alberta oil sands

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.

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.

Bad News for Big Oil

Oil industry operatives are sweating bullets over whether the incoming Obama Administration will be keen to buy “dirty oil” from Alberta tar sands. The early news for them is not good.

The president-elect last week sent Jason Grumet, a policy adviser mentioned for a possible energy post, to an environmental conference in Washington to offer reassurances that there would be swift movement on climate change legislation. Observers feel this is an early sign that Obama is taking a hard line on carbon.

Polar Bear Army Deployed for Canadian Election

With the Canadian federal election off to the races, DeSmogBlog has deployed an army of polar bears across Canada that will be working to raise the profile of climate change issues, especially around the environmental impacts of Alberta's oil sands operations.

The campaign is called the Arctic Front, and many of our regular readers will remember that we began this campaign during the Alberta provincial election earlier this year. Since then we have expanded our capabilities and now have polar bears stationed across the country, ready to get out the message at town hall forums,debates, rallies and other events.

Top 10 Facts About the Alberta Oil Sands

We started a short and sweet resource page on the environmental impacts of the Canada Oil Sands operation. If you would like to add a link to further resources drop us a line at: desmogblog [at] gmail [dot] com or leave it in the comment section below.

McCain and Obama Stand United on Canada's Oil Sands

Barack Obama made headlines across Canada last week over his proposed national “low carbon fuel standard.” Such a proposal, if implemented, would be a serious hit to Canada's oil sands operations, which emit about 3 times the amount of greenhouse gas to produce when compared to the production of a conventional barrel of oil.

Not nearly as prominent in the Canadian press was an article in the Washington Times the week before reporting that presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain's shares a similar view as Obama on a “low carbon fuel standard.”

Dirty Oil Sands Ad Greets Alberta Premier in Wyoming

When Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach flew into Wyoming for the Western Governor's Association meeting this week he undoubtedly saw the full page ad in the Casper Star-Tribune decrying his province's massive oil sands operations.

Organized by Environmental Defence, and its partners ForestEthics and the Natural Resources Defense Council, the idea behind the ad was to reach out to U.S. Governors to expose the truth about Canada's dirty tar sands.

A full copy of the oil sands advertisement can be downloaded from the Environmental Defence website.

Time Out(ed) On The Tar Sands

I consider Time to be one of the more forward-looking periodicals when it comes to the environment.

But the editors messed up in this week's edition. The June 2 Time carries a breathless feature about the potential petroleum bonanza in Canada's tar sands.

The article's authors are so giddy with the testosterone rush of big-ass earth-moving machines that they forgot what a multifaceted disaster this “bonanza” would be. The magazine quotes tar men in Alberta as they marvel at their own ability to move mountains … literally

Alberta Deputy Premier's "Mission Accomplished" Blog Missing In Action

Earlier today,we had a bunch of emails sent to us with a link to a blog set up by Alberta Deputy Premier Ron Stevens. The blog was set up to chronicle Steven's Alberta Oil Sands PR offensive in Washington, DC.

The post that had everyone so upset was one Steven's put up this morning entitled “Mission Accomplished” - a somewhat ironic and inappropriate pronouncement for the deputy minister. Ironic, in that today is the 5 year anniversary of US President George W Bush's “Mission Accomplished” speech in which he claimed that the war in Iraq was over.

Now the the Deputy Premier's entire blog has vanished… kind of.

Alberta Oil Sands Pioneer Says Environmental Problems Must be a Priority

Former Imperial Oil scientist, Clement Bowman is one of the chemical engineers who helped unlock the commercial potential of Canada's oil sands and he's now saying that the Canadian government must urgently take the necessary steps to clean up the huge environmental impacts of the oil sands projects.

Unless they're solved, a number of us feel the oil sands have almost hit a wall,” says Brown.

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