STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Tar Sands Hit Quebec

Posted by mhudema on September 10, 2008

Tar-sands pipeline will undo Quebec’s work on environment
Voters should press governments to force polluters to reduce emissions

Quebec was one of the first provinces to show leadership on tackling global warming. It is now pursuing more efficient vehicles, has a carbon tax at the fuel wholesale level, and is joining other jurisdictions in a cap-and-trade system to control greenhouse-gas emissions.

It’s a shame that this progress is being undone by the tar sands.

The tar sands are already holding Quebec and the rest of Canada hostage on global warming, and now for the first time Quebecers will be asked to aid and abet the hostage-takers by routing tar sands oil into and through Quebec.

It’s called the Trailbreaker project – a proposal by the pipeline giant Enbridge to reverse the flow of an oil pipeline running from Sarnia to Montreal to give Quebec refineries access to tar sands oil, and to ship oil to Portland, Me. for refining elsewhere.

Look no farther than the tar sands to explain why Ottawa’s global-warming policies are so scandalously weak and why our government has attempted to undermine international climate negotiations. Ottawa’s so-called “intensity”system of reducing emissions per unit of production while letting overall emissions explode with production increases was designed specifically to let tar-sands production expand.

We are all held hostage by the tar sands on global warming, because this “intensity” system is then applied across Canada, letting big polluters everywhere off the hook. Luckily, some provinces like Quebec are stepping into the breach by passing their own tougher emissions laws, but the fact remains that such gains are being wiped out by growing tar-sands emissions.

We take one step forward and two steps back.

With an “intensity” system, nobody knows how fast tar-sands emissions will grow because there is no real cap on emissions. By 2012, just one company – Suncor – proposes to grow its emissions by as much as the entire Quebec government hopes to reduce emissions. And there are dozens of other companies, each wanting to make billions of dollars of tar sands investments, and each banking on being able to pollute heavily.

Ottawa has facilitated Alberta’s dirty-oil agenda not only by giving the tar sands a pass on carbon emissions, but also by failing to clamp down on its other responsibilities in the tar sands, including fisheries, trans-boundary air pollution and endangered-species protections. Indeed, everyone expects Ottawa to rubber-stamp the next big tar- sands proposal, by French oil giant Total, that will go to an environmental assessment panel later this year.

Our federal tax dollars are also now hard at work sending Canadian bureaucrats to lobby against emerging restrictions on the more carbon-heavy tar-sands oil in the U.S. Ottawa is countering low-carbon fuel policies by the U.S. federal government, California, and by U.S. mayors. These are public servants doing the bidding of the tar-sands industry because their elected masters refuse to force oil companies to clean up their mess.

Until now, the tar-sands debate has touched Quebec mainly at the policy level. But the National Energy Board will soon entertain a proposal by Enbridge to bring tar-sands oil to and through Quebec. The proposed Trailbreaker project would bring 230,000 barrels a day of tar- sands oil from Sarnia to Montreal by reversing the flow of oil that currently goes the other way. Enbridge’s U.S. partners want a portion of that oil, which will be sent on to Portland, Me. The rest could remain in Montreal, leaving the door open for Montreal refineries to process tar-sands oil.

Quebecers do not have long to decide on whether they want to be party to facilitating the destruction of our climate and the environment by the tar-sands industry through refining and routing the oil through this province.

Enbridge will soon file its application, and if history is instructive, there will be a quick six-month process when the NEB goes through the motions of determining whether the project is in the public interest. The NEB nearly always approves applications, but the ultimate decision rests with the federal cabinet.

During this federal election season, the question of where Quebecers want to be on the issue of global warming and dirty oil from the tar sands is critical. Allowing Trailbreaker to proceed would reverse much of Quebec’s progress in reducing greenhouse gasses. Quebecers should demand that all candidates in this election take a stand on dirty tar-sands oil, rejecting expansion plans like Trailbreaker until polluters are forced to reduce their emissions instead of continuing to hold us all hostage.

Matt Price is a project manager and Aaron Freeman the policy director with Environmental Defence.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008

One Response to “Tar Sands Hit Quebec”

  1. W Robichaud said

    Lesson from Australia. the cost of inaction will cost less then action.

    First, though, let’s look at Labor’s determination to repeat that chorus, as captured by Hansard: “All are familiar with the fact that the economic cost of inaction on climate change is far greater than the economic cost of action on climate change” (Rudd, June 26).

    “This government does understand that the cost of inaction on climate change is far greater than the cost of action” (Swan, June 26).

    It is the case that the economic costs of inaction are greater than the costs of action” (Swan, June 24).

    “Those of us on this side of the chamber understand that the economic costs of inaction are far greater than the costs of responsible action now” (Wong, June 24).

    “On the question of emissions trading, we on this side of the House know a simple fact and it is this: the economic cost of inaction on climate change is far greater than the economic cost of action on climate change” (Rudd, June 23).

    “Australians recognise that tackling climate change will not be painless, but I think the Australian people have a very clear understanding that, as I said, the cost of inaction would be greater than the cost of responsible action now” (Wong, March 18).

    “The fact of the matter is that it is the costs of inaction that outweigh the costs of action” (Garrett, March 17).

    “And overall our view has long been, put in simple terms, that the costs of inaction on climate change are much greater than the costs of action” (Rudd, February 21).

    “We on this side of the House recognise the costs of climate change and that the costs of inaction are far greater than the costs of action”(Swan, February 14).

    But a comparison of tables taken from Professor Garnaut’s July report and the paper he released on Friday shows that this is not so.

    In his July 4 draft, he stated that the cost of no mitigation – that is, if no action were taken on so-called greenhouse gases – would be minus 0.7 per cent of GDP in 2020.

    In his new paper he presents three scenarios for carbon-emission reductions by 2020.
    At an “as-soon-as-possible” level of 450 ppm (parts per million) he says the cost would be minus 1.6 per cent of GDP.

    At the “first best” conditional offer of 550 ppm the cost would be minus 1.1 per cent of GDP.
    If a second-best “Copenhagen compromise” was followed, the cost would be minus 1.3 per cent of GDP.

    It is highly revealing that in presenting his first specific trajectories and estimated costs of emissions reduction, Professor Garnaut has found that the cost of reducing emissions is greater than the cost of doing nothing – although that is not how he sold his paper.

    It is Rudd who is the denialist on the economics of climate change, if Professor Garnaut is to be believed.

    The costs of action outweigh the costs of inaction.

    Rudd and Swan have already warned Australians they face increasing unemployment.

    To that must be added the costs of Labor’s as-yet unspecific plans to deal with its over-hyped catastrophic view of climate change.

    Professor Garnaut’s report indicates Labor’s mantra on climate change to be false.

    Why does the ALP want to sacrifice the economy for a lie?
    Let see what the Quebec Voters would say if they knew what they are doing is a negative result.

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