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article imageOp-Ed: Full steam ahead for Oilsands, despite substantial GHG increase

By Karl Gotthardt     Apr 19, 2013 in Environment
Ottawa - Canada's greenhouse gases (GHG) continued to level off or decline in most sectors, except the Alberta Oilsands. Despite a substantial GHG increase, Joe Oliver and some business interests are determined to move full steam ahead on oilsands development.
An annual inventory report submitted to the the United Nations says that Canada's GHG have either declined or leveled off in all sectors, except the Alberta's oil patch. The report covers 2011 and shows an increase of 0.14 per cent in emissions to approximately 702 million tonnes. The levels, which are 5 per cent below 2005 levels, are due to structural changes in the Canadian economy, which is moving from producing goods to a service oriented economy. Another factor are federal and provincial policies.
Canada has not done well on the emission reduction front. Under the previous Liberal government, which signed the Kyoto Accord, emissions actually increased by 30 per cent and the situation has not been much better under the current Conservative government. The loss of manufacturing jobs and a slowing economy have contributed to the decline outside of the Alberta oilpatch and not necessarily good policy. That didn't stop Environment Minister Peter Kent from claiming that the Conservatives are the first government in history to reduce GHG emissions.
“Under the previous Liberal government, greenhouse gas emissions actually increased by a staggering 30 per cent,” Environment Minister Peter Kent told Postmedia News in an email. “We were the first government in Canadian history to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Digital Journal reported that climate change has slowed
for at least a decade, The report submitted to the UN seems to indicate that this was not the case in Canada, at least in 2011.
The government report, prepared by Environment Canada, noted that the country’s average temperatures were 1.5 degrees Celsius above average in 2011, which makes it more likely to observe impacts such as rising sea levels and increasing extreme weather events that could intensify in the future.
The report indicates that emissions from the Alberta oilsands have grown from 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent gases in 1990 to 55 million tonnes in 2011, accounting for 48 per cent of Canada's overall emissions.
One of the major factors that drives environmentalists to oppose the XL Keystone pipeline is the expansion of the Alberta oilsands. Environmentalists believe that the approval of the pipeline would remove any incentive to reduce fossil fuel consumption, while increasing carbon emissions due to extraction methods. Apparently they are not too far off base.
Alberta's Premier Alison Redford, who has been in office for one year, has made four trips to Washington to apparently tell Alberta's story. Based on this recent report, one has to ask which Alberta story is being told. Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent said that he would introduce new regulations for the oil and gas industry this summer. That pledge has been made several times, but has always been delayed.
The fact is that both the federal and Alberta governments have put all their eggs in one basket and are hedging their bets on oilsands development. According to a Financial Post report, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said on Thursday that he is cautiously optimistic that the Keystone pipeline will be approved, but if it should not, the process for a west to east pipeline would be accelerated, whatever that means.
However, he said he remains “cautiously optimistic” that President Barack Obama will approve the project, since most impediments have been removed.
If a second rejection comes, Canada would accelerate its search for new oil markets, he said in an interview.
“We would have to focus even more on moving the oil west and east,” Mr. Oliver said.
“Everything we are doing in terms of environmental protection, pipeline safety, aboriginal consultation, advocacy for Canada outside the country — all the things that we have a constitutional responsibility for —we would be doing more [to promote other pipeline options],” he said.
Despite promises to reduce carbon emissions by 17 per cent by 2020, current emissions indicate that the federal government will not meet its target. Regardless, it seems bound and determined to expand oilsands production. Slowing economic growth with predictions that there will be slow growth in the foreseeable future, has the federal government in a dilemma. It says it is on target to eliminate the deficit prior to the 2015 federal election. To fulfill that promise, the only viable solution is oilsands expansion. Will this be done by ignoring the emission reduction target? It is likely that US President Obama will hold Canada's feet to the fire. Given the latest report submitted to the UN, the Obama administration has another reason to reject the pipeline.
In a new development, China's largest bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), is in the process of negotiating a deal that would help finance a refinery in Kitimat, British Columbia. The pipeline from Alberta to the BC coast is not wanted by BC residents and has many obstacles to overcome. What does China's largest bank know that is not currently in the public domain?
China's largest bank will be helping to finance the proposed Kitimat refinery, which would process oil from the Alberta oilsands in B.C., instead of the raw bitumen being shipped overseas.
B.C. media mogul David Black said he has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) for the proposed refinery that is estimated to cost $25 billion.
Apparently Canada's federal government will develop the oilsands, despite any objections and appears to show little concern for GHGs. Even as a proponent of pipelines, one has to question if it makes sense to accelerate the regulatory process, make exceptions and keep increasing GHG emissions.
It's time for the federal government and Alison Redford to put their money where their mouth is. Peter Kent must outline his new regulatory measures to constrain emissions in Alberta. The Alberta government needs to cooperate and demonstrate that it is willing to make the necessary sacrifices to reduce emissions. Albertan's, regardless of political persuasion are no longer willing to have a continious black eye in support of the oilsands.
CALGARY • Federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said Thursday Canada would accelerate its East and West oil pipeline plans if Keystone XL is rejected by the United States administration.
However, he said he remains “cautiously optimistic” that President Barack Obama will approve the project, since most impediments have been removed.
If a second rejection comes, Canada would accelerate its search for new oil markets, he said in an interview.
“We would have to focus even more on moving the oil west and east,” Mr. Oliver said.
“Everything we are doing in terms of environmental protection, pipeline safety, aboriginal consultation, advocacy for Canada outside the country — all the things that we have a constitutional responsibility for —we would be doing more [to promote other pipeline options],” he said.
China's largest bank will be helping to finance the proposed Kitimat refinery, which would process oil from the Alberta oilsands in B.C., instead of the raw bitumen being shipped overseas.
B.C. media mogul David Black said he has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) for the proposed refinery that is estimated to cost $25 billion.
Black, who was in Beijing on Thursday, did not say how much money ICBC will provide, only that the bank has expressed interest in loaning money to the enterprise, functioning as a co-ordinator to get other banks involved, and providing engineering and construction help to build the refinery.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about Alberta oilsands, Green house gases, Environment canada, Canadian Politics, John oliver
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