J. TUZO WILSON March 1 1973


J. TUZO WILSON March 1 1973



Building the Mackenzie Pipeline comes second. Survival comes first.

We live in a cold country. Colder than the United States, which is an important point because the Americans want to buy our natural gas and oil and if we sell too much, what will we do to keep warm? The world is running out of fossil fuels before technology is ready with alternative forms of energy. One suggestion being studied is heating our homes with energy drawn from windmills. Hence the controversy over the proposal for a six-billion-dollar pipeline from the Arctic south to the U.S. border.

Professor J. Tuzo Wilson, OBE, MA, PhD, DSc, LLD, FRCS, FRS, is one Canadian who takes a serious view of any such scheme. A distinguished graduate of Cambridge and Princeton, he is now chairman of the Royal Society of Canada and principal of Erindale College. His credentials as critic of both energy policy and northern development are impeccable. One of the world’s foremost geophysicists, he served as director of operational research at National Defense headquarters in Ottawa during World War II. His Arctic interest goes back to 1946 when he conceived and implemented Exercise Muskox, a combined military operation in the north which was, in effect, the first time Canada moved into its own backyard.

Professor Wilson has studied the existing oil and gas reserves in the Canadian Arctic and the rest of the world; he has compared them with the rapidly multiplying U.S. demands for fossil fuels and has come up with an awkward equation: there is simply not enough oil and gas in the world to satisfy anticipated U.S. energy demands by the year 2000. The Americans themselves are becoming aware of this. George A. Lincoln, chairman of the Office of Emergency Preparedness and of the Nixon Administration’s Oil Policy Committee, and member of the National Security Council, the President’s inner circle of advisers, said in a recent interview that his country is entering “an energy-deficit era” and that the debate over energy “is going to replace the cold war as the most urgent problem America faces in the years ahead.” He admitted there is already in the U.S. a form of industrial rationing of natural gas and warned homeowners with oil furnaces that they would be well advised to keep their tanks topped off as a hedge against flash shortages.

If there were any lingering doubts about the urgency of the U.S. energy crisis they were dispelled late last year when John G. McLean, chairman and chief executive officer of the Continental Oil Company and chairman of the National Petroleum Council’s Committee on U.S. Energy Outlook, described in blunt terms the scarcity of fossil fuels and the critical need for

drastic measures to conserve what is left. Domestic production of natural gas will decline by about a third in the next 15 years, he forecast, and even with increased imports the availability will be kept only at its present level, or “less than half of our potential gas requirements by 1985.” He concluded with suggestions ranging from better insulation in house construction to the heresy of using “smaller and more efficient automobile engines.”

Where does Canada stand in all of this? According to Professor Wilson’s estimates, this country’s total petroleum reserves, in both Alberta and the Arctic, represent at best 1.8% of the world’s reserves — a drop in the bucket to the U.S., but sufficient to buy time for Canada until alternate energy resources are developed. That would mean keeping most of our oil and gas for our own use.

Even if Ottawa were to disallow construction of the Mackenzie pipeline the matter would not likely be dropped by the U.S.-dominated consortium developing the project. The Americans not only need our energy resources, they tend to regard them — or at least their availability — as part of their own. President Nixon could count on support for almost any measures he felt were necessary to preserve the import of continental oil and gas.

To bring in some of the required fuel from overseas, the Nixon Administration is reported to be on the verge of endorsing a national policy which would call for construction of superports, 10 to 30 miles offshore, to accommodate supertankers now being built, notably in Japan. They’re up to 326,000 tons now and may go much higher. Work is about to begin on construction of a $92.5 million project which will create a huge Canadian deepwater port, 130 miles northeast of Quebec City in the St. Lawrence River. The project is aimed at the growing number of large ore and oil carriers.

In an article beginning on the following page, Professor Wilson develops the case against building the Mackenzie or any other north-south pipeline. His argument is neither political, ecological nor economic. It is a cool, scientific appraisal of the issue. In a separate essay on page 6, Professor Wilson contends that because of political and financial pressures, Canadian scientists don’t feel free to speak openly against matters of which they professionally disapprove.

These are disturbing, provocative opinions from one of Canada’s most eminent scientists. He cautions us to resist both our powerful, hungry neighbor to the south and our shortterm desire for new markets. Resist, he says, or perish.