Alberta

Wildfires Rage Near Oilsands Operations, Raising Climate Questions

Forest fires covering 8,200 hectares of land in northern Alberta continue to burn out of control, spurred on by extremely dry conditions and unseasonably warm temperatures. The fires have forced the evacuation of hundreds of oilsands workers, the irony of which is not being lost on many  (just check out the reactions to this CBC article).

Climate change during the 21st century is expected to result in more frequent fires in many boreal forests, with severe environmental and economic consequences,” said a 2014 Natural Resources Canada post

About 10 per cent of Canada’s oil output — amounting to about 233,000 barrels a day — has been shut down since Monday, May 25, due to the fires. The Bank of America Merril Lynch warned in a research report that if wildfire disruptions persist, there could be a 0.1 to 0.3 per cent hit to second-quarter annualized growth.

An increase in the number of forest fires is likely to make one of the world’s most costly fossil fuel sources even more labour intensive and expensive.

Alberta’s First NDP Climate Victory May Have Nothing to Do With the Oilsands and Everything to Do With Coal

Back in March when the prospect of a majority NDP government in Alberta was still a twinkle in Rachel Notley’s eye, the to-be premier introduced a motion to phase out the province’s use of coal for electricity by 2030.

The evidence is clear that it is time to phase out coal powered electricity in the province in Alberta. Coal is one of the single largest pollutants in Alberta. It costs our health care millions of dollars every year and is a massive source of greenhouse gas emissions,” she said, urging then premier Jim Prentice and the Progressive Conservative party to “do the right thing.”

So now that Notley has taken the reins, will she follow through with her own ambitious plan?

Alberta Election Was a Referendum on Entitlement

It was the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae of entitlement.

On Monday, the day before the Alberta election, the province’s four largest newspapers — the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Sun, Calgary Herald and Calgary Sun — endorsed the Progressive Conservatives.

Now, newspapers endorsing parties is nothing new, but every major newspaper in Alberta being owned by one company is new. (Postmedia acquired the Calgary Sun and Edmonton Sun this March when the Competition Bureau signed off on the purchase.)

What else appears to be new is that the Edmonton Journal (which did not endorse in 2012) was asked to endorse not by local management, but by head office in Toronto, according to editor-in-chief Margo Goodhand.

Asked by Canadaland who chose to endorse the PCs, Goodhand responded: “The owners of the Journal made that call.”

Alberta's Carbon Levy: A Primer

Carbon Pricing Alberta. Image oilsands emissions by Kris Krug

It may come as a surprise to some that Alberta pioneered carbon pricing — not just in Canada, but for all of North America.

That’s right: the province with the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions in Canada was the first place on the continent to put “polluter pays” legislation into place almost exactly eight years ago.

Even back in 2007, Alberta was getting pressure over its environmental management, particularly of the oilsands. This may have been in response to that,” Matt Horne, associate B.C. director at the Pembina Institute, told DeSmog Canada.

Has Stephen Harper Helped or Hindered The Oil Industry?

At an estimated 2,700 litres, the bunker fuel spill in English Bay was relatively small — yet the stakes of that spill couldn’t be much higher.

With Enbridge and Kinder Morgan both hoping to build oil pipelines to B.C., which would significantly increase oil tanker traffic in the province’s inside coastal waters, a dramatically mishandled marine oil spill raises all sorts of questions — questions the federal government does not appear well-positioned to answer, despite its aggressive push for West Coast oil exports.

Obviously, from the oil industry’s perspective, you couldn’t have picked a worse place to have an oil spill,” Jim Stanford, economist at Unifor and founder of the Progressive Economics Forum, told DeSmog Canada.

While the federal government insisted its response was “world-class,” a former commander of the shuttered Kits Coast Guard station blamed the six-hour delay in even deploying a boom to contain the oil on the closure of that station in 2013 — a move that is reported to have saved the federal government at estimated $700,000 a year.

The English Bay spill, beyond being a systemic failure, has been a total PR disaster.

Alberta's Access to Information Problems Absent from Campaign Trail

This article originally appeared on Sean Holman's Unknowable Country.

Alberta’s freedom of information law is weak and underused. Yet, in an election where one of the most important issues is government accountability, there has been surprisingly little discussion about reforming that law — despite a proposed policy change that could further threaten the public’s right to know.

Alberta has historically been a stranger to freedom of information legislation, which allows access to internal government documents. That access is important because the public can then find out things the officials they elect and the institutions they pay for don’t want them to find out.

What’s Stopping Canada from Putting a Price on Carbon?

For the first time in several years, carbon pricing in Canada is back on the national radar.

Recently a group of more than 60 Canadian experts published a report, Acting on Climate Change, that outlined Canada's path to a low-carbon future. Their first recommendation? Put a price on carbon. The idea seems to be gaining serious traction with Canadians, the majority of which support carbon pricing according to a recent Angus Reid poll. 

In the lead up to this month’s Premiers’ Climate Summit in Quebec City, Ontario’s premier Kathleen Wynne announced her province would join Quebec’s cap-and-trade agreement with California — putting major stock in a carbon-pricing solution to provincial emissions.

The conservative Manning Centre conference was praised for holding an “adult conversation” about carbon pricing in March just after a collaboration between oilsands majors and green groups working together for a carbon tax hit the press.

Most Canadians Support Carbon Pricing, See Climate as Election Issue: New Poll

A new poll released today by Angus Reid finds the majority of Canadians support carbon pricing programs and more than half the population would like to see a national climate policy instituted at the federal level.

Although Canadians say they’re ready for climate action, there’s a lot less certainty surrounding climate leadership at the federal level, according to poll results.

There also appears to be some question about the actual impact of a carbon price but, despite the uncertainty, 75 per cent of Canadians support the idea of a national cap and trade program, and 56 per cent support the idea of a national carbon tax.

Currently Canada has a smattering of province-led carbon price initiatives — B.C.’s celebrated carbon tax being perhaps the most notable — although no national program to reduce emissions exists.

How Useful is the Norway Vs. Alberta Comparison?

Think of Norway and your mind likely conjures up a Narnia-like folklore: vikings, salmon, fjords, Svalbard reindeer.

But there’s another element — albeit slightly less fabled — that’s been added to the list recently: the Government Pension Fund Global. It’s also known as the “most successful sovereign wealth fund in the world,” according to a February 2015 report from the MacDonald-Laurier Institute.

It might not be popular enough to inspire a cable television show, but it’s prominent nonetheless.

There’s almost this myth about Norway,” acknowledges Andrew Leach, energy policy professor at University of Alberta, referring to Norway’s sovereign wealth fund.

Over 25,000 March in Quebec Demanding Climate Leadership in Canada

An estimated 25,000 took to the streets of Quebec City Saturday to protest the federal government’s lack of leadership on climate change and unfaltering support for increased production in the Alberta oilsands.

Our message is simple — yes to climate equals no to the tar sands,” Christian Simard, executive direct of Nature Quebec, said. Nature Quebec along with Greenpeace, Equiterre and the David Suzuki Foundation and other eastern Canadian environmental groups organized the demonstration — already being called the largest climate protest in Canada's history.

Demonstrators filled the streets of Quebec City’s historic quarter demanding the nation's premiers be climate leaders and reject proposed pipeline projects like TransCanada’s Energy East and Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain.

We don’t want to see the premiers under the cover of a national energy strategy agreeing to help Alberta expand the tar sands. A national energy strategy needs also to be a climate strategy,” Adam Scott, climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence Canada, told DeSmog Canada.

Pages

Subscribe to Alberta