Alberta

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:22Carol Linnitt
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Activists Cast New Light On Iconic Alberta Oil Derrick After Surrounding it with Solar Panels, Banners

Clean energy advocates transformed one of Western Canada’s oldest oil derricks Monday by draping it with pro-solar banners and surrounding it with solar panels that powered sun-themed music.

It was a really nice day here,” Greenpeace Canada energy and climate campaigner Melina Laboucan-Massimo told DeSmog Canada, “and so sunny.”

Despite the November chill, Laboucan-Massimo said the day was perfect for capturing solar energy. 

“Even though it’s chilly there’s still sun,” she said. “You actually increase efficiency for solar panels when it’s cold, because they don’t overheat. So when it’s cold it’s still fine to produce energy, as long as you have the sun.”

Laboucan-Massimo and the other campaigners are working to demystify solar energy in Alberta, a province with massive untapped solar potential.

I think a part of what Greenpeace and other organizations and First Nations have been really successful at is pointing out the problem, but I think we need to start pointing to solutions and really articulating what those are and how to implement them,” she said.

Mon, 2014-11-03 15:41Chris Rose
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“Citizen Interventions” Have Cost Canada’s Tar Sands Industry $17B, New Report Shows

Oil companies and fossil fuel investors seeking further developments in the Alberta tar sands have been dealt another setback with the publication of a report showing producers lost $17.1 billion USD between 2010-2013 due to successful public protest campaigns.

Fossil fuel companies lost $30.9 billion overall during the same period partly due to the changing North American oil market but largely because of a fierce grassroots movement against tar sands development, said the report — Material Risks: How Public Accountability Is Slowing Tar Sands Development.

A significant segment of opposition is from First Nations in Canada who are raising sovereignty claims and other environmental challenges, added the report, which was produced by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Oil Change International (OCI).

Tar sands producers face a new kind of risk from growing public opposition,” Tom Sanzillo, director of finance at IEEFA, and one of the lead authors on the report, said. “This opposition has achieved a permanent presence as public sentiment evolves and as the influence of organizations opposed to tar sands production continues to grow.”

Tue, 2014-10-14 13:35Steve Horn
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Tar Sands Trade: Kuwait Buys Stake in Alberta As It Opens Own Heavy Oil Spigot

Chevron made waves in the business world when it announced its October 6 sale of 30-percent of its holdings in the Alberta-based Duvernay Shale basin to Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (KUFPEC) for $1.5 billion.

It marked the first North American purchase for the Kuwaiti state-owned oil company and yields KUFPEC 330,000 acres of Duvernay shale gas. Company CEO and the country's Crown Prince, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, called it an “anchor project” that could spawn Kuwait's expansion into North America at-large. 

Kuwait's investment in the Duvernay, at face-value buying into Canada's hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) revolution, was actually also an all-in bet on Alberta's tar sands. As explained in an October 7 article in Platts, the Duvernay serves as a key feedstock for condensate, a petroleum product made from gas used to dilute tar sands, allowing the product to move through pipelines. 

And while Kuwait — the small Gulf state sandwiched between Iraq and Saudi Arabia — has made a wager on Alberta's shale and tar sands, Big Oil may also soon make a big bet on Kuwait's homegrown tar sands resources.

“Kuwait has invited Britain’s BP, France’s Total, Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil and Chevron, to bid for a so-called enhanced technical service agreement for the northern Ratqa heavy oilfield,” explained an October 2 article in Reuters. “It is the first time KOC will develop such a big heavy oil reservoir and the plan is to produce 60,000 bpd from Ratqa, which lies close to the Iraqi border [in northern Kuwait]…and then ramp it up to 120,000 bpd by 2025.”

In the past, Kuwait has said it hopes to learn how to extract tar sands from Alberta's petroleum engineers.

