The Leftorium Puts Up a Pointless Pipeline to Process Polluted Petroleum

Greetings, comrades. It has once again fallen to me to put up a belated Leftorium thread. (I never signed up for this!) And that means more political stories you don’t care about.

Today I’m spotlighting the current debate over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in Western Canada. Short summary: A pipeline to bring Albertan tar sands oil to the British Columbia coast is set to be constructed. The proponents include the government of Alberta and the federal government. The opponents include the B.C. government and various indigenous groups.

Normally, there would be an interesting debate to be had about building pipelines in a world of inelastic demand for petroleum products, especially since Canada has a dire safety record when it comes to the alternative, rail transport. (Lake Wabamun and Lac-Mégantic, anyone?) But here’s the thing: nobody wants unrefined Albertan crude on the international market (paywalled, sorry), and moreover, new international shipping requirements have banned high-sulfur oil for use as fuel. No one is investing in coastal refineries for this stuff. Demand is only going to decrease from here. The promised jobs won’t materialize. (And that’s not even getting into how indigenous groups who live along the pipeline’s proposed route might be adversely impacted.)

Of course, none of this matters to Albertan premier Rachel Notley and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, who happily exploit the misconception that “pipelines = strong economy” to pander to their constituents. It’s cynical, dishonest politics. Instead of pushing for investment in green energy initiatives (which have the potential to generate a large number of blue-collar jobs), they would prefer to kowtow to the oil industry in a vain attempt to siphon off votes from the centre and right. (It might work for Trudeau; it definitely won’t for Notley.)

That being said, all of this may end up being moot. Kinder Morgan (the company building and managing the pipeline) has threatened to abandon the project if the dispute isn’t resolved by May 31st. Even oil companies know when to cut their losses.

On a completely different note, I wanted to draw your attention to this editorial for the New York Times by Thomas B. Edsall exploring the Democrats’ tricky relationship with gentrification. The upshot is that as affluent, educated social liberals pour into the cores of the most popular cities (e.g. San Francisco and New York) and flee to the suburbs of less popular ones (e.g. Syracuse), less affluent, less educated people (many of them people of colour) are being displaced. The Democratic Party is slowly splitting into two factions: capitalist socially liberal elites; and the economically liberal working class. Of course, the oft-predicted realignment of Democrats and Republicans as cosmpolitan elites versus populists hasn’t materialized yet, and as the piece alludes to, it’s because a multi-racial working-class coalition hasn’t emerged. (Racism is a powerful drug, folks.) It’s a good essay, and I highly recommend giving it a read.

This week’s addition to the Leftorium playlist is “Occupatience” by I The Mighty.

Happy leftening!