Tuesday, February 06, 2007


I don’t claim to be an economist, but I confess I don’t understand the alarmist rhetoric coming out of Alberta, as it relates to GHG. The Premier has weighed in with the following:
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.


Mike said...

The only way to slow it is to stop using gas and oil. But don't expect that to happen.

I'm starting to wonder if we all shouldn't just horde weapons and food and try to ride this out. Hopefully most of these deniers will be "selected for extinction" by mother nature.

Olaf said...


I'm generally sympathetic to where you're coming from, and I would have no problem with the North slowing down a bit. I think it's the federal intrusion which angers Albertans so much. After perhaps Newfoundland, Albertan's seem the most pleased when our Premier picks a fight with the feds defending "Alberta's interests".

Also, the problem is for many changing the rules in the middle of the game. The oil sands expansion isn't a short term thing, it's situations where companies put gobs money into something that will come online in 2 or 3 years. So, it's not like it was the Alberta government owned all the developments, who could slow down construction or production.

Anyways, but I agree that it would be a good thing for Alberta if things weren't growing at such a clip.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations. the mighty Garth has come to your side. enjoy.

William Tell said...

Two things come to mind when I read your post.

The first it that Alberta has a history of being ignored by the Federal government when it needed help and meddled with when it didn't.

The distrust Albertans have towards their federal government is well more than deserved.

Keep in mind this was a province that was a poor farmer's province under the cloak of the great depression once. And while the Feds doled out money to the east, Alberta had to fend for itself.

Alberta turned the tar sands, an unusable resource, into a bankable one living all the time under a government that ignored them.

Secondly, I can't understand what makes people think that they can somehow reduce emissions without affecting growth of any economy let alone Alberta.

Everything and everyone uses some sort of carbon emitting power source to do anything. Trucks that deliver goods, home heating, cars, and a whole plethora of other items all contribute to carbon emissions.

Alberta is a province, as I see it, that lives off of carbon emissions...

How do you plan on "managing" the growth that is directly related to the emissions that you seek to cut?

There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. If you want to cut emissions, it will mean a reduction in oil exports from Alberta. No pain no gain.

Reductions in growth also don't mean reductions in current carbon emissions. Reductions in growth mean reductions in "theoretical" future emissions.

Quite frankly, all this talk of "managing" Alberta smacks to me of meddling if you ask me. But that's just my opinion.

wayward son said...

Albertans always told me that the reasons why their province did so well was because of hard work and ingenuity, not oil. They felt that every other province could do just as well if they followed the same right-wing policies and that is why we should put those alberta led federal Conservatives into office. Turns out it was just the oil, afterall. And they seem to be saying that without rapid expansion of the oil sands they are screwed. Seems like the prefect reason to make sure that Harper's ideas and policies never get a majority as they are built on a house of cards.

Steve V said...

"all this talk of "managing" Alberta smacks to me of meddling if you ask me."

Well, I'm not sure how you tackle GHG's without meddling, that goes for the provincial government as well. Are you supposed to let amoral multi-nationals, who are only concerned with profit, decide what is good for the planet? If you view the federal government as a foreign invader, forcing its will on the others, as opposed to your country, then you might as well just seperate.

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

I think this is a tricky issue. On the one hand, any increases in production on the tar sands must result in absolute reductions in GHGs, not intensity based. I am all for increased production if cleaner technologies are used and reduce GHGs.

However having family from Alberta, the memories of the National Energy Program still haunt Albertans and any thing that even hints at it will scare them. If we don't watch this we could see an Alberta separtist movement, which I believe although not there now, is just below the horizon and could explode any moment. This creates a terrible situation, where if we do nothing we see our planet hurt, but if we do something we risk creating a national unity crisis. I really hope Dion's expertise in both areas can be used to get us through these rough waters.

Steve V said...

"If we don't watch this we could see an Alberta separtist movement, which I believe although not there now, is just below the horizon and could explode any moment."

I remember on my last visit to the province, just prior to the election, I had this sense from a few conversations, that if the country went Liberal again, it would push some people to this position. How we deal with GHG is a sensitive issue, which is why I hope we see some harsh "targeting" directed at Ontario to demonstrate the balance. We have to share the pain, like all countries should do.

Monkey Loves to Fight said...

I think the best solution here would be to work our butts off in a few winneable ridings to win at least one seat in Alberta. If we do anything that might cause a backlash in Alberta, have it done by an Albertan as I think it will kill this claim it is the East trying to put Alberta in its place.

I also think Ontario sharing some of the short-term pain for long-term gain would help.

It is tough to know how strong the Alberta separtist movement is, but I do know that Alberta could economically survive in its own, whereas with the amount of money Quebec gets from the Rest of Canada, most know they are unlikely to ever separate.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that how fast or how slowly we develop the oil sands isn't entirely up to either Alberta or Canada. George W Bush wants to reduce America's dependence on foreign sources of oil, he said so in SOTU, but when he said "foreign" he didn't mean us.

He (well, Cheney) wants that oil, wants it badly. There will be enormous pressure on Canada to accelerate production from our oil sands to help the White House meet its promises to reduce dependence on foreign sources, not to mention feeding his war machine.

Steve V said...

I was hoping Kennedy might decide to run in Edmonton, he really brought a western sensitivity to the leadership process that was sorely needed.

north of 49

That is what worries me about the "energy superpower" rhetoric from Harper. Are we selling our sovereignty to the Americans?

kate said...

"Are you supposed to let amoral multi-nationals, who are only concerned with profit, decide what is good for the planet?"

Yes. They have a better track record.

When it comes to a proven ability to slaughter millions of human beings in the name of progress, nothing tops the state.

Beware the politician who claims the power to change the weather.

Kevin Allerston said...

I agree. The idea that managing the tar-sands is somehow a malicious attack on Albertans is absurd. The fact is that the tar-sands are responsible for the majority of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately for some, those same gasses are also threatening the welfare of the planet. There comes a point when some things have got to matter more than making money.

If people are worried about how regulating emissions will impact the econonmy now, just wait until our coasts become one with the ocean and see just how badly Canada's economy will be impacted.


Steve V said...


That's just silly.