Alberta Climate Change Plan: Triple Oil Production; Do Nothing; Blame Consumers

Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach announced a “climate change plan” today that involves tripling oil production and waiting until 2020 before even beginning to curtail CO2 emissions.

“It would be very difficult to bring in real reductions, immediate reductions, without devastating the economy and the quality of life of Albertans,” Stelmach told reporters, without explaining why it is necessary to multiply Alberta's current $73 billion US in fossil fuel exports in order to avoid “devastating the economy.”

But the most offensive part of Premier Stelmach's political spin is the attempts that he, his ministers and his private-sector stalking horses are making to shift responsibility for action onto consumers.

Stelmach, for example, told the Edmonton Sun yesterday that,

“The whole issue of carbon dioxide emissions is a partnership between industry and the consumer. Because if you weren't consuming anything, you wouldn't be creating carbon dioxide. So industry will do its part. Consumers will have to do their part.”

Energy Minister Rob Renner added that Stelmach's government will promote emission reduction by “providing incentives to Albertans to consume less energy in their homes.”

“On an individual basis, it may not seem like it makes that much difference,” Renner said. “But you replace a few million light bulbs and it makes a huge difference.”

So, major industrial emitters, which produce more than 53 per cent of greenhouse gases in Canada and a great deal more in Alberta, get a free pass to expand their operations to the greatest extent possible, while individual taxpayers bear the blame for rising emissions.

This all makes sense, according to Roger Gibbons, head of the Calgary-based Canada West Foundation, a non-profit think tank. Gibbons told the Globe and Mail yesterday that without consumer measures, final-emitter regulations would be “a dangerous overall strategy for Alberta to pursue.” Such a move, he said, would “really paint a target on the provincial energy sector. We need people to realize that there has to be some large public response rather than focusing on the big emitters.”

The tar sands is Canada's single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Tar sands developments are responsible for 50 per cent of the emission increases that Canada has “enjoyed” 1990. Doesn't it make sense to “paint a target on the provincial energy sector”?

Instead, we get an emission reduction strategy that makes no effort to reduce emissions. Even Stelmach's long-term goal, to reduce emissions 14 per cent from from 2005 levels by 2050, is inadequate to the point of laughability.

And we get a continuation of the spin: Canadian politicians have blamed India, for not going first in the effort to reduce emissions. They have blamed China for trying to pull its economy out of poverty. They have blamed UN negotiators for crafting an imperfect Kyoto Protocol. And they have blamed consumers. With a few inspiring exceptions in Quebec and British Columbia, they have done everything but exercise even the tiniest bit of leadership.


How about looking into the Green claims by Suncor? I have e-mailed DeSmogBlog about this months ago - yet nothing ever came of it, despite claims otherwise.

It’s no longer good enough to just quote and comment on others’ newspaper articles.

How about this, Anon:

No tar sands extraction business has done really anything to reduce its toll on the environment. Not only are they the largest source of GHG emissions in Canada, the Alberta government refuses to regulate them because they’re beholden to them.

What a joke! Stelmach and the whole Alberta PC Party should be ashamed of themselves.

Whooo Ho! Eddie’s got my vote.
A little lip service to the AGW wingnuts and keep the economy going while the whole myth self distructs under its own lies.

Go Eddie Go.

Stelmach is correct in that consumers have to assume a large part of the burden if any serious attempt to reduce C02 is made. There’s no use whacking large industry when consumers don’t want to do anything meaningful to reduce their own C02 emissions.

What, pray, is the chance that consumers are going to take responsibility for their own minuscule GHG contributions when they know that a single day’s production at Syncrude or Suncor negates any effort that that anyone in the province could make in a decade? Albertans are not individually to blame for the fact that their per capita rate of CO2 emissions is 71.09 tonnes (compared to a Canadian average of 23 tonnes, itself one of the worst in the world). If every Albertan filled their homes with compact fluorescent lightbulbs and high efficiency appliances - and traded their trucks in on the latest, smallest hybrid, they might reduce that output to, say, 71.02 tonnes - not counting the effect of tripling the tar sands production in the next decade. So, if you truly want to talk about doing “anything meaningful to reduce … CO2 emissions,” it seems that large industry is going to have to endure something more than the Calgary cuddle that they’re getting from this Alberta government.

How about a breakdown of where our 23 tonne average comes from to help put the actions of individuals in perspective? If we know who’s producing the most CO2 re: consumer items, and what changes in our lifestyle we can make, we can all make intelligent choices. But at another level altogether it would really help to demonstrate why binding caps for industry imposed by government regulation are also necessary.
Fern Mackenzie

Richard, be serious. Consumers are the core of the AGW issue. Without increased consumer demand, there would be no expansion of the oilsands.

Yes, we are individually to blame, and attempting to foist the AGW problem onto large industries won’t work until consumers, individually and in mass, take responsiblily for our consumptive lifestyles. So far, other then paying lip service to the issue, we consumers show little sign of taking the AGW issue seriously.

