alberta tar sands

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.”

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”.

Vancouver Sun and Canada West Foundation Are Wrong About Tar Sands; Regulation Is Critical For Healthy Economy

Barbara Yaffe’s outrageous opinion piece in the Vancouver Sun argues that environmentalists ought to shift their focus in their rallying calls against the tar sands. Yesterday, the Pembina Institute, Equiterre and Environmental Defence made a united call to the Harper government to start being more stringent in its enforcement of environmental laws, and to do more to respect aboriginal treaty rights in Canada’s tar sands. 

The environmentalists’ report, Duty calls: Federal Responsibility in Canada’s Oilsands aptly argues that filthy tar sands development is on track to derail any and all of Ottawa’s targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. Duty Calls outlines Ottawa’s responsbility for environmental management in the oil sands and explores what’s at stake if Ottawa continues to neglect this responsibility.  

Our political leaders have been more talk than walk in terms of managing the tar sands, but the Vancouver Sun’s Yaffe argues that politicians must have their reasons. She refers to William Kimber of the Alberta-based Canada West Foundation, who argues that, as filthy as the Fort McMurray enterprise is, we can’t dispute that it’s fuelling the economy. It’s the age-old, foolish ‘economy vs. environment’ positioning that is a non-starter when you consider that there would be no economy without the value of environmental resources.

What the Vancouver Sun fails to note is that the ongoing deregulation of the tar sands benefits Big Oil more than the residents of Alberta or the environment, and that’s a serious problem in the long term, both for the environment and the economy. Failing to regulate the tar sands leaves the federal government exposed to ongoing and sustained legal challenges, and exposes the oil sands industry to tougher environmental restrictions in the international marketplace. Continued federal absence leaves Canadians vulnerable to the economic uncertainty resulting from tying the value of the Canadian dollar to the price of oil.

The Vancouver Sun also fails to highlight the tar sands’ flagrant use of water, the toxic tailings ponds, and their role as the highest source of greenhouse gases in Canada. And these woes are only going to increase. According to the report, projects that have already been approved will see tar sands production increase to 4 million barrels a day. If all projects currently in the approval process proceed, we’ll be looking at nearly twice that.

Oil Industry And Canadian Govt Team Up To Attack European Fuel Standards That Could Limit Alberta Tar Sands Development

The Tyee has an excellent piece exploring the joint lobbying efforts of the Canadian government and the oil industry to attack European climate legislation that would set a precedent that could eventually impact the development of Alberta’s dirty tar sands.  

While very little of Alberta’s tar sands oil is currently exported to Europe (nearly all goes to the U.S.), the entrenched tar sands defenders in Canadian government and the oil companies who stand to profit from tar sands development are concerned that Europe’s efforts to favor low-carbon fuel sources could influence other countries that also need to find ways to reduce global warming emissions - say the U.S. for instance.

That could spell disaster for the Alberta tar sands profiteers, since the tar sands are known to have a far greater carbon footprint than conventional oil, and certainly more than rapidly-growing alternative fuels. 

Nikiforuk on Hiding the Alberta Tar Sand's Dirty Truth

alberta tar sands

Must read column on The Tyee today by Alberta tar sands expert Andrew Nikiforuk.

Nikiforuk uncovers the Alberta government’s attempt to make the tar sands look rosy to US lawmakers who are considering a $7 billion new pipeline that would run from Canada to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. He writes:

“Our sultry bedmates argue that all petroleum sources are getting heavier and dirtier and that Alberta taxpayers will soon spend between $20 billion and $60 billion over two decades on unproven technologies to bury the carbon in special cemeteries. And shouldn’t energy security trump climate security and silly green energy plans”

Read the entire article on The Tyee: Alberta Hides Dirty Truth as US Demands Tar Sands Facts

Canadian oil lobby trying to kill US clean energy policy

Who knew the tentacles of the Canadian oil lobby could reach all the way down to Washington, DC?

And who knew they were so powerful?

