Academic Report on the tar sands


Three years ago, the Harper Government requested the Council of Canadian Academies to assess how technology could reduce the environmental impact of oil-sands production, projected to more than double by 2030.

A Council Panel very recently released its report. It concluded that fossil fuel companies working the tar sands needed to take urgent action to reduce the sector’s damaging impact on the environment.  This required speeding the adoption of expensive and untried technologies.

“We need to develop this resource in a sustainable fashion,” said panel chair Eric Newell, a former CEO of Syncrude Canada Ltd. and a past chancellor of the University of Alberta. “What I hope the report might do is create a sense of urgency.”

The report did not directly address the question of who should pay for developing the necessary technical fixes.

There is very little chance that, given the difficult financial position of the industry, companies in the tar sands sector will underwrite these costs. Yet the panel report stated:  “. . . changing the pace of technology deployment will not occur without strong leadership, continued investment and risk-taking by all.”


In December of this year Canada will participate in the negotiation of a Treaty replacing Kyoto. Canada will be under pressure to reduce its carbon footprint.Canada’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions includes all sort of minor targets for reducing GHG emissions, but nothing about the tar sands.

As the Globe Article states: “A successful climate strategy would have to include tougher emissions standards for the oil sands. The Panel’s report suggests this is highly unlikely.”

(based on an article appearing in The Globe & Mail, Thursday, May 28)

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