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Blocking Kinder Morgan Could Endanger Clean Energy, Howe Institute Claims

British Columbia’s incoming NDP government and its Green Party allies could end up impeding clean energy development if they succeed in halting the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, the C.D. Howe Institute tenuously warns in a recent policy brief.

B.C. Premier-designate John Horgan has promised to use “every tool” available to halt the proposal by Houston-based Kinder Morgan to nearly triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain pipeline running from near Edmonton to Burnaby, B.C. The project has been approved by the federal government and B.C.’s outgoing one, but has met fierce opposition in the densely-populated Lower Mainland that contributed to the NDP’s electoral win.

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However, “killing oil pipelines could also have negative consequences for clean energy projects in Canada,” an article in Business in Vancouver asserts, citing the Howe brief.

The think tank’s strained argument seeks to equate leak-prone oil pipelines with long distance electricity transmission lines that are key to distributing clean renewable energy from regions of high wind or solar potential to cities with demand for power. “Whether it is oil or renewable power,” the argument goes, “both need regulatory approval.”

The new B.C. government’s stance against an already-approved pipeline, the Howe brief claims, puts the process that approved the pipeline expansion—and that would also be tapped to approve any new interprovincial transmission lines—“under assault.”

“If the oil pipeline fight establishes tools that can stop federally-approved energy transport projects, those tactics will be used to stop power transmission for renewable power projects,” predicts James Coleman, the American academic who wrote the Howe brief. “Thus, a short-sighted focus on using new procedures to stop oil transport projects may ultimately do more harm than good in moving Canada to a low-carbon economy.”

Coleman is an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. The Texas institution has received extensive funding from the Kinder Foundation, created by Kinder Morgan co-founder and executive chair Richard Kinder and his wife, who are described on the Foundation’s own website as “hard core George W. Bush supporters.”