alberta tar sands

Thu, 2010-10-21 12:14Emma Pullman
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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.

Wed, 2010-10-20 13:51Brendan DeMelle
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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. 

Fri, 2010-07-30 08:46Kevin Grandia
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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

Wed, 2010-06-30 14:23Kevin Grandia
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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.

Mon, 2010-01-11 14:22Kevin Grandia
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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.

Mon, 2009-07-27 17:38Kevin Grandia
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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.

Thu, 2009-04-09 15:50Mitchell Anderson
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"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.”

Wed, 2009-04-08 14:01Mitchell Anderson
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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.

Fri, 2009-04-03 15:37Mitchell Anderson
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Alberta Lobbying Hard in Washington on Cap and Trade Bill

Posteriors are puckering throughout the Alberta oil patch as long-overdue climate and green economy legislation moves through the US Congress. The provincial government has responded by hiring Washington lobbyists at $500,000 per year to try and ensure whatever bill gets passed is so watered down that does not impact the dirtiest oil on Earth.

Premier Ed Stelmach of course frames it differently: “There’s so much at stake for Alberta, and we’ll be applying a full-court press not only on elected officials but also on the U. S. administration. It’s important that Alberta has a way of ensuring the right information gets to the policy-makers and the decision-makers.”

What he is worried about is that meaningful cap and trade legislation would further undermine the already marginal economics of the massive tar sands operation.

The foreign market for synthetic crude includes only one country: the United States. Who knew that one day America would move price carbon emissions? Apparently not the operators that have invested billions into the bitumen boondoggle only to see oil prices collapse and cap and trade legislation that will hit the tar sands like a two by four.

Saying this colossal capitial project is exposed on carbon pricing is a mild understatement. Synthetic crude produces at least three times the emissions as conventional oil. These emissions will increase as shallow deposits are exhausted and production moves to non-mining methods. Tar sands emissions already exceed those of 145 nations on Earth.

Any way you slice it, the cap and trade carbon pricing system moving its way through Washington may turn the tar sands into an investment quagmire.

Sat, 2008-11-22 13:36James Glave
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Could Falling Oil Prices Stall Oil Sands?

Finally, some good news: The global economic slowdown might curb runaway carbon emissions in Northern Alberta’s oil sands—at least temporarily.

Oil dipped below $50 a barrel this week for the first time since May 2005, and according to a report in Thursday’s New York Times,

“some analysts predict oil could fall to $30 to 40 a barrel as the world economy worsens.”

That $30 is a magic number for many energy economists, who for years have argued that Alberta’s oil sands projects are only viable when petroleum is trading above it.

Taken together, the mining and processing megaprojects represent Canada’s leading source of the heat-trapping carbon emissions that cause global warming. According to Pembina Institute estimates, by year end the operations will have released around 46 million metric tonnes of equivalent carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere.

But there are already signs that the machinery may be slowing.

The Vancouver Sun notes that the ongoing market slide has placed a de facto “moratorium” on development in the oil sands.

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