Bradley Shende: New oil pipelines are risky business for B.C.

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      By Bradley Shende

      When I first moved to Vancouver from Winnipeg 20 years ago, it was with cold hands and warm optimism. The lure of the ocean, beaches, mountains, and forests was enough to get me out here, but what made me actually stay and start a career and business was much deeper than this surface beauty.

      This is why I am deeply concerned to read recent claims that oil pipelines are essential to B.C.’s economic growth and prosperity.

      As a local member of the tech sector, I believe that new pipelines are incredibly risky for B.C.’s economy.

      Although I am not a member of any political party and am supporting persons on different sides of the political spectrum, I think the B.C. NDP deserves to be applauded for standing strong against an increase in oil tanker traffic. Kinder Morgan’s proposal to build a new Trans Mountain oil pipeline involves a lot of risk for our local economy and, as far as I can tell, very little reward.

      To start, the new pipeline would not finance increased health, education, or other social services in any meaningful way. According to Kinder Morgan’s own data, the new pipeline would add a mere $9.86 million a year to B.C.’s coffers—or a shockingly small 0.0005 percent of provincial tax revenues.

      Even more relevant, the pipeline would create just 50 permanent jobs and a few thousand more in temporary construction. These numbers pale in comparison to other sectors; my tech startup colleagues easily eclipse this within a single month.

      All told, the benefits are pretty slim. On the other hand, the risks of running a new pipeline right through the most populous part of the region and turning Vancouver into an oil-exporting port are mind-boggling. And let’s face it—with pipelines and tankers, spills are an unavoidable cost of doing business.

      According to experts, a major spill along our coast could cost over $10 billion in direct clean-up costs alone, the majority of which would likely fall to taxpayers to cover, as the B.C. government has admitted. How many health, education, and social services would face the chopping block to cover a government debt of that size?

      It could also easily cost tens of thousands of people their jobs, directly impacting industries that together employ over 420,000 people here in B.C. and affecting those of us working in creative industries like film and high tech who benefit from Vancouver’s "greenest city" brand.

      These numbers are not pulled out of thin air—a study from Washington State's government concluded that a major oil spill could affect 165,000 jobs in the state, and a recent UBC study found that 43 percent of all tourism and coastal industry jobs could be impacted by a major spill on B.C.’s north coast.

      During a month when over a dozen separate oil spills from Alberta to Arkansas have made headlines, are these impacts we’re willing to face here?

      The only thing that’s certain about new oil pipelines is that they’re risky business— for our beautiful landscape absolutely, but also for those of us who live, work, and do business in this province.

      What we really need is to put aside the rhetoric and posturing and take a hard look at the facts. In other places where there have been spills, we've seen an alarmingly negative impact on the local economy, particularly on tourism, coastal industries, and the real estate market (see for research on the costs and benefits of new pipelines for B.C. businesses). Supporting economic development is not the same as supporting all development projects regardless of their risks—and we need to have a real conversation about this.

      In order to protect B.C. jobs and a strong local economy, we need to defend the industries that are the biggest job creators. According to the Urban Development Institute, the property development sector is directly and indirectly responsible for over 220,000 jobs in B.C. The tourism sector employs 127,000 people across the province, and our emerging innovation economy, one I am proudly part of, employs more people than forestry, mining, oil, and gas combined. Risking serious harm to these industries is the much more short-sighted stance.

      TED, a global gathering of the world’s elite innovators, is not coming here in 2014 for Vancouver's tankers and pipelines; it's coming for the creative ideas and inspiration that should drive us into the future.

      Sign me up for that.

      Bradley Shende is a creative technologist, filmmaker, digital producer, and strategist. He is the CEO of digital agency M2O, co-founder of CarSurfing, an advisor to BCIT's New Media Design Program, and a commentator on technology and media trends for CTV, Global, CKNW and Discovery’s How Stuff Works.




      May 7, 2013 at 5:05pm

      I have no great love of technology, but it sure is better than pipelines! Where is the art/education/pure science/public nudity party?

