STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Premier tells U.S. that environmental toll from oilsands is a “myth”

Posted by mhudema on January 17, 2008

WASHINGTON – Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach asked American business leaders Wednesday not to buy into the “myth” that oilsands production comes at too high an environmental cost, saying attempts to curtail it “don’t make sense.”But he faced disbelieving protesters at every turn on the first day of his trade visit to the United States, including about 35 environmentalists who passed out flyers to guests arriving at a Canadian embassy reception.”Stelmach should be back home cleaning up the oil industry rather than running around Washington as an oil salesman,” said Liz Butler, organizing director for ForestEthics, a Canada-U.S. based organization.

“The U.S. does not want Canada’s dirty oil.”

Stelmach told an energy forum that although the myth about the oilsands project has gained some traction south of the border, it would be foolish to restrict the project now.

“There are ongoing attempts in some quarters of this country to slow down or even stop oilsands development. Those attempts don’t reflect reality and they don’t make sense,” he said.

“Even worse, they could serve to jeopardize this country’s energy security at a time when Asian markets are clamouring for oil.”

Stelmach also noted that climate change initiatives such as California’s low carbon fuel standard will penalize energy imports from Alberta.

“That doesn’t serve either of our countries’ energy interests or environmental interests,” he said.

“The bottom line is, in Alberta, we do not proceed with development at the expense of the environment . . . We don’t need to be cajoled into acting in an environmentally responsible manner because we’re otherwise unwilling or unable to do so.”

After the speech, Stelmach told reporters the province is intent on tripling production from 1.25 million barrels a day by 2016.

“We’re here to continue to build the relationship and deliver the message that we’re developing the resources in an environmentally responsible way,” said the premier.

While “there’s a number of things that have to be put in place” to protect the environment.

Air quality and water quality is constantly tested and mostly scores better than most cities, he said.

Environmentalists are particularly critical of Alberta’s oilsands industry because of the large amount of greenhouse gases emitted in the production process.

The project accounts for less than one-tenth of one per cent of all the world’s emissions, said Stelmach, and any facility that emits more than 100,000 tonnes a year is required to reduce the intensity by 12 per cent.

“It’s really all about quality of life of citizens on both sides of the border,” he said.

Back home in Edmonton, the premier’s comments drew an immediate rebuke from the Opposition Alberta Liberals, who said many Albertans want to see a slowdown in the rapid pace of oilsands production.

Liberal environment critic David Swann said describing widespread concerns over oilsands expansion as a “myth” is an insult to Albertans and the premier will likely pay for his remarks in the next election.

U.S. protesters were no less vehement.

“Oil from the tar sands is about our energy past, not our future,” said Liz Barratt-Brown, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defence Council.

“The U.S. should not rely on a dirty fuel that results in the destruction of Canada’s biologically rich boreal forest for tar sands mining and drilling.”

Said Tzeporah Berman of ForestEthics: Canada risks becoming an international pariah for promoting the tar sands instead of joining the fight against climate change.”

A U.S. energy bill signed in December says the U.S. government won’t buy fuel from non-conventional petroleum sources that have higher emissions than equivalent conventional fuels.

Environmentalists say the oilsands will create three times as much greenhouse gases because of the huge amount of energy required to extract the resource.

When asked about the danger of U.S. standards becoming onerous, Stelmach said he wasn’t concerned.

“The private sector, the market will determine” sales, he said.

“There’s a lot of demand for oil.”

Analysts peg oilsands reserves at about 173 billion barrels.

“Our goal has always been to work closely with the U.S.,” said Stelmach. “We’re the world’s best trading partners and we want to keep it that way.”

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