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Politics versus the future: Canada’s Orwellian energy standoff

Politics versus the future: Canada’s Orwellian energy standoff

There is no denying the utility of fossil fuels, which meet 85% of the world’s energy needs. And consumption is rising along with emissions. Even in Canada, the second largest hydropower producer in the world, 76% of end use energy is provided by fossil fuels.

We are told by the federal government that increasing oil and gas production and meeting emissions reduction targets are mutually compatible goals. Alberta has crafted a ‘climate leadership plan’ that allows oil sands emissions to grow by 40% and places no restrictions on oil and gas production outside of the oil sands. A phase out of remaining coal plants, most of which were already due to be decommissioned under the former Harper government’s legislation, and a modest carbon tax, were also included.

Even with Alberta’s oil sands cap in place, National Energy Board (NEB) projections for oil and gas production growth show that upstream emissions will increase greatly, to the point that a 49% reduction in emissions from the rest of Canada’s economy would be required to meet our Paris targets.

Notwithstanding the difficulty in making such radical reductions outside of the petroleum sector in a short timeframe, the federal and Alberta governments assert that if the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX) is not built, even Alberta’s extremely modest ‘climate leadership plan’ may be cancelled.

Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau have invested a lot of political capital in TMX but are ignoring the bigger picture. Even if oil and gas production is allowed to grow per the NEB’s projections, there are two other export pipelines likely to be built that are not mentioned in the heated TMX debate.

Line 3 and Keystone XL, without TMX, would provide sufficient pipeline export capacity for foreseeable production growth under the oil sands emissions cap, and access world prices on the Gulf Coast.

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