The grassroots resistance against the Alberta oil sands and its pipelines is having an impact.
A recent publication by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, titled “Material Risks: How Public Accountability is Slowing Tar Sands Development,” stated production revenues from the oil sands were down $30.9 billion between 2010 to 2013. It also reports roughly $17 billion of that loss can be attributed to grassroots campaigns around North America.
Pipeline supporters are quick to point out that it is pointless to resist the oilsands and its pipelines. The general narrative is that pipelines will go through if we resist them or not, that the oilsands are an inevitable development in Canada.
However, in 2014 a series of major oil sands projects have been impacted due to public accountability actions by pipeline protesters. The Northern Gateway pipeline project was approved with conditions that have stalled the process. The Line 9 reversal is in the same boat. The Energy East pipeline is not gaining support with both the Quebec and Ontario governments slowing down the process due to public outcry. The Keystone XL pipeline to the United States was just voted down by the U.S. Senate, and while that may not be the end of the matter, it certainly slows down the process.
Neither corporations nor governments anticipated the extent of the backlash against pipelines or oilsands development. Without a means to transport their dirty oil, energy corporations are losing money and are finding less and less incentive to continue.
I commend the efforts of the grassroots organizers. Many protesters have used their own bodies in direct action, taking part in blockades, and chaining themselves to equipment and fences to prevent development. The indigenous land defenders in British Columbia have set up an entire camp to try to prevent pipelines from moving through their territory. So many people have worked consistently for the last several years to try to stop this industry from moving forward.
It is so comforting to me to know these efforts are not in vain. While it is often said there is little we can do to stop the enormous machine of oil sands development and pipeline expansion, it is now obvious that the efforts we have been making are not wasted.