I am sure many Americans will find it rather disturbing that a foreign entity (no matter how friendly they may be - full disclosure: I am Canadian) is holding so much sway over the clean energy future of their country.

In a lengthy and well-researched new expose on the Canada oil sands industry’s lobbying activities in Washington, DC, reporter Geoff Dembicki untangles a complicated web that includes former Republican insiders, dirty energy front groups and powerful politicians on both sides of the border that are doing their best to kill US clean energy legislation.

Take former Republican Congressman Tom Corcoran for instance. Ironically, Corcoran was born in Ottawa, Illinois which shares its name with Ottawa, Ontario the capitol of Canada. It seems a little Canadian patriotism has rubbed off on Corcoran because he is now working on behalf of that country’s oil sands lobby and against clean energy for his own country.

Government of Canada's Hidden Tar Sand Truths

Canwest Newspaper reported late last week that new documents have been uncovered showing a pro-industry bias in Government of Canada studies on the environmental and economic impact of Alberta’s tar sands projects.

According to Canwest:

“Officials from Environment Canada who reviewed the original package, warned that it reflected the views of oil companies instead of the facts.

“The package should deliver neutral, balanced and factual information,” said the analysis. “Currently, much of the language is too pro-industry, and would make the government to be perceived as bias and thus not credible or serving the public good.”

Want the facts on the Alberta Oil Sands? Check our Top 10 Facts About the Alberta Oil Sands  section.

Youth Climate Activists To Secretary of State Clinton: Say No To Tar Sands

Youth climate activists struck again last week, calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to stop the proposed Alberta Clipper pipeline that would “suck filthy tar sands into the U.S.” from Canada.

"Re-Branding" the Alberta Tar Sands

It’s always nice to get feedback on your work. That’s why we were heartened to see a comment from the Alberta Government on our post yesterday about the appointment of a tar sands executive as a “clean energy” envoy to the US:

David Sands of the Government of Alberta, here.

Mr. Anderson you certainly bring a lot of energy to your writing. While we can’t agree with most of your assertions, we certainly applaud you and desmogblog for promoting the discussion.

If any of your readers want a quick (12 mins, I think) look at what we are doing to address environmental impacts of oil sands development, we’ve got a new video. Real people, real pictures, no script. (“Conversation”) up at this site: http://oilsands.alberta.ca/

Thanks David. I did take the time to view the video yet failed to come away with any new information or insights that undermined my strongly held belief that the tar sands are an ecological nightmare, or that the Alberta government is doing much more than trying to massage their public image.

In fact, it is odd that the Alberta taxpayer is funding a team of on-line writers to troll the blogosphere for potentially damaging posts, at the same time as the government of Premier Stelmach just slashed $12 million from provincial environment programs.

These sophisticated PR efforts instead seem part the much-maligned $25 million “rebranding” campaign bankrolled by the Alberta taxpayer. Mr. Sands himself is on record as saying a “fair amount” of this money is being spent in Washington because “the oilsands are a large part of Alberta’s story.”

Shell Abandons Alberta Tar Sands Emissions Cuts - See You In Court

The Alberta tar sands just took another humiliating PR hit. Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell reneged on a legal commitment to reduce carbon emissions for a massive $13.7 billion tar sands expansion down to those of conventional oil.

Now why would Shell do that? Perhaps because it can’t be done.

Tar sands emissions are at least three times those of conventional oil and likely to rise as near-surface deposits are exhausted. So-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) for the tar sands have been panned both by experts and the marketplace. The Alberta and Canadian governments have been told it won’t work but that has not stopped them from plowing $500,000 a year into Washington-based lobbying.

Now comes word that Shell is abandoning a legal commitment that was a condition of their regulatory approval back in 2007. According to Pembina Institute, this backsliding will add an additional 900,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually or the equivalent of putting 200,000 more cars on the road.

You can bet that this mess is heading to court. EcoJustice Canada have already filed an affidavit with Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and the federal government requesting that the approval of the Jackpine Mine and Muskeg River Mine expansion tar sands projects be overturned.

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