Many Canadians are not happy with the proposed “Northern Gateway” pipeline from Alberta to B.C. and understandably so.[1] Fears of oil leakage, secondary environmental impacts, attacks and other concerns are most definitely reasonable and valid and should be raised. Hats off to all of the people who are expressing their opposition to the plan!

Image c/o http://www.mediacoop.ca

Unfortunately the combined effects of an imminent surge in the price of oil due to the current geopolitical situation[2] as well as the shift towards dirtier (and more expensive) “oil sands” types of production that are required to extract petroleum from the Earth due to the decreased production yields resulting from the peak oil decline leaves few options.[3] Political and planning problems have created many roadblocks to green energy production methods such as wind turbines therefore we remain largely dependent on oil [4] which is one of the reasons why there is such a push for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Energy security is national security. We need energy to power our societies. What isn’t as clear is how we will accomplish the task of energy production safely. We’ve all seen what has happened at Fukushima Daiichi as well as the BP disaster, the Exxon-Mobil spill, the fracking problems and the Afghanistan debacle.

Image c/o the Toronto Star

Now that the stage has been set to install the pipeline in Afghanistan at a truly staggering human, environmental and debt cost[6] perhaps it’s just swell that the highly professional Canadian Forces Engineers who are not participating in the training mission are back on their own soil and available to assist in domestic tasks like helping provide potable drinking water to our impoverished First Nations communities or other applications of their extensive skills and abilities if so directed by the Government of Canada.[7] It’s not like they’re going anywhere else after all of these expensive exercises designed to re-adjust the Canadian Forces to Arctic conditions, right?[8]

As repugnant as an idea that this pipeline is to Canadian wildlife, land and communities, there is a very good chance that no amount of opposition will stop this project that is arguably crucial to Canada’s ability to maintain an export capability[9] for what is one of Canada’s last most valuable natural assets in league with uranium (and soon to be, water). It’d be an incredible delight to open a newspaper one day to learn that this project has hit the waste bin but this is quite unlikely.

Solar Cycle 24 has provided us with some incredible prominences, CMEs, and other events that we can now see in 360 degrees thanks to STEREO and very high image resolution and cadence thanks to SDO, but solar activity is still relatively quiet overall. Dr. Svalgaard[10] has been correct so far about the “wild swings” we seem to be experiencing this cycle, so we must consider the possibility that he has raised: Solar Cycle 25 could be a more intense cycle and with this comes the threat of increased pipeline corrosion due to the Geomagnetically Induced Currents that are caused by some types of solar eruptions.[11] If this is not the case then we may have bigger problems that will require even *more* oil.

Pipeline failures caused by GIC induced corrosion (imagine a jumper cable clamped to the pipe on one end of the cables and the Sun on the other, the electrochemical reactions break down the the material used in the pipe) have the potential to cause extensive damage to the base ecosystems in the pipeline’s footprint. The risk of incidents such as spikes in the price of oil, localized and international economic consequences,[12] environmental contamination and many other predicted and unforseen negative consequences will have the potential to occur. The East-to-West configuration of the Enbridge pipeline makes it more vulnerable to GIC induced corrosion.

Route map c/o Enbridge

If this project is to be implemented it must be done so in a manner that ensures the safe operation of the transmission equipment and constant maintenance and monitoring in order to protect the quality of life of all Canadians and their friends and neighbours and it is essential that any inherent risks are adequately addressed in the planning phase of the Northern Gateway project so that Canadians can be adequately informed of the true risks of this endeavour so that Canadians can truly excercise their democratic freedom, which the Afghanistan people surely must have done to get their pipeline, right?

1 http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourcommunity/2012/01/community-reaction-to-the-northern-gateway-pipeline.html
2 http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,808033,00.html
3 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/canadas-new-energy-play-the-old-oil-fields/article1731304
4 http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2011/09/21/wind-turbines.html
5 http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/2137085/threat-deadline-cranks-pressure-obama-keystone-xl
6 http://moraloutrage.wordpress.com/20/04/25/talking-points-on-the-trans-afghanistan-pipeline/
7 http://www.wawataynews.ca/archive/all/2012/1/10/red-cross-continues-attawapiskat-donations_22251
8 http://blogs.ottawacitizen.com/2012/01/09/canadian-army-to-hold-arctic-ram-exercise-next-month-1500-soldiers-to-take-part
9 http://www.international.gc.ca/enviro/energy-energie/overview-appercu.aspx?view=d
10 http://leif.org/research
11 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1364682602001256
12 https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/skarimi2/www/MEEA/Paper%20by%20Balke%20%26%20Brown%20%26%20Yucel.pdf