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Freshly minted Environment Minister Peter Kent made no apologies for the oilsands' environmental record when speaking with media outlets including the Globe and Mail and CBC's Evan Solomon this week, calling the industry "ethical in every sense of the word."
It's a familiar argument, drawn from the playbook of Conservative pundit Ezra Levant — and a classic case of the rhetorical device called bait-and-switch.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” Though originally written as a social criticism of the period leading up to the French Revolution, Charles Dickens’ words seem an equally appropriate characterization of the past year for energy and environment issues in Canada.
It’s not often we see international praise for climate change policy in Canada, but that’s exactly what the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) did in a recent report, highlighting British Columbia’s carbon tax as a leading example of carbon pricing.
As a second wave of oiled ducks created outrage about the consequences of oilsands tailings lakes, another oilsands story broke last week that impacts far greater numbers of waterfowl.
On Friday, Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner announced that the Alberta government is not planning to implement the recommendations of the Alberta Water Council.
Over the months ahead, expect to hear frequent references to a new report released Wednesday comparing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with oilsands production to emissions from other sources of crude oil used in Europe. We took a close read of the report, prepared for the Government of Alberta by Jacobs Consultancy, and there seems to be a problem: the report’s findings about how oilsands compare to conventional oil do not tell the full story, and government documents appear to misinterpret the implications of those findings.
April 7, 2011 Alberta's draft plan misses the mark on protecting land and species in the Lower Athabasca
Alberta released its draft plan for the Lower Athabasca Region earlier this week, and there was certainly no shortage of drama as commentators digested what it all means — with sometimes comical degrees of accuracy.
Tuesday's breathless headlines — including reports that Alberta oilsands companies were "stunned" by the plan, and a bizarre and factually inaccurate press release by Alberta's Wildrose Alliance Party arguing that protecting land (in an area that has virtually no oil potential) represented a "devastating assault" on the province's economy — have since been followed by more sober assessments.
April 9, 2013 Albertans don’t just pay to ride the resource rollercoaster — they risk having to clean up once the carnival leaves town
There’s a carnival in town, and everyone is talking about its main attraction — the mighty resource rollercoaster that is taking Alberta’s and Canada’s economies for a wild ride. Albertans are already paying a premium at the ticket booth, but few have noticed the fine print on the bottom of the receipt: once the carnival leaves town, ticketholders may be left paying for the cleanup costs.
Next week, an important piece of legislation will continue through its third reading in the Alberta legislature. Bill 31, the protecting Alberta’s environment act, would establish the Alberta Environmental Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Agency (AEMERA) to obtain relevant scientific data and information regarding the condition of the environment in Alberta.
While the bill is essential to establish an independent monitoring agency — a goal we support — the proposed legislation has some basic flaws. Even more concerning, the government has been surprisingly closed-minded in responding to amendments proposed in the legislature that would enhance the bill.
After eight years of deliberation, Alberta has essentially handed industry a free pass when it comes to compensating for the loss of wetlands in the oilsands region. Given the pressure the government is under to show its environmental scruples these days, you’d think it would have seized this opportunity. Instead, the policy gave the oilsands industry at least a two-year exemption from taking any responsibility for wetlands.
In a drastic move to contain an on-going and unstoppable bitumen blowout in Cold Lake, Alberta, the province’s department of environment has ordered Canadian Natural Resource Ltd. to drain two thirds of a 53-hectare lake. According to CNRL, some of the removed water will be stored in the remaining one third of the lake, with the rest piped to a nearby pit and wetland.
The federal government’s just-released 2012 update to Canada’s Emissions Trends is an important report from Environment Canada that explores the trends expected to shape Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions this decade. The release of the first edition last July, along with this week’s updated version, are welcome because emissions projections like these are crucial to assessing the impact of Canada’s policies against the commitments the government has made to Canadians and to the world.
Yesterday the reputation of the Pembina Institute and that of the British government was attacked in a column by Kathryn Marshall, a professional oilsands booster. Her commentary repeats many misleading or downright false statements about the Pembina Institute and the nature of our work.
July 10, 2014 Auditor General’s scathing review ups pressure to improve Alberta’s weak climate policy
This week, the Alberta Auditor General released the scathing results of his review of the province’s climate change strategy. Despite recommendations from two previous audits, the report found the government still lacks a definitive plan to meet its climate targets and to report progress.
