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.