Premier Ed Stelmach warned Monday of "dire economic consequences" if Alberta were ever forced to slow oilsands development to curb emissions that cause global warming.
Stelmach says Alberta has no intention of slowing development, which essentially translates into a massive rise in GHG’s as we move forward. If development expands 3 or 4 fold in the coming years, any talk about “intensity targets” is mostly irrelevant to the big picture:
An Alberta Environment official later confirmed that total emissions have increased by 40 per cent since 1990, but emissions intensity is down by 16 per cent over the same period.
Alberta’s economy grew at an impressive 4.4% clip last year. In the past decade, Alberta has led Canadian provinces, with an average 3.7% growth rate. In 1985 the energy sector accounted for 36.1% of GDP, in 2005 this dropped to 28.3% (these figures don’t include spinoffs). I don’t think anyone would argue that investment in the oil sector is entering an unprecedented phase, with a massive amount of new projects coming online. We have a situation where the economy is already “redhot”, there exists full employment and the infrastructure is maxed out. This reality begs the question, if growth will further increase in the future, and the economy is already at full capacity, why can’t you slow growth and still maintain prosperity. More and more, the argument seems one of pure greed, rather than reasonable economics. Slowing the oilsands growth will not “cripple” Alberta, it might actually equate to sound management. A finite resource, developed at a rate to ensure reasonable growth, that will last longer than immediate dividend.
Every province has a responsibility to deal with the problem. GHG’s are a Canadian problem, that is beyond regional interest. When you look at the sources, you inevitably focus on the major polluters. No one denies that Alberta emits more GHG’s than any other province, it’s just fact. For this reason, all the confrontation rhetoric coming from some circles in Alberta is ridiculous. If you are serious about dealing with the problem, you have to deal with the oilsands, the two are intertwined. If Stelmach maintains no slowdown in growth, then we can forget about reducing emissions, it is really that simple. I believe there is a way, that ensures the Alberta economy remains viable, while also reducing emissions. Intensity targets are wonderful, so long as they aren’t offered as final solution, but part of an overall commitment to reduce emissions. I don’t follow that logic that anything less than a tripling of oilsand production results in “dire consequences”. That production will rise is a given, this means growth is a given, it’s all about the rate. You can manage growth and still grow the economy, those that suggest otherwise are motivated by pure greed that lacks conscience.