July 4, 2014 B.C. Climate Action Plan 2.0?
In case you weren’t poring over government news releases on the Monday before Canada Day, you might have missed B.C.’s 2014 Climate Progress Report. While it has some controversial elements, it’s predominantly positive news that merits attention.
Jan. 10, 2014 B.C.’s LNG quiz doesn’t make the grade
If you’re like me, you worry that British Columbia’s government is rushing its pursuit of liquefied natural gas development without taking the time to think through and manage the consequences, both social and environmental. The province’s new LNG awareness quiz doesn’t ease those concerns.
April 17, 2014 Big shiny trends: Canada’s new emissions numbers
Every year, industrialized countries publish their national inventories of carbon pollution. Canada’s vast and detailed report, meticulously assembled by Environment Canada, gives us a thorough picture of where our greenhouse gas emissions come from, and how they have changed since 1990. We check in on three key stories in the 2014 inventory report.
Aug. 20, 2010 Bridging the Gulf between commuting and oil impacts
"Windmills not Oil Spills" — I saw this bumper sticker during the BP disaster. A Google search unearthed some even more provocative bumper stickers: "Plug the Damn Hole!" and "Way to go Gashole."
I'm hoping the vehicle owners that brandish these stickers will also realize the irony of an anti-oil sticker on a gasoline-fuelled bumper, regardless of its tagline. Surely they understand the connection between the Gulf disaster and their own steering wheel?
March 30, 2012 Budget 2012: Canada won’t spare a penny for clean energy
Over the past several years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government have been doggedly selling Canada as a “clean energy superpower”. While those words have always rung hollow to anybody tracking the global rise of the $1 trillion clean energy economy, after yesterday’s federal budget they simply ring false.
Historically speaking, Canadian energy issues haven’t always played as prominently on the global stage as they do today. In 2006, the oilsands were just an emerging story, known principally to investors on the hunt for returns (although Pembina has been working on oilsands issues since the mid-1980s). It took Ralph Klein, then-premier of Alberta, parking an oilsands heavy hauler within eyesight of the U.S. Congress for the broader environmental community to get well and truly fired up over oilsands development. Within a few short years, Canada’s bitumen mines would be making front-page headlines worldwide.
Canada’s financial sector appears to be enjoying its own ‘mine truck’ moment.
April 29, 2011 Cap-and-trade's costs — and benefits
Responding to Jack Layton's surge in the polls, Stephen Harper spent some time on Thursday going after the NDP's cap-and-trade plan, saying that it would add 10 cents a litre to the price Canadians pay at the pumps. Based on the specifics of the NDP proposal, Pembina's analysis suggests a more accurate assessment of the impact on consumers would be a no higher than four cents a litre.
April 8, 2011 Cap-and-trade: Canadian after all?
At a news conference earlier this week, federal cabinet minister John Baird called the Liberal Party's cap-and-trade proposal "incredibly divisive" and "un-Canadian."
It's a surprising statement, and not just because Minister Baird's own government said it supported cap-and-trade as recently as 2009. Nearly 80 per cent of Canadians currently live in provinces whose premiers support cap-and-trade: British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Québec have all expressed interest in joining with U.S. states in the Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade system.
British Columbia’s new liquefied natural gas (LNG) strategy is peppered with claims that it goes hand in hand with leadership on climate change. While demonstrating climate leadership by increasing fossil fuel extraction may seem like an oxymoron, there are scenarios in which the government could actually do both. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case this time.
Jan. 17, 2013 Climate concerns are key in Keystone XL pipeline debate
To help inform the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline, the Pembina Institute has produced a backgrounder about the climate impacts associated with the proposed pipeline. The backgrounder features new analysis showing that producing enough bitumen to fill the Keystone XL pipeline would lead to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and inhibit Canada’s ability to meet its climate targets.
Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. (CNRL) has come as close as it likely ever will to admitting that the design of the Primrose Cyclic Steam Stimulation project has failed, and that this failure led to the four bitumen and steam emulsion blowouts that were discovered several kilometres apart just over one year ago.
A slow-motion disaster has been unfolding for months at an oilsands extraction site a few hours north of Edmonton. Provincial authorities and media reports have called it a series of “releases” or “spills”, but a more accurate description would be another uncontrolled — and so far unstoppable — blowout in the oilsands reservoir deep underground.
