Half of Albertans Think Oilsands are Large Enough, Majority Want Stronger Climate Policies, According to New Poll

A poll of more than 1,800 Albertans conducted by EKOS Research Associates shows more than half the population wants the province to take stronger climate action by introducing policies that limit carbon emissions.

The poll, commissioned by the Pembina Institute, also found 50 per cent of Albertans are in support of a broad price on carbon that would apply to both consumers and producers. Support for a price on carbon jumped by another 10 to 20 per cent if the money generated from the tax were to go towards carbon reducing technologies or projects.

Results also show a large portion of Albertans (66 per cent) want to diversify the province’s economy rather than up the competitiveness of the oil and gas industry (29 per cent). Forty-eight per cent of Albertans who took the poll said they feel the oilsands are large enough or should be downsized.

It’s encouraging to see such strong support among Albertans for action on climate change,” Simon Dyer, Alberta regional director for the Pembina Institute, said.

This poll shows that the public is open to many of the solutions being considered, such as an economy-wide price on carbon pollution, or phasing out coal power and replacing it with renewables.”

Celebrities and the Oilsands: Help or Hindrance?

By now, it’s an almost entirely predictable routine: a celebrity takes a tour of the Alberta oilsands for a day or two and quickly harnesses apocalyptic rhetoric in press conferences to detail the experience. Chagrined industry spokespeople lash out. News coverage dissipates after a few days. Rinse and repeat. Thus far, Neve Campbell, Leonardo DiCaprio, Darren Aronofsky, Desmond Tutu and James Cameron have partaken in the ritual.

Now, at long last, we can add Bill Nye to the already stacked roster, thanks to his recent two-day stint in the area for a climate change documentary he’s working on.

Producing all this oil that’s producing all this carbon dioxide, that’s not good from a global stand point,” the Science Guy said in an interview with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, which was tweeted by the likes of Bill McKibben and

Nye’s statement is very true. Alberta’s oilsands represent fossil fuel development on an unprecedented and highly visible scale. Canada won’t meet its 2020 emissions reduction targets as a result of the growing sector (by that year, the oilsands are expected to churn more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually than all the passenger transport in the country).

But do celebrity visits help push the dialogue out of gridlock?

Alarming Levels of Air Pollution Identified Across Alberta, Fossil Fuels the Culprit

alberta air quality, pollution, fossil fuels

The results of a new national air quality survey released Wednesday shows levels of fine particulate pollution and ozone exposure in Red Deer, Alta., exceed safe standards. And four of the province's six air zones, including the Upper and Lower Athabasca and North and South Saskatchewan, all home to major oil and gas projects, are fast approaching those limits, according to the province.

Shannon Phillips, Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks, said the results of the air quality assessment are “concerning.”

We can’t keep going down the same path and expecting a different result. Our government has a responsibility to protect the health of Albertans by ensuring air pollution from all sources is addressed. Without action, Alberta is on track to have the worst air quality in Canada in the coming years.”

The province announced it will immediately work to implement plans developed under the Canadian Air Zone Management Framework and is considering tougher regulations for the oil and gas industry as well as for vehicles. Increased air monitoring initiatives are also being considered.

Elizabeth May’s Call for an 'Energy Efficiency Army' Makes All the Sense for a Stagnating Alberta

Frankly, we need an army of carpenters, electricians and contractors going out to plug leaky buildings,” federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May said during the August 6 leaders debate. “Thirty per cent of carbon pollution comes from the energy we waste and the money we waste heating the outdoors in the winter and cooling it in the summer.”

The suggestion’s an awfully good one. Especially in Alberta.

For one, the thousands of contractors out of work due to the oil price slump could serve as potential soldiers in this so-called army.

There’s also enormous untapped energy-saving potential in Alberta: in fact, it’s the only province or state in North America that doesn’t sport a long-term energy efficiency program — that sure means something when 55 per cent of Calgary’s emissions can be attributed to electricity generation.

Alberta Electricity Provider TransAlta Found Guilty of Market Manipulation, Boosting Case for Decentralizing Generation

Earlier this week, TransAlta — the massive, publicly traded electricity generation company based in Calgary — was found culpable by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) of repeatedly manipulating prices in 2010 and 2011 by intentionally shutting down power plants during peak demand to boost costs for consumers.

The Market Surveillance Administrator estimates the actions — which boosted costs by between 10 and 60 per cent depending on occurrence — made the company $16 million.

TransAlta has denied all claims and floated the idea of taking the case to the Alberta Court of Appeals.

