Skip to main content

The Enbridge oil terminal in Hardisty, Alta.

It is, as insults go, a catchy one: An environmental group is crowning Enbridge Inc. "King Carbon" for its role in speeding vast amounts of Canadian crude to market.

In a new report to be released Thursday, Environmental Defence argues that Enbridge should be held to account for the millions of barrels of oil it transports through its massive pipeline network each day. The company's operations produce 1.75 megatonnes of carbon emissions a year. But Environmental Defence has calculated that the greenhouse gas footprint of all the oil it ships works out to 387.8 megatonnes - or more than the entire output of France.

The group hopes the calculation will sway investors away from Enbridge, which its director of campaigns, Matt Price, accuses of "bringing us, quite literally, global warming down a pipeline" and then "pulling the green wool over people's eyes." That attack stems from Enbridge's public pledges, for example, to plant a tree for every tree removed in building new pipe.

Those efforts aren't nearly enough, Mr. Price argued. "We are now in a new place in the world where either we're going to transition to a clean energy economy or our climate's going to seriously destabilize. And companies like Enbridge need to take responsibility for their role in that."

The attack marks a shift in the efforts of environmental advocates to spook investors from the oil patch. Efforts in the past few years have focused on major international oil sands producers and landholders, including Royal Dutch Shell PLC, BP PLC and Statoil ASA.

But attacking Enbridge may be more difficult, since the company can legitimately point to green efforts. Its chief executive officer, Pat Daniel, who drives a Prius, has committed the company to becoming carbon neutral. Enbridge is also a major green investor, spending 39 per cent of its 2010 capital budget on wind and solar projects.

Company spokeswoman Jennifer Varey was not amused by the Environmental Defence report.

"This is a baseless attack on Enbridge, using misleading information. We don't ship emissions - we transport energy, and supplying this energy is Enbridge's No. 1 social responsibility," she said.

The company expects "around $6-billion in green energy opportunities over the next five to 10 years," she said in an e-mailed statement. "However, it may take several decades to develop enough renewable energy to meet global demand - and in the meantime we need to focus on safe, reliable and responsible transportation of existing fuels, and Enbridge is doing that."