THE BIG GRAB, Part 2: Elbows Out, Hogging the Pie
The oil sands are cranking up their carbon output as fast as ordinary Canadians are making cuts. But the companies don't plan on paying for more than their fair share.
Proponents of oil sands expansion say the oil sands' climate emissions are tiny compared to other really, really BIG sources -- like the burning of coal in the U.S. Maybe so. But Canadians don’t live in the U.S. As far as our Canadian economy is concerned, the oil sands' emissions are growing so large, and so quickly, that they are forcing other sectors to make much bigger cuts, threatening jobs and GDP for Canadians.
Canada to cut 17 per cent. Oil sands to grow 250 per cent
Prime Minister Harper made an international pledge, linked with the U.S., to shrink the CO2 emissions from each economy by 17 per cent of 2005 levels … by 2020. At the same time, the oil sands corporations have made their own set of plans to increase their CO2 pollution by 250 per cent over the same time frame.
The oil sands' slice of the 2005 pie
Anything more than that four per cent share requires other sectors in our economy to squeeze out extra and give those emissions rights to the oil sands to use instead. Rapid climate pollution growth in one area now requires even more rapid cuts from others.
Hogging the pie
In the last five years, oil sands increased their CO2 emissions by 42 per cent. They now take a six per cent slice of Canada's limited CO2 pie.1
But that is only the beginning. The oil sands industry says its current plans require Canadians to give it an eight per cent slice by 2015. And by 2020, the government of Canada predicts the oil sands will demand an 18-per-cent helping of our entire economy’s CO2 allotment.2 The oil sands corporations aren’t planning to pay for this, and they aren’t planning to stop there.
The oil sands want to triple their current share of our CO2 allotment in just 10 years, quadrupling their baseline year (2005) share. The Pembina Institute puts the oil sands' 2020 appetite as high as 23 per cent of our pie.3
Even young kids, with forks in hand, know what to call this kind grab: hogging.
It would be one thing if the oil sands corporations were willing to pay what it costs other Canadians to cut that much extra CO2 for them. But so far, they aren’t.
More than all of Canada's homes and buildings
For perspective, the extra 14 per cent of the pie – 82 million tonnes –
that the oil sands are planning to squeeze out of the rest of the economy in less than 10 years is more than all the CO2 pollution emitted by all Canadian homes, commercial and institutional buildings.
If Canadians were to pour all our low-carbon efforts and resources into completely eliminating the fossil fuel pollution from all our millions of buildings by 2020, all those gains and more would be wiped out by just the oil sands pollution increases. Pollution increases they haven’t offered to pay for.
The big take
Yet oil sands boosters seem unfazed by their big “ask” “take”, or by the risks and burdens they are imposing on others. They are acting in a way that will force other Canadian businesses and families to quickly cut back hundreds of millions of extra tonnes of CO2 so that the oil sands can use them instead.
Multinational corporations, by design, look after their own interests. And they are very good at it. If that means grabbing as much CO2 allotment from others as they can get away with, then that is what you can expect them to do. And they are.
The question is: Who is looking out for the costs and the risk this is piling on to the 99 per cent of Canadians outside the oil sands bubble? Why does the Harper government accept this big grab without payment? Why is the Harper government silent on who gets squeezed instead? As it is, Canadians can’t even assess how much it will cost them to clean up what the oil sands refuse to pay for themselves.
Ensuring prosperity for all Canadians
To ensure all Canadians get a fair shot at thriving in the emerging lower-carbon economy, 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. Canadians might reasonably decide it is in their own economic best interest to require the oil sands to pay for any CO2 they grab away from other Canadians.
Fortunately, there are several existing made-in-Canada solutions that could be expanded to eliminate this economic threat and national division. Unfortunately, our federal government has refused to employ any of them so far.
Until a comprehensive national climate pollution 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.
NOTES AND LINKS
note 1: http://www.oil-blog.com/operating-sector/oil-sands-producers-cut-co2-emissions-2/ show oil sands GHG at 44 MtCO2. This is six per cent of Canada total GHG for 2008 according to national inventory data.
note 2: http://pubs.pembina.org/reports/briefingnoteosghg.pdf notes that the Government of Canada forecasts oil sands 108 MtCO2 by 2020, which would be 18 per cent of the 607 MtCO2 that Canada is committed to.
note 3: http://pubs.pembina.org/reports/briefingnoteosghg.pdf says Pembina calculated oil sands emissions could grow as high as 141 MtCO2 by 2020, which is 23 per cent of the 607 MtCO2 target Canada is committed to.