Such a situation once again raises questions about the appropriateness of a deregulated electricity market, a feature Alberta has uniquely sported since 2001.

'Grassroots’ Canada Action Carries Deep Ties to Conservative Party, Oil and Gas Industry

Our messages are not resonating,” Natural Resource Minister Greg Rickford told a room full of oil and gas executives in a luxury Rocky Mountain resort last fall. “You are fighting an uphill battle for public confidence.”

Rickford, who attended the meeting at the request of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), encouraged the executives to do more to spread the oil industry’s message to the Canadian public.

Much of the debate over energy is characterized by myth or emotion,” he said, suggesting scientists and campaigners critical of development in the Alberta oilsands were “crowding out the real facts.”

Rickford made no mention of Canada’s international climate commitments, but he did deride concerns about pollution from the oilsands — the country’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Rickford’s advice, released to Greenpeace via an Access to Information request, marked the beginning of a decisive shift in industry’s public relations campaigns.

Nexen’s Brand New, Double-Layered Pipeline Just Ruptured, Causing One of the Biggest Oil Spills Ever in Alberta

A pipeline at Nexen Energy’s Long Lake oilsands facility southeast of Fort McMurray, Alberta, spilled about five million liters (32,000 barrels or some 1.32 million gallons) of emulsion, a mixture of bitumen, sand and water, Wednesday afternoon — marking one of the largest spills in Alberta history.

According to reports, the spill covered as much as 16,000 square meters (almost 4 acres). The emulsion leaked from a “feeder” pipe that connects a wellhead to a processing plant.

At a press conference Thursday, Ron Bailey, Nexen vice president of Canadian operations, said the company “sincerely apologize[d] for the impact this has caused.” He confirmed the double-layered pipeline is a part of Nexen's new system and that the line's emergency detection system failed to alert officials to the breach, which was discovered during a visual inspection. 

Alberta Takes First Step to Clamp Down on Carbon Emissions

Oilsands emissions

It’s finally happening: after years of stalling by the Progressive Conservatives, Alberta’s new NDP government announced Thursday it will double the province’s meager carbon levy on large emitters by 2017.

Industry and environmentalists alike welcomed the decision, while also saying it doesn’t go far enough. 

Currently, any facility that emits more than 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per year must reduce its emissions by 12 per cent below typical performance or pay $15 per tonne for emissions over the baseline. By 2017, the new framework will require companies to lower emissions by 20 per cent below typical performance, with a $30-per-tonne levy for emissions above that target.

It’s not going to drive the meaningful reductions or give the market incentives that we need,” said Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute.

Did the Alberta NDP Overpromise in Pledge to Spend Money on Public Transit Instead of Carbon Capture?

A single mention in 25 pages — that’s how frequently “public transit” was referenced in the Alberta NDP’s recent election platform.

But the brief mention was couched in a massively ambitious plan to redirect huge subsidies from sketchy carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects to the province’s neglected public transportation system. But that plan might be more complex than the party realized due to contracts with companies nearly ready to put major CCS facilities online.

On an online forum, the NDP made this campaign pledge: “We will end the Progressive Conservative’s costly and ineffective Carbon Capture and Storage experiment and reinvest the 2015/16 component of this project into construction of public transit, which will help reduce families’ transportation costs and reduce greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.”

Transportation is hugely significant contributor to climate change. The sector expected to account for 24 per cent of Canada’s emissions by 2020 according to the most recent Environment Canada projections (second only to the oil and gas sector at 27 per cent). So the availability of public transportation, which means less individual vehicles on the road, can help municipalities deal with growing emissions.

Unfortunately, there are few details as to what the NDP’s plan actually entails.

Would an Oilsands Moratorium Be in Alberta’s Own Self-Interest? This Group of Over 100 Scientists Thinks So

A group of scientists from across North America are calling on the governments of Canada and Alberta to impose a moratorium on future development of the Alberta oilsands.

The recommendation is the result of a consensus document that surveys scientific literature related to the oilsands from across research fields. The clear outcome of the research — as it relates to climate, ecosystems, species protection and indigenous rights — is a need to end oilsands growth, the group states.

As scientists we recognize that no one can speak with authority to all aspects of this complex topic, which is why we came together to synthesize the science from our different fields,” Wendy Palen, professor of biological sciences at Simon Fraser University, said.

The group of scientists, which include 12 fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, 22 members of the U.S. National Academy of Science, five recipients of the Order of Canada and a Nobel Prize winner, released their consensus position on a website,, Wednesday. A ful list of the scientists supporting the moratorium can be found here.


Subscribe to Alberta