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Oilsands will be ‘clean enough’: Stelmach

Posted by mhudema on June 15, 2008

edmontonjournal.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Alberta Premier Stelmach predicted Thursday that the oilsands will be clean enough for any green-fuel standards that California, Washington or other U.S. governments impose.

As U.S. activists and even policymakers grow increasingly wary of the massive environmental footprint of the oilsands, the premier insisted Thursday that critics are seriously misinformed.

A day earlier, he expressed fear that California’s low-carbon fuel standard will “penalize” Alberta oil exports because oilsands production emits too much greenhouse gas. But today Stelmach said new technology such as carbon dioxide sequestration underground will help products from the oilsands become suitable for California and even new federal standards.

“I’m confident that by the time the regulations are put in place, we will meet or exceed the regulations that are put in place by the United States,” Stelmach said  at the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

About three dozen environmentalists had protested outside the embassy Wednesday against the oilsands and the vast amounts of water and land they gobble up, and their contribution to global warming, which will grow as oilsands production triples by 2016.

Alberta’s attempts to put green gloss on the oilsands activity hasn’t impressed the groups. As more Americans learn about the oilsands, the more they don’t want their country involved with Alberta’s vital industry, said Liz Barratt-Brown, senior attorney with the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council.

“The jig is up – we’re becoming low-carbon-minded as a country,” Barratt Brown said.
“There’s tremendous concern that oilsands are going to take U.S. in the wrong direction.”
About 12 other U.S. states are eyeing their rules own rules clean fuel, similar to California’s, she added.

The premier said one of the main tasks of former cabinet minister Gary Mar, Alberta’s new envoy to Washington, will be to make sure environmental groups have the facts on the oilsands.

Stelmach said that few U.S. or even Canadian legislators know about Alberta’s new law that fines large companies that don’t meet carbon emission targets. But environmentalists in Canada and the U.S. deride it, since it only limits emissions intensity and would allow more greenhouse gases out overall as production expands.

The province has heard conflicting messages from various U.S. players. Some want more Alberta oil to wean their country off the politically volatile Middle East, Venezuela and Africa. Others dislike the high environmental costs and want to promote cleaner sources of non-conventional resources.

“Even if we’re to shut it down completely and not export the 1.25 million barrels to the United States, where would the oil come from?” Stelmach asked.

The premier, like the energy industry, has hope in the potential of carbon-capture technology, which strips gas from smokestacks and pipes it to deep oilfields or coal seams where it can conceivably be stored safely. He said  Thursday that some of the carbon-emission fines collected this year will go to start building a pipeline for carbon-capture – the “backbone” of a larger system his government has estimated will cost $5 billion.

Stelmach will announce some expansion of the government’s fledgling program on carbon capture later this month, one of his aides said.

A new federal energy law, enacted last month, states that federal agencies shouldn’t fill their vehicles with fuel from non-conventional sources which, over their life cycle, emit more greenhouse gas than conventional crude. Stelmach said he discussed that law with both Democrat and Republican politicians, and neither were sure if it actually banned fuel from oilsands.

jmarkusoff@thejournal.canwest.com

© Edmonton Journal 2008
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