STOP: Stop Tar Sands Operations Permanently

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Posts Tagged ‘peter lougheed’

Reining in oil sands

Posted by mhudema on February 28, 2008

Election Day in Alberta is six sleeps away and the fight has been mostly quiet, not even generating front-page news every day in the province, which pretty much means investors outside Alberta aren’t paying attention at all.

But they should. For years, Alberta has allowed energy development to proceed at a breakneck pace, basically as fast as possible. This was accepted by the citizenry at first, given the boom-bust history of this place and the general sentiment of not messing with a good thing. But with a lack of government planning, that good thing has turned bad: overcrowded hospitals, a shortage of housing, the highest inflation rate in the country. And Albertans know it all stems from the unbelievable building boom in the oil sands, so many billions of dollars being poured in each year, bringing high-paying jobs to some but distorting life for many.

The pace of development, never questioned by the Conservative government, is now a serious front-page issue. Savvy investors should take note. Yes, the topic is still simmering, rather than exploding, but for investors pegging X barrels a day in their spreadsheets, set to start producing in 20XX by ABC Oil Sands Corp., the pace of regional development around Fort McMurray is now a business risk.

That’s why some big oil companies are actually calling for a slowdown, asking the government to restrict the sale of new exploration leases in three fringe areas. The slowdown is an obvious smokescreen, which my colleague Derek DeCloet explains in greater length in Tuesday’s Report on Business. The oil companies are trying to head off something worse, so they offer three non-prospective areas for “protection” for a couple years while continuing to mine and develop everything else with abandon.

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Why Big Oil discovered its love of trees

Posted by mhudema on February 26, 2008

Headshot of Derek DeCloet

ddecloet@globeandmail.com

Everybody loves a no-lose proposition. Some people make a career out of searching for them: the investor who pays $10 for stock in a company with $11 per share of cash in the bank; the acquisitive CEO who buys a struggling competitor, strips out the best asset and sells the rest at a profit. No-lose deals are hard to find, but the shrewd exploit them – and never let it be said that the big oil companies aren’t shrewd.

Big Oil has a big public relations headache. It’s called climate change and, as far as the public is concerned, the major oil sands producers have already been charged and convicted for their role in it. About six in 10 Albertans say that the breakneck expansion of new oil sands mines is harming the planet, according to a recent poll by the Strategic Counsel; an equal number think the province’s economy has been developing too quickly. Remember: This is what the home team says. You can imagine what the Mueslix-eating yuppies in Toronto think.

Oil executives are not dumb. They can see this. They can also see that B.C. just introduced a carbon tax and dread the thought of the feds doing the same. So what better way of greening their image than to call for a halt to new oil sands plays in Athabasca?

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Prime Minister Harper should take a tar-sands tip from Premier Campbell

Posted by mhudema on February 26, 2008

Susan Riley
The Ottawa Citizen
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is becoming increasingly isolated on the critical issue of climate change, splashing around in a toxic backwater with charisma-challenged Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach. By following the lead of B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell instead, he could ride the issue to his much-coveted majority.

That doesn’t mean embracing a carbon tax, as Campbell did last week, although any such move by Harper would leave his Liberal rivals sputtering in impotent rage, which must make the prospect tempting.

What he could do, instead, is make his long-awaited limits on industrial, greenhouse- gas emissions much tougher than expected. This seems unlikely: Tory policy so far has been to save the “hard” caps on pollution until after every last drop of dirty, energy-intensive crude (and profit) has been squeezed from the Alberta tar sands.

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Alta. chiefs call for moratorium on new oilsands development

Posted by mhudema on February 26, 2008

THE CANADIAN PRESS
CALGARY – Aboriginal leaders in Alberta issued a call Monday for a moratorium on new oilsands development.
Chiefs from Treaties 6, 7 and 8 met last week and unanimously agreed that the Alberta government shouldn’t let any new oilsands projects go ahead until First Nations have approved watershed and resource development plans.
Chief Allan Adam of the Fort Chipewyan First Nation, which is located in the oilsands region of northern Alberta, said thresholds have to be put in place that will protect the ecosystem and human health.
“It seems like the Alberta government doesn’t want to listen to our concerns in the community,” Adam said.

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Unanimous passing of No New Oil Sands Approvals resolution at the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs Meeting.

