The North American anti-pipeline movement just received a significant injection of financial and psychological energy, and it started with a book award. On Sunday, 24-year-old Quebecois activist and author Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois donated a CA$25,000, or just over $22,000, literary prize to an anti-pipeline citizen’s group. The group is part of a consortium fighting the controversial Energy East pipeline project that would bring oil from the tar sands in Canada’s western provinces nearly 3,000 miles to ports and refineries in the east. It would be owned and operated by TransCanada, the same company overseeing the Keystone XL project.
Last week, Nadeau-Dubois won the Governor General’s Award for French-language non-fiction for his book Tenir tête (Stand Up), a memoir chronicling Quebec student protests in 2012, otherwise known as the Maple Spring. He announced his intentions to donate the money while appearing on a popular talk show over the weekend. He challenged viewers to double his donation — a goal that was quickly surpassed. As of Tuesday morning the campaign had raised nearly CA$280,000, or $246,000.
“At this time, in Quebec, there are very, very powerful interests that wish to transform our country into a highway for the export of oil from Alberta’s tar sands,” he said as he made the announcement. “There are very strong interests supported by the Canadian state, by the federal government, that wish to impose on us a specific project — TransCanada’s Energy East.”
The $12-billion Energy East project would transport 1.1-million barrels per day — a huge capacity compared to Keystone XL’s proposed 830,000 bpd — of heavy crude oil from Canada’s western Alberta province to the eastern shores of New Brunswick. It would involve a combination of new pipe to carry oil as well as converting portions of an already existing natural gas pipeline. TransCanada filed for regulatory approval of the project in October.
A February report from the Pembina Institute found Energy East would potentially generate 32 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year and would help spur 650,000 to 750,000 bpd of additional production from the oilsands. The think tank predicted that the Keystone XL will produce approximately 22 million metric tons of GHGs per year.
Energy East would travel through about 430 miles of Quebec and cross the Outaouais and St. Lawrence Rivers.
“It’s certain there will be a leak, there will be an accident,” said Nadeau-Dubois. “It’s unavoidable. It’s going to happen. So the question is, are we ready to take that risk knowing that TransCanada is promising only 130 jobs in Quebec?”
Nadeau-Dubois said that when he won the literary award he already knew how he wanted to spend the proceeds.
“I decided to use it as an occasion to concretely help the citizens that are defending our collective interests today in Quebec,” he said.
While Nadeau-Dubois appeals to fellow citizens in an effort to gather energy to reject the pipeline, TransCanada is engaged in much shadier tactics. PR documents recently leaked from the global firm Edelman show the company planning to target certain groups and “distract them from their mission, causing them to redirect their resources.”
TransCanada will now be up against a much more robust network with greater financial resources.
According to the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper, Nadeau-Dubois’ action is just the latest indicator of how quickly central Canada is turning against plans to bring oil from Alberta to eastern refineries. They cite a recent poll that found two-thirds of Quebec residents oppose Energy East.
The newspaper also says that Energy East was once considered the pipeline bid “most likely to succeed” but is becoming a long shot, on par with Enbridge’s Northern Gateway which would travel west through British Columbia.
“Nearly a decade ago Stephen Harper’s government set out to aggressively champion Alberta’s energy ambitions,” writes Chantal Hébert in the Star. “But instead of a clearer course to its goal, Canada’s energy industry is now left to cope with movable lines in the provincial sand and a politically poisoned pipeline well.”