alberta tar sands

Wed, 2011-02-09 22:31Brendan DeMelle
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Environment Minister Peter Kent Claims Climate "Plan Is Working" and Canadians Are "Proud" of Tar Sands

Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of the Environment, suggested in a raucous Parliamentary exchange on Tuesday that Canadian leaders “have a plan, and the plan is working” to address climate change.  He also suggests that “Canadians are proud of the Canadian oil sands” which are “well regulated” and operated in an “environmentally sensitive and sustainable manner.”

Check out this video from the floor Q+A session from Tuesday February 8th when MP Kent was asked to respond to a question about Climate Action Network’s demands that Canada come up with a credible plan to deal with the climate crisis, and to move toward clean energy solutions instead of sinking deeper into the dirty tar sands. Here is the exchange:

Mon, 2011-01-17 13:58Emma Pullman
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Why We Need to Stop Calling Tar Sands Oil "Ethical Oil"

There are few terms in the Canadian vernacular that irk me more than “ethical oil”.  Since Ezra Levant’s 2010 book “Ethical Oil” hit the scene, it’s become the favourite language for government newspeak, and the media.  Worst of all, its given tar sands proponents and the Conservative Government fodder for their debunked argument that tarsands oil is good for us

Levant’s book looks at the ethical cost of our addiction to oil, and argues that Alberta tar sands oil is more ethically responsible than oil imported from despotic regimes in the Sudan, Russia, and Mexico, where human rights issues are of concern. 

Though neither Harper nor our new Minister of Environmental Destruction have read the book, the term was exactly what the Conservatives needed to bolster the much-maligned tar sands.  Prior to the echochamber that ensued after the publication of Levant’s book,  tar sands oil was often characterized as “dirty” and “controversial” - much to the ire of the government.

 Levant may well have learned the art of spin early in his career while spending the summer in an internship arranged by the libertarian and clean energy/climate change enemy Charles G. Koch Foundation, or through his work with the Fraser Institute.  Levant himself coined the term “ethical oil” in 2009 after being involved in a panel on tar sands oil.  The spin doctor finished the 90-minute debate having not managed to convince his audience of the merits of the toxic oil.  Without admitting defeat, Levant quickly realized that he was going to have to find a different way to spin the dirty oil apart from economic arguments which just weren’t resonating with people. 

Mon, 2011-01-17 13:47Brendan DeMelle
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Oil Supermajors Desperately Chasing a Tar Sands Pipe Dream

The six major oil companies that for decades enjoyed phenomenal profits and power over the world’s oil supply now find themselves fighting over the dirtiest and most dangerous oil left - Alberta’s climate-wrecking tar sands and the dangerous deepwater deposits in the Arctic, Gulf of Mexico and other difficult to reach areas. Geoff Dembicki reports today in The Tyee that the oil supermajors once known as the “Seven Sisters” now control a tiny fraction of the world’s dwindling oil reserves - just seven percent - while state-owned oil companies and national governments control 93 percent.

That shift in power has left the six Anglo-American oil majors sparring fiercely for control of the remaining dregs to feed our oil addiction.  Dembicki writes that:

“aggressive oil sands development appears to be one of the few viable growth strategies left for ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, ConocoPhillips and Chevron. These six energy giants are among the top-earning private companies on Earth. Yet their continued corporate existence, at least in its current form, is far from assured.”

In their race to the bottom, these six oil companies are all vying for control of Canada’s dirty tar sands. Dembicki notes that:

“all the supermajors own – or plan to develop – huge operations in Alberta’s oil sands. Canada is one of the few countries left on Earth offering unbridled private sector access to major known oil reserves (in this case, the planet’s second-largest).”

Thu, 2011-01-06 15:19Emma Pullman
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Minister of Environmental Destruction Says He Will Not Let Emissions Rules Hamper Tar Sands Development

Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent is off to a great start convincing Canadians that he is concerned about the environment.  After just than two days in office, he has already tried to persuade Canadians that Alberta’s filthy tar sands oil are “ethical oil” and unworthy of the negative reputation that countless citizens, politicians, and environmental organizations have given them.  Today, he’s promising that the Harper government will not impose any greenhouse gas reductions on the oil patch that will discourage investment. 

Curbing regulation in favour of profits doesn’t really sound like the work of the Minister of the Environment.  This suggests, rather troublingly, that the profits of the oil and gas sector, and in particular Alberta’s tar sands, are more important to the Harper government than their environmental impact.  Let’s get something clear: is Kent the Minister of Environment, or the Minister of Environmental Destruction? And who is he working for? Corporate interests, or Canadians?

Thu, 2011-01-06 11:00Emma Pullman
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Canada's New Environment Minister Promises More of the Same: Climate Inaction and Disappointment

Another day, another Minister of the Environment, it seems.  On Tuesday, Harper’s mini-shuffle installed Peter Kent, a former journalist with the CBC and Conservative MP from Thornhill to the post.  What could embody the lack of leadership on the climate any more clearly than the fact that Kent is the fifth to hold the position in five years?

Kent’s appointement comes at a time when Canada’s reputation on fighting climate change is in the toilet. Ottawa’s watered-down leadership on the environment, well, stinks.  Already commentators and opposition leaders are openly concerned that Kent will do little more than his predecessors. Well, unless you count political spin as action. 

