Betrayal by news media.

This is the “unkindest cut of all.” Luckily for William Shakespeare, he did not have to contend with the unkind vagaries of modern news media. Slipshod reporting and careless editing are feeding the problem but they are also helping the oil and gas industry to side-step the critics of shipping diluted bitumen through pipelines.

The latest incident in Saskatchewan has cut off the water supplies to cities such as North Battleford and Prince Albert on the North Saskatchewan River. Whether it is measured in barrels, cubic metres or litres, Husky Petroleum, the owner of the pipeline wants to keep the figure small but the best way to visualize the spill is to imagine poring at least three railway tank cars of diluted bitumen into the North Saskatchewan River upstream from North Battleford.

CTV, Canada’s largest television network and the CBC boldly refer to the spill as oil and give no explanation as to why it should require a diluent to enable it to be forced through a pipeline. The media pays no attention to the age of the pipeline and why it has been converted to allow heated contents to be pumped at a higher pressure. And you have to wonder why Global Television, owned by Calgary-based Shaw Communications, tries to ignore such a serious incident that has been reported by news media across Canada.

But the print media have been no better in describing the incident. A Globe and Mail article waxed poetic as people without water gathered on the shores of the North Saskatchewan and wondered about the brownish blobs floating by in an oily scum. The media neglected to mention that the diluent that enables the bitumen to be forced through the pipeline floats the pipeline contents down river but the heavy bits of bitumen gradually separate from the diluent hydrocarbons and sink to the bottom of the river.

(A scientist friend informed us recently that this bitumen does not create a new surface for the bottom of the river forever. It is believed that it takes between 20 and 30 years for the combination of bacterial action and silt filling in to return the river bottom to the production of vegetation to help support the waterway’s ecosystem.)

This recent spill makes you wonder just whose side the Canadian news media are on. They are certainly not bringing us impartial news.

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Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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