oilsands

New Public Database Charts Decades of Oilsands Advertising

Stop a random person on the street. Ask them for the first thing that pops into their head when they think of Alberta’s oilsands.

Unless they’re an industry analyst or an over-enthused real estate agent turned corporate shill, chances are that they’ll describe either buffalo roaming on a restored tailings pond or helicopter shots of open-pit mining. Individuals are more likely to describe a visual element of the resource as opposed to, say, the barrels per day of oil or annual megatonnes of greenhouse gasses the region produces.

Tweet: Pictures, videos & other media have powerful influence on discourse about the oilsands http://bit.ly/2c5ubQt #cdnpoli #ableg #oilandgasIt’s this notion — that pictures, videos and other media representations often have extremely powerful influence on discourse about the oilsands — that compelled Patrick McCurdy to launch the MediaToil project.

Alberta’s New Rules May be Insufficient for Dealing with Sprawling Oilsands Tailings Ponds

It’s been almost two months since the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) released a new management framework to deal with the province’s growing legacy of oilsands tailings ponds that hold a toxic mixture of waste water, bitumen, solvents and sand.

But we’re really no closer to knowing if Directive 085 — quietly made effective on July 14 — will provide the necessary financial pressures for companies to start dealing with the almost one trillion litres of tailings that cover some 220 square kilometres of the province’s northeast.

Tweet: “We really feel like this could be strike three for #Alberta dealing with tailings” http://bit.ly/2ci6XvP #ableg #oilsands #cdnpoliWe really feel like this could be strike three for Alberta dealing with tailings,” says Chris Severson-Baker, managing director of the Pembina Institute.

Why Trudeau Should Call Off the Reviews of Trans Mountain and Energy East

The National Energy Board is fundamentally broken.

That was a point repeatedly highlighted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the 2015 federal election — and one confirmed for many with recent revelations that former Quebec premier Jean Charest had privately met with senior NEB officials while on the payroll of TransCanada.

Trudeau and his federal cabinet have the chance to change that: in June, the government announced dual review panels to assess the mandates and operations of the NEB and the country’s oft-criticized post-2012 environmental assessment processes (it also announced five interim principles until those reviews are completed, including a requirement to assess upstream greenhouse gas emissions although it’s unclear how that information is being used).

Suncor Opens Conversation about ‘Stranded Assets’ in Alberta’s Oilsands

Suncor Energy CEO Steve Williams rocked the oil industry boat Thursday when he announced a plan to leave some of the company’s oilsands reserves unrecovered during a conference call with investors.

Williams said the company is working to develop a plan with Alberta to “strand” its least economical reserves, a proposal that appears to align with the call of environmentalists to leave the high-cost and high-carbon fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic global warming.

Tweet: Whoa: ‘We’re advocating in a modest way to work with govt so we can strand some of the oil in the oilsands’ http://bit.ly/2aO78OU #ablegWe are advocating in a modest way to work with government so that we can strand some of the oil in the oilsands,” Williams said, as reported by The Canadian Press.

Our regulation is written so that we take to a very high percentage the last piece of oil out. That tends to be the most expensive both economically and environmentally. What we would like to do is leave that last piece in (the ground),” he said.

I’m very optimistic we are making some breakthroughs with government to do that.”

The proposal is about more than leaving some oil deposits undeveloped, according to Simon Dyer, director of the Pembina Institute.

We’re talking about Alberta moving philosophically from maximizing production to optimizing value,” Dyer told DeSmog Canada.

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.

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