Our governments have a duty to work for the public good, for the people, not for a bunch of greedy lying corporatists who are turning Alberta into a filthy wasteland. The government has a duty to lead on this matter, and they are failing miserably. Stelmach is getting closer to losing the election.

Paul S. constantly wants to blame the consumer and let the big polluters off scot-free. I wonder which one he works for.

VJ, we, the consumers, are the big polluters. Industry only exists to supply the needs/wants of consumers and for no other reason.

AGW is not like other pollution problems where you can simply legislate against corporations and make the problem go away. Since we the consumers drive consumption we must truly step up to the plate and shoulder our large share of the problem.

As for governments leading … they can’t do it on AGW, at least at present. The Canadian public won’t let them.

If that is the case, it is incumbent on the big polluters to include the cost of their pollution – or preferably its mitigation – in the price consumers pay. According to today’s free market theories, price is the only regulator. However, even Adam Smith was aware that government regulation would be needed in some scenarios.

Some cost should be paid by industry and some by consumers. A 50/50 split would be about right. But I believe that Canadians at present aren’t willing to pay the cost, beyond a token amount.

… caught in the fierce and selfish grip of the dreaded consumer.

I don’t think I have EVER argued that individuals should be immune from action. The question is why Alberta gives industry a free pass.

Let’s work through the math again. The Canadian average CO2 emission rate is 23 tonnes per person, per year. In Alberta, the rate is 70 tonnes. Given that and major emitters produce 53 per cent of all CO2, I’m guessing that the oil and gas industry is therefore responsible for 60 tonnes per person.

So, Stelmach urges voters to change their lightbulbs and tells Syncrude and Suncor to ramp up production at will.

You have a point: I have a really, really hard time taking THAT seriously. 

Syncrude and Suncor are ramping up production because consumers want that oil … so they can fly to Disneyland for spring break, buy another car, purchase a boat for use at their summer cottage, etc..

Other then replacing a few bulbs with ghastly compact fluorescents, consumers and Canadians appear to want to do very little. Opinion polls say one thing, but the actions of most Canadians says something completely different.

Since no other jurisdiction, industry, government or Canadian consumers are doing anything remotely serious about reducing C02 emissions, why would you expect the oil industry to act differently??

I daresay a million citizens in Ontario and Alberta have already changed to CFL light bulbs (ref: Project Porchlight). We are awaiting the equivalently scaled reductions from our oil / transportation sectors.

I was excessivley sarcastic above. Sorry.

CFLs are a good start Hugh, but if we drive more, fly more, and live in bigger houses, is it enough?

Ok, so give consumers a CHOICE!!
I know they will choose to use green power from renewables, like Okotoks has done…

GawdDamnit, the Alberta government had a CAP on the amount of wind power there could be in the province until 2007, and since that restriction was lifted there has been many more windr turbines installed in Alberta, and customers are very willing to pay for the electricity produced from them.

Imagine if the Alberta government got in the way of fossil fuels like that…. or if the Alberta government helped renewables like they help the fossil fools!!

The ruling Alberta Government has its head stuck in the (oil) sand so deeply they have no ability to develop the social conscience needed to prevent the terrible impacts of global climate change on the developing world. Does Ed Stelmach realize his government is effectively destroying lives in poor countries around the world with this policy? He is not stupid - but he is terribly ignorant of the global situation. How can Alberta, one of the the richest places in the world, deny any responsibility to reduce huge emissions because it will hurt “our economy” while people in abject poverty in the developing world will suffer and die due to global warming. Alberta GHG emissions are over 70 tonnes per capita (tpc) mostly due to the energy industry. Canadian emissions are around 24 tpc; China and India emit about 3 and 1.5 tpc, respectively. Perhaps those poor countries need to reduce their emission before rich Alberta? The lack of responsibility in the Stelmach Government - the lackof a global social conscience - is terrible. Jim

We seem to be missing the point here.

We are all to blame for increasing CO2, from CEOs and Prime Ministers to home makers and even our children.
However, openly telling the largest CO2 emitters in the country that they don’t have to worry about reducing their emissions because someone else will do it for them is a slap in the face to every person who has already made changes to reduce their “carbon footprint”.

I don’t know about you but I’m feed up with all levels of government telling me that I have to make changes, reductions and sacrifices when they and their corporate buddies are unwilling to do anything.

So here it is.

Just like the governments of the largest CO2 emitters in the world claim.
Until everybody is on board and is doing their part to make meaningful, real reductions in CO2 emissions I will no longer make further sacrifices in my already carbon reduced lifestyle so that some “fat cat” politician or CEO can enjoy a free ride at my expense.

Everybody must make changes if this is going to work. Government, big business, small business and everybody else must do their part to ensure that real, not cap and trade crap, reductions are made without overburdening any one group at the expense of another.
If we can not do this, then there is no hope that any one group will be able to carry the burden alone.

We will have then failed.

Stop the warming!

The Closet Environmentalist