute the risk faced by the Texas energy giant.
It sounds like a sweet deal for the Texas-based parent corporation's shareholders. But it could turn out to be a nasty and costly bit of business for Canadian taxpayers.More