This project has nothing to do with decreasing our dependence on foreign oil. With this pipeline, Canada is in the absurd position of promising foreign oil security, while we would continue to import for domestic use.
TransCanada announced this project simultaneously with a partnership to build a large deepwater port in the Bay of Fundy to export via the world's largest oil tankers. This of course is the complete opposite of how they attempt to position the Energy East Pipeline for public acceptance, no more than a token amount will be used domestically. Tar sands company Cenovus’ CEO Brian Ferguson was frank about their desire to access an Eastern port, saying it was the "export option that was most enticing about TransCanada’s proposal."
"The key is to get to a deep water port and be able to put production onto tankers and access international markets. The plan is to be able to access tidewater and tankers and move volumes either down to the U.S. Gulf Coast or to Asia or to Europe from Saint John." -- Cenovus Oil CEO Brian Ferguson
Furthermore, NAFTA guarantees US first access to this oil. As an example, Newfoundland's offshore oil fields produce enough to meet all the oil demand in the four Atlantic provinces. But absurdly, Newfoundlanders don't get the oil they produce, the majority of it is exported and the U.S. gets first access via NAFTA.
TransCanada first publicly announced this project three days after the major tar sands oil leak in Arkansas. The rhetoric coming out of the industry in response to that disaster positioned that this was an old pipeline and old pipelines leak. Even the main spokesperson for TransCanada, Shawn Howard, pointed out that pipeline technology has changed dramatically since the affected Arkansas line was built. It is hard then to have any faith that our aging natural gas mainline is suitable for converting to a tar sands bitumen pipeline.
Before the tar sands industry became mostly foreign owned, upgrading facilities were planned in Alberta. This would have created a safer product for pipelines, but upgrading is expensive, so all new facilities were scrapped in favour of piping the cheaper but dangerous alternative: diluted bitumen. Protecting profits puts our communities at risk. To thin it for pumping, the heavier than water tar sands bitumen is diluted with natural gas & lighter oil products (imported significantly from US); also, poisonous solvents (ie: carcinogens benzine & toluene).
The corrosive bitumen weakens pipelines. Compared to conventional oil, it is both more likely to spill and harder to clean up when there is a spill. It has been compared to sand blasting the inside of the pipe.
Initially Energy East would carry lighter tar sands products. That's because most East Coast refineries can’t handle the heavier stuff. But a central part of the project is a deep sea port, designed for supertankers, to carry diluted bitumen to refineries that can handle it. The tar sands companies can't fill 1.1 million barrels a day of the light stuff for very long, so as soon as the new port is complete we'll see them change to diluted bitumen.
The scenario where this Natural Gas mainline is labeled as “under used” has been artificially created to gain public acceptance for this project. High tariffs have been imposed on gas suppliers who used this mainline, encouraging them to find markets elsewhere and making us reliant on natural gas sources in the East where the reserves are increasingly obtained via fracking.
The answer is not the people, not our economy, not our own domestic oil supply and not the our environment -- it only helps the oil industry. It will make oil companies richer and more powerful.
Economic growth is hurt by oil price volatility. Nations that export fossil fuel too often become over-reliant on that sector. That destabilizes the economy, leads to other industries being neglected or ignored, and undermines democracy by holding government hostage (ie: the recent omnibus bills were written by oil & pipeline industry lobbyists).
"The Canadian public is being subjected to a misleading narrative and a misrepresentation of the facts by financial institutions, who like the government of Canada, are behaving as marketing executives for Big Oil." -- economist Robyn Allan