Posted by mhudema on February 25, 2008

Unanimous passing of No New Oil Sands Approvals resolution at the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs Meeting.
 
Calgary  – From Wednesday to Friday of last week, Treaty Chiefs representing the Treaties 6,7 and 8 nations of Alberta met and passed a resolution, unanimously, to support the calls for no new oil sands approvals until Treaty First Nations have approved a comprehensive watershed management plan and resource development plan for the region.
 
“It is time for the Alberta Government to feel the pressure that our communities have been feeling for so long, the tide has turned in our favour,” said Chief Allan Adam of the Fort Chipewyan First Nation, “Thresholds have to be put in place that will protect ecosystem and human health along with the well being of our land.”
 
The Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan Dene First Nation and member of the Keepers of the Athabasca brought forward the resolution moved by Chief Janvier of the Cold Lake First Nation and seconded by Chief Laboucan of the Driftpile First Nation. After a few minor additions to the resolution it passed, on Friday, unanimously. 
 
“The cumulative impacts of oil sands development has all but destroyed the traditional livelihood of First Nations in northern Athabasca watershed.  The law is clear that First Nations must be consulted whenever the province contemplates action that may negatively affect Aboriginal and treaty rights,” explains Keepers of the Athabasca member Vivienne Beisel (B.A., LL.B., LL.M), ” The province has continued to issue approvals for new developments without obtaining their consent or consulting with First Nations in a meaningful and substantial way.  This is in direct breach of Treaty 8 First Nations’ treaty-protected Aboriginal rights to livelihood, and thus a violation of s.35(1) of the Constitution and Articles 26 and 27 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples’, and international agreement which Canada, along with three other nations, has refused to sign.”

Keepers of the Athabasca is a new non profit organization working to unite the peoples of the Athabasca River and Lake Watershed to secure and protect water and watershed lands for ecological, social, cultural and community health and well-being.  

“We came to the Treaty Chiefs of Alberta meeting last week to request an inquiry into the lack of consultation by all levels of government and our peoples regarding the impacts of oil sands development.,” states Chief Albert Mercredi of the Fond du Lac First Nation, located on the eastern shores of Lake Athabasca, “Pollution from the developments do not stop at the political borders between Alberta and neighbouring provinces.  The Federal Government and the Governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan have a legal duty to consult and accommodate around the uncertainties associated with development and their impacts on our right to livelihood.”
 
Gaining the support of the Treaty Chiefs is an important step for the Keepers of the Athabasca, as there are 15 directly affected First Nations reserve-based communities as well as numerous other indigenous communities. 
 
“In passing a resolution for no new oil sands approvals, the chief’s of Alberta have shown great leadership,” says Peter Cyprien, co-chair of Keepers of the Athabasca, who was present at the passing of the resolution, “it is our hope now, as citizens of Fort Chipewyan, that the Government of Alberta and Canada will show the same leadership,”
 
The Keepers of the Athabasca are committed to completing a community-based watershed management plan based on the interests, rights and needs of the residents living throughout the basin.  They have planned to visit communities along the Athabasca River this summer and with the goal of completing a report on the state of the Athabasca River and Lake Basin.
 
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Greenwasher of the decade….

Posted by mhudema on February 25, 2008

And the greenwasher of the decade is …

… no, it’s not Toyota (but don’t get me started). And no, it’s not Wal-Mart (I’ll be doing a piece on them later). No, it’s not GM, though they are trying hard, really hard. No, the winner, which has all the others over the proverbial barrel, is British Petroleum.

bp-subvertpreview.jpg

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Tory leader panned over pipeline

Posted by mhudema on February 25, 2008

Jason Fekete and Gordon Jaremko; With files from Heath McCoy, Calgary Herald, and Archie McLean, Legislature Bureau.
Calgary Herald; Edmonton Journal
A Greenpeace activist protests the oilsands at a campaign stop by Tory Leader Ed Stelmach in Hinton on Saturday. Stelmach came under fire from critics who say he's failing to protect Alberta's resource industry, following approval of a pipeline to ship bitumen to refineries in the United States for processing.
CREDIT: Jenelle Schneider, Calgary Herald
A Greenpeace activist protests the oilsands at a campaign stop by Tory Leader Ed Stelmach in Hinton on Saturday. Stelmach came under fire from critics who say he’s failing to protect Alberta’s resource industry, following approval of a pipeline to ship bitumen to refineries in the United States for processing.
CREDIT: Chris Schwarz, Edmonton Journal
Liberal Leader Kevin Taft, centre, campaigning in Wainwright on Saturday, said the Tories are “letting Albertans’ wealth go south of the border.”

