Facts on Offshore Oil from the Living Oceans Society and the Oil Free Coast Alliance

Myth #1: Coastal BC communities will gain thousands of long-term jobs if offshore oil development proceeds.

Fact: Research reveals that many of the jobs created from the oil industry are short term and employment is often granted to workers outside of the development area. On Canada's east coast, Hibernia did little to help the economies of rural communities. The construction of Terra Nova has employed more foreigners than Canadians and the Sable Island gas project produced many short-term jobs but few long-term jobs. Our commitments under international trade laws, such as NAFTA, prohibit us from guaranteeing local employment.

Myth #2: Most of the negative impacts from the offshore oil industry are from infrequent oil spills.

Fact Before a single drop of oil leaves the ground, the offshore oil industry damages marine life. Seismic testing, the initial testing done in the search for oil, has been shown to blow up the air sacks of fish, kill marine larvae, and change the behaviour of fish and whales. Once oil is found, chronic leaks, drilling muds, produced waters and air pollution are part of everyday business.

Myth #3: Technology has reduced the environmental risks associated with the oil industry.

Fact: Even with recent technological advances within the industry, there has never been a successful clean up from a major tanker oil spill. Oil spills remain a common occurrence despite advances in technology. In 1997 alone there were 351 spills worldwide from oil tankers and exploratory drilling.

Myth #4: First Nations will benefit from the development of this industry in BC.

Fact The First Nations people of Cordova, Alaska are still suffering from the impacts of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, over 12 years later. The oil spill impacted their social structure, their cultural traditions and their ability to live off the land.

Myth #5: Fishing and the offshore oil industry operate side-by-side throughout the world.

Fact: Research by T. Kenchington on the east coast of Canada found that: "The oft-claimed coexistence of the petroleum and fishing industries in the North and Norwegian seas is a form of co-habitation in which one industry is seen as routinely, if locally, reducing the production of the other by half."

Myth #6: The commercial fishery in BC has collapsed and therefore it won't be harmed by an offshore oil industry.

Fact: Over 16,000 people on the coast of BC are still employed in the commercial fishing industry; as well, this fishery contributes almost $1 billion to the economy of BC annually. These jobs and ways of life would be threatened by the development of an offshore oil industry.

Myth #7: BC needs to develop its own reserves of oil and gas in order to become more self-reliant in our energy sources.

Fact: Over 50% of the oil and gas produced in Canada supplies the American market and over 45% of the energy companies in Canada are American owned.

Myth #8: If offshore oil and gas can be produced on the east coast and not have any problems, we should be able to do it here.

Fact: They do have problems on the east coast. Between 1988 and 1994, 2,732 spills of petroleum products were reported along the east coast of Canada. Every year between 60,000 and 100,000 sea birds die off the coast of Newfoundland from exposure to oil.

Fact: While Hibernia is 200 miles offshore, most west coast oil leases are located within 50 miles of a shoreline. When oil spills, it almost certainly goes onshore.

Fact: The area thought to contain oil and gas on the West Coast is a major earthquake zone which may make "safe" exploration extremely expensive if not prohibitive.


[From WS February/March 2002]

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