Yesterday Alberta Premier Alison Redford was in Washington to lobby for the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. While in Washington, she gave a speech at the Brookings Institute. We decided to fact check some of her comments. Here’s the Premier's top 10 lies, mistruths and deceptions.
“The truth is that Alberta is home to some of the most environmentally friendly, progressive legislation in the world.”
Alberta has been widely criticized for their wide lack of environmental protection. Corporate Knights, ranked Alberta dead last in it’s recent provincial environmental stewardship report card.
The David Suzuki Foundation also ranked Alberta last when it comes to climate policy.
Finally having legislation is good but if you don’t enforce it, it doesn’t matter much (like with respect to toxic tailings ponds). Adding insult to injury, the guy the Alberta government just put in charge of environmental enforcement is Gerry Protti, founding President of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (conflict of interest much?).
“Since 1990, Alberta’s energy industry has reduced greenhouse gas emissions per barrel of oil produced by an average of 29 percent. Some facilities have achieved reductions as high as 50 percent.”
While the above statement is almost true (latest figure is 26% between 1990 and 2010) what the Premier knows and didn’t tell her U.S. audience is that overall emissions in Alberta have sky rocketed and will increase by over 500% from 1990 – 2020. Furthermore, while the tar sands industry did reduce its overall greenhouse gas intensity by 29 per cent from 1990 to 2009, more recently the trend for intensity reductions plateaued and then reversed. Between 2009 and 2010, the emissions intensity of the tar sands rose two per cent and this trend is likely to continue (See page 5 & Figure 3 of this report).
“We are bringing all our emissions down as far as possible.”
The Alberta government admits that it isn’t even meeting it’s own emission reduction target, a target which is well below scientifically based international standards. In fact Alberta is not even close to meeting it.
The target is 50 MT reduction per year below business as usual (BAU) by 2020.
Over the past 6-years Alberta has reduced emissions by an average of 5 megatonnes (MT) per year below BAU. By 2020, annual reductions are expected to be 14 MT per year below BAU.
Right now Alberta has a 45 MT gap per year below BAU, by 2020 they will still have a 36 MT gap from THEIR OWN TARGET.
In addition to not meeting their own target overall emissions in Alberta are expected just to go up. The tar sands are the largest and fastest growing source of emissions in Canada. As Alberta adds more and more projects, overall emissions from the tar sands are projected to double between 2010 and 2020.
If Alberta were a country, its per capita greenhouse gas emissions would be higher than any other country in the world.
“We are also pushing ahead with plans to capture and store as much of our carbon as possible.”
Alberta’s carbon capture and storage (CCS) plans have been a major boondoggle as project after project has been cancelled.
Three companies (TransAlta Corp., Enbridge Inc. and Capital Power Corp.) cancelled their $1.4-billion CCS efforts in April 2012.
The Alberta government also cancelled its $285-million funding of the CCS project associated with the proposed Swan Hills Synfuels LP synthetic gas plant north of Edmonton in February of this year.
CCS is more of a pipe dream then a reality and the fact that the Alberta still trumpets it shows just how weak the Province is on the climate front.
“We’ve put a price on carbon. Who else in North America has done that?”
BC has put a price on carbon (a much larger one that Alberta). Quebec has put a price on carbon. California and the U.S. Northeast have done it as well.
Yes Alberta put a price on carbon, and they were the first in North America, but Alberta’s carbon tax has so many holes you can build a tar sands industry through it.
First, the true test of a carbon tax is does it actually help to reduce emissions. In Alberta emissions have gone only up and are expected to more than double over the next decade.
Second, Alberta’s tax isn’t on all emissions (in contrast, BC’s carbon tax covers all emissions from fuel combustion) but instead is only on emissions intensity above a certain level. The average cost (per tonne) to companies to meet emissions targets in Alberta equates not to $15 but a paltry $1.80. That’s a long way from BC’s $30 per tonne on all emissions.
Even Alberta’s new 40/40 proposal would only net an average cost (per tonne) to companies to meet emissions targets of $16, still well below BC and far less than countries like Norway.
“The government and people of Alberta hold producers accountable for every aspect of their operations.”
Really? The Rainbow pipeline spilled 28,000 barrels outside the community of Little Buffalo, including restarting the leaking pipeline three times, and their only penalty was to hire a communications firm so next time they’ll get better press.
“Before any project begins, industry must develop and receive approval for closure plans that outline how affected areas will be reclaimed. And then they have to post a reclamation bond as a further guarantee. Government holds almost $1 billion in such bonds.“
The total oil sands security in the Environmental Protection Security Fund was $820 million in 2009 for 68,574 hectares of disturbed land. That’s only $12,000 per hectare. Based on the limited government and industry data available, the Pembina Institute conservatively estimates the cost of reclaiming this disturbed land will be $10 billion to $15 billion — approximately $220,000 to $320,000 per hectare. ()
The underfunded security program could be exposing each Alberta taxpayer to a tax liability of $4,300 to $6,300.
“Tailing ponds disappear from Alberta’s landscape in the very near future.”
Toxic tailing lakes are not disappearing any time soon instead they are growing and will continue to do so.
Tailings lakes current sprawl over 176 square kilometres of Alberta and they are expected to do nothing but grow. The government has a directive in place (Directive 74) that’s supposed to restrict tailing production but only 2 of 7 companies are even coming close to meeting it. By 2020, toxic tailing lakes are expected to expand by nearly 50% in area to 250 square kilometres.
In addition to the fact that they are growing they are also leeching. Modeled estimates suggest that 11 to 12.6 million litres of tailings leak from tailings ponds each day.
“Keystone XL would add an estimated $6.9 billion per year to your economy over the next 25 years, and create or preserve more than 75,000 American jobs.”
The number of people needed to operate and maintain the 1,661-mile (2,673-kilometer) tar sands pipeline may be as few as 20, according to the U.S. State Department, or as many as a few hundred, according to TransCanada.
“These truths must be heard and we in Alberta will do our part to ensure they are.”
There is not much truth in Alison Redford’s comments. I think telling the truth is the least a good neighbor can do. It’s unfortunate Alberta doesn’t have a Premier willing to do it.