Saturday, March 15, 2008

Selling A Mirage

The apologists love to downplay any criticism of Baird's greenhouse gas plan. "Environmental activists", "socialist crusaders", people with a political stake, who are unfair, failing to recognize the "tough" measures put in place. Anybody who is paying attention knows that Baird is a lingustic fraud, his actions more mirage than substance. Within that reality, it is quite interesting that Baird's own department has concluded:
Alberta's oilsands industry will be allowed to triple its annual greenhouse-gas pollution over the next decade, and more than 20 per cent of emissions from the rest of the oilpatch will be exempt from Prime Minister Stephen Harper government's green plan, revealed Environments Canada documents released this week.

New provisions introduced into the climate change plan would allow oilsands operations in Alberta and the coal-fired power plants of Ontario to offset 100 per cent of their pollution by paying themselves "pre-certified investments."

Meantime, Environment Canada has confirmed that millions of tonnes of pollution from small facilities will be exempt for companies in sectors such as oil and gas, natural gas pipelines, electricity, chemicals and fertilizers.

A department estimate in December predicted about 10 million tonnes of greenhouse-gas pollution would not be covered as a result of the exemptions proposed to reduce administrative burdens on the smaller companies, including 20 to 30 per cent of emissions from small oil and gas companies outside of the oilsands sector.

Shariff said it appeared the government has introduced loopholes that were tailor-made to help out oilpatch companies and coal-fired power plants.

Absolutely staggering, that Canada's number one producer of greenhouse gases will be allowed to triple its output in the next ten years. How can anyone take seriously a plan which allows this to happen?

This reaction pretty much says it all:
"It's an interesting flexibility mechanism. We're intrigued and we will be looking at it," said Pierre Alvarez, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

No mention if Mr. Alvarez was doing cartwheels when he spoke.

Baird's plan isn't a plan, it's a public relations ruse. No reasonable person can look at the conclusions of Environment Canada and feel otherwise. What a joke.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I saw a documentary on CBC, about Alberta, being for sale. There are so many projects, with Stelmach's blessing . It would make one sick (literally) I think there is a repeat on NewsWorld at 8 pm on the 16th. A book out also, called "Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada"

Mark Dowling said...

the one good thing is that Bruce Power have doubled their plan for Alberta from two to four reactors northwest of Edmonton citing the regulations as tipping their business models. The first reactor wouldn't come on line until 2017 though given it takes three years just to get the consultations done. No doubt the existing generators who are heavily geared to coal will be passing along suitable assistance to the kneejerk anti-nuclear folks.

Tomm said...


Triple Play!

You get to bash CAPP, Alberta and Baird, all in one post. Well executed!

...but crap.

The Oilsands is becoming an economic engine of an entire nation.

John Baird is trying to build environment policies without crashing the Canadian economy and more recently without crashing up against the American recession. Canada is already a leader in environmntal stewardship. Ask a Czech, Brit or Swede what has happened to their environment over the last 50 years before you disagree.

CAPP is smoke without the mirrors.

So, Steve, where are you in this? What would you do? Would you place a moratorium on new oil sand developments? Would you shut down existing oil sand developments?

Where is your solution?


Steve V said...

"Would you place a moratorium on new oil sand developments?"

If it's good enough for Peter Lougheed, it's good enough for me.

"The Oilsands is becoming an economic engine of an entire nation."

I would love for someone to quantify that.

The way I look at it, you have a fixed resource, essentially money in the bank. Why is it wrong to withdraw it slowly, as opposed to all at once? Given the problems with rapid growth, wouldn't it be prudent, on so many levels, to put in place a plan that allows for steady growth, without sacrificing the environment, not to mention all the other factors at play? Right now, it is just naked greed, rather than a sensible plan. I have to pay to put my garbage in the dump, why should companies with profits bigger than the GDP of some countries, get to puke out their garbage for FREE? It's insane.


I find it curious that you look for a diamond in amongst a manure pile, but I suppose political bias shouldn't be understated here.

Tomm said...


Now we can have a conversation.

How should we develop the Oil Sands?

