Originally posted at Skeptical Science on December 31, 2015
On Sunday November 22nd, 2015, Alberta’s new centre-left Premier, Rachel Notley, announced that the province would be introducing an economy-wide carbon tax priced at $30 per tonne of CO2 equivalent, to be phased in in 2016 and 2017. Observers had been expecting new efforts to mitigate emissions since Notley’s election in May 2015, but the scope and ambition of this policy took many by surprise.
Alberta, of course, is the home of the Athabasca oil sands and is one of the largest per-capita GHG emitters of any jurisdiction in the world. The new plan was nevertheless endorsed by environmental groups, First Nations and by the biggest oil companies, an extraordinary consensus that many would not have thought possible.
How was this done? I will try and explain the new policy as far as I can (the details are not all available yet), but the short answer is that a huge amount of credit is due to the panel of experts led by University of Alberta energy economist Andrew Leach and his fellow panelists. Not only did they listen to what all Albertans had to say, but they were thoughtful in framing a policy that is acceptable to almost everyone.
Alberta is the wealthiest province in Canada, with a population of 4.1 million. In 2013, greenhouse gas emissions were 267 Mt CO2 equivalent, about 65 tonnes per capita, which compares with the average for the rest of Canada of about 15 tonnes. Among US states only North Dakota and Wyoming are worse. Alberta’s fugitive emissions of methane alone amount to 29 Mt CO2e, about 7 tonnes per person, which is a little more than the average for all GHGs per-capita emissions in the world.
After an approval process that lasted longer than World War Two, President Obama finally said “No” to the Keystone XL pipeline.
This is undoubtedly a major victory for climate activists who had a lot staked on the outcome. Obviously, this is a defeat for the oil sands industry, but it is also something of a blow to the Serious People who are in favour of action on climate, but who consider protesting against the construction of infrastructure to be naïve at best and, at worst, a counterproductive distraction from the real action of international negotiations and policy wonkery.
If you haven’t done so already, read David Roberts who writes most of what I’m going to, but does it better.
What the Serious People say
- One pipeline is not going to make much difference to global emissions.
- Oil sands’ emissions have been overstated.
- What matters is reducing demand, not restricting supply.
- There are transportation alternatives to pipelines, like railways, and they are more environmentally risky.
- It’s a distraction.
This is all true, more or less. But it is also beside the point. Continue reading
Originally published at Skeptical Science on March 3rd, 2014
An editorial by the Editor-in-Chief of Science Magazine, Marcia McNutt, conditionally endorses the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline. Her argument is that:
- the absence of the pipeline has not stopped oil sands development and the building of the pipeline will not accelerate oil sands development;
- President Obama can extract concessions from the Canadians to reduce emissions and upgrade the bitumen in Canada.
Both of these arguments are wrong; let me explain why.
Pipelines promote production
The Mildred Lake oil-sands plant in Alberta. Note the tailings pond behind the huge yellow piles of sulphur, a by-product of bitumen upgrading. The sulphur may come in handy later for use in solar radiation management. Photo Wikipedia
Originally posted at Planet 3.0
Are the bitumen deposits in NE Alberta the biggest carbon bomb on the planet or will their exploitation have hardly any effect on the climate? Will the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline accelerate development of the oil sands or will it make little difference?