Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/2/2010 (3669 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
More and better carbon capture and storage, not renewable energy, is the silver bullet Ottawa, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the oil industry are touting to solve Canada's soaring greenhouse gas emissions.
The three governments are shelling out a total of $3 billion to finance CCS "demonstration projects" while funding for renewables has stagnated.
The Harper Conservatives are glued to Washington when it comes to setting CO2 emission reduction targets but have no interest in copying its major investments in green energy. The U.S. now spends four times more per capita on renewable energy than Canada.
The situation is so bleak for renewable energy research and development that Canadian Wind Energy Association president Robert Hornung predicts the program may run out of cash before the end of the fiscal year, crippling the industry's ability to draw investment amidst a super hot U.S. market.
"At a time when the U.S. has made measures to support renewable energy deployment a key component of its plans to stimulate the U.S. economy, Canada is moving in the opposite direction," he says.
Environmentalists are giving up on the Harper government. The executive director of Alberta's prestigious Pembina Institute says that after a decade of consultations with government that have produced virtually no action on climate change, environmentalists are wondering whether it is worth their while to keep lobbying Ottawa.
"It is questionable how valuable those meetings are when you have no tangible action," Marlo Raynolds told The Hill Times this week. "This really is a case where we've had four years, three ministers and literally absolutely nothing on climate policy. It just seems more like ragging the puck instead of deciding to go for a goal of any kind."
Canada's politics and government newsweekly goes on to report the environmental movement is suspicious the Alberta oil industry is writing Canada's energy and environmental policy. Not only do the Conservatives not listen to environmentalists, there is increasing evidence they don't trust and so ignore advice from the federal bureaucracy.
"The dirty little secret about this government is that its relations with the bureaucracy are very, very poor and particularly with the policy side of the bureaucracy," the paper quotes one longtime Ottawa insider as saying. "It doesn't trust it, and it doesn't trust the options and the policy prescriptions it's being given. There really is an imperative for them to reach out to players in the private sector for expertise, for policy help, for analysis, because of the fundamental distrust (the government) has with the bureaucracy."
Montreal author and investigative journalist William Marsden warns that CCS is "too expensive, is untested and it won't store enough carbon." His book, Stupid to the Last Drop: How Alberta is Bringing Environmental Armageddon to Canada, a national bestseller and winner of the National Business Book Award, argues that the tar sands are destroying both Alberta and Canada.
"It's fair to say our federal government is run by the oil industry," he continued in an interview. "These guys come in, many of them are foreign companies, they get all sorts of tax breaks, they take away all the profits, the royalties are almost nothing, and then we (Canadians) pay to clean it up... We have attached ourselves to a monster and it will destroy this country. It's destroying Alberta ... (destroying) our industries, what we've got left. We are putting so much of our tax dollars into this one thing we don't have the money to look at all sorts of alternatives."
The federal government claims Canada can make a lot of money selling CCS technology, but Marsden says the technology is very simple. "You take (the CO2), transform it under great pressure to liquid form and stick it in old well holes." Alberta is a pincushion of over 304,000 bore holes, up to 80 per cent of which already leak.
"In most of the areas you have large leaks," Marsden continues. "It's almost impossible to go down 2,000 to 3,000 feet and abandon a well and think that it's never going to leak... How much carbon can you capture? And how much do you have to spend to capture one tonne?"
Alternatively, CO2 under pressure can explode. In 1986, a CO2 explosion in western Cameroon suffocated 1,800 people, 3,000 cattle and countless birds and insects in a death zone that covered 19 kilometres.