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Commentary: “WAIT! You’re Going the Wrong Way!” – How Premier Notley’s train money and the Alberta protest convoys could be combined to create a “Virtual Pipeline” to tidewater.




by William (Bill) Simpson – EnergyNow Contributor

Over the holiday season I had the opportunity to take a bit of a break and spend time with family and friends. I caught up on some reading (Gandhi: An Autobiography and Hans Rosling’s Factfulness), watched a few old movies (Miracle on 34th street, Austin Powers, Smokey and the Bandit) and followed some of the latest developments in the ongoing saga between the beleaguered Alberta Oil & Gas industry and the foreign funded Climate Change Zealots. I have been supportive of the local Alberta convoy/rallies bringing attention to the plight of our industry. Most of the participants, feeling ignored and disrespected by our governments, gain a sense of having at least done something for awareness. I have even been guardedly accepting of the Alberta Government’s rail asset acquisition plan, which I originally thought was a nice gesture, albeit a ridiculous idea both logistically and from a cost benefit perspective.

I should mention now that I have intimate knowledge of many of the issues as I am heavily involved in the development of current oil and gas pipeline integrity requirements. With my work in code training and regulatory strategy advisement I am keenly aware of how the Alberta Oil and Gas industry is being unfairly painted with a 1970’s era polluters brush. For at least the past 25 years our industry has taken the climate issues, and especially emissions, very seriously and have led the world in emission reduction solutions, despite propaganda from the Tides foundation to the contrary.

By chance I started to re-read Simon Sinek’s book, ‘Start with Why’ which I had left unfinished a few years ago. A third of the way through I had an epiphany – a proverbial light going on over my head. Reading Simon’s book with Santa, Dr. Evil and Buford T Justice still floating around my consciousness, I came to the realization that we are being tricked by our supposed leaders. We are being drawn into a trap intended to re-paint us as those red neck polluting hordes from the 60’s & 70’s, and seal our fate with massive debt to be repaid only with the sale of discounted oil.

Like most western Canadians, I felt that we had been led down the garden path by an absent-minded Prime Minister who was simply self-absorbed and incurring massive debt on our grandchildren’s behalf, while simultaneously using government resources as a personal cheque book to fund his global gender division and identification obsessions. Just your everyday normal politician. My view has now changed. I now believe it is intentional and that he is actually an evil genius– Dr. Selfie – hellbent on revenge over Alberta’s 1980’s besting of his father’s attempt at western domination through the National Energy Program. His moves seem calculated to embarrass, marginalize and devalue Alberta’s petroleum industry. He is clearly his father’s son, and I now believe we are being misled to Ottawa.

When you ask the question ‘why?’ of the Prime Minister’s actions over the past year the answer is the same each time. Why buy an antiquated pipeline and its proposed twin? What better way to ensure that court rulings are not appealed, and Albertans are infuriated? Why push Bills’ C48 and C69? To poke the stick at Albertans of course by reducing hope of ever getting products to international markets or attracting investment. Why give loans to companies with no promise of market access to earn money for repayment? The list of goes on, but the answer comes out the same. Create anger among Albertans!

The objective of the Alberta Oil and Gas industry is to get our products to tidewater. This is the only way we can participate in the world market and get out from under the single market discounts we currently suffer.

Now also consider the current Alberta Government objective…if you can figure out what it is. I haven’t. The Premier tells the climate zealots she stands with them and implements a carbon tax to encourage less use of oil, but then gives retroactive rebates and waivers to the industry who finds and produces the stuff, while continuing to tax the people. She publicly states she is fighting for tidewater access but then announces a $1.131 billion plan for trains to ship oil to refineries in Texas. Wait! Did you think the trains were for tidewater? Ha! We don’t need any new locomotives or cars for the west coast. Certainly not 7,000. The rail lines west are already at capacity. Her trains are pointed south to a single client discount. One minute she’s dancing in the streets and the next she’s declaring she stands in solidarity with the Albertan’s who were protesting her governments handling of the problems in the first place.

But perhaps there is a fix.

I mentioned that I supported the convoys that have been organized to show support and bring national, if not international attention to the problem. I think it has been effective from a general awareness perspective as most nights you will see a story where the newscaster shows video of hundreds of trucks rolling slowly down the highway. The announcer says “In Alberta today, a convoy of several trucks went from this place to that place bringing awareness of Alberta’s desire for a pipeline…. In other news President Trump blah blah blah…” The video footage could be any freeway in any city at rush-hour, but none the less it creates conversation. Unfortunately, we are giving fuel to the Prime Minister’s subliminal narrative that Albertans are wasteful climate ruffians who don’t care for the environment.

The judge and jury of this conflict will be the voters. The Prime Minister and the Zealots are trying to show we don’t’ care about the environment. Their actions have created such anger that a new convoy going from Red Deer to Ottawa is being proposed to demonstrate to him and the country how angry we are. Unfortunately, what the country will see is hundreds of trucks dumping exhaust into the atmosphere out of sheer spite. The Prime Minister will say: “See Canada! This is why we need a carbon tax and why we must do gender impact assessments before anyone goes to Alberta. Albertan’s are clearly dirty toxic people who want to sell their dirty toxic oil with no regard for the environment.”

That is why I now believe a convoy east to Ottawa is a mistake. It’s the wrong direction! Money for trains south is a mistake. It’s also the wrong direction! We need to follow Gandhi’s example with peaceful PRODUCTIVE convoys. We need to go to Vancouver and we need to take oil with us. Lots of oil. Highway tankers full of the stuff. Why? Because the goal is not to throw a tantrum in front of the Prime Minister in Ottawa and come off looking like spoiled toddlers. The goal is not to needlessly pump exhaust into the atmosphere while driving in circles honking our horns. The goal is to get our product to tidewater. Tidewater is not in Ottawa. Tidewater is in Vancouver! That’s where the convoy should be going. If Premier Notley really stands for Albertans she can waive all the fuel and carbon taxes as well as the royalties on any oil shipped by truck to tidewater. This would reduce the shipping cost and if you trucked 100,000 barrels a day for the next 10 years, the government wouldn’t spend the $1.131 billion they are planning for the trains.

Here are some quick facts for digestion.

  • 1 round trip from Edmonton to Ottawa = 3 round trips to Vancouver.
  • A highway transport can haul 220 barrels of oil to Vancouver. 200 trucks would haul 55,000
  • A highway b-train transport (2 tanks behind 1 rig) can haul 420 barrels to Vancouver. 50 of these would haul 21000 barrels
  • Using 500 pickup trucks as pilot vehicles front and back (for safety of course) we could haul another 2000 barrels (actual barrels) to Vancouver
  • An Aframax ocean tanker in the port of Vancouver can hold appx. 750,000 barrels of oil.
  • A daily convoy from Alberta could fill an Aframax tanker every 10 days with a few extra barrels of oil to start filling the next one.

So where should we go? East? South? Going west seems to be the best bet for success.

I think Gandhi would be pleased. No yelling, no screaming, no fighting, no hard feelings. Just Albertans taking their oil to market. We would of course PREFER to use safe, environmentally friendly pipelines, but if the Zealots won’t agree we will just quietly and calmly bring our oil in a never-ending convoy of trucks. I think Canadians will tell the Prime Minister they prefer the pipe.

About William (Bill) Simpson

William (Bill) Simpson teaches pipeline codes and regulations for the North American Standards Assessment Corp. He is actively involved  in the development Canadian and international standards, participating in CSA, ISO IEC and CPAC documents. A published writer and keynote speaker, Bill’s focus is on pipeline safety and environmental effectiveness.



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