Why Andrew Weaver's 'Clarification' of His Earlier Statement that Black's Refinery has 'Merit' Stinks

Detroit's pet-coke pile

Last week Andrew Weaver wrote a 3500 word 'clarification' of the original article that got him in so much trouble a few days earlier. Which said nothing really new, but did remind me of an old story about a guy who was trying to sell a house whose septic field had failed. Of course the ground was mushy and the place stank [much like Weaver's 'merit' argument]. The guy trying to sell the stinker decided to haul in a few truck loads of fill to cover up the crap. It sorta stopped the stink but it did nothing to fix the underlying problem [much like Weaver's clarification]. Moral of the story: If it stinks, fix it.

The day after i read Weaver's interview where he says Black's proposed refinery in Kitimat "merit" i published a 'Recant or Resign' rebuttal including a 13 item list of reasons supporting my thesis. Since then i've received answers from Elizabeth May, leader of the national Green Party, one from the BCGP office, lots of emails and comments from friends, but nothing from Weaver himself. So today, i'm going to try shoveling down through Weaver's fill in an attempt to find the source of the funny smell still lingering in the minds of many folks.

One of the best emails was from a reader in Detroit, Mich. about the unaccounted for human costs the people there in Detroit are paying every time the wind blows around the three story high and one block long pile of pet-coke [pictured above]. Petroleum coke, usually called pet-coke, is a by-product of refining tar sands crud. Every barrel of tar sands crud, when refined produces between 60 and 130 lbs of pet-coke. The huge pile along the Detroit River is there because the refineries nearby have run out of room and are now leasing this area from bankrupt Detroit for 'storage'.

The US refineries used to sell this low quality by-product to incinerators who burned it for electricity generation until the EPA stopped issuing permits. Now they store it in the hope they can ship it overseas to other countries with less strict laws. Meanwhile the residents of Detroit pay with their health. The email writer asked, "Do you think the residents of Kitimat understand the price they and their descendants will pay in the future?" My answer was, "i doubt they've ever heard of pet-coke." Of course it doesn't really matter whether the crud is refined in Kitimat or Alberta or China, somebody will pay, eh.

Weaver's fill attempts to cover-up the pet-coke reality by saying that the tar sands crud should be initially processed into Syncrude in Alberta. Another writer, this one from Alberta, schooled me on the facts about this part of the cover-up when he wrote, "The reason nobody builds upgraders in Alberta anymore is that they are not economic. Syncrude projects cost more than $105/bbl. Weaver's 'clarification' concludes in part, "We need to discuss uncomfortable issues in an open and honest way." Yikes, what is that smell?

One paragraph Weaver wrote, "So what does this all mean? If a company based in Alberta wishes to ship heavy crude to Prince Rupert or Kitimat they can choose to ship it through a railway corporation. Legally CNI or CP would be obligated to accept such a cargo, as long as it met the current regulations (e.g. type of tanker car, adequate loading and unloading facilities, proper labeling and quantities). They could negotiate on liability concerns but must sign an agreement dividing the proportion of liability if an accident was to occur. But in other words, the rail company cannot say ‘no’" Is right on, except...

Except he doesn't go on to connect the dots. That truth clearly means Black's refinery proposal is unaffected by Weaver's supposition that, “As far as I’m concerned, the Northern Gateway project is dead” Once again Weaver is attempting draw our noses away from the reality that a refinery in Kitimat stinks.

Another interesting argument that Weaver uses is the charade that the oil industry will just throw up their hands and slow down the growth in tar sands because one or two pipelines get blocked. It would be wonderful if it were true, but it isn't. Demand drives every market exchange, be it in fossil fuels or anything else. Supply rises and falls to to fill those demands. The only way 'Green' way to slow tar sands growth is conservation. Weaver must know that all the apparent alternatives are actually, like everything, just fossil fuels in a different form. Alternatives require huge amounts of embedded energy to be produced, they are 'Green Illusions', there is no thermodynamic free lunch.

"Big Oil can only exist", as Adam Brandt, an energy expert at Stanford University pointed out recently, "so long as the demand is there, energy producers are going to search for new supplies of fossil fuel - many of them using unconventional means like tar sands extraction. With growing global demand, the economic pressure to develop unconventional resources is enormous and not going away,” he said. “The emphasis should be on demand, not supply. If the U.S. [and everyone else-ed.] stopped consuming so much of the world’s oil, the economic need for the tar sands would evaporate."

Weaver goes on and on with his truckloads of fill, so...When he talks about stopping the KXL as part of throttling tar sands growth he overlooks the fact that the capacity to move the crud to Houston is already there in the form of rail transport and the nearly completed 'Enbridge’s Tar Sands Frankenstein' which the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance Movement is fighting. The Kinder Morgan expansion faces the same issues the NGP does in terms of its environmental footprint, its opposition from BC's First Nations, the inevitability of a disaster sooner or later, etc [more on Kinder-Morgan's deceptive plan in another Mud Report.soon].

When Weaver says he's demanding a 6th requirement, "a moratorium on dilbit tanker traffic" it's meaningless. He has one only vote and, if his backfill operation is any indication of the future, he'll have zero by the time all this comes to pass. When he accepts the BC Liberals other 5 points he's agreeing that, if 'the price is right' and the dilbit objection can be massaged, the operation is a go. IMO thousands of BC folks would still fight this, including me. No price is acceptable for the destruction and death that will ensue when the inevitable disaster strikes.

How can a Green Party say there is an 'acceptable' price when,  as i see it, the Greens' constituency includes the flora, fauna, microbes, minerals, forces and faeries [faeries being the mediators of the unknown unknowns - the reason the Precautionary Principle is mandatory]. In fact that point, constituent definition, is the one i thought Weaver would use to argue against my thesis. As he hasn't responded yet, it still may be.

Weaver ends with, "for anyone to suggest that I am “pro-oil” or “pro-pipeline” is, frankly, ridiculous," I don't think he's pro either of them and i don't think he's trying to deceive people in the service of his own personal gain [as many of my emails suggest], i think he's mistaken. As i said in my earlier piece, "everybody makes mistakes, even learned climatologists", but when he refuses to recant and apologize for such a huge mistake, when instead he calls in the 3500 word truckloads of fill to cover it up, that's ridicoulous because he's then on a slippery slope to being knee deep in his own shit, not just mistaken.