Around the world scientists are not sleeping well. They toss and turn knowing humanity is destroying the Earth’s ability to support mankind. The science is crystal clear and all of us 'ought to shaking in our boots' Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme told me last year.
But hardly any of us are shaking in our boots. Why is that?
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.
The results have been in since December but there’s still no indication of when the Alberta government’s internal report on pipeline safety will be available to the public.
NDP energy critic Rachel Notley believes Energy Minister Ken Hughes is deliberately withholding the report out of fear that it will make safety an even greater issue in the pipeline debate. She told the Calgary Herald she believes it’s part of a broader communications strategy.
“At the end of the day what we really need is for the public to review the review,” she said. “We’re the ones to whom Ken Hughes owes an obligation—not the shareholders of multinational corporations.”
Hughes denies the allegation that keeping the results of the report from going public has anything to do the Obama administration’s upcoming decision regarding the future of the Keystone XL pipeline. He says the government needs more time to review the results and that industry is still reviewing its own practices as well. He added that pipeline safety is just one part of a larger process and that he will release the information “in the not too distant future.”
Concerned citizens blocked a highway in Ontario on May 6th to raise the alarm about Enbridge's controversial plans to ship tar sands bitumen through the 37-year old Line 9 pipeline.
The “90-for-90” blockade caused a temporary traffic delay where Line 9 intersects Highway 6 between Guelph and Hamilton. Forty people held the space for ninety minutes to represent the “ninety significant spills” Enbridge pipelines had in both 2009 and 2010.
Participants gave out homemade muffins to drivers held up by the blockade to apologize for the inconvenience.
“The blockade was a necessary step because the Canadian government has gone to extreme lengths to ensure that there is no public debate on Line 9,” says Elysia Petrone, media liaison and participant of the 90-for-90 blockade.