A Pivotal Moment!

The Honourable Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, used these strong words in his keynote remarks to the 2013 Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference (EMMC).

Minister Oliver observed that oil and gas are natural resources that generate $30 billion of government revenue  “for critical social programs, including health care and education.” To maintain those social programs at the level Canadians enjoy will require new infrastructure to ensure that our fossil fuel resources are delivered to the world’s buyers.

Oliver noted that Canada cannot expect to continue the current level of exports of oil and gas to the United States, which may well be self-sufficient in four years. However, global energy demand is estimated to be 35 per cent greater in 2035 than in 2010.  Canada needs to tap this demand and find new markets in Asia-Pacific countries.  This means that Canada must build pipelines to transport its resources to “tidewater”, whether on the West Coast, the East Coast, or perhaps even the Arctic.

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Fracking=Nerve Wracking

There are divisions within the renewable energy camp that may prove to be irreconcilable.  The best known is the disagreement over the role of nuclear energy. There are effective advocates for continued use of nuclear energy, such as George Monbiot and James Lovelock. Critics of nuclear energy are just as effective, referring to issues such as the large costs of instalation, collateral security risks and problems of disposal of spent uranium.

So it is with fracking, a process that extracts natural gas from reserves that cannot be exploited by conventional drilling methods.

Environmentalists in favour of fracking, such as Lovelock, refer to the world’s continuing need for fossil fuels to generate electricity.  GHG emissions from natural gas are well below emissions from coal and conventional oil.  So fracking, which has greatly increased the supply of natural gas, enables the US to reduce its GHG emissions by phasing out use of coal in the production of electricity.

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Obama: Why Climate Change Forums are necessary

We are well aware that Canadian public opinion remains divided whether burning fossil fuels is the principal contributor to global warming. In the minds of many of our co-citizens the heat waves, the floods, the tornadoes we are experiencing are natural variations of weather. True, these events may be a little more frequent and a little more damaging, such as the recent Calgary floods.

When challenged to account for such recent disasters, sceptics assert that in the long history of the earth there have been many strange weather phenomena.  Human beings were not around then to be held responsible for these events.  Even so, sceptics regard our century is a just another natural cycle to which we must and can adapt.

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The President Raises the Bar

The fossil fuel industry seeking President Obama’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline must show that when built the pipeline “doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

As noted in our last blog, both the Canadian fossil fuel industry and Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, think that this “condition” can be met. They agree with a U.S. State Department report delivered in January 2012 that most of the tar sands bitumen that would flow through the pipeline if approved would find its way to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast by other means of transport even if the pipeline was not approved. So approval of the pipeline won’t exacerbate anything.

In our view the condition is not just about practical calculations as to means of transport. There is a more fundamental principle at stake. To stay within 2 degrees C of global warming, half the world’s fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. The most obvious candidate for this “freeze” is the tar sands.

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Good News/Bad News on Renewable Energy

First the good news:   more renewable energy came on line in 2012 than in any other year, mainly because  the cost of solar installations decreased by approximately 30%. Now the bad news.   Investment in future renewable energy declined in 2012, in part a reaction to governments withdrawing from programs that supported renewable energy. The Province …

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Ontario Leadership Required!

On May 6th last, the Ontario Government released a new policy for renewable energy. The new policy gives municipalities more control over the location of new large renewable energy projects. This change is a response to public criticism of the Government’s failure to consult with respect to the location of large gas-fired generating plants and placing of wind turbines.   While the new policy is politically necessary, it is administratively cumbersome. By way of contrast, a recent Report of the Ontario Distribution Sector Review Panel recommended consolidating the province’s local distribution companies (your municipal hydro company), which will encourage the development of “smart grids” that efficiently deliver electricity at a lower cost.

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Insane? Or Irrational? . . . Or?

The International Energy Agency (IEA), a well-recognized authority in such matters, has categorically stated that no more than one-third of proven fossil fuel reserves can be consumed prior to 2050 if the word is to reduce GHG emissions and limit global warming to 2 degrees C.  So for the environmental health of this planet, two-thirds of proven fossil fuel reserves must be left unexploited.

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