Crews clean up an oil spill along Lake Michigan from the BP Whiting refinery in Whiting, Ind., on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.
E Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

Oil company claims oil spills can have ‘positive effects’

Updated
Once in a great while, climate deniers will shift their posture and try to put a positive spin on a dangerous crisis. Maybe the planet is warming in such a way as to put human life in jeopardy, they’ll say, but maybe there will be some “positive effects.”
 
It’s not a good argument. The climate crisis is a serious threat so looking for silver linings – fewer snowball-related injuries? – isn’t a good idea.
 
Similarly, as Rachel noted on the show the other day, there are broad concerns about oil pipelines because of the threat posed by oil spills. But according to a company responsible for building oil pipelines, it’s important for people to consider the “positive effects” of oil spills.
There can be economic benefits from oil spills, Kinder Morgan says in its $5.4-billion proposal to the federal government to triple the capacity of its pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby.
 
The company submission says its risk assessment and 60-year history operating the existing pipeline show “the probability of a large pipeline spill is low.”
 
But the 15,000-page submission, required by federal regulations, analyzes numerous moderate and catastrophic spill scenarios along the pipeline route in both provinces. It looks at the socio-economic, environmental and even psychological impact of major spills in areas such as the Fraser River near the Port Mann Bridge.
Look, let’s make this simple: if you’re an energy company arguing that oil spills might be a good thing for the communities hit with one, you’re doing it wrong.
 
But in this case, Kinder Morgan wasn’t kidding.
 
“Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term,” the company argues in its official filing. “Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers.”
 
By this reasoning, communities everywhere should hope for natural disasters to strike – since the rebuilding might create some temporary employment. The deaths and environmental damage would be permanent, but the paperwork clearly said “positive and negative effects.”
 
For those who can’t watch clips online, I’ll just let Rachel take it from here:
“Now, as to whether or not your community’s oil spill is going to be a good thing or a bad thing for you, Kinder Morgan in their application they say they’ve got it all worked out, this is how they calculate it, they say the net overall effect depends on the size and extent of the spill, the associated demand for cleanup services and personnel, the capacity of local and regional businesses to meet this demand, and the willingness of local businesses and residents to pursue response opportunities.
 
“Turn that frown upside down oil-soaked neighborhood. You can get a job cleaning it up. If you just have the right attitude.
 
“Hey, you, sperm whale. Want to tow some boom before you die? Yes, we’ll make it worth you while. You get a job out of it.
 
“That is seriously what Kinder Morgan is arguing to the freaking Canadian government about why they should be allowed to triple the capacity of their pipeline. More oil means more chances for oil spills. And more oil spills means more jobs cleaning up oil spills.
 
“Honestly, this is like, in old movies and old cartoons like you’d see a vacuum cleaner salesman, the guy would come and knock on the door and if you open the door, he’d dump the bag of dirt, you know, coffee grounds or whatever into your rug, hey, I’m offering to sell you a vacuum cleaner to clean it up. That’s what Kinder Morgan is doing.
 
“If you let us triple the size of our pipeline, we might spill more oil, and then you could hire yourselves to clean it up. Wouldn’t that be great?”
 
Update: This Press Progress report was a helpful resource in putting the above story together.
 

Energy Policy and Oil

Oil company claims oil spills can have 'positive effects'

Updated