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      Cindy Sleeman

      May 7, 2013 at 5:27pm

      Thank you Bradley.

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      Willy Ens

      May 7, 2013 at 5:34pm


      Resulting in high labor/ low technology intensive and highly valuable Green jobs

      ... NO PIPELINE IS 100% SAFE ... LET’S STOP them from being built if you can!
      But if WE can't this should be BARE MINIMUM for any pipeline and most definitely for "The KXL and Northern Gateway".

      Having compiled this design in the spring of 2012 while Christy Clark 'BC’s Liberal leader' was still sitting on the fence, cuddled up with Enbridge, and intent on 'selling BC' on the "Northern Gateway Pipeline".

      The design of this double walled pipeline system was primarily for the “Toxic Dilbit” product out of Alberta, but I think it is the best solution available to make all current pipelines 100% vacuum monitored and safe also.
      The 4 stages of SAFETY (Detail)

      The science and proving system is nearly infallible and seems almost too simple since it is nothing more than a 'safety shield' as a second pipe placed overtop of the current 'product carrying' pipe which are then sealed to each other at the 'start' and 'terminal end' of a given section.

      At the 'start' end are the 'vacuum pump' and 'product inlet valve'. The pump is hooked up to the space between the pipes and the ‘product inlet valve’ is opened by the mechanical pull of a 'vacuum cylinder' drawn in by the vacuum achieved in the 'space' between the 'interconnected pipes'. The resistance spring on the vacuum cylinder would keep the valve closed until it is overcome (2) ‘points’ on the three (3) ‘point’ vacuum gauge.

      When operating and on experiencing a 'loss' of the vacuum to anything less than (3) ‘points’ in any part of the system for whatever reason immediately causes the 'return spring' on the vacuum cylinder to start driving the ‘product supply valve’ towards a ‘closed’ position. Stopping flow completely into the compromised section of the system as soon as the vacuum has dropped to (2) atmospheres or less.

      The subsequent loss of "Safe operation" signal to downstream "Control valve/ vacuum pumps" would have them 'go into alarm' and shut down within minutes of a "Pipeline Continuity Failure" due to loss of the 'downstream vacuum pumps' and them not maintaining a “minimum proving level of ½ point’.

      ANY SPILL would be confined and IN COMPLETE CONTAINMENT between the pipelines.

      Van Hayden

      May 7, 2013 at 7:05pm

      Then rail it is.

      Dilbit Disaster

      May 8, 2013 at 8:59am

      Oily Clark ain't getting my vote.

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      Dorian Payne

      May 8, 2013 at 10:59am

      Well said, Bradley...we need more clear-headed thinkers like yourself in the halls of power. Thank you for being involved.

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      Ben Watson

      May 8, 2013 at 4:29pm

      Well spoken on all our behalves!

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      Roberta Cantelon

      May 9, 2013 at 10:04am

      As clear and concise as light passing thru crystal... Thank you Bradley for saying it better than most of us could.~

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      May 10, 2013 at 4:06pm

      Fantastic article Bradley - Miss ya pal ;)

      Tina Parker

      May 13, 2013 at 10:32am

      Thank you Bradley,
      Kinder Morgan has been harassing my neighbourhood and is set to engage to open the old pipeline in June 2013 that was built over 50 yrs. ago in Kamloops in Westsyde. My backyard my home of over 35 yrs. My daughters back yard is home to much wildlife deer of which I see daily looking through my window. They are going to ruin the river, the beautiful landscape, creating dust, digging up the dormant pipeline. They will open the old one regardless of whether the new pipeline is approved or not. Not sure how public knowledge this is as I have seen no media on these facts of which I actually have paper work from them for their plan. They have been hounding me to sign papers to be allowed to dig on my property for months and said they will go ahead in June 2013 to open the old pipelines. Apparently they already have approval, as the approval happened 50 yrs. ago. We are screwed and there seems to be No Way to stop this. I appreciate you bringing awareness to this very important topic.

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