Prime Minister Stephen Harper took to the stage today at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York to discuss Canada’s economy, environmental regulations and support of the Keystone XL pipeline among other things. The Prime Minister’s appearance marks a break in a steady stream of tar sands advertising shouldered primarily by Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.
Harper’s overarching message when it came down to pipeline politics was this: Canada is working on its emissions problem, so Americans concerned about the environmental fallout of the Keystone pipeline needn’t worry. Besides, there are far more important economic benefits associated with the energy project that the U.S. “can’t afford to turn down.”
That is to say, the Prime Minister’s address, a rarity these days, brought little else than more of the same.
For a while now, the UK government has been dragging its feet behind other European countries trying to deter future imports of Canadian tar sands oil into the EU. The UK, home to British Petroleum (BP), has an oil industry with vested interests in the Albertan tar sands, and opened a new consulate in Calgary in 2011. Recent papers leaked to the Guardian by Greenpeace may be the clearest sign yet that the UK will support Canada in encouraging tar sands oil imports to Europe.
John Vidal writes in the Guardian, that "in EU negotiations on laws intended to encourage the use of low-carbon transport fuels, the UK has rejected language that would class tar sands oil as more polluting than conventional crude or other fuels."
Recent forecasts from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and British Petroleum (BP) have cast new doubts on the long-term economic viability of exploiting the Albertan tar sands.
In a November report, the IEA predicted that demand for tar sands production in 2035 will be 3.3 million barrels a day, lower than the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’ (CAPP) more optimistic estimate of 5 million barrels a day. BP’s Energy Outlook 2030, published in January, also forecasts that US oil imports will fall 70 percent by 2030 from 11 million barrels a day in 2011.
Citing the BP and IEA forecasts, author and former Oilweek editor Earle Gray writes in the Toronto Star, that “a host of factors dims the prospects for the oilsands.” Gray lists “slower growth in world oil demand, increasing energy efficiency, alternative fuels and possible caps on global warming emissions of carbon dioxide” as reasons the Harper government should be weaning the Canadian economy off the tar sands.
The Canadian government's tar sands roadshow was in Europe this week trying to convince the European Union (EU) not to slap a “dirtier oil” label on the tar sands.
Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver visited Paris, London, and Brussels to argue against the EU implementing the latest version of its Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) that would discourage sales of fuels made from tar sands in the EU.
This is a guest post by sustainable energy economist, Mark Jaccard. It was originally published on his blog, Sustainability Suspicions.
On May 7th 2013, I was among twelve Canadian climate scientists and energy experts who sent a letter addressed to Natural Resources Minister the Hon. Joe Oliver.
As professionals who have devoted our careers to understanding the climate and energy systems, we are concerned that the Minister’s advocacy in support of new pipelines and expanded fossil fuel production is inconsistent with the imperative of addressing the climate change threat. We are going to have to wean ourselves off our addiction to fossil fuels. Thus our choices about fossil fuel infrastructure carry significant consequences for today’s and future generations.
Readings of atmospheric CO2 are approaching a new milestone of 400 ppm — a reminder of the rapidly shrinking amount of “space” remaining before we risk committing ourselves to increasingly unmanageable and costly levels of climatic change.
This is a guest post by Mark Jaccard, one of Canada's most distinguised sustainable energy economists, and was originally published on his blog, Sustainability Suspicions.
Why is Alberta’s policy a regulation and not a tax?
Alberta’s government officially says it doesn’t have a carbon tax, and I agree. But if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone claim it does, I could buy a lot of anti-oil sands ads, and maybe a politician along the way.
I hear about Alberta’s so-called carbon tax from business people, politicians, journalists, environmentalists, sometimes even economists (who should know better). But the policy in question is, in fact, a “performance regulation,” that sets a maximum “emissions-intensity” for industries, and fines them $15 for each tonne of CO2 emissions in excess of that maximum.
Blame Canada is a four part series revealing how Canada has become a wealthy, fossil-fuelled energy superpower and an international climate pariah. For Part 1, click here.
Like every other country in the world, Canada has promised to help keep global warming to less than 2 degrees C. However Canada's political and corporate leadership are committed to turning the country into a fossil-fuelled “energy superpower.” With a drug lord's just-providing-a-service hypocrisy Canada has openly declared it's future is tied to the profits from dumping hundreds of millions of tonnes of climate-heating carbon into the atmosphere every year.
And the world's new energy superpower plans to grow those annual emissions to 1.5 billion tonnes by 2020 giving one of the least populated countries a gigantic carbon bootprint.
Most of this climate-wrecking carbon energy will come from Canada's tar sands located just underneath the pristine boreal forest and wetlands of northern Alberta. The oil industry likes to call them “oil sands,” although there is no liquid oil only a tarry bitumen mixed deep in the sandy soil.
Yesterday Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver held a press conference to respond to NDP leader Tom Mulcair’s open objection to the Keystone XL pipeline. Oliver, who has recently returned from a US tour to advertise Canada’s tar sands as green, finds Mulcair’s recent trip to Washington, D.C. somewhat disconcerting.
“It isn’t helpful when a senior Member of Parliament comes down there either directly or indirectly to speak against a project that is in Canada’s national interest,” Oliver said.
Mulcair’s visit south of the border, where he met with US business leaders and lawmakers, appears to be in reaction to Minister Oliver’s recent tar sands greenwashing junket to D.C.
Oliver, who also spoke in Chicago and Huston, gave his American audience what he called the "unvarnished goods" on Canada's tar sands: they represent an "environmentally responsible," "greener alternative" oil supply for carbon-hungry U.S. markets. His tour followed on the heels of Alberta Premier Alison Redford's similar efforts to promote one of the world's dirtiest forms of energy as environmentally-friendly.
Tom Mulcair, it appears, has had enough with the misinformation.
The Canadian government, says Mulcair, is “playing people for fools” when it comes to Canada’s environmental performance, especially surrounding the expansion of the tar sands.
As a Canadian energy and climate economist, I have first-hand experience with the magician-like techniques of the Canadian government and petroleum industry as they try to double the output of our highly polluting tar sands. Politicians in Washington should be wary, especially if they are sincere in wanting to spare us and our children from an increasing barrage of Katrinas, Sandys and droughts.
Magicians use slight-of-hand to distract us from what they are really doing. The fossil fuel industry and its allies have spent a lot of money to bombard us with messages about the jobs and tax benefits of increasing carbon pollution via this or that fossil fuel project.
Count how many times they explain how this carbon pollution is consistent with what scientists say and politicians promise in terms of avoiding devastating climate change.
Of course, they don’t explain.
That is the art of deception on which magic is based: to get you looking the wrong way. If you were to look the right way, you would see that we cannot be expanding fossil fuel infrastructure today and keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius (3.7 Fahrenheit). That infrastructure – all of it – must be stable or contracting.