STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Alberta Green Plan to Destroy the Planet

Posted by mhudema on January 25, 2008

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EDMONTON _ Premier Ed Stelmach rolled out a modest strategy to curb greenhouse gas emissions Thursday, saying Alberta‘s energy-fuelled economy would be devastated if the province moved too quickly.

The plan would make “real reductions‘‘ in carbon dioxide emissions of 14 per cent below 2005 levels by 2050 _ more than 40 years in the future. And there would be no net reduction in emissions for the next 12 years.

The targets fall well short of those laid out in the Kyoto accord and by the European Union, which has called for reductions of 60 to 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Stelmach, whose government has incurred the wrath of environmentalists over its support of emissions-heavy oilsands development, called the Alberta targets “realistic goals for industry.‘‘

“It would be very difficult to bring about an immediate reduction without devastating the economy and the quality of life of Albertans,‘‘ said the premier, who is expected to call an election soon.

The plan focuses on capturing and storing the carbon dioxide that belches from oilsands plants, coal-fired generators and other industrial emitters. The gas would eventually enter a yet-to-be-built multibillion-dollar pipeline system and get pumped into the ground, where it would help squeeze more oil and natural gas from aging wells.

About a quarter of the proposed emissions cuts would come from unspecified consumer incentives to buy energy-efficient appliances, as well as a new emphasis on wind, thermal and geothermal power.

Greenhouse gas emissions rose by 37 per cent between 1990 and 2005, making Alberta the largest emitter in the country. Lindsay Telfer of the Sierra Club of Canada said the Alberta plan falls “terribly short of taking meaningful action.‘‘

But David Pryce, vice-president of western Canadian operations for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, appeared to welcome Thursday‘s announcement.

“Our take is it‘s important that they‘ve got the carbon capture and storage piece prominently profiled in this, because that‘s the big, main tool that we‘ve got to contribute to the solution,‘‘ Pryce said from Calgary.

“The targets are designed, I think, to be realistic and practical. They ramp up over time, and that‘s consistent to what we‘ve been saying _ we need time to develop and apply the technology.‘‘

Even so, Pryce predicted energy producers will face “significant challenges‘‘ trying to meet even the modest Alberta targets.

NDP Leader Brian Mason accused the premier of gambling public dollars on the unproven carbon capture technology.

“The Conservatives are backing the wrong horse,‘‘ said Mason. “Carbon capture technology is risky and likely to cost billions.‘‘

Pryce said the storage technology exists already, but work has to be done on the capture and transportation aspects.

Liberal environment critic David Swann called for emissions from the giant oilsands plants to be capped within five years, although he conceded that would some economic hardship.

Stelmach later pounced on the Liberal proposal, suggesting it would “tremendous economic devastation and massive job losses.‘‘

Consumers will eventually face a cost related to reducing emissions, but the premier was vague on how or when that might happen.

“I don‘t know what (the costs) are going to be. We know that we want to keep the cost down for consumers,‘‘ he told a news conference.

Alberta is already feeling pressure from other countries to reduce emissions or face trade barriers because of a global movement to find cleaner energy sources, Stelmach acknowledged.

Greenpeace activist Mike Hudema predicted the province will become the “pariah‘‘ of the international environmental community for taking such a modest approach to cutting emissions.

“The tarsands are the largest source of greenhouse gas growth in Canada,‘‘ said Hudema. “By 2020 they‘re set to emit over 141 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which is twice as much as all the cars and trucks in Canada.‘‘

Legislation will be used to d a framework for Alberta‘s new green strategy, but the finer details will be decided by cabinet, so they will not be open to debate in the legislature.

“The commitment to carbon capture will come once we get a full report in the fall,‘‘ said the premier. “Industry and also our people will be able to give us a better indications of what the costs are.‘‘

Initial cost estimates of creating a network of pipelines to move CO2 to southern oilfields for disposal were between $3 and $5 billion.

The government is being vague on who would pay those costs. But Thursday‘s announcement said up to $500 million will come from a federal eco-trust fund as well as millions of dollars in fines paid by Alberta firms that don‘t meet new emissions targets set last year.

Andrew Leach, who lectures on energy and the environment at the University of Alberta, said the plan lacks details on the impact on consumers.

“Nobody is going to be able to tell consumers whether this will increase gas prices, heating prices or electricity costs,‘‘ said Leach.

“But at the same time, if Albertans really want emissions reductions … I don‘t think this plan is going to deliver on that.‘‘

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