Canadians' and British Columbians uncomfortable relationship with fossil fuels will be front and centre again this week as hearings into the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline resume in Prince Rupert.
This week the focus will be less on the technical and more on the human details - particularly the extent to which Enbridge met its obligation to consult First Nations and community groups.
Since the last set of hearings media mogul David Black has announced he nearly has the financial backing in place for his proposed $16 billion refinery project near Kitimat.
The proposed refinery at the terminus of the proposed pipeline is almost enough to satisfy the provincial government's infamous five conditions for approving the Enbridge project Premier Christy Clark said.
But the prospect of 3,000 direct, permanent jobs in the North and billions more in investment likely won't be a significant game changer for many First Nations and environmental groups.
Leaving aside the issue of aboriginal land claims -a complex subject worthy of its own editorial, or ten -Black's proposal doesn't address the fundamental environmental concerns raised by the project.
While shipping lighter processed fuels instead of raw bitumen may lower the impact of a marine spill on the B.C. coast, the bitumen still has to travel more than 1,100 kilometres by pipe to get to the refinery.
And opening up Asian markets to Alberta oil will promote expanded, or at least sustained, development of the oil sands.
Despite the U.S. State Department's ruling that approving the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the lucrative Gulf state markets wouldn't increase oil sands activity, it is clear that access to new markets is essential for oil sands producers.
Being restricted to selling oil into the U.S. energy bottleneck at Cushing, Okla. could create the bitumen bubble the Alberta government has warned people about. For the past two years Alberta oil has sold for as much as $35 per barrel less than the benchmark price.
Which is exactly where things get uncomfortable for Canadians and British Columbians. Because what is good economically for the province and country is bad environmentally for everything and everybody everywhere.
But it's not as simple as that because, with billions of dollars at stake, oil sands producers will explore all options to get the most money for their product.
Keystone XL, Kinder Morgan's proposed pipeline expansion through B.C., proposed pipelines to Eastern Canada and shipping oil by rail are all on the table.
According to analysts at Rail Theory Forecasts, by 2014 North American railways could be shipping two million barrels of crude oil per day.
Oil transported by rail has to cross the same number of rivers and streams as oil travelling by pipeline, has a higher rate of smaller spills and there is zero public consultation and little local economic benefit for communities the trains pass through.
And even if Canada were to completely cut all carbon dioxide emissions from every source in the entire country tomorrow, it would still only reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 1.8 per cent, according to UN estimates.
So should northern B.C. and Canada jump on the bitumen bandwagon, accept that global warming is inevitable and unstoppable -at least by Canadians - and cash in while there is money to be made? Maybe not.
Some economists, including the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, have warned that unrestricted growth of the oil sands may, in fact, be bad for Canada's economy.
Over dependence on the oil sector could lead to Canada being held hostage by the boom and bust of volatile commodity prices. In addition, the fossil fuel gravy train will run out eventually -either because there is none left or the consequences of global warming have become so great they can't be ignored any longer.
It's clear there is no simple answer when it comes to the Enbridge project and Canada's relationship with fossil fuels. What the Joint Review Panel will be hearing about this week, and will ultimately decide on, is which bad option the people of northern B.C. are most prepared to accept.
-- Associate news editor Arthur Williams