STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Ed Stelmach – Canada’s Fossil Fool

Posted by mhudema on March 31, 2008

Fresh from his provincial election landslide, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach has snagged a more international — and dubious — title as runner-up Fossil Fool of the Year, beating out several of North America’s top energy and automaker chief executives.

Stelmach’s unwavering support for massive oilsands development in northern Alberta earned more than 25 per cent of about 6,000 votes cast worldwide in a vote organized by the San Francisco-based Energy Action Coalition.

The coalition, which represents 46 environmental groups across North America, plan to crown him “Canadian Fossil Fool of the Year” on Tuesday, April 1, to mark their newly minted Fossil Fool’s Day — targetting the energy industry across Canada and around the world.

Stelmach was nominated for his refusal to slow down the rapid pace of harvesting and refining the province’s massive oilsands deposits — a plan the coalition says has “the potential to lay waste to an area the size of the state of Florida.”

“I think what the voting really illustrates is the impacts of tarsands don’t stop at the Alberta border,” Energy Action Coalition spokeswoman Brianna Cayo Cotter said Monday from California.

“And young people all over the world are rising up and saying that the tarsands development that’s happening and that the premier is heavily influencing and supporting is exactly what we don’t need at this point in our climate history.”

Stelmach’s office shot back Monday afternoon, insisting “the premier is nobody’s fool.”

Spokesman Tom Olsen said despite its negative image, the oilsands only account for about one-tenth of one per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“The premier recognizes that when you take tough decisions, you open yourself up to criticism, but he remains committed to what he has all along — which is developing in a responsible way the natural resources in Alberta.”

Stelmach was edged out for the top international title by Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis, whose bank attracted the ire of environmentalists for funding various open-pit coal mines and power projects.

Other nominees included:

— General Motors chief executive Rick Wagoner, “for keeping America addicted to oil by mass-producing vehicles more inefficient than the Model T”

— ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson “for neglecting to use his company’s record-breaking profits to develop cleaner, more secure energy alternatives”

— Dynergy Corp. chief executive Bruce Williamson “for proposing to build more coal-fired power plants than any other power company in the United States.”

Stelmach’s runner-up prize was welcomed by Canadian environmental groups happy for the outside recognition.

“The premier’s unwillingness to address the immense environmental and social concerns surrounding the Alberta tarsands is really starting to garner international attention,” said Greenpeace spokesman Mike Hudema from Edmonton.

“And it’s not surprising that more international voices, more international groups are starting to become concerned about what’s going on here in Alberta.”

With upwards of $100 billion committed to major developments in the province’s northeast corner, expectations are that today’s 1.2 million barrels of daily production could more than triple by 2020.

There was some concern in Alberta a few months ago that new legislation in the U.S. would prohibit the purchase of so-called “dirty” fuel derived from the oilsands.

But earlier this month, U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman wrote in a letter that the legislation is not intended to bar federal agencies from buying fuel that contains “incidental amounts” of fuel produced from the oilsands.

And Alberta Energy contends that there are no immediate barriers for Alberta producers because most oilsands fuels are blended with fuels from other conventional sources.

During a trip to Washington in January, Stelmach told U.S. business leaders not to buy into the “myth” that oilsands production comes at too high an environmental cost, adding that attempts to curtail it “don’t make sense.”

But he faced disbelieving protesters at every turn on his first trade visit to the United States, including about 35 environmentalists who passed out flyers to guests arriving at a Canadian Embassy reception.

Calgary Correspondent

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