Was Stelmack right in upping the royalty? Was Baird right in re-fixing the carbon used for production?

Should we build a nuclear reactor near by?

I think people are trying to make a difference. Including your villains (excepting CAPP who probably are only trying to derail change).


Steve V said...


Any conversation which starts with the premise that you can 1)claim to be tough on emitters, while 2)doing nothing about the primary contributor, in fact allowing for rapid expansion, isn't a conversation, it's just lies, lies, lies. Good luck to Baird selling this turd to the international community.

As for villians, the goal here is reduce emissions, so rather than present the nonsense of us/them, it would seem to me you have to tackle the source. These companies are making RECORD profits, that are frankly embarrassing, no matter what scale you choose, so pardon me if I don't think they should foot the bill, and not be able to pollute with impunity. Again Tomm, and try to answer the question please- do you pay to use dump your garbage, or do you just run along a highway and dump in the ditch?

Steve V said...

"I think people are trying to make a difference."

If that is true, then people should have no problem tying future development with environmental standards. As it stands now, Baird is allowing everyone to get in under the gun, with no recourse. If people are sincere, if you buy the double-talk, then prove it, no more development until you present a way to reduce emissions, no "in the future", no theoretical, unproven technologies, put up or shut up.

Anonymous said...

The fact that oilsands emissions are expected to rise doesn't surprise me.

If we define a "fair" CO2 policy as one that penalizes emissions equally, regardless of source (a carbon tax or a cap and trade system are therefore both fair), then just about any fair system will lead to oilsands emissions increases. The economic value of oil, and therefore increasing oilsands production, is so high, per tonne of CO2 emitted, that it makes sense to increase oilsands production and cut emissions elsewhere, by closing uneconomic factories or improving efficiency.

After all, while they are predicting a tripling of emissions, I imagine that they are predicting an increase in production by a factor of 5 or more.

Of course, there is a strong temptation for the Liberals to espouse an unfair system, which penalizes oilsands emissions more heavily than emissions from other sources.

As for sitting on the asset, oil prices are high now, but counting on them to remain high for 30 years or more is very risky. Anyway, since CO2 remains in the atmosphere, it makes no difference to long term warming whether we use the oilsands up all at once or over a hundred years.

And, of course, oilsands are not money in the bank. They are money under your mattress. Withdraw it now, turn it into real cash, and put the cash to work - that has been known as a sound economic strategy for thousands of years - see the parable of the talents.

Tomm said...


I pay to use a landfill.

So should corporations.

We are agreeing that we need to lean on these guys. The difference appears to be how hard do we push, and that seems to be based on trust.

You don't trust that the federal or provincial government is going the right way or at the right speed. You don't trust that their types of solutions are reasonable ones.

You certainly shouldn't trust the big corps to do it without leverage because we both know they won't.

We get back to the initial question of how best to go about making the difference.

If the feds and Alberta are doing the wrong things, what are you suggesting? and how do you change direction in less than 5 years?


Steve V said...

"Anyway, since CO2 remains in the atmosphere, it makes no difference to long term warming whether we use the oilsands up all at once or over a hundred years."

Mark, it makes a difference when you give the technology a chance to mitigate the GHG's.

Besides, you comment isn't true:

"When CO2 is released into the atmosphere, about three-quarters of it dissolves into the ocean over a few decades.

"The economic value of oil, and therefore increasing oilsands production, is so high, per tonne of CO2 emitted, that it makes sense to increase oilsands production and cut emissions elsewhere"

Factor in the amount of natural gas needed, not to mention the water required, then the environmental impact, and you argument falls completely apart. You speak of inefficient factories, the current methods for extraction are the most inefficient use of resources of any project in the world.

"there is a strong temptation for the Liberals to espouse an unfair system, which penalizes oilsands emissions more heavily than emissions from other sources."

Oh, that is regional nonsense of the highest order. You target the polluters, they pay, or change, without any regional consideration. I have no qualms with penalizing Ontario for their coal plants, in fact I'll welcome it. It will be a fine day, when the tribalists can get beyond the propaganda taught to them by narrow ideologues, who use an easy target, to rally support. There is no boogeyman, but why let reality get in they way of a handy us/them argument.

