Obama triggers first environmental dividend

Canada moves to protect U.S. market for dirty oil

The world enjoyed the first environmental dividend of an Obama presidency yesterday when a worried Canadian government proposed a joint North American action plan to address climate change.

Although it appeared that Canada's real goal was to ensure a continued U.S. market for its huge dirty-fuel tar sands project, this could still be a solid step toward a continental cap-and-trade program - which would be the first significant gesture from the world region that, so far, has been the least responsible in its approach to global warming.

Since its first election two years ago, the Conservative government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has worked in lock step with the Bush administration in an effort to forestall significant international action on climate change.

For example, Canada was an early joiner in the U.S.-led Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate - a sort of anti-Kyoto organization comprising the biggest polluters and policy backsliders in the world. Canada also acted as a stalking horse for the U.S. administration during Kyoto negotiations in Bali last year. Because the U.S. is not a signatory to the Kyoto accord, it is not permitted to participate in the main negotiations, but Canada - a signatory that is on record saying that it has no intention of meeting its Kyoto commitments - is still allowed in the room, and dutifully delivered the Bush administration's message of inaction.

The U.S. wind has obviously shifted and leading Democrats have been increasingly critical of higher-carbon sources of crude oil - the worst of which comes from the ultra-dirty Alberta tar sands project. As the second-biggest known source of crude oil in the world (after Saudi Arabia), the tar sands is a geographically and geo-politically attractive option - a potential source to help the U.S. wean off its dependence on Middle Eastern oil. But, again, many Democrats - and the progressive jurisdiction of California - are arguing that the environmental cost will be too high.

Now we have the Canadian Environment Minister saying “The election of President Obama, when one looks at the speeches and the commitments he's talked about in terms of the environment, presents really exciting opportunities for us, as Canadians.”

This would be more credible if Mr. Prentice was not elected from Calgary - the “Dallas North” capital of the Alberta-based energy industry and the home of Canada's most committed anti-climate change activists.

Still, as noted yesterday on the DeSmogBlog, now that Australian and American voters have both cast out their reactionary leaders, Canada's Conservatives are the only leaders of a developed nation who have resisted sincere international action to address global warming. The election of Barack Obama removes Canada's last ally in that shameful effort.

This early overture - even if the main intent is to undermine potential U.S. regulations against the purchase of tar sands oil - may still prove to be an important turning point for climate action worldwide.  


Makes me embarrassed to be Canadian. (I never thought I’d ever say that.) Maybe now, Canadians will have to sew American flags on their backpacks when abroad. (I also never thought I’d ever say that.)

What is the frustrating about this and the conservative government is that we just had an election, and many of the average citizens whining about our (Canada’s) lack of climate change action just to be on an environmental bandwagon likely didn’t vote. (Or didn’t vote on an environmental basis beyond the conservative “no tax grab” commercials).

As an aside…I realize this probably doesn’t apply to most of the ppl that follow this blog…but the rant needed to come out

In more relevant thoughts… interesting post. I’m all for Canada working with Obama. Continental cap and trade would be beautiful on so many levels

An overwhelming majority of Canadians who voted did not vote of the Conservatives. In fact, since the Liberals, NDP, Block, and Greens all had platform planks calling for either a carbon tax or a cap & trade system, a majority of voters favoured putting a price on carbon.

If yu want to make this recession into a full blown depression, with tens of millions out of work, then by all means close down the tar sands.

Wake up to peak oil. The IEA is about to release a report on the state of every oil field in the world. The decline is much worse than expected.

World will struggle to meet oil demand
By Carola Hoyos and Javier Blas in London

Published: October 28 2008 23:32 | Last updated: October 28 2008 23:32

Output from the world’s oilfields is declining faster than previously thought, the first authoritative public study of the biggest fields shows.

Without extra investment to raise production, the natural annual rate of output decline is 9.1 per cent, the International Energy Agency says in its annual report, the World Energy Outlook, a draft of which has been obtained by the Financial Times.

To make all the alternatives to get off oil will require oil to do so.

“To make all the alternatives to get off oil will require oil to do so.”

Finally JRW posts something I can agree with.

But this truism makes it all the more critical that the delayers and deniers be pushed to sideline of obscurity lest we run out of oil before the replacement energy infrastructure is in place.

Biodiesel can be made from the poisonous Jatropha, from algae, or even extruded by certain fungi!

No need for tar sands.

Not possible with the volumes we need.

The tar sands produced 1.5 million barrels a day of synthetic crude. That’s half our consumption, or 1/14th the US consumption.

Alternatives to oil suffer from one, or all, of the following. 1) The EROEI is too low or negative. 2) they cannot be scaled up or 3) cannot be scaled up in time.

We don’t need the volumes we consume. North Americans (and now Chinese, Indians, and some in Europe) consume way too much fossil fuels. We need to make a major effort in conservation. If we do not, our whole civilization will collapse. Agriculture will not be able to continue the way it does and we won’t be able to feed nearly the population this planet has.

It’s conservation or bust. No way to dispute that.

There is enough unused, but useable, land, especially in the Global South. Also, growing algae does not even need (poor) agricultural land. Neither do fungi.

A thoroughly decent bunch of fellows apparently.
Seems they think things might get a touch warm.

Good, we will need warmer winters once natural gas decline accelarates. Storage this year is far below expected. They are also wishing for a mild winter.

Makes no sense. Your argument doesn’t account for the costs to repair the damage caused by global warming in less than a generation.

Analysts like Lord Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank, estimate that we can spend 2 percent of GDP create a low-carbon economy based on renewable energy.

Or we can spend 20 percent of GDP annually in 20 years trying to prevent disaster after disaster as runaway climate change brings damages we can’t even imagine.

That places your doom-and-gloom scenario into the proper perspective. We can’t afford not to close the Tar Sands.