Tue, 2010-12-14 12:18Emma Pullman
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Legislation Introduced To Ban Oil Tanker Traffic On B.C.’s North Coast

Today, Vancouver Quadra Liberal MP and former B.C. Environment Minister Joyce Murray introduced legislation in Canada’s House of Commons that would formally ban oil tanker traffic in B.C.’s North Coast.  Bill C-606 comes days after a successful House of Commons motion demonstrated support for a legislated ban on oil tankers.

Though the motion carried, the victory was only bittersweet because the motion passed is not binding, and merely calls on the Tory government to legislate a formal ban.  The Conservative government maintains that a ban is unnecessary since a long-standing, informal moratorium on oil tanker traffic and all offshore oil and gas activity has been in effect since 1972.  Yet last year, the Harper government quietly affirmed that it is not legally bound to maintain a moratorium on oil drilling off the coast of British Columbia.  The government determined that the 1972 ban doesn’t technically apply to oil-tanker traffic.  To date, eight Canadian prime ministers have upheld the moratorium, but that could all change.  The B.C. government is currently lobbying the federal Conservative government to revoke the ban.  Opposition parties fear the Tory government will allow the ban to be lifted in order to profit from growing Asian energy markets.

Tue, 2010-12-07 16:56Brendan DeMelle
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Tyee Series On Canadian Tar Sands Interests Meddling In U.S. Politics

The Tyee has launched a new series exploring the efforts of Canadian tar sands interests to undermine low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) policies in the U.S. that could some day threaten to wipe out Alberta’s greenhouse gas-intensive oil sands industry. 

Climate change policies being implemented in California and currently under consideration in 23 other U.S. states seek to favor lower-carbon transportation fuels. Since Canada’s tar sands are widely known to be among the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive sources of oil on the planet, the tar sands would of course fall out of favor rapidly if enough U.S. states passed the low-carbon standards into law. And since laws passed by large states like California are often used to pressure Washington to set federal policies, tar sands interests have a lot at stake in battling early adopter states.

As a result, The Tyee reports:
“A sophisticated lobbying effort led by Canadian officials, fossil fuel lobby groups and several of the world’s largest oil companies is targeting policymakers and consumers across the United States.”

Wed, 2010-11-24 17:04Brendan DeMelle
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Alberta Tar Sands Have Irreversible Impact on Indigenous Culture

The Alberta tar sands are increasingly recognized as a major threat, not only moving us in the opposite direction from where we need to go to solve the climate crisis, but also with the enormous environmental and public health risks that tar sands development entails.  However, another major negative and irreversible consequence of the tar sands’ gold rush is often overlooked - the tremendous impact on the culture and legacy of northern Alberta’s indigenous peoples.

As this amazing multimedia presentation by acclaimed climate change photographer Robert van Waarden demonstrates vividly, the tar sands are leaving an indelible mark on First Nations’ communities, whose livelihoods and culture are threatened by the tar sands.  Watch this, then please share it with your family and learn more about the tar sands.  This destruction can be stopped, but not without major public pressure.

Wed, 2010-11-17 13:07Nathanael Baker
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Monarchy Trumps Democracy: Canadian Prime Minister Harper's Unelected Senate Rejects Passed Climate Bill

In a move that has generated serious uproar in the Canadian government, the Conservative dominated Senate has defeated a climate change bill that was passed in the House of Commons by holding a snap vote while several Senators were away.

The move is shocking on several fronts.  Firstly, the vote took place while 15 Liberal Senators were away from the capital.  The vote to defeat the Climate Change Accountability Act passed by a margin of 43-32.  Even more shocking is the fact that the unelected body of officials known as the Canadian Senate overturned a bill that was passed by the House of Commons – government officials elected by the Canadian people.

Jack Layton, the leader of Canada’s third party, the New Democratic Party, called the vote, “One of the most undemocratic acts that we have ever seen in the Parliament of Canada.”

Tue, 2010-11-02 12:47Emma Pullman
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Largest Donor to Prop 23 Valero Has Ties to the Tar Sands Too

As Americans head to the polls today, many are aware of the Big Oil and special interest bankrolling of efforts like California’s Prop 23 which would help derail progress toward the clean energy future.  Aside from Kochtopus and Tesoro funding, the biggest funder of Prop 23 is Valero, a Texas oil company keen to avoid the domino effect of clean energy legislation.  They have already contributed more than $5 million to support it, and it’s no wonder: They fear that climate legislation will hurt profits at their two California refineries.

The Tyee reports that Valero has ties to the tar sands in Alberta where California laws may one day lead to limits on Valero’s prospects for future growth - which depend a great deal on Alberta’s tar sands.  

Why would a Texas oil company care about California clean energy laws?  The Texas oil company owns several Alberta area refineries.  Bill Day, a Valero spokesperson, calls Canada “a tremendous potential supplier for us.”

They’re eyeing up the tar sands because over the coming decades, the proposed Alberta-Texas pipeline would ship massive amounts of Albertan fossil fuels to Gulf Coast refineries.   The highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline stretched from Alberta could eventually ship up to 600,000 barrels of oil per day to Texas and Louisiana.  As they noted in their most recent annual report, “This large new source of crude oil for the Gulf Coast market will further diversify our feedstock slate and increase our ability to optimize our profitability”.

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