A couple of weeks ago, while seeking to triple the capacity of its Trans Mountain Pipeline, which runs between Alberta and Vancouver, pipeline company Kinder Morgan argued that, while the chances of a catastrophic oil spill are “low,” such a spill would be a boon to the local economy. According to Kinder Morgan, “spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions and cleanup service providers.”
If this were a movie trailer, you’d hear a record scratch right now.
This wasn’t some wild-eyed executive flying off the handle after too many scotches. This argument was part of a 15,000-page application submitted to the Canadian government. These words had to pass through many, many layers of editing and approval before reaching the public. No one thought to raise their hand and say, “Um, guys, we probably shouldn’t say something like this, in public, to people”? Maybe someone did. Maybe someone did have the courage to stand up to his bosses and make the point that oil spills kill the land and the sea; that oil spills devastate communities for years; that no amount of short-term economic gain can offset the epic destruction of an oil spill.
And maybe that someone got laughed right out of the room.
Arguing that a massive oil spill would benefit the community is as shortsighted and soulless as arguing that the brutal murder of a loved one is good because it means more work for cops, lawyers, forensic pathologists, reporters and prison guards. Such an argument is the absolute reduction of human life to dollars and sense. It demeans the life of every living thing at the expense of the almighty Canadian dollar. “Sure, people won’t be able to drink the water or live on the land for years, but they are going to make bank scrubbing the oil off frogs.”
What I want to know is why did Kinder Morgan stop there? If they’re going to argue that oil spills can be a boon to the local economy, why not carry that line of thinking to its logical conclusion? If oil spills will help the local economy, then cash-strapped towns will sabotage the pipeline, in the hopes of causing a spill and raking in all that sweet, sweet cleanup money. If cash-strapped towns will sabotage the pipeline to cause spills, then Kinder Morgan will need to post armed guards along the pipeline. If Kinder Morgan posts armed guards to prevent sabotage, then the cash-strapped small towns will need to hire teams of mercenaries to kill the armed guards. If the mercenaries kill the armed guards, then Kinder Morgan will have a hard time hiring more people to protect the pipeline. If Kinder Morgan can’t hire people to protect the pipeline, then they will have to turn to robots. If robots protect the pipeline, then all the cash-strapped small towns will have to pool their money and build a kind of super-robot, a real-life Voltron, to defeat the robots. If the assembled Canadian small towns build a real-life Volton, then Kinder Morgan will have to build a larger, stronger, Evil Volton. Then we’re all in trouble.
Basically, Kinder Morgan wants to build a real-life Evil Voltron to protect its precious oil. And there’s nothing we can do to stop it.