James Wilt's blog

Alberta Approves Suncor Tailings Plan Despite Reliance on ‘Unproven Technology’

Oilsands tailings pond

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) has approved a tailings management plan from oilsands giant Suncor, despite the plan relying on “newly patented, unproven technology” that will require decades of monitoring.

Wednesday’s decision came only six months after the AER rejected Suncor’s proposed plan for the same project because it relied on unproven technology and a 70-year timeline for reclamation. The regulator only later agreed to re-review the plan.

So what changed? Uh, nothing.

Suncor really hasn’t budged an inch in terms of actually changing anything,” said Jodi McNeill, policy analyst at the Pembina Institute, in an interview with DeSmog Canada.

How Oil Hijacked Alberta’s Politics: Behind the Curtain With Former Liberal Leader Kevin Taft

Oil's Deep State Kevin Taft Alberta DeSmog Canada

For decades, Kevin Taft has served as a thorn in the side of Alberta’s provincial government.

In his new book, Taft, who served as a Liberal MLA between 2001 and 2012, and as leader of the Alberta Liberal Party — the province’s official opposition — between 2004 and 2008, maintains his course.

Oil’s Deep State: How the Petroleum Industry Undermines Democracy and Stops Action on Global Warming — in Alberta, and in Ottawa is a controversial read.

Notably the book implicates the Alberta NDP, which was elected in 2015 with promises to challenge the sector’s dominance over political processes. To help explain why that didn’t happen, Taft deploys concepts of institutional capture and deep state — a term used when institutional capture occurs with several different entities and is maintained for a long time.

It’s a challenging and insightful read, one that will likely spark many debates about how we talk and think about the oil and gas sector.

DeSmog Canada chatted with Taft about the book.

Five Things You Need to Know About the Cancellation of the Energy East Oilsands Pipeline

Alberta oilsands

TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline is officially dead.

Announced via press release on Thursday, the news confirmed long-held suspicions that the $15.7 billion, 4,500 km oilsands pipeline simply wouldn’t cut it in today’s economic context.

But that hasn’t stopped commentators on all sides from pouncing on the cancellation as proof of their political project. Conservative politicians have lambasted the federal Liberals for introducing carbon pricing and new rules on pipeline applications, while environmentalists have claimed the company’s decision was a direct result of their organizing.

DeSmog Canada is here to help wade through the mess. Here are five things you should know about the cancelled Alberta-to-New Brunswick pipeline.

Where Are Canada's Missing Electric Cars?

Canada's missing electric vehicles

The race is on for electric vehicle supremacy.

Last week, China — the world’s second largest economy and consumer of about one-third of new cars — announced it will set a deadline for automakers to end sales of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, in a move that is expected to accelerate the global push into the electric car market.

China joins Norway, France and the U.K. in announcing plans to phase out vehicles with internal combustion engines.

Goldman Sachs recently estimated that electric vehicles will make up 32 per cent of global auto sales by 2040.

So, as the world moves toward the rapid adoption of electric vehicles, where is Canada in all of this?

The Problem With Climate Doomsday Reporting, And How To Move Beyond It

The Banker Sculpture. Photo: University of Sydney

It’s not often that an article about climate change becomes one of the most hotly debated issues on the internet — especially in the midst of a controversial G20 summit.

But that exact thing happened following the publication of a lengthy essay in New York Magazine titled “The Uninhabitable Earth: Famine, Economic Collapse, a Sun that Cooks Us: What Climate Change Could Wreak — Sooner Than You Think.”

In the course of 7,200 words, author David Wallace-Wells chronicled the possible impacts of catastrophic climate change if current emissions trends are maintained, including, but certainly not limited to: mass permafrost melt and methane leaks, mass extinctions, fatal heat waves, drought and food insecurity, diseases and viruses, “rolling death smog,” global conflict and war, economic collapse and ocean acidification.

Slate political writer Jamelle Bouie described the essay on Twitter as “something that will haunt your nightmares.”

It’s a fair assessment. Reading it feels like a series of punches in the gut, triggering emotions like despair, hopelessness and resignation.

But here’s the thing: many climate psychologists and communicators consider those feelings to be the very opposite of what will compel people to action.

What The Oilsands Sell-Off Actually Means

Oilsands trucks

The last few months have been marked by some massive shifts in the oilsands.

In December, there was the $830 million Statoil sale to Athabasca Oil, followed in January and February by the writing down of billions of barrels of reserves by Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.

On March 9, Shell sold a majority of its oilsands assets to Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) in a huge $7.25 billion sale, while Marathon Oil split its Canadian subsidiary between Shell and CNRL for a total of $2.5 billion.

The question is: why are all of these companies selling their oilsands assets? While some celebrate the moves as successes for the climate movement, others blame the Alberta NDP for the exodus of internationals.

Tweet: Experts say #oilsands sell-off has more to do w/ a broader shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical http://bit.ly/2nK3zyQ #ableg #cdnpoliBut experts say the reality has more to do with a broader economic shift that’s made oilsands uneconomical — for the time being at least.

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