The BIG GRAB series: Alberta's oil sands play dirty
The Alberta oil sands are grabbing huge chunks of Canada's limited CO2 allotment away from other businesses and families, forcing these Canadians to make much bigger and more costly cuts in the next few years. Not only are oil sands corporations forcing other Canadians to cut far more than they would otherwise need to, but they are refusing to pay the extra costs -- and are sticking the rest of us with the bill.
Neither the federal government nor the Alberta government has done anything to protect the other 99 per cent of Canadians from the oil sands industry grabbing more than its fair share. This lack of rules is pitting one group of Canadians against another. The rest of us outside the oil sands bubble are losing. And it is about to get much worse.
Fortunately we have a several existing made-in-Canada solutions that we could choose, as a nation, to build on and re-unite Canada in the critical race for low-carbon prosperity.
The Big Grab, a series of nine Vancouver Observer articles, delves deep into government and industry data to illuminate the details:
Part 1: KNOCK KNOCK
Ready or not, the low-carbon reality is at Canada’s doorstep. Our prime minister has committed Canada to a 17 per cent CO2 cut over the next nine years. Most Canadians are on board and already acting to cut climate pollution.
But big CO2 increases by Alberta and the oil sands have wiped out their efforts and left our nation falling farther behind the U.S., the European Union, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and many other nations. Economists are clear that Canada's delay in acting is raising our costs and increasing our risks.
This article will lay out the facts about why Canadians need to pick up the pace -- or risk seeing our prosperity slip away as carbon cuts kick in.(more...)
Part 2: ELBOWS OUT, HOGGING THE PIE
In any lower-carbon economy, increasing CO2 in one sector must be balanced by squeezing extra CO2 from others.
In the absence of rules to ensure all Canadians are treated fairly, Canada finds itself with just one industry that is still rapidly increasing CO2 pollution: Alberta’s oil sands.
The oil sands corporations have their elbows out, rapidly grabbing as much of our shrinking CO2 pie from other Canadians as they want. They are in the process of quadrupling their CO2 pollution -- taking an extra 14 per cent slab of the pie from other Canadians over the next nine years.
To put that into perspective, this is more than all the CO2 emitted by all Canadian homes, commercial and institutional buildings.
While the oil sands are planning on taking all that CO2 from others, they have shown no plans to pay for it. This article will delve into the data to show just how big a grab this really is, and what it means for Canadians who will have to pick up the tab. (more...)
Part 3: FEWER JOBS AND GDP
Grabbing fair share away from others -- without paying the costs that imposes -- would mean plenty of economic trouble for everyone else. But the oil sands also have an Achilles heel that threatens to multiply the harm they are imposing on other Canadians. The oil sands generate six times fewer jobs and three times less GDP per tonne of CO2 (tCO2) than the rest of our Canadian economy.
Maximizing prosperity in a restricted carbon future requires maximizing jobs and GDP per tCO2. But the oil sands Big Grab does the opposite. They are busy transferring ever larger shares of our economy’s shrinking CO2 allotment to one of our least productive per tCO2 industries.
Again, for perspective, if our entire Canadian economy suddenly produced jobs and GDP at the rate the oil sands do per tonne of CO2, 14 million Canadians would lose their jobs and more than $25,000 would disappear from the average Canadian’s pocket each year.
The oil sands corporations are creating this risk without supplying the funding to mitigate it. This article digs into government and industry data to highlight the prosperity risks we face as we allow our economy to be dragged more and more into “oil sands mode.” (more...)
Part 4: DIRTIER BY THE BARREL
When it comes to their skyrocketing climate pollution, the only positive thing the oil sands corporations have been able to say is that they have reduced the CO2-intensity per barrel produced.
But as this article will illustrate, industry stats show these gains stopped years ago and are now reversing. In the last five years, CO2 per barrel has increased about 20 per cent. The oil sands are getting dirtier. And future trends look even worse as the dirtier-to-produce “in situ” extraction method surges towards dominance. (more...)
Part 5: LITTLE FISH. BIG POND
But aren’t the oil sands too big and important to our economy to put any limits on them?
Sure, the Alberta oil sands are an enormous project. Then again, we are a nation that does lots of big things. Canada is a "can do" nation with a gigantic and varied economy, of which the oil sands are actually a tiny slice.
This article will present the stats and the charts revealing that for the 89 per cent of Canadians outside Alberta, the oil sands produce just 0.2 per cent of our GDP and a similarly tiny percentage of our jobs.
