Main menu:

History of RPE Thought

Posts by Tag

RSS New from the CCPA

  • A critical look at BC’s new tax breaks and subsidies for LNG May 7, 2019
    The BC government has offered much more to the LNG industry than the previous government. Read the report by senior economist Marc Lee.  
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • The 2019 living wage for Metro Vancouver April 30, 2019
    The 2019 living wage for Metro Vancouver is $19.50/hour. This is the amount needed for a family of four with each of two parents working full-time at this hourly rate to pay for necessities, support the healthy development of their children, escape severe financial stress and participate in the social, civic and cultural lives of […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Time to regulate gas prices in BC and stop industry gouging April 29, 2019
    Drivers in Metro Vancouver are reeling from record high gas prices, and many commentators are blaming taxes. But it’s not taxes causing pain at the pump — it’s industry gouging. Our latest research shows that gas prices have gone up by 55 cents per litre since 2016 — and the vast majority of that increase […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • CCPA welcomes Randy Robinson as new Ontario Director March 27, 2019
    The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is pleased to announce the appointment of Randy Robinson as the new Director of our Ontario Office.  Randy’s areas of expertise include public sector finance, the gendered rise of precarious work, neoliberalism, and labour rights. He has extensive experience in communications and research, and has been engaged in Ontario’s […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • 2019 Federal Budget Analysis February 27, 2019
    Watch this space for response and analysis of the federal budget from CCPA staff and our Alternative Federal Budget partners. More information will be added as it is available. Commentary and Analysis  Aim high, spend low: Federal budget 2019 by David MacDonald (CCPA) Budget 2019 fiddles while climate crisis looms by Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood (CCPA) Budget hints at priorities for upcoming […]
    Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Progressive Bloggers

Meta

Recent Blog Posts

Posts by Author

Recent Blog Comments

The Progressive Economics Forum

Memo to Obama: Canada’s carbon problem IS the tar sands

Canada’s Harper-ment is getting increasingly desperate. The quest to double production out of the Alberta tar sands needs new pipelines (or rail). In recent months, we have seen new proposals for pipelines to the west and to the east, amid further delays of the KeystoneXL pipeline to the south. The success of US activists (environmentalists, but also first nations, farmers and ranchers) in delaying a decision on KeystoneXL is significant: this project was viewed as a slam dunk a few years ago; now there is a very good likelihood of it being denied. To sway the decision, the PM has stated to President Obama that Canada is willing to commit to “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector.” No official White House response has been made, although the two had a talk about this on Friday at the G-20 meetings.

President Obama, don’t believe the PM. Canada has a long history of committing to greenhouse gas reduction targets, then reneging. This is just what it seems to be: a ploy to stoke a yes on Keystone that will get more of that bitumen moving out of the ground in Alberta and into the atmosphere. But even if Canada was to make a sincere commitment on climate action, there is little doubt that KeystoneXL fails Obama’s “carbon test,” as stated in June:

Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest.  And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.

Somehow this particular choice of words has been read as a President still sitting on the fence. And I’m sure the oil industry is investing big bucks to develop the creative accounting needed to pass this test. But the fact of the matter is that the Alberta tar sands is the most GHG-intensive industrial area in Canada, and the country’s greatest barrier to a low or zero carbon future. The proved reserves of the tar sands, if put into the atmosphere, represent 73 billion tonnes of CO2, an amount equivalent to 2.5 years of global CO2 emissions. Adding in probable reserves nearly doubles this total.

These vast reserves are fundamentally in conflict with any reasonable share for Canada of a global carbon budget (the amount of fossil fuel the world can “safely” combust). Canada’s share of a global carbon budget would be no more than 20 billion tonnes, and likely much less than that. But even with the larger number, 80-90% of our total fossil fuel reserves, and three-quarters of tar sands reserves, would need to stay in the ground. Because tar sands oil is among the most costly and GHG-intensive sources to get to market, any global regime on constraining carbon would have the tar sands firmly in its sight.

For all the industry talk of new technological advances like carbon capture and storage, these potential emissions from the tar sands are already safely below the ground. So let’s keep them there. One important loophole in all of this is that most of the emissions associated with the tar sands will be counted in the GHG inventories of other nations, not Canada; that is, they get counted where they are combusted. Pipelines that load tankers headed to Asia and the resulting emissions would presumably not count in any math PM Harper would agree to.

Fossil fuel industries in total (including coal and natural gas production) employ only 0.9% of Canadians, while undermining our opportunity to move towards a sustainable future. Instead of billions invested in continued expansion of the tar sands, let’s start taxing carbon nationally, increasing royalties for carbon extractors, and eliminating public subsidies to the industry. That would provide the much-needed capital for a multi-decade plan aimed at rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and painting it green, in the process creating tens of thousands of jobs across Canada.

Enjoy and share:

Comments

Comment from Murray Reiss
Time: September 11, 2013, 7:17 pm

I’m pretty sure, though, that for any mainstream political leader with a hope of forming government (I’m talking to you, too, Mr Mulcair) the thought of leaving the tar sands in the ground is utterly inconceivable. Absolutely unthinkable. Completely unimaginable. How do we get past that?

Write a comment





Related articles