Canadian Ambassador to US: Oilsands Get Disproportionate Amount of Criticism
Canada's Ambassador to the United States, Gary Doer, who is a former NDP Premier of Manitoba, stated yesterday that the oilsands are facing a disproportionate amount of criticism in the climate change debate. Mr. Doer argues that North America is missing the big picture on global warming if Canada is singled out as the chief emissions culprit, the Montreal Gazette reported this morning.
"One of the concerns that I have is that it represents so little of the emissions in North America. It's getting a disproportionate amount of chatter," Gary Doer said in an interview yesterday with Canwest News Service. "The question is: How much do the oilsands represent as a percentage of emissions in North America? It's a very small amount. If we don't deal with all sources of emissions, we are not going to have a solution that's comprehensive."
The oilsands are much maligned. Greenpeace is up there trying to block production (and recently got sued by Suncor for its efforts), activists are tying themselves to machines, and natural gas lobbyist groups in the US are pointing their fingers at the oilsands. But do you know what the chief source of carbon emissions in North America is? It's not oilsands. It's not SUVs and trucks, tailpipes or dryer vents.
What are we doing about it? If you've been following our blogs, you'll see that Alberta and Canada have just made a $769 million pledge to a carbon capture and storage project for a coal thermal plant - the technology used at the plant will be the first of its kind in the world. The US is presently conducting a $14 million study to see if they should spend $1 billion on CCS for coal thermal plants in the US. It's a step in the right direction. Emissions from coal thermal plants in North America are about sixty times higher than the emisisons from the oilsands and coal is the fastest growing fossil fuel being produced (World Watch Institute, October 15, 2009). According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the oilsands only account for about five per cent of Canada's overall greenhouse gas emissions - a much smaller number when all of North America is taken into account.
David Jacobsen, the new US Ambassador to Canada, met with Ambassador Doer in Winnipeg on Monday, after a trip through the oilsands last week. Ambassador Jacobsen, who called Canada "a pillar in the energy security of the United States" , acknowledges that the oilsands must be part of the equation. Canada's new US Ambassador seems to agree, stating "[y]ou've got to look at everything. How do you reduce emissions from coal? How do you increase the use of renewables? How do you have the increase in energy efficiency?" All of these items have to be on the agenda. The fact that one project (oilsands) is discussed means that we've missed the big picture".
Big picture indeed. The big picture actually includes China and India, particularly if Copenhagen is really going to amount to a meaningful climate change treaty. China is constructing coal plants at a frentic pace and has the world's third largest coal reserves, after the US and Russia. Because China now uses more coal than the United States, Europe and Japan combined, it the world's largest emitter of gases that are warming the planet. Why is everyone so concerned with the oilsands, when the real question is - what is China going to do about climate change?
China has a script they stick to which basically goes something like this - the rest of you got to do it, now it's our turn - too bad if you don't like it. China is setting its self up as the advocate of the developing world (intensity targets tied to GNP), but meanwhile as China points fingers and constructs power plants, the Maldives, the lowest country in the world, could wind up entirely underwater.
Shouldn't Greenpeace be more worried about that?