Some of the basic skills you look for in reporters is their ability to research, to learn and to explain for readers. It is therefore with regret that we report that David Olive of the Toronto Star is overdue for retirement. If he must insist on writing the same errors in his opinion pieces about Canada’s fossil fuel industry, he is not keeping pace with the needs of his readers.
One of his most egregious errors is to refer to Alberta’s tar sands product as ‘heavy oil.’ If he just once referenced the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) information on that subject, he might learn something. USGS defines oil by its viscosity—how easily it flows. Bitumen from the Athabasca and Cold Lake tar sands does not flow well enough to be called heavy oil. That bitumen has to be mixed with a diluent to send it through pipelines.
And that is why the Gulf Coast refineries in Texas are not interested in Alberta’s bitumen. The Texas refineries can get Venezuelan bitumen—that has a much better viscosity rating than the Canadian product.
The reason to send the Canadian gunk to the Texas ports was to fill the holds of ships that were heading back across the Atlantic empty. There are many other refineries in this world interested in cheap—though highly polluting—sources of oil.
What is really annoying about Mr. Olive’s lack of research is his claim that Canada has never had a national energy strategy. Maybe he was too young in 1980 to remember the National Energy Program introduced by Pierre Trudeau’s liberals. If he had ever been to Alberta, he might have been given an earful on the local reaction to that strategy. It was not well received there.
It does much to explain the reason that Pierre Trudeau’s son bought the TransMountain pipeline and is wasting billions on twinning the pipeline to carry diluted bitumen to an environmentally sensitive shipping point in the Burrard Inlet. It might not impress many Albertans. It certainly does not impress Canadians who care about our environment.
Copyright 2021 © Peter Lowry
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