oilsands

Strange Bedfellows: Alberta Brings Former Adversaries Together for New Oilsands Advisory Group

After decades of insufficient or insincere attempts to address emissions from Canada’s fastest growing source of climate pollution, a new government-sponsored oilsands advisory group may help resolve political gridlock surrounding the nation’s most contentious natural resource by bringing together industry, environmental and indigenous stakeholders.

The Oil Sands Advisory Group (OSAG) is tasked with helping the province implement a new emissions cap for the oilsands that limits greenhouse gas output to 100 megatonnes per year and will also advise on reducing the overall environmental impacts of production, according to a government statement released Wednesday.

According to Tzeporah Berman, the group's co-chair and a well-known environmentalist, the composition of the advisory group represents a notable shift in the political landscape.

Let's be clear: under previous governments environmental leaders had very little access and were outright ridiculed by many ministers and departments,” Berman told DeSmog Canada. “First Nations leaders were simply shut out. Climate change was denied.”

Tweet: ‘A lot has changed in a year in #Alberta and it is opening up new conversations.’ http://bit.ly/29UdURT @Tzeporah #ableg #bcpoli #cdnpoliA lot has changed in a year in Alberta and it is opening up new conversations.”

Why the 'We're All Responsible' Line is a Climate Change Cop-Out

To no one’s surprise, there’s been an awfully wide range of responses to what caused the catastrophic Fort McMurray wildfires.

Some blame climate change. Others peg it on the El Niño and forest management techniques. Still more suggest that now’s simply not the time to be having such a conversation.

But the one thing that appears to unite all sides is “our” alleged complicity in it as North American consumers.

For instance, the National Post’s Jen Gerson argued in a May 5 piece: “We are all responsible for climate change. Fort McMurray simply produces some of the products we all consume.”

On the same day, Elizabeth Kolbert — author of The Sixth Extinction and Field Notes from a Catastrophe — wrote in the New Yorker: “We are all consumers of oil, not to mention coal and natural gas, which means that we’ve all contributed to the latest inferno. We need to own up to our responsibility and then we need to do something about it.”

Such rhetoric is technically correct. There’s no question that if everyone on earth lived an average North American lifestyle, we’d need four planets to sustain the population.

Will Alberta’s Last-Ditch Effort to Save the Caribou Be Enough?

Woodland Caribou

When the Alberta government released its draft plan to save the province’s dwindling caribou populations from local extinction earlier this month, it was heralded as a major step forward — but big questions remain.

The biggest one: after years of failing to intervene in the caribou crisis, will the new plan be enough to bring them back from the brink of extinction?

It was great news for northwest populations where big protected areas are needed and there’s still time there to ensure caribou recovery,” conservation specialist Carolyn Campbell from the Alberta Wilderness Association told DeSmog Canada.

But when it comes to the Little Smoky range, it’s still not enough, Campbell said.

The problem is the underlying causes of predation are still allowed to worsen in the next five years by restarting logging and by implying energy infrastructure can still go ahead,” she said. “We can’t support the plan continuing to destroy habitat.”

Low Oil Prices, Climate Commitments Make Pipelines Economic Losers: Expert

This article originally appeared on The Tyee.

Politicians who advocate for more bitumen pipelines and LNG exports are making a “have your cake and eat it too argument” because there is no way Canada can meet its climate change commitments under such a scenario says David Hughes, one of the nation's top energy experts.

Tweet: 1 #LNG terminal + modest #oilsands growth = oil&gas emissions go from 26% of Canada's GHG in 2014 to 45% by 2030 http://bit.ly/1U6yr3TEven building just one LNG terminal coupled with modest oilsands growth would increase oil and gas emissions from 26 per cent of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions in 2014 to 45 per cent by 2030.

Under such a scenario, as forecasted by the National Energy Board, the rest of the economy would be forced to contract its emissions by 47 per cent in order to meet promised greenhouse gas reduction targets set by the Paris talks.

“This level of reduction is near-impossible without severe economic consequences,” concluded Hughes in a new report for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

Fort McMurray and the New Era of Infernos

By Ed Struzik for The Tyee.

A sudden shift in the wind at a critical time of day was all it took to send a wildfire out of control through Fort McMurray, forcing more than 80,000 people out of their homes in what has become the biggest natural disaster in Canadian history.

Earlier this week, Darby Allen, the regional fire chief for the area, minced no words when he was asked what might happen now that more than 1,600 homes have been destroyed.

