Breaking News: Western Canada Tar Sand Pipeline Decision Delayed Until Late 2013

Sliammon First Nation member Ta'kaiya Blaney at pipeline hearing (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

While citizens across the United States have been demanding President Obama deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadians and First Nations folks have been organizing as well.

One question I’ve been asked repeatedly during the Tar Sands organizing is: “If we stop the mining and oil company from building a pipeline from Alberta to Texas, won’t they just a build one from Alberta to the Pacific and ship the oil to China?”

The companies were only too happy to have us buy their logic. But the truth was that our job in the U.S. was to keep the pipeline out of our backyard, and trust that the Canadian movement would do the same. Well, it turns out they have. First Nations folks pledged to block construction with their bodies and widespread public concern has forced the Harper government to review environmental concerns.

Thanks to Brendan DeMelle at DeSmogBlog for his summary:

The Calgary Herald reports that the decision on the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline was delayed today until late 2013, a year later than planned. The three-member panel said it “would anticipate releasing the environmental assessment report in the fall of 2013 and its final decision on the project around the end of 2013.”

The joint review panel of Environment Canada and the National Energy Board announced that it will take the additional year to review the widespread public concern over the proposed pipeline, which would cut through First Nations lands in order to shuttle the dirtiest oil on the planet, Alberta tar sands, to Asian export markets.

The delay is not a good sign for Enbridge or KinderMorgan, the two major tar sands pipeline interests hoping to enable the export of Alberta’s climate-killing product overseas. As we learned last week, the oil industry will face a powerful adversary since BC’s First Nations pledged, as a united front, to halt construction and prevent the proposed pipelines from crossing their territory.

Marking their commitment against the pipeline projects, 55 First Nations leaders from across BC signed the Save the Fraser Declaration.  “These First Nations form an unbroken wall of opposition from the U.S. border to the Arctic Ocean,” said the group in a statement.

In response to the firm commitment of First Nations leaders, federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said today that Northern Gateway “shouldn’t be held hostage by aboriginal and environmental groups threatening to create a human “wall” to prevent construction,”according to the National Post article, “Oil industry’s ‘nation-building’ pipeline won’t be stopped by protesters.

“The joint review panel will begin community hearings in Kitimat, B.C., on Jan. 10 to hear from both sides on this contentious issue.  The hearings are sure to attract a lot of attention, and chances are pretty good that much of it will not be favorable to Enbridge or any other proposed tar sands pipeline.

In the wake of the delay and likely demise of the Keystone XL pipeline, all indications point to a difficult, and perhaps insurmountable, challenge ahead for any tar sands pipeline construction. …

Canadians have been very active in supporting the U.S. fight against the Keystone XL pipeline. Now it’s time for us to return the favor. If you can get to any of the community review hearings to support organizers there, please back up your kit bag and go!

Read Brendan’s complete article.

Don’t Hide Your Solar Panels Under a Bushel

Balcony solar water heaters in Zhejiang, China
Balcony solar water heaters in Zhejiang, China

I really want my urban D.C. row house to be as naturally powered as possible. But I’m lacking in both the finances and the DIY skills to make it so. This puts me in the position of a “beach-chair activist” when it comes to solar power. I read all the cool new solar developments with envy and dream of a day I can at least feel the sun in my shower.

I’m also hoping that my Columbia Heights neighborhood will start a solar panel cooperative (like they’ve done in Mount Pleasant, D.C.). And I want the U.S. to catch up at least with Europe in saving the planet. (I have a lot of desires.)

See how China and Europe are quickly expanding inexpensive residential solar hot water heating systems in the excerpt from On Rooftops Worldwide, a Solar Water Heating Revolution by the Earth Policy Institute’s Lester Brown.

The harnessing of solar energy is expanding on every front as concerns about climate change and energy security escalate, as government incentives for harnessing solar energy expand, and as these costs decline while those of fossil fuels rise. One solar technology that is really beginning to take off is the use of solar thermal collectors to convert sunlight into heat that can be used to warm both water and space.

China, for example, is now home to 27 million rooftop solar water heaters. With nearly 4,000 Chinese companies manufacturing these devices, this relatively simple low-cost technology has leapfrogged into villages that do not yet have electricity. For as little as $200, villagers can have a rooftop solar collector installed and take their first hot shower. This technology is sweeping China like wildfire, already approaching market saturation in some communities. Beijing plans to boost the current 114 million square meters of rooftop solar collectors for heating water to 300 million by 2020.

The energy harnessed by these installations in China is equal to the electricity generated by 49 coal-fired power plants. Other developing countries such as India and Brazil may also soon see millions of households turning to this inexpensive water heating technology. This leapfrogging into rural areas without an electricity grid is similar to the way cell phones bypassed the traditional fixed-line grid, providing services to millions of people who would still be on waiting lists if they had relied on traditional phone lines. Once the initial installment cost of rooftop solar water heaters is paid, the hot water is essentially free.