Inconvenient truths for Earth Day

Earth Hour is a mistake, Mother Nature is the biggest oil spiller, and Vancouver's been an oil port for exactly 100 years

Earth Day quiz: What's the #1 source of oil in waters around North America? Tankers and pipelines are only 8%. You won't believe what's #1.

VICTORIA – Earth Day 2014 will likely go down in B.C. history as less exciting than last year’s event.

That was the day when, in the heat of the election campaign, NDP leader Adrian Dix announced in Kamloops that he doesn’t support the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline to its Burnaby terminal, because Vancouver shouldn’t become a “major oil port.”

As of this Earth Day, it has been an oil port for exactly a century, since Imperial Oil began work on B.C.’s first refinery in 1914, in what is now Port Moody. There were no pipelines then, so crude was moved by rail or tanker.

For 60 years, Trans Mountain has supplied the Chevron refinery in Burnaby that is southern B.C.’s last source of fuel. Some of the Alberta crude is piped south to be refined into fuels and some of that product is barged back up to B.C. to keep our traffic moving.

Today the proposal to expand and upgrade that pipeline, and to build new oil and natural gas pipelines across the north, dominate B.C.’s political scene.

In keeping with the educational aspect of Earth Day, here are some things you may not know about energy and the environment.

• A recent National Geographic report summarizes the main sources of oil in the oceans around North America. Media coverage focuses on tanker and pipeline spills, but they only account for eight per cent of the total.

Fully 60 per cent of the oil load in North American waters is from natural seeps, where oil leaks from seafloor rock. One of the world’s largest is off Santa Barbara, California, where 20 to 25 tons flows out each day. It’s mostly consumed by oil-eating bacteria that have adapted and proliferated.

The next biggest source is leakage from cars and trucks, which collects on pavement and is flushed to sea when it rains.

• Earth Day is now preceded by Earth Hour, during which we are encouraged to turn out our lights to join a world-wide gesture of conservation. Many people use the occasion for a candlelight dinner.

Given that B.C.’s power is nearly all from renewable hydroelectric sources, and that the paraffin used to make candles is derived from petroleum or coal, this feel-good ritual produces an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

David Suzuki is now promoting the idea of Earth Month, an expansion of the symbolic effort designed to “raise awareness.” This is a popular notion in the climate change industry, which to date consists mostly of government officials and activists flying around the world to conferences in exotic locations to sign agreements that lead to, well, not much so far.

• Unlike Earth Hour, B.C.’s carbon tax on fuels actually appears to be helping to reduce emissions.

An update to provincial data is due this year, but what we have shows a 5.7 per cent decrease in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases between 2007 and 2011.

Environment ministers have conceded that some of this is due to the recession that struck in 2008-2009. But since the economy has recovered and begun to grow again, emissions have continued to decline.

• There are simple things anyone can do, without gimmicks or government programs. One would be to stop protesting increased housing density in your community.

By far the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in B.C., not to mention old-fashioned pollution, is transportation. By living closer to where we work, shop and play, we can exercise our legs instead of just our gas pedal foot to get around.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Anti-racism rally in Chilliwack goes ahead, despite rumours of cancellation

Saturday’s rally of about 150 people was small compared to Friday’s march where hundreds showed up

PHOTOS: Chilliwack commemorates 76th anniversary of D-Day with small but significant ceremony

Two wreaths were laid at the quiet ceremony attended by about 25 people in Sardis

PHOTOS w/ VIDEO: Peaceful Black Lives Matter march and rally in Chilliwack

Youth-led march down Yale Road followed by passionate speeches at Central Community Park

Hundreds fill Chilliwack streets for Black Lives Matter march

‘Canada has a problem too,’ reads at least one protester’s sign

Chilliwack RCMP heard gunfire en route to suspicous activity

Chilliwack man, 42, sent to hospital after shooting, RCMP have confirmed

Trudeau offers $14B to provinces for anti-COVID-19 efforts through rest of year

Making a difference in municipalities is a pricey proposition

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

New platform allows readers to make a one-time or ongoing donation to support local journalism

‘Like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

The artifact is believed to be from the Nesikip period between 7,500 BP to 6,000 BP

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

Run for Water: Abbotsford man raises $100,000 running 100-mile marathon

Kevin Barata ran up and down Ledgeview Trails 32 times, exceeding elevation of Mt. Everest

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

Most Read