Remember when the government doled out the eco money to the provinces last year? It was allocated based on population, but I argued it should be based on emissions, meaning Alberta should have received a far greater proportion that a province like Quebec, that has low GHG's, doesn't require much help in meeting any targets.


Everyone now agrees that Klein had NO PLAN, Stelmach has shown no desire to slow down development, in fact he has been adamant. This, despite what I have read, that many Albertans are open to a slowdown, very much in favor of environmental standards.

Companies are forced to adjust all the time, I don't buy this argument that you can't expect new projects to be pragmatic, the dye is already cast. We hear all the whining from the oil companies, the PR, but if you look at the bottomline, the margins are just staggering, so the "harm the economy" angle is just bluster. Pembina did a study, and suggested the cost to get GHG's levels down in the oilsands would be about 1 dollar a barrel. Those projects are supposedly profitable after 50-60 dollars a barrel. Maybe oil doe retreat, but it sure as shit ain't going back down to that level, so profits are guaranteed, which explains the oil rush we see now. That is just a defeatist attitude, and it speaks to who has the government's ear. Baird goes ON and ON about how the Liberals did nothing for 13 years, but the irony, under his direction, nothing will happen for 13 years of Tory rule. Too rich.

Tomm said...


If its a buck a barrel than they would be doing it.

It's not, and the technology isn't there yet.

The choices are strictly related to turning the tap on or off and promoting new technologies and force the companies into advancing their development by force of levers.

That is being done.

Whether we push harder or not is almost moot. Certainly not the David Suzuki vs. John Baird choice everybody seems to think.

If its tax, than tax people some more, but you can't expect to "fix" carbon without the ability to "fix" carbon. The government would just be "taxing" people.

I suggest we grow more trees and help the developing world stop its own deforestation and degradation just like we got countries to agree to at Bali (i.e. REDD).

That's also what Stern suggested is the lowest hanging cherry.

We really have to quit with the political pounding on the CPC. Did you read the Walrus this month?


Steve V said...

"We really have to quit with the political pounding on the CPC."

I will, as soon as moving the goalposts, when the rhetoric matches the action.

BTW, probably best not to mention Bali in defending the Conservatives, lest people are reminded of the embarrassing performance.

Tomm, you have essentially talked yourself into a 3x increase in GHG in 10 years as acceptable. Talk about low fruit on the tree, more like rotten on the ground.

Anonymous said...

Steve, it is inconsistent to say that the oilsands don't have a lot of economic value, and that the companies' profit margins are very high. If the profit margins are high (which, at current oil prices, I believe to be true), then production of oilsands oil must therefore have high economic value.

Tomm said...


Your so glib with this stuff. You said:

"...Tomm, you have essentially talked yourself into a 3x increase in GHG in 10 years as acceptable. Talk about low fruit on the tree, more like rotten on the ground."

And the cost of doing otherwise is...?

In regards to Bali, it was a tour de force. They brought the US and Japan to the table, got comprehensive full participation by the end of the summit (3 extra days in meeting I understand). If they would have rolled over and said, "anything you say EU & China), they would have been handing over multiple billions of dollars to carbon brokers and not got the comprehensive deal.

Bali was a huge success for Canada, and the planet. The media screamed the whole way through and refused to see what was right in front of them, as they were constantly being goaded by the left wing green nutbars that were feeding them one liners.

Go back to my posts pre-Bali and you will see that what Canada went to Bali for they got. At the time I didn't see you jumping up and down saying that bringing China and India in, getting US to agree and ensuring REDD was part of the road map was a bad thing.

Just because the media yells smoke doesn't mean there's fire.


Steve V said...

"Just because the media yells smoke doesn't mean there's fire."

I believe the media was just quoting all those international delegates and scientists, but if you must fall back on that ole "left wing bias", I take that as weakness in your argument. You are simply delusional if you think Canada has any credibility on the world stage, and now that people know our approach to the oilsands, it will only get worse.