Wed, 2014-09-24 08:37Carol Linnitt
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Fighting for the Foothills: Albertans Speak Up to Protect Headwaters of North Saskatchewan

Aurum Lodge, Homewaters Campaign, Headwaters North Saskatchewan

Alan Ernst and his wife Madeline were world travellers for most of their adult lives. So when they decided to settle down, they gravitated back to one of the most beautiful places they’d ever seen: the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta.

There, the sharp slopes of one of the world’s most dramatic mountain ranges make a sprawling dive to the foothills, which settle into the continent’s vast prairies.

When the Ernsts saw the eastern slopes for the first time, they knew it was going to be their new home.

We just wanted to do something different,” Alan said. “We had office jobs before and we decided we wanted to live in a more pleasant surrounding than the suburbs of a major city. We wanted to live in the mountains.”

The Ernsts found one of the last undeveloped natural areas in the eastern slopes, in between Jasper and Banff, and built the first eco-tourism lodge in Alberta. The Aurum Lodge was constructed in 1999 and opened to the public in the year 2000.  To this day it is the only dedicated, low-impact eco-tourism lodge in the province.

I sometimes joke and say we are the antidote to Banff,” Alan laughed.

Sun, 2014-08-17 13:50Carol Linnitt
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The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 3: The Spotlight Turns on Fort Chip Doctor

Fort Chipewyan Cemetery. Fort Chip, located downstream of the oilsands, has higher than average cancer rates.

This is the third installment in a three-part series on Dr. John O'Connor, the family physician to first identify higher-than-average cancer rates and rare forms of cancer in communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands.

Part 3: The Spotlight Turns On Fort Chip Doctor

After the story of Fort Chip’s health problems broke, Health Canada sent physicians out to the small, northern community.

Dr. John O’Connor said one of the Health Canada doctors went into the local nursing station and, in front of a reporter, filled a mug with Fort Chip water and drank from it, saying, ‘See, there’s nothing wrong with it.’

That was such a kick in the face for everyone,” O’Connor said. “Just a complete dismissal of their concerns.”

Health Canada eventually requested the charts of the patients who had died. Six weeks later they announced the findings of a report that concluded cancer rates were no higher in Fort Chip than expected.

For O’Connor, however, the numbers “just didn’t match up.”

Mon, 2014-08-04 12:05Carol Linnitt
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The Oilsands Cancer Story Part 2: Deformed Fish, Dying Muskrats Cause Doctor To Sound Alarm

Robert Grandjambe Jr. Shows DeSmog Sick Fish from Lake Athabasca

This is the second installment of a three-part series on Dr. John O'Connor, the family physician to first identify higher-than-average cancer rates and rare forms of cancer in communities downstream of the Alberta oilsands.

Part 2: Deformed Fish, Dying Muskrats Cause Doctor To Sound Alarm

When Dr. John O’Connor arrived in Fort Chipewyan in 2000, it took him a little while to get familiar with the population.

The town was a bit larger than his previous post of Fort MacKay, with a population of around 1,000 at that time. Locals had few options when it came to medical care. Their town was 300 kilometres north of Fort McMurray and accessible only by plane in the summer or by ice road for a few of the colder months.

O’Connor recognized it was a close-knit community and yet hard to get a foothold in.

You had to be trusted to gain their respect, I guess,” he said.

Most doctors hadn’t established a continuous practice up there, O’Connor said, so the community hadn’t received continuous care by the same medical expert for many years.

What they were looking for was one pair of eyes, one pair of hands. Consistency,” he recounts.

That was one of the reasons why I was approached to provide service. So that made it easier to get to know people and for them to get to know me.”

O’Connor immediately began poring over patient files, piecing together what a series of seasonal doctors had left behind. Patients there felt there was no continuity between what rotating doctors would say about their symptoms.

Fri, 2014-07-04 12:15Carol Linnitt
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New Poll: Canadians Overestimate Oilsands Contribution to Economy, Yet Still Want Clean Shift

Alex MacLean, oilsands, keystone xl, tar sands

A new poll released Friday shows the majority of Canadians assume development in the Alberta oilsands has a much larger impact on nation’s economy than it actually does.

