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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

alberta could blow more than hot air.

While Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach continues his tour of Europe this week (skipping last weekend's First Ministers' meeting), he should take note of recent moves by energy giants BP and Royal Dutch Shell. As expansions in Alberta's dirty oilsands are slowing and the price of oil continues to drop, both companies are also looking beyond oil by continuing to expand their investments in clean energy markets.

Shell made the announcement months ago, and last week BP announced that they will be halting plans to build wind farms and other renewable energy projects in the United Kingdom and will focus developing renewable energy in the United States, taking advantage of government incentives for clean energy projects. Though wind is unlikely to replace demand for oil anytime soon, forward thinking moves like this by leading world energy companies should make Albertans think twice about being duped into supporting the short-sighted building of nuclear power plants in northern Alberta.

Also of note is a recent report from the Centre for Study of Living Standards on the Valuation of Alberta's oilsands (h/t DeSmogBlog):

As the CSLS notes, the tar sands are "the largest contributor to Canadian emissions growth. Since the early 1990s, output growth in the oil sands sector has been so great that total emissions from this source have increased even as emissions per unit of output (intensity) have declined by as much as 45 per cent. These trends are expected to continue into the foreseeable future and the oil sands are projected to account for 41-47 per cent of 'business-as-usual' Canadian emissions growth between 2003 and 2010."

If Canada and the United States are going to get serious about reducing GHG emissions, it seems obvious that they would start with the biggest and fastest growing point source on the continent. There are, unfortunately, 1.5 trillion reasons why that will be one of the hardest places to make progress.


Anonymous said...

Great post, Dave.

Anonymous said...

Dude. If alternative energy was barely feasible - with subsidies - at US$100 oil, it is nowhere near competitive with oil below US$70.

You seem to have quite a time denigrating the oilsands, which, as one of the primary drivers of the Alberta economy, are indirectly subsidizing your educational pursuits.

Aden said...

As I've just written an essay on this topic, I'd like to say that Alberta is refusing to encourage renewable energy.
In their 2003 climate change document, the government said "[i]t does not, however, believe that it is prudent to directly subsidize the renewable or alternative energy sectors. The government’s efforts to support these sectors will instead be focused on removing policy, regulatory or technical barriers, facilitating customer choice and consumer understanding of the emissions intensity of their electricity purchases and working with stakeholders to identify realistic yet challenging expectations on the appropriate minimum capacity of renewable and alternative electricity the province should be moving towards"

While refusing subsidies seems principled, the government has now offered a pot of $2 billion for carbon capture and storage. Make your own conclusions about the technologies, but understand that the government is playing energy favourites.

Aden said...

Oh, and comment for anonymous:

Provinces with no oil have roughly equivalent tuition, but have sales taxes.

All the oil/tar sands are subsidizing is consumer spending. Whether that's right or not is a different debate, but that's where it stands.

Bjorn said...

Dear Aden,
It's not 2003 anymore.
Hope you get a good mark on your paper.