Listening to David Black speak in Kelowna this week, it was hard not to get behind his idea of a made-in-B.C. oil refinery that would create thousands of jobs for the hard-done-by communities of Kitimat and Terrace, sparking the B.C. economy and bringing in millions, if not billions of dollars from China.
Black, who owns this newspaper and hundreds of others in communities around B.C., the Pacific Northwest and even Hawaii, spoke about the differences between refined oil and crude oil. He said refined oil and its products of gas, and diesel, would evaporate in an ocean spill, while crude oil would sink and damage coastal ecosystems beyond repair.
He spoke of the money ($32 billion) that it would cost to build a refinery and its related pipeline and the tanker fleet needed to ship the oil to China.
He said if we don’t build a refinery, China will, adding his refinery would use Canadian technology and would produce half the greenhouse gasses as a Chinese-built refinery.
He said China will loan us all of the money to build our made-in-B.C. refinery and the workers there would make great wages, as much as $80,000 to $90,000 a year and our kids wouldn’t have to go to the tar sands in Alberta to make big money.
He said so much money would be coming in, the loans from China would be paid back in as little as six years.
And he spoke of building such a refinery for B.C. as a newspaperman, as opposed to one of the major oil companies – conglomerates without B.C. ownership and little care for our environment.
A made-in-BC solution, he said, is much better.
And to that end, I agree.
But what he didn’t mention were any of the impacts of continuing to rely on an oil-based economy.
There was no mention of global warming and its disastrous effects on the world.
There was no talk about alternative energies or a need to find new ways of doing things.
The choice that Black laid out to a pro-business crowd at the Kelowna chamber (you could hear the ‘wows’) came down to two things: Oil or oil.
If, in fact oil is the only way to go, then Black’s idea to refine the oil in B.C. and ship it to China seems a better answer. It will create jobs, stimulate the economy and give our province a boost on the world stage.
But is it the only way to go?
The answer is no.
There are other options. There are innovative ideas, new ways of moving forward, new technologies that can take us away from the oil-based economy the United Nation’s top scientist are warning against.
Canada should be leading the way in this regard, not following the all-powerful dollar.
This month, the United Nations reported that between 2000 and 2010, man-made greenhouse gas emissions ballooned more quickly than in any of the three previous decades and warned this dangerous interference with the climate system will have dire effects.
Those effects are already being seen around the globe as major weather catastrophes are happening with alarming frequency.
Our reliance on oil and the dangerous emissions it puts into the air have put us on a collision course with disaster.
As a newspaper reporter in Black’s stable of papers, its my duty to ask questions, raise concerns and let the public decide for themselves. I believe in this paper and it’s ability to tell people’s stories and provide more depth to the news than what is currently being generated in this age of what could be called surface-journalism.
And there are no bigger, no more important questions that need to be raised: Is this the way to go? Can we stop global warming? Can we stand up and make a difference?
The answers aren’t as easy to find.
But we all need to start asking these questions.
Kevin Parnell is a reporter with the Kelowna Capital News.