According to the poll, conducted by Environics and commissioned by Environmental Defence, 41 per cent of Canadians believe the importance of the oilsands to the economy is six to 24 times higher than it actually is. And a full 57 per cent of Canadians overestimate the value of oilsands to the country’s economy.

The oilsands, according to Statistics Canada, account for only 2 per cent of the national GDP.

Despite the misconception, however, 66 per cent of Canadians still support a transition to a cleaner economy that would limit dependence on the oilsands.

In addition, 76 per cent of Canadians believe that, in light of climate change, the country should shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy.

Wed, 2014-07-02 10:42Carol Linnitt
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PHOTOS: Famed Photographer Alex MacLean’s New Photos of Canada’s Oilsands are Shocking

Alex MacLean, oilsands, keystone xl, tar sands

Alex MacLean is one of America’s most famed and iconic aerial photographers. His perspective on human structures, from bodies sunbathing at the beach to complex, overlapping highway systems, always seems to hint at a larger symbolic meaning hidden in the mundane. By photographing from above, MacLean shows the sequences and patterns of human activity, including the scope of our impact on natural systems. His work reminds us of the law of proximity: the things closest to us are often the hardest to see.

Recently MacLean traveled to the Alberta oilsands in western Canada. There, working with journalist Dan Grossman, MacLean used his unique eye to capture some new and astounding images of one of the world’s largest industrial projects. Their work, funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, will form part of a larger, forthcoming report for GlobalPost.

DeSmog Canada caught up with MacLean to ask him about his experience photographing one of Canada’s most politicized resources and the source of the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipelines.

Thu, 2014-06-26 12:19Stephen Leahy
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Experts Call for Moratorium on New Oilsands Development Until Climate, Environmental Impacts Assessed

A moratorium on any new oilsands expansion is imperative given Canada’s failure to properly assess the total environmental and climate impacts Canadian and U.S. experts say in the prestigious science journal Nature.

Even with a moratorium it will be very difficult for Canada to meet its international promise to reduce CO2 emissions that are overheating the planet according to government documents as previously reported by DeSmog.

Continuing to approve pipelines and new projects guarantees Canada will not meet the Harper government’s Copenhagen emissions reduction target,” said Wendy Palen, an ecologist at Simon Fraser University. 

These are the plain facts Canadians need to be aware of,” Palen, a co-author of the Nature commentary, told DeSmog.

Canadians also have no idea of the overall ‘big picture’ of the impacts of oilsands production and transport because each project is assessed in isolation.

Fri, 2014-05-23 10:20Carol Linnitt
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Albertans are Ready for Stronger Emissions Regulations. Will They Get Them?

Alberta oilsands development kris krug

A new Ipsos Reid poll released today shows 76 per cent of Albertans are in favour of stronger greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions regulations for industrial facilities.

The federal government has faced scrutiny for failing to release GHG performance regulations for the oil and gas sector for several years. Alberta’s existing rules, the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation (SGER), are set to expire on September 1, 2014.

Facing the release of a new climate plan and potential new carbon tax arrangement, Alberta premier Dave Hancock said his government is in talks with industry.

There are some producers – there are lots of producers – who would say: ‘Don’t do anything, this is already a cost to us, and we can’t afford to pay more because we don’t have any room to innovate, so it’s just a cost to us.’ The more progressive operators would say: ‘If incented appropriately, we can look harder,’” Hancock said.

How do you actually create a process where big emitters can find a way to meet standards? It’s not a tax, it’s an alternative way of meeting the outcome,” he said.

A Progressive Conservative Party leadership vote is scheduled for September 6, leading some to speculate new emissions regulations will be left off the table until a later date.

Waiting for consensus means waiting indefinitely,” Simon Dyer, the Pembina Institute’s regional director for Alberta and the North, said. “Albertans clearly want their government to make a decision and move forward with stronger greenhouse gas rules for industry.”

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