tar sands

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

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. 

'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.

Facing the Simple but Hard Truths of the Alberta Oilsands

This is a guest post by Tzeporah Berman, Adjunct Professor York University Faculty of Environmental Studies and longtime environmental advocate. A shorter version of this piece originally appeared on the Toronto Star.

The debate over energy, oilsands and pipelines in Canada is at best dysfunctional and at worst a twisted game that is making public relations professionals and consultants on all sides enormous amounts of money.

Documents obtained through Freedom of Information routinely show our own government hiding scientific reports or meeting secretly to craft PR strategies with the companies they are supposed to regulate, while millions of dollars are spent on ads trying to convince Canadians that the oilsands are like peanut butter and that without them our hospitals will close. *(See change notice at end of article.)

On the other side we march, we rally and we point fingers creating a narrative of exclusion and moral high-ground while acting as though a low carbon transition is going to be a walk in the park.

 Enough.

Premiers Finalize National Energy Strategy That Relies Heavily on Fossil Fuels, Pipelines

Canada’s provincial leaders finalized the Canadian Energy Strategy Friday with a document many onlookers are criticizing as too reliant on traditional carbon-based sources of energy.

The strategy, intended to guide the integrated development of Canada’s energy resources across the provinces, places no restrictions on the release of greenhouse gas emissions and takes a proactive approach to building oil and gas pipelines.

According to officials who spoke with the Globe and Mail the strategy was meant to strike a balance between the energy ambitions of each province with growing concerns over global climate change.

We have a path to pursue two critical national priorities,” a senior Alberta official said, ”how are we going to keep building our energy industry and how are we going to address climate change?”

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. 

The Canada-China FIPA Restricts Canada's Climate Options

This is a guest post by Gus Van Harten, professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School and author of Sold Down the Yangtze: Canada's Lopsided Investment Deal with China. This post originally appeared on the Globe and Mail.

For years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government told Canadians that it could not act on climate change until China joined in. Yet, in 2014, the government quietly finalized a 31-year investment treaty that, in essence, gives Chinese oil companies an advance bailout against a range of steps that Canada may need to take on climate change.

Take, for example, the call by more than 100 scientists for limits on oilsands expansion until a serious Canadian plan on climate change is in place. What is a serious plan? The scientists said it would need “to rapidly reduce carbon pollution, safeguard biodiversity, protect human health and respect treaty rights.”

Now, consider Canada’s new Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) with China. 

Pipeline Regulator Orders High-Pressure Safety Test of Enbridge’s Line 9B

The National Energy Board (NEB) ordered high-pressure testing of a segment of Enbridge’s Line 9 pipeline before the line, a west-to-east oil pipeline, can begin operating according to a press release issued Thursday.

Before Line 9B becomes operational, hydrostatic testing results of three segments of the pipeline must be provided to and approved by the NEB,” the National Energy Board — Canada’s federal pipeline regulator — said.

Enbridge requested permission to reverse the flow of a 639-kilometre portion of the Line 9B pipeline between North Westover, Ontario and Montreal. Line 9B is part of the larger Line 9, which Enbridge hopes will carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands to Eastern Canada.

Community groups, particularly in Quebec, have long requested the high-pressure, hydrostatic test. A hydrotest or hydrostatic test is a commonly used method of determining if a pipeline can operate safely at its expected operating pressure. Recently a number of groups demanded the NEB explain why it would not order a hydrotest of Line 9.

So You've Been Publicly Shamed Into Climate Action: On Harper’s Promise to End Fossil Fuels

Stephen Harper’s participation in the G7 leader’s declaration to decarbonize the global economy by 2100 was a massive headline generator in Canada, and not surprisingly so.

For a Prime Minister who has openly mocked the idea of carbon pricing, mercilessly driven an expensive (both financially and politically) energy superpower agenda and earned a reputation for pulling out of or stalling climate negotiations, the very idea of an ‘end’ to fossil fuels would seem … counterintuitive.

Although the shock of seeing Harper even touch something called ‘decarbonization’ is still reverberating, experts were quick to point out a long-term goal that shoves off concrete climate policy is likely just what Canada was hoping for.

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