One thing you will always hear in the debate about oil export is “the oil is coming to the coast, one way or another”.
That quote and any variation of it is often spoken in relation to the anti-pipeline movement, essentially saying that if bitumen isn’t flowing to the North Coast through underground pipelines, it will be making its way west through rail cars filled to the brim with the black stuff.
And while it may have been easy to dismiss such a claim in the past, that argument was given a lot more credence last week as the governments of both British Columbia and Alberta agreed that “if pipelines are not developed, rail will step into the void to deliver bitumen to the West Coast”.
Natural Gas Development minister Rich Coleman said the inclusion of that little gem was simply a recognition that all of the options need to be on the table. But that doesn’t seem to really hold water — if it was there just to recognize rail was an option, it would likely read “rail may step into the void”.
It doesn’t, it flat out says rail will fill the void to bring bitumen west.
Some may say that is simply a matter of semantics, but when you get into this level of discussion between two governments, you best believe that every single word is chosen carefully and every single word has meaning.
So here we sit, with one major oil pipeline and one refinery definitively on the table, a second refinery in the feasibility stage and a mystery proposal from Nexen to bring oil to Prince Rupert by rail for shipment to Asia.
So those who have said oil is coming to the coast one way or another should be vindicated with obvious support from the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta and apparent support from the federal government. But having the support of the government and having the support of the people are two different things.
Given the tone in the region when it comes to oil, the companies involved have a lot of work to do to win that support.