HINTON – Conservative Leader Ed Stelmach was criticized Saturday for failing to stem the flow of bitumen to the United States after regulatory approval was given to a pipeline project that will ship the product south.

The National Energy Board’s approval late Friday of the $3-billion Alberta Clipper pipeline will initially see up to 450,000 barrels of bitumen per day shipped to Wisconsin when it becomes operational in mid-2010, with the potential to reach 800,000 barrels per day.

The pipeline is one of several projects announced or approved in the past year that will see bitumen upgraded or refined in the United States, sending potentially billions of investment dollars and thousands of value-added jobs down the pipeline.

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What’s the matter with Canada?

Posted by mhudema on February 22, 2008

Ah, those crazy Canadians, always banging on about the benefits of socialized medicine, ice hockey, and even – God help them – poutine. It’s true, of course, that our northern neighbors have plenty to be proud of; still, when it comes to the environment, even the most fervently patriotic Canuck will admit that the country has some pretty serious problems.

Back in the ‘90s, Canada was a model of environmental good behavior, playing a key role in the battle to protect the ozone layer, pushing for international measures to protect endangered species, and readily signing up for the Kyoto treaty. But it’s been downhill since then: A decade of apathetic Liberal leadership has been followed, since 2006, by a Conservative government that has proved abjectly unwilling to take action.

The result is that Canada is falling well short of its Kyoto goals; in 2005, one study found that Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions were 20 percent higher than they had been in 1990, and that on a range of environmental measures – from sewage handling to water consumption – the country ranked a miserable 28th out of 30 industrialized nations, beating only Belgium and the US.

The biggest problem, though, is in Alberta, where high energy prices have helped spark a boom in tar-sand processing. The sludgy sands contain up to 173 billion barrels of oil – but processing the gunk produces triple the greenhouse emissions of regular oil, and has created toxic-waste ponds visible from space. The industry has also been linked to acid rainfall in neighboring provinces and increased cancer and autoimmune-deficiency rates in local communities; worryingly, one study found that moose meat from the region contained 453 times the safe level of arsenic.

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Stelmach hounded by protestors

Posted by mhudema on February 21, 2008

CHR sounds $115M alarm
Board takes Tories to task over funding
Jason Fekete, with files from Michelle Lang and Tony
Calgary Herald
Premier Ed Stelmach speaks to Greenpeace protester Anna Gerrard at Planet Organic Market in northwest Calgary on Tuesday.
CREDIT: Jenelle Schneider/Calgary Herald
Premier Ed Stelmach speaks to Greenpeace protester Anna Gerrard at Planet Organic Market in northwest Calgary on Tuesday.

Conservative Leader Ed Stelmach weathered another political storm on Tuesday, dogged by protesters, tight poll results in Calgary and warnings the health system is nearing its breaking point.

Stelmach’s economic diversification announcement in Calgary was overshadowed by Calgary Health Region officials demanding $115 million from the province to pay off its deficit and ease a health staffing and bed crisis.

“We won’t be able to move forward without their support,” health region CEO Jack Davis said Tuesday at a board meeting. “There is really not, at this stage, an acceptable alternative.

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Cutting emissions won’t bankrupt us

Posted by mhudema on February 21, 2008

Current global greenhouse-gas emissions must be cut by 80 per cent by 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change. For Alberta, which accounts for 30 per cent of Canadian emissions, to meet its share of the target would cost about $3.1 billion a year
Paul Boothe
Freelance
Without strong leadership from the Alberta government to combat climate change, northern and mountain forests will be replaced by scrub bush and grasslands. Significant measures to prevent this can be taken without unduly disrupting the province's economy.
CREDIT: Shaughn Butts, The Journal, File
Without strong leadership from the Alberta government to combat climate change, northern and mountain forests will be replaced by scrub bush and grasslands. Significant measures to prevent this can be taken without unduly disrupting the province’s economy.

Recently, Premier Ed Stelmach told reporters that slowing oilsands development to actually cut emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) would have “dire consequences” for the Alberta and Canadian economies.

