Roger McKnight,  En-Pro’s Chief Energy Analyst and Fuel Lines contributor shares his thoughts on the implications the impending shutdown of Line 5 would have on Eastern Canada’s transportation fuel supply

Why do I get an image of a stampede to decarbonize -- first the world -- and then perhaps the universe, as nothing more than a political art auction? Leaders of government interests, and I use that term as a deliberate oxymoron, appear to be trying to outbid each other in the race to the Zero-carbon finish line. As in any auction there comes a time when the winning bidder approaches the auctioneer to commit to the purchase. But there is no room to bluff out on the deal.

The potential economic disaster facing, especially Alberta and the eastern portion of this country, with Line 5 getting closer and closer to the rocks of closure, has finally tweaked the interest of someone in the echoing halls of our parliament in the sleepy bedroom community called Ottawa. In the February 3 edition of the National Post, the Leader of the Opposition, Erin O’Toole clearly offered his viewpoint and clanged the alarm bells louder than I could, sending somewhat the same message. Neither the Prime Minister, nor the Deputy Prime Minister, nor the Minister of Natural Resources, brought up this issue last week in a telephone conversation with President Biden and his entourage.

In my last commentary I posed the question as to why the Biden Administration should concern itself with Line 5 as it’s merely a line that runs from Alberta to Ontario and even worse it carries that ugly TAR SANDS crude. "The line doesn’t even go to MY US of A?"  "Why should I care?" Continuing with our baby step logic, what would happen if we decided that if Line 5 shuts down to appease the political ego of the Governor of Michigan, then we serve notice that we slowly shut down the existing XL pipeline that today carries 700,000 bpd of that same Alberta crude to the US of A, eh? I mean, if Line 5 could, as the Governor claims, leak and destroy the Great Lakes, then the XL could leak and destroy the U.S. Midwest somewhere along its route. Right? Kansas won’t be Kansas anymore.

Ottawa could threaten all it wants, but that calls for a prerequisite of a backbone. It would also be a bluff as there is no way of getting Alberta crude to anywhere, but the US of A; and President Biden knows it the same way our PM knows the problem but ignores it. The solution is the TransMountain and WE own it. Be warned there is only one “I” in America. There is only one “I” in Biden and the "I’s” will have it their way. Is there a “can” in Canada? Do I have any bids, or maybe bets?

What? There’s a plan B for Line 9B?!  Aren’t we just grasping at pipes here? It’s a subject that just won’t go away, even though politicians keep letting it get away.  A circumnavigating way of saying that they can’t just snap their figures and declare death of crude oil derived from fossil fuels. Until such time as solar, wind, and battery power become as reliable and available as fossil fuels then, like it or not, we have to have energy all the time – and crude oil is the most abundant and reliable source of energy available to all of us.

Proof that this is becoming as equally abundant with my now, Charlie Brown teacher like droning on … ‘wha wha wong…’ the Enbridge Line 5 is about to take a perilous contortion. I was not surprised to see the indifference taken by our federal leadership. If the budget (what budget?) will balance itself, then I guess this supply problem can and will fix itself as well. 

Oil companies have gone the opposite attitudinal direction and are looking for solutions to what very well may be energy evaporation on one hand and a pricing explosion on the other.

As discussed in many past reports, Line 9 is a spur-off of Line 5 and delivers Alberta crude eventually to Montreal. If Line 5 is shut down then the Island of Montreal truly becomes an energy island of the deserted variety. There’s a saying “What goes around comes around.”

The oldest pipeline in North America, commissioned in 1941, runs from Portland Maine to Montreal. Currently the line is just being kept “wet” to keep it operable with a trickle of flow, but its current capacity is documented at 223,000 bpd, or a little less – and 50% of the volume will be lost if Line 5 is shut down. If the Portland Line is fully activated then crude could flow to the Sarnia hub as well as to Montreal. The problem is – how will it be moved? 

Line 9 will have to be reversed allowing crude to flow from Montreal to Sarnia. Crude by rail and trucks will also have to be increased in the same direction and then tanker traffic on the St. Lawrence Seaway will have to be jacked up as well. 

This will mean increased risk to the environment due to spills, much higher delivery costs, and finally, because Montreal and points east use world priced Brent and not low balled Western Canadian Select, the crude costs will increase dramatically. 

And who will be at the end of the line? You and me, that’s who. And who will be backing us up? Not you know who… He’s still looking for Plan A. 

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