The current wave of construction is occurring at a time of particularly high gas prices. Oil sands and shale gas were long considered uneconomic to extract. This is the vicious circle of extractivism: the more resources are extracted, the more scarce they become, which in turn drives up prices and makes it more profitable to extract, even while using inefficient techniques. Indeed, it is only with the turn of the century and the scarcity of oil resources that shale gas and oil sands have become economically viable to exploit. This profitability is expressed, among other things, by the ratio of the amount of energy required to extract one unit of energy from these resources. Thus, the extraction of traditional gas required 1 unit of energy (to power the pumps) to extract 25 units of energy in the 1970s . In the case of shale gas and oil sands, estimates of energy consumption vary between 1 unit of energy for 4 or 7 extracted. It is therefore much more polluting. Not only will that oil and gas pollute, but they pollute by the very fact of their extraction.
It is also important to keep in mind that this oil is not for local consumption. Indeed, the reason why the pipeline issue is so important is that CGL’s goal is to export the gas to Asia. Not only is there a higher risk of spills at sea, but this transport is also polluting. In short, it is not for nothing that even the Quebec government has put a moratorium on shale gas: this oil must stay in the ground!
Some will object that the Canadian government commits to greenhouse gas emissions at the annual COPs, and that there is no problem since it respects its commitments. However, the only thing that makes up for the increase in oil sands and shale gas extraction for now is the shift from coal- fired to natural gas-fired power plants outside of Quebec . In doing so, the Canadian government is postponing the transition to renewable energy (or a reduction in energy consumption) until the end of the life of these new plants in 30 to 40 years.
Moreover, if pipelines can greatly speed up the extraction of oil, Coastal GasLink will transport 1.7 to 5 billion cubic feet of oil per day . Once the pipeline is built, it is a definite commitment to maintain the production of fuels that are just as polluting to produce. Indeed, with the pipeline estimated to cost $4 billion, each day of the pipeline’s useful life costs over $350,000. Thus, once built, the pipeline must absolutely be used if it is to be profitable. This utilization implies a massive increase in shale gas production, which will far exceed Canada’s greenhouse gas commitments. The longer the extraction of these fuels continues, the greater the energy required to extract it, given the need to go deeper and use more damaging techniques.