Our gigantic Canadian economy can continue to thrive even if we require the relatively small oil sands sector to pay to clean up its own mess -- like the rest of us need to. (more...)
Part 6: FALLING BEHIND
Sadly, in the last couple decades, our Canadian economy has fallen steadily behind the U.S. and other OECD nations in the race to maximize wealth per tCO2. It is a race we can’t afford to lose.
Our sixth article will dig into American, Canadian and international government data to show just how far behind we have slipped.
For example, did you know that:
- because the U.S. is doing better than Canada, the average American now makes an extra $5,0000 a year with the same carbon footprint?
- Canadians have dallied so long we now need to pay a 45 per cent higher carbon price than Americans just to reach our shared 2020 finish line?
- Canada has fallen to the sixteenth poorest performer out of 17 OECD economies in both tCO2 per person and in creating wealth per tCO2?
- our oil sands industry produces less GDP per tCO2 than the economies of either India or Indonesia?
Details, charts and international comparisons will be presented in this article to make clear how we are lagging behind and how our oil sands corporations pollution threatens to drag Canadians even farther behind the U.S., Europe and Japan in building prosperity for a lower-carbon world. (more...)
Part 7: SILENCE OF THE PLANS
Canada is struggling to build low-carbon prosperity because we lack a comprehensive national plan for how we will fairly divide our economy’s limited CO2 pie.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has committed Canada to cut our CO2 pollution by 17 per cent from 2005 levels, a target formally linked to actions in the U.S. The U.S. is now well ahead of us.
This article explores Environment Canada reports showing that Stephen Harper, despite being in power for all of the five years covered by the carbon pledge, has announced plans to meet just 13 per cent of this commitment. And for the fastest growing source of Canadian CO2 pollution, the Alberta oil sands, his federal government has announced no plan at all.
In the absence of a plan, unchecked oil sands corporations are grabbing huge slices of the CO2 pie from other Canadian businesses and families and transferring them into the Alberta economy for their industry to under-perform with. By refusing to pay their own way, the oil sands are creating an unfair provincial carbon transfer scheme. It is pitting the one region of Canadians against the others. (more...)
Part 8: SCORING OWN GOALS
Like son, like father. As our eighth article shows, the oil sands aren’t the only Albertans scoring own goals in Team Canada’s net.
Polls shows that most Canadians want to help meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s commitment to cut our CO2 pollution. In fact, the data shows that most are already acting in ways that are cutting CO2 pollution.
According to the latest greenhouse gas inventory, from 2005 through 2008 all provinces outside Alberta combined to cut CO2 by 10 million tonnes (Mt) a year. A good start in the right direction. But Alberta meanwhile increased their climate pollution by even more: 13 Mt. Oops.
Environment Canada says all the rest of the Canadian economy is on track to make 65 Mt in cuts by 2020. But it also says the oil sands corporations have plans to increase their pollution by even more: 78 Mt. Oops again.
Did you know that Albertans have a bigger climate pollution footprint than the people of any nation on earth? Or that Alberta’s economy generates three times less wealth per tCO2 than the rest of Canada’s economy?
“Scoring Own Goals” documents how the unrelenting climate pollution growth of Alberta and its oil sands industry is wiping out efforts by the rest of Canada to build prosperity in a lower carbon future. Neither Alberta nor its oil sands are paying for the added burden they are saddling the rest of Canadians with. Not only are they our worst scoring line but they are also shooting on Team Canada’s own net.
Is our Prime Minister Stephen Harper the coach for all of Team Canada or not? If he is, what kind of game plan is this? (more...)
Part 9: MADE-IN-CANADA SOLUTIONS
The Big Grab Series ends with a look at several existing made-in-Canada solutions that could be expanded to ensure all Canadians do their fair share and that all Canadians get a decent shot at thriving in the emerging lower-carbon economy. We could:
- expand the Harper government’s sector-by-sector approach to cover enough emissions;
- expand Canada’s existing cap & trade alliance to cover all provinces;
- and/or expand BC’s pioneering three year old carbon tax to be nationwide.
We also present one big bold idea that few talk about today, but for many billions of reasons many will wish they had adopted when they had the chance.
Canada needs and deserves the protection of a comprehensive national climate pollution strategy that explains just who needs to cut CO2, who doesn’t and who will pay for it.
Regardless of which option Canadians choose, until a fair and comprehensive plan is in place, Alberta and its oil sands need to pull in their elbows and stop grabbing other Canadians’ fair share. They need to start paying their own way and stop dragging the rest of us Canadians into an economic tar pit.
Canada’s future prosperity depends upon it. (more...)