Oil refinery | BCBusiness

Oil refinery | BCBusiness
David Black's proposal to construct an oil refinery in Kitimat could be B.C.'s opportunity to build a secondary industry.

Even if David Black’s bold and innovative proposal to build an oil refinery on the North Coast gets nowhere, he will have shaken this often smug province out of its complacency.

All the usual suspects guffawed and almost split their sides in mirth last week when Victoria media impressario and publisher David Black proposed building an oil refinery in Kitimat.

No way, they said: Not enough money to support it. No way, avid environmentalists said: It won’t reduce global warming. No way, others said: It will still mean a pipeline across B.C., and we don’t want it. No way, hard-headed business types said: The Chinese want our raw bitumin, not our refined oil. They want to make that themselves.

But a week later, many more are thinking about this more.

The proposal has many merits, the largest of which is that it might have shaken British Columbians out of their victim mentality, and into an active role in Canada’s economic picture.

Black has proposed building a huge 550,000 barrel-a-day refinery to process all the heavy oil flowing through the Northern Gateway pipeline and then ship it by tanker to China. It would create some 3,000 jobs and essentially negate the effects of oil spills in in B.C.’s dangerous northern waters because refined oil evaporates when it hits the water.

But what he really did was bell the cat. He proposed to do something innovative, something that would create an industry in B.C., which it apparently doesn't want. Sometimes, it seems that the only industries we have left these days is shipping, government and lawyers pushing papers back and forth over real estate deals.

B.C. once had several industries, but most of them have faded because they were considered dirty and lowbrow businesses. Tourism was much cleaner and is now one of our biggest industries, albeit a very low-wage one. We’ve become the classic 18-year-old ingenue living off her good looks (while she can).

Meanwhile, around the world, we’re seeing formerly poor countries lift themselves up through secondary industries. They have their problems, of course, but for the most part they’ve improved the lives of billions of people.

At least Black’s bold suggestion might put us on a path to forming a secondary industry around the two natural resources we have left here — oil and gas, and access to Asia, which doesn’t have much oil or gas, but desperately needs it.

David Black has gone where no one in B.C. wants to go — the recognition that we can’t live in a holier-than-thou bubble but can exist in the real world without impoverishing ourselves morally or financially.