Pipeline only the start to supplying Asia, report says

A new report prepared for the province by the University of Alberta's China Institute suggests the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline will be only a first step in meeting the surging demand in Asian markets.
Hearings into the Northern Gateway Pipeline start Tuesday in Edmonton 2:52

A new report prepared for the province by the University of Alberta's China Institute suggests the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline will be only a first step in meeting the surging demand in Asian markets.

The report titled "Building a Long Term Energy Relationship between Alberta and China" was released Monday, the day before the joint review panel into the $5.5 billion project moves to Edmonton for five days of hearings.

While detractors say the pipeline should be stopped because of concerns about the environment, institute director Gordon Houlden says the pipeline would only start to supply Asian energy needs.

"What Alberta needs to do and what Canada needs to do is to put into place energy corridors," he said.

"That can be Gateway, it can be another place, but a means to which to get our product into the Asian market, not just China ... Japan has a huge economy. There are other economies there."

The pipeline would take Alberta oilsands bitumen from Bruderheim to the port of Kitimat B.C., where it can be put on tankers and shipped to Asia.

The route has alarmed environmentalists and First Nations people who believe that a pipeline leak or tanker spill could damage land, water and wildlife.

Protesters plan to picket the hearings in Edmonton, just as they did outside hearings in B.C. earlier this month.  Mike Hudema, a campaigner for Greenpeace in Alberta, also questions whether it's wise to export fuel to Asia in the first place.

"I think we need to first admit that we're in the midst of a global climate crisis and so we cannot have countries like China and India just keep consuming at the type of energy levels that they are currently consuming," Hudema said.

The Alberta government isn't making a presentation at the hearings, but supports the plan. Premier Alison Redford says she's isn't concerned what effect detractors may have on the process.

"People are certainly free to express their opinion," she said. "I expect nothing new tomorrow except the fact that there will be a group of people together saying it to each other and that's democracy."

The joint review panel will move back to B.C. for more hearings after wrapping up in Edmonton on Jan. 31. The panel will return to Alberta for three days in Grande Prairie starting March 26.

Once the hearings are complete, the panel will make a recommendation to the Government of Canada on whether the pipeline should be built.