''This is a really dirty fire,'' he said. ''There are certainly areas within the city which have not been burned, but this fire will look for them and it will take them.''

The media line now is that fire experts saw this coming five years ago when one of the Flattop Complex fires tore through the Alberta town of Slave Lake in 2011, forcing everyone to leave on a moment's notice. A report released shortly after predicted that something similar could happen again, and its authors made 21 recommendations to prepare for the possibility.

Orange Crushed: Have the Alberta NDP Lost Their Way?

Exactly a year has passed since the centre-left New Democratic Party (NDP) rolled to a stunning win in Alberta.

Yet it’s still deeply surreal to think about that victory on May 5, 2015, which increased the party’s seat count from four to 54 in the 87-seat legislature and elevated former labour lawyer Rachel Notley to the position of premier.

After all, the Progressive Conservatives (PCs) — a union-bashing and petroleum-entrenched behemoth of a party — had governed the province without challenge since 1971.

For much of the ‘90s and 2000s, the province was led by Ralph Klein, an austerity-obsessed alcoholic who cracked jokes about human-caused climate change, berated homeless people for being unemployed and blew up a hospital to save a bit of money.

Why the Oil to Tidewater Argument for Pipelines is Bunk

This article originally appeared on the Council of Canadians' website.

If you follow mainstream media you’ve probably heard the argument ‘we need to get our oil to tidewater’ ad nauseam.

Be it Natural Resource Minister CarrPrime Minister TrudeauPremier Notley or pipeline and tar sands industries, it’s a drum beat that’s building in intensity. As the argument goes, if we could only get a pipeline built and oil shipped, Canada’s crumbling oil industry could recover from its current woes.

Here’s the thing… it’s totally wrong.

I’m not the only one calling this bluff.

Pipelines or Indigenous Rights? Premier Notley Can't Have Both

The speech Alberta Premier Rachel Notley gave to over 1,000 federal NDP delegates on Saturday in Edmonton’s Shaw Convention Centre was a stunning thing to behold.

In a mere half-hour, she received around a dozen standing ovations, cracked a pretty solid joke about Donald Trump and delivered a unabashed appeal for the approval and construction of pipelines “that are built by Canadians, using Canadian steel.”

But even more stunning was the fact that she completely failed to mention the rights or interests of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.

B.C. Orders Enbridge to Seek New Environment Certificate for Northern Gateway

Enbridge will have to secure an environmental assessment certificate from the B.C. government if it wants to proceed with its Northern Gateway oil pipeline according to an order issued by B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office on Friday.
 
Early on in the Northern Gateway process, the B.C. government signed an “equivalency agreement” with the federal government, giving Ottawa the responsibility for the environmental assessment.
 
However, a Supreme Court of B.C. decision this January found that the B.C. government acted improperly and that the province must still make its own decision about issuing an environmental assessment certificate.

In a letter to Enbridge posted last week, B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office states that it will accept the National Energy Board’s (NEB) joint review panel report as the assessment report, but it will carry out its own consultation with Aboriginal groups — if and when Enbridge indicates it’s ready to proceed (it’s clear Enbridge must make a move here).

Does National Unity Have to be a Casualty of Canada's Energy Debate?

Workers are laying down their tools across the Canadian oilpatch as the price slump draws on. Alberta had a net loss of nearly 20,000 jobs in 2015, with skilled workers being laid off and little hope in sight. The reaction, then, to talks of climate action has been often hostile, with people fearing more economic damage from carbon pricing or other new environmental regulation.
 
But for some there is an upside to the glut of out-of-work skilled people: it’s an opportunity to shift gears and put them to work in a growing green sector. Former oilsands tradesman Lliam Hildebrand started a non-profit group, Iron & Earth, to get oilpatch workers back to work on the next generation of green energy projects. (Investment in clean energy now doubles that of fossil fuels world-wide.)
 
“We have the skills to build the renewable energy infrastructure required for Canada to meet their climate target,” Hildebrand told CBC News. “That will open up a huge amount of opportunity for us if we can start diversifying our energy grid and it would ensure that we are less vulnerable to price fluctuations.”
 
The new organization brings a fresh perspective to a longstanding perceived tension between climate action and its spinoff benefits and the fear of damaging existing emissions-intensive industries.

In a panel discussion last week Environment Minister Catherine McKenna assured Albertans that the Liberal government would not risk damaging “national unity” by acting quickly on climate change. For some, her comment begs the question: when exactly will the Liberals be ready to start acting on their emissions reductions targets?

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