Keystone XL

Alberta Climate Announcement Puts End to Infinite Growth of Oilsands

Alberta Climate Change Announcment

The days of infinite growth in Alberta’s oilsands are over with the Alberta government’s blockbuster climate change announcement on Sunday, which attracted broad support from industry and civil society.

This is the day that we start to mobilize capital and resources to create green jobs, green energy, green infrastructure and a strong, environmentally responsible, sustainable and visionary Alberta energy industry with a great future,” Premier Rachel Notley said. “This is the day we stop denying there is an issue, and this is the day we do our part.”

Notley and Environment & Parks Minister Shannon Phillips released a 97-page climate change policy plan, which includes five key pillars.

Trudeau Said He is 'Disappointed' By Rejection of Keystone XL. But Is He Really?

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau has been Prime Minister for nearly 72 hours and for a large number of people, Canada is well into the 'Everything is Awesome' phase of his tenure.

But for some, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's honeymoon is already over. It ended around noon when he released a statement on Obama's rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, describing his administration as “disappointed.” To them it is a glaring “told-you-so” moment — one that exposes Trudeau once and for all as a corporate, right-of-centre wolf in progressive’s clothing. 

But what if it's not that moment? 

If anything, Canadians have seen that Trudeau is a savvy politician. During these early days in office he’s got a lot of politicking to do — and not just with Canadians worried about the climate.

In the same statement that Trudeau expressed his disappointment, he also pivoted to focusing on clean energy jobs.

The Government of Canada will work hand-in-hand with provinces, territories and like-minded countries to combat climate change, adapt to its impacts and create the clean jobs of tomorrow,” the statement read.

So before anyone gets themselves in a tizzy, let's take a look at Trudeau's position on pipelines more generally and explore the nuance of today's important announcement.

Is it the Beginning of the End for the Alberta Oilsands?

A new report from Oil Change International challenges industry’s common assumption that the continued production of oilsands crude is inevitable.

The report, Lockdown: The End of Growth in the Tar Sands, argues industry projections — to expand oilsands production from a current 2.1 million barrels per day to as much as 5.8 million barrels per day by 2035 — rely on high prices, public licence and a growing pipeline infrastructure, all of which are endangered in a carbon-constrained world.

As the report’s authors find, growing opposition to oil production — especially in the oilsands, which is among the most carbon intensive oil in the world — has significantly altered public perception of pipelines, a change amplified by the cross-continental battles against the Enbridge Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain, TransCanada Energy East and TransCanada Keystone XL pipelines.

According to the report’s authors, production growth in the oilsands hinges on the construction of these contentious pipelines because the existing pipeline system is currently at 89 per cent capacity.

Prime Minister Harper’s Inaction on Climate Killed the Keystone XL Oilsands Pipeline

Stephen Harper climate change

With U.S. President Barack Obama expected to deny a permit to the Keystone XL pipeline this fall, Canada’s oil industry is looking for someone to blame.

The National Post’s Claudia Cattaneo wrote last week that “many Canadians … would see Obama’s fatal stab as a betrayal by a close friend and ally” and that others “would see it as the product of failure by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to come up with a climate change plan.”

The latter is the more logical conclusion. Obama has made his decision-making criteria clear: he won’t approve the pipeline if it exacerbates the problem of carbon pollution.

Even the U.S. State Department’s very conservative analysis states the Keystone XL pipeline would “substantially increase oilsands expansion and related emissions.” The Environmental Protection Agency has agreed.

While Canada’s energy reviews take into account “upstream benefits” — such as jobs created in the oilsands sector as a result of pipelines — they don’t even consider the upstream environmental impacts created by the expansion of the oilsands.

For all the bluster and finger-pointing, there’s no covering up the fact that Canada’s record on climate change is one of broken promises.

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.

DeSmogCAST 10: California Fracking Waste, Keystone Climate Impacts and Energy East Pipeline

In this episode of DeSmogCAST our team discusses an ongoing investigation into hundreds of aquifers in California that may have been contaminated with fracking waste. 
We also discuss a letter submitted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the State Department which gives new weight to concerns the proposed $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline, destined to carry crude from the Alberta oilsands to export facilities along the Gulf of Mexico, will have significant climate impacts.
Finally we discuss the Energy East pipeline, a massive project currently proposed by TransCanada, the same company behind Keystone. 

The Oil Shock is a Climate Opportunity and We Need to Seize it

This is a guest post by Cameron Fenton, Canadian Tar Sands Organizer with

This week, the cover of the Economist proclaimed “the fall in the price of oil and gas provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix bad energy policies.” The article teased on the cover explains how low oil prices create the space for governments to make rapid leaps to change energy policy instead of “tinkering at the edges” urging policy makers to use this moment to “inject some coherence into the world's energy policies.”

The article gets a lot of things right. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies and forcing big polluters to pay for the mess they're making are crucial policy steps, but the piece also presents some more dubious proposals. The last paragraph of the Economist piece is the perfect example of the inherent dangers ahead.

Canada’s Fight Against NAFTA Investigation of Oilsands Tailings Gets Political, Wins Allies

tailings pond, suncor, tar sands, oilsands, alex maclean

The U.S. and Mexico appear to have joined Canada in its fight to prevent a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) investigation of the more than 176 square kilometres of tailings ponds holding waste from the Alberta oilsands near Fort McMurray.

In 2010 a group of citizens and environmental groups petitioned NAFTA’s Commission on Environmental Cooperation to investigate whether Canada is breaking its own federal laws, in particular the Fisheries Act, by failing to adequately manage the massive tailings ponds which hold a toxic mixture of water, silt and chemicals.

It was important for us to know whether this was happening and whether environmental laws were being broken and whether the government is upholding those laws or ignoring them,” Dale Marshall from Environmental Defence, one of the organizations behind the compliant, said.

A 2012 federal study confirmed the tailings ponds are seeping waste into the local environment and Athabasca River. In 2013 an internal memo prepared for then Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver confirmed groundwater toxins related to bitumen extraction and processing are migrating from the tailings ponds.

DeSmogCAST 7: Obama's Keystone Veto, U.S. Oil Exports and the World's Unburnable Carbon

In this episode of DeSmogCAST our team discusses Obama's recent promise to veto legislation put forward by a Republican-led Congress to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. While the fate of Keystone remains uncertain, the Obama Administration made changes in the final days of 2014 that now allows for the export of U.S. crude oil. As Justin Mikulka reports, the change doesn't lie in a newly passed bill but rather in a language game used to mask the difference between crude oil and condensate

Finally we take a look at a new study recently published in Nature that analyzes the globe's total carbon reserves and pinpoints those that must remain unburned if we are to stay within the 2 degrees Celsius warming limit recommended by scientists and policy makers. That study highlights the Canadian oilsands and almost all coal reserves in the U.S. as carbon deposits that must remain in the ground in a carbon-constrained future.

Harper’s Delusional Hubris to Blame for Obama’s Keystone XL Veto

keystone xl harper obama veto

If revenge is indeed a dish that's best served cold, the President of Cool just served up a four-star pièce de résistance for Stephen Harper.

Tuesday's announcement of Obama's planned veto of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline should not have been surprising, yet when the blow came it carried a shocking intensity.

And how did things go so badly that Canada doesn't have the heft or goodwill in Washington to add a single pipeline to a nation benoodled with them? The answer lies in the delusional hubris of Stephen Harper.

No close watcher of the president should be surprised. In myriad ways, the prime minister's personal ambition shredded our nation's single most important relationship and drew us into the toxic swamp of Washington's poisonous politics.

It's been going on for years.


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