As provincial premiers prepare to release an agreement on a Canadian energy strategy, the recent Fort McMurray oil leak — one of the biggest in Canadian history — raises troubling questions.
This leak, involving five million litres of bitumen, sand and wastewater, should remind premiers of the risks involved with expanding fossil fuel production and increasing pipeline infrastructure. This bitumen spill happened near a populated, well-resourced city. If proposed pipelines are built, more bitumen will travel through remote and under-resourced areas, where cleanup possibilities will be limited. The vegetation that makes up muskeg, where the Fort McMurray spill happened, will be virtually impossible to adequately clean up.
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Canada's premiers should see this as yet another opportunity to show leadership in transitioning from an outdated fossil fuel economy to a burgeoning clean-technology and renewable-energy future. In the lead-up to the UN climate summit in Paris in December, promoting pipeline and oilsands expansion now will ensure that we miss the opportunity to do our part in keeping temperature increases below dangerous levels.
Pipeline spills like this are a reminder that you can't have climate leadership and fossil fuel expansion at the same time.