Pembina has published a new report about the potential climate impacts associated with the proposed Energy East pipeline. Our research shows that producing the crude required to fill the pipeline would significantly increase Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and make it even more difficult to meet our climate targets.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has shed new light on the dangers of shipping raw oilsands through pipelines today.
This major U.S. environmental organization's findings have implications for both the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline to the U.S. and the Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal, and should be heeded by governments and the public alike.
As parting shots go, Scott Vaughan’s was a powerful one.
With the release of his final report as Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development last week, Vaughan made the case that the development of our natural resources is running dangerously ahead of Canada’s laws and policies to protect the environment.
Nous cherchions, avec notre étude, à contribuer à un débat bien informé, s'appuyant sur les meilleures recherches scientifiques et économiques. Quelle déception, alors, que deux des principaux promoteurs du gaz de schiste au Québec aient plutôt choisi d'utiliser notre rapport pour faire des relations publiques trompeuses.
July 26, 2013 Despite carbon tax, sky isn’t falling in B.C.
An article by the Brookings Institution earlier this year said it best: “Want a pro-growth pro-environment plan? Economists agree: tax carbon.” Now a new study of B.C.’s carbon tax is adding further valuable evidence in support of the carbon tax as a smart and effective policy for curbing emissions and driving innovation.
If you think 567 pages of emissions data would make a boring read, this week's news just proved you wrong. Canada's most recent report to the UN's climate change convention has proven surprisingly controversial, not so much for what's in it as for what was left out.
Nov. 8, 2013 Documents raise concern over industry influence on delayed oilsands emissions regulations
This week, the Pembina Institute reviewed a package of documents obtained under Alberta’s Freedom of Information legislation about future Alberta and federal greenhouse gas regulations.
March 5, 2013 Draft U.S. environmental assessment understates significance of Keystone XL for oilsands expansion and climate emissions
Late last Friday, the U.S. State Department released its draft assessment of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impacts, marking a significant milestone toward the impending White House decision on the project’s fate.
Those of us who drive cars typically have our favourite road tunes. One of my favourites is Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, off the Physical Graffiti album. Any self-respecting, Zeppelin-loving driver knows a particularly sublime feeling: slowly pushing on that gas pedal to the beat of Jimmy Page’s rising, signature chord progression riff in Kashmir, watching that speedometer creep up to 90 klicks an hour, then 100, 110, 120…. “I am a traveller of both time and space, to be where I have been….”
Despite the controversy over the federal government’s overhaul of environmental laws in Bill C-38, which recently passed third reading in the House of Commons, federal ministers have stuck to the script, insisting that cutting back on federal environmental oversight is the key to ensuring resource development happens in an efficient and “responsible” manner. However, the recent revision of an application by Shell Canada to expand an oilsands mine illustrates the type of sensible environmental protection and sober reflection Canadians risk losing as a result of the changes outlined in the federal bill.
For those of you who follow the oilsands debate closely, a certain quote may have made you choke on your Corn Flakes this week. It came at the end of a visit by a 12-member European Union delegation and was uttered by United Kingdom member Philip Bradbourn.
With consideration of the Keystone XL pipeline proposal heading into the home stretch, a parade of Canadian politicians have been making the trek to the U.S. to try to convince the Obama Administration of the pipeline’s merits.
The good news is that the recent visitors — from Premiers Redford and Wall to federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver — now acknowledge that Canada’s environmental record is crucial to the upcoming U.S. decision.
The bad news is that there are some gaping holes in that record.
March 28, 2013 Farewell to National Round Table on Environment and Economy
Last year’s federal budget gave the order to shut the NRTEE down on March 31, 2013, but you can find an unofficial archive of their work online, including a list of their publications dating back to the early 1990s.
Oct. 20, 2010 Federal government failing to enforce laws in oilsands
You could be forgiven for missing an important oilsands announcement by federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice a few weeks ago, given it came in the aftermath of the media frenzy surrounding the visit of Hollywood director James Cameron to Alberta's oilsands.
But Prentice's announcement of an investigation into the industry-dominated water-monitoring program in the oilsands was an important one. It comes after years of the federal government downplaying its responsibility to ensure responsible environmental management of the oilsands.
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