Ocean Mist

Issues and trends shaping our environment, health and economy

19 Apr 2018

Oil and troubled waters

Posted by Michael Keating

The battle over the future of a pipeline to carry Alberta oil sands bitumen to the Pacific is the latest example of how hard it is to move to sustainable development. The Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion project would twin an existing pipeline from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C. The Alberta government wants the new pipeline to get more oil to overseas markets and fetch a better price. British Columbia’s government wants to block the project on the grounds that a spill of dilbit [diluted bitumen from the oil sands] could cause great environmental damage. Many protesters want to stop the project saying we should not be selling more oil at a time when we are supposed to be reducing greenhouse gas emissions from sources such as fossil fuels. The dispute has put the federal government in a bind. It signed the Paris climate accord, which promises to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, but is supporting the pipeline expansion. Last month an extraordinary report by the majority of Canada’s auditors general found that most governments in Canada were not on track to meet their commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Canada has missed two separate emission reduction targets (the 1992 Rio target and the 2005 Kyoto target) and is likely to miss the 2020 Copenhagen target as well. In fact, emissions in 2020 are expected to be nearly 20 percent above the target.” Most provincial governments have or will introduce pricing to discourage fossil fuel use, but the impacts are far below what is needed to meet even modest targets. While we have carbon pricing and incentives for greener energy and for energy conservation, we still have no clear roadmap of how we are going to meet ever more stringent targets. According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world will have to cut greenhouse gas emissions as much as 70 percent by mid-century.

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