Tristan was right to say that pipelines are a strategic vulnerability, when it comes to oil sands extraction. It is one point where opponents of the oil sands can apply pressure. At the same time, the industry is investigating other options:
Canada’s two major railroad companies have begun making regular shipments of oil, in a move that changes how Canadian crude moves to market – and opens the door to new destinations for energy exports, including Asia. Although pipelines continue to carry the overwhelming majority of Canada’s oil production, both Canadian National Railway Co. and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. have begun using their rail networks to deliver crude, moving past technological tests into actual commercial service.
The idea of a “pipeline on rails” has been quietly pursued by both CN and CP in recent years. Both believe their tracks can divert oil to the best possible markets at any given time, freeing energy producers from the constraints of pipelines, which are built to last for decades and as a result cannot quickly be changed to accommodate market shifts
Even if trains does provide an alternative, it is still worth trying to block pipelines, which would probably move every unit of climate-altering oil more cheaply.