Stelmach proposed that we adopt so-called “intensity-based targets” — really just a polite way of saying that we intend to continue increasing the absolute level of emissions. He went on to say that he was unsure whether Alberta would ever actually reduce the GHG emissions that are causing climate change.

The scientific research is now clear. We need to reduce emissions from current levels by about 80 per cent if we are to avoid the risk of climatic catastrophe. For Alberta, a province that has some of the highest per capita emissions in the world, this is going to be a big job and Stelmach is right to worry about the effect it will have on Alberta’s economy.

STELMACH GETTING BAD ADVICE

Of course, political leaders have to rely on advisers to counsel them on the climate-change issue. Unfortunately, whoever is advising Stelmach that real reductions in emissions will wreck Alberta’s economy is dead wrong. A simple calculation will show why.

The most recent estimates of the economic effects of combating climate change were released in November by Dr. Nicholas Stern.

Stern, formerly the chief economist at the World Bank, assembled a group of economists, climatologists and other scientists to produce a comprehensive estimate of the economic effects of climate change. The best estimate of the global cost of reducing emissions sufficiently to avoid the risk of catastrophic climate change is about one per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) annually in 2050. This compares with costs of up to 20 per cent of annual global GDP to deal with the effects of climate change if we allow emissions to continue to grow.

What does this all mean for Canada and Alberta? To put these figures into perspective, global GDP in 2005 was about $44 trillion US. One per cent of global GDP is therefore $440 billion.

Canada’s share of global emissions is about two per cent. So Canada’s share of the global cost of combating climate change is about two per cent of $440 billion, or $8.8 billion per year.

ALBERTA ACCOUNTS FOR 30%

Alberta is home to about 10 per cent of Canada’s population, but we produce about 30 per cent of Canadian emissions because of the oilsands and our reliance on coal-generated electricity.

Thus, Alberta’s share of the cost of reducing Canadian emissions is 30 per cent of $8.8 billion, or about $2.64 billion US per year or $3.1 billion Cdn.

Can Alberta’s economy afford to devote $3.1 billion a year to cut GHG emissions and combat climate change?

The simple answer is: yes, easily. Alberta’s 2005 GDP was about $220 billion and is projected to have grown by an additional $25 billion, to $245 billion in 2006. The $3.1-billion cost represents about 41/2 days’ worth of Alberta GDP in 2006, or about one-eighth of our growth last year.

Surely this is a small price to pay to avoid the massive costs that we will face if we do nothing.

We have calculated the costs of taking action on GHG emissions, but what about the consequences of inaction?

Stern tells us the cost may approach 20 per cent of annual global GDP, but different parts of the globe will face different effects. In October 2006, Norm Henderson of the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC) presented research results at a public forum in Edmonton that looked at some of the consequences of climate change here in Alberta.

Under a business-as-usual scenario, by 2020 Edmonton’s average temperature is projected to rise by about two degrees — equal to the current average temperature of Calgary. Given past emissions, this rise is probably inevitable. Without global action on GHG emissions, temperatures will continue to increase. By 2050, our average temperature is projected to rise by an additional 1.5 degrees — equal to the current average temperature of Lethbridge.

DROUGHTS WILL GET WORSE

Throughout Alberta, our climate will become progressively drier and droughts will become more frequent and severe. Water levels in rivers and lakes will fall significantly.

These changes in temperature and moisture will bring about major changes in the landscape. Northern and mountain forests will be replaced by scrub bush and grasslands, while central and southern Alberta will support only short-grass prairie or desert-like landscapes.

The calculations presented here are estimates and are only meant to help us understand the problem. Although they are based on our best estimate of global costs, the costs for Alberta could be higher or lower.

But even if they were higher — say double our estimate — we could still easily afford to drastically reduce emissions without a big disruption of our economy.

Combating climate change is urgent. Stern says if we don’t turn the corner on emissions in the next 10 years, it may be too late to avoid the catastrophic effects and costs of climate change in 2050 and beyond.

Almost all the key elements for action are in place. We already have the technology to move forward and more will develop as we turn our best minds to the problem. We know we can afford to do it.

Polls tell us that the environment is the top-of-mind issue for Albertans and all Canadians. All we need to add is political leadership.

Premier Stelmach, over to you.

Paul Boothe is professor and fellow at the Institute for Public Economics, University of Alberta

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