tar sands

Four Lessons Canada Needs to Learn from the Oil Crash

It’s easy to assume the plummet in energy prices will be a boon for the fight against climate change as emissions-intensive oilsands projects are cancelled or put on hold, but experts say that will only be the case if we learn some lessons from the current downturn.

Here are the three key factors that will determine whether Canada cuts emissions during this downturn or simply moves from “heroin to methadone,” as one expert puts it.

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 350.org.

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?

New Water Use Restrictions Highlight Influence of Climate on Oilsands, Need for Stronger Rules

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is restricting water withdrawals for oil and gas operators in several river basins across the province due to extremely dry summer conditions and low water levels.

Ontario Energy Board Report Highlights Risks of Energy East Pipeline in New Report

A new report released Thursday by the Ontario Energy Board finds the risks of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, destined to carry Alberta oilsands crude to eastern refineries and export facilities, outweigh the project’s benefits.

The board’s vice-president, Peter Fraser, said the report, prepared at the request of Ontario Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli, finds “an imbalance between the economic and environmental risks of the project and the expect benefits for Ontarians.”

The Energy East pipeline, projected to transport 1.1 million barrels of oil per day, is the continent’s largest proposed pipeline, outsizing the company’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which has become a political boondoggle in the U.S. in recent years due to growing concerns over oil spills, private property and climate.

The Ontario Energy Board traveled to communities along the pipeline route to gauge public sentiment about the project and, according to the report, found fears over potential water pollution running high throughout the province.

Stephen Harper Forgets Stephen Harper’s Pledge to End Fossil Fuels

If the recent frufrah over NDP candidate Linda McQuaig’s comment that “a lot of the oilsands oil may have to stay in the ground” is indicative of anything, it’s that Canada’s election cycle is in full spin. May all reasonableness and sensible dialogue and accountability be damned.

Perhaps that’s the blunt and singular reason behind the Conservative Party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s outrage at McQuaig’s entirely non-contentious assertion that, because of our international commitments to curtail global climate change, Canada won’t exploit the entirety of its oil reserves.

Harper accused the NDP of having a “not-so hidden agenda,” saying the party “is consistently against the development of our resources and our economy.”

That’s why they…would wreck this economy if they ever got in, and why they must never get into power in this country.”

But Harper’s reaction seems conspicuously overwrought given the Prime Minister’s own pledge, along with the other G7 nations, to phase out the use of fossil fuels by 2100.

At the time of signing — a whole two months ago — Harper said the plan would “require a transformation in our energy sectors.”

Agriculture, not Energy, Will Fuel Canada’s Economy in Coming Decades: Experts

The agriculture sector will rise in importance in coming decades as the world warms and moves away from fossil fuels.

That’s the most recent prediction from Jeff Rubin, former chief economist for CIBC World Markets, whose latest book, The Carbon Bubble, forecasts a not-so-distant future in which climate change will open up the possibility for cultivating crops, historically grown in places like Kansas and Iowa, much further north. At the same time, Rubin argues, global dependence on fossil fuels will drop, freeing up capital to migrate to crops like corn and soy.

There could be some tremendous opportunity for Western Canada, in the same provinces that are likely to be victims of the carbon bubble,” Rubin told DeSmog Canada. “Food is the only real sector in the commodity field that has been resilient, that’s kept its pricing power. You could argue that just that alone is sufficient.”

Agriculture has always played a major role in Canada’s economy. Rod MacRae, associate professor of environmental studies at York University and national food policy expert, notes the food sector trails directly behind energy and automobile manufacturing, employing one in every eight Canadians.

Evidence Released at TransCanada’s Keystone XL Permit Renewal Hearing Sheds Light On Serious Pipeline Risks

Keystone XL protest by Doug Grandt

Just because TransCanada continually states that the Keystone XL pipeline will be the safest pipeline ever built, doesn’t mean it is true.

The company’s pipeline construction record is facing intense scrutiny in America’s heartland, where many see no justifiable rationale to risk their water and agricultural lands for a tar sands export pipeline.

New documents submitted as evidence in the Keystone XL permitting process in South Dakota — including one published here on DeSmog for the first time publicly — paint a troubling picture of the company’s shoddy construction mishaps. This document, produced by TransCanada and signed by two company executives, details the results of its investigation into the “root cause” of the corrosion problems discovered on the Keystone pipeline.

It’s Time for an Adult Conversation About Canada’s Oilsands


In late May, Canada’s “energy leaders” met in Toronto for the Energy Council of Canada's Canadian Energy Summit.

The theme of the summit? “Telling the Energy Story.”

The aim is to raise awareness and improve understanding of the many ways that the energy sector influences the economy, regional development, innovation and aboriginal partnerships across Canada,” a press release proclaimed. “We believe that improved understanding will lead to better-informed energy dialogue and energy decisions.”

Sounds nice and all, but there’s a catch: the various players in Canada’s energy debate are telling very different stories.

Cody Battershill

Cody Battershill Background and InformationCody Battershill

Canada Action

Canada Action - Background and Information 

canada action

Canada Action Profile

Canada Action is a Canadian federally-registered non-profit organization launched in 2012 that advances pro-oil and gas industry sentiments through public engagement and social media. 


Subscribe to tar sands