Providing perspective to Sonya Savage’s statement on the Line 3 Replacement Project

Sonya Savage was salivating over the announcement that Line 3 is supposed to be operational today. And she wants the rest of us to, as well.

Earlier this week, Enbridge announced that their Line 3 Replacement Project had reached “substantial completion”, and they planned for the 1,765-kilometre-long pipeline to be operational today.

The pipeline connects Edmonton with Superior, Wisconsin, with upgraded infrastructure that had been in the works for over 8 years.

According to a statement from the Alberta government—which had Premier Jason Kenney and Sonya Savage, the energy minister, fawning over the announcement—the new infrastructure increases the export capacity of Line 3 to 3.2 million barrels a day.

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Prior to completion of the project, Line 3 exported 2.85 million barrels a day, an increase of 390,000 barrels, or 13.7%.

And a 14% increase in pipeline capacity seems significant, but it’s important to consider all Alberta-to-USA pipeline capacity, not just this one line.

For example, Enbridge’s Express-Platte line can export up to 330,000 barrels a day between Alberta and the US Midwest. TC Energy’s Keystone Pipeline can handle up to 590,000 barrels a day.

When you add up all the pipeline capacity transporting oil from Alberta to the US, you get 3.9 million barrels a day, which means this new 390,000 barrels a day is actually increasing total export capacity to the US by 10%.

Here’s the thing though. In the first 6 months of this year, Alberta extracted an average of 3.53 million barrels of oil and bitumen every day. That was a record-breaking amount. It’s also less than the 4.29 million barrels of capacity of the current system.

Keep in mind that this production doesn’t all go to US refineries. Some of it remains in Canada for domestic consumption, and some of it ends up in BC for export. It’s not like we’re extracting more oil and bitumen than we can export.

So when Sonya Savage says something like, “The Enbridge Line 3 replacement line becoming operational is terrific news for the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who work in the energy sector and rely on pipeline capacity to get their product to market,” we have to remember that this pipeline capacity was already there. And the US doesn’t even need our oil, given that their own production is higher than their consumption. They just refine it and sell the finished product to other markets, including back to Canada.

The sole purpose of these pipelines’ is to perpetuate the rip-it-and-ship-it philosophy that has been the foundation of Canada’s economy for 500 years, whether it’s cod and beaver pelts or lumber and oil.

And if Sonya Savage really cared about workers in the oil and gas sector, why is it we never hear her talk about the 41,000 full-time jobs lost in the oil and gas sector over the last 7 years, despite record productions levels?

Maybe because if she did, she might have to admit that there’s very little correlation between pipeline capacity and jobs.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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