A recent Environment Canada report reveals that Canada will likely fall short of its emission reduction targets due to the continued expansion of the Alberta oil sands. The peer-reviewed report entitled, Canada’s Emissions Trends, projected that oil sands emissions will triple to 92 million tonnes per year by 2020.
Consequently, Canada will be hard-pressed to meet its emission cuts of 17 percent by 2020, as was agreed to in December of 2009.
The news is particularly troubling given the advances Canadian provinces are making towards emission cuts in other sectors. For instance, the utilization of cleaner and more efficient electricity generators in the coming years will see emissions fall by 31 megatonnes. Unfortunately, these emissions cuts will be grossly overshadowed by Alberta’s emissions, which will account for fully 12 percent of Canada’s national emissions by 2020.
Simon Dyer from the environmental think-tank the Pembina Institute argues that the recent statistics show “just how out of line the oil sands emissions are.”
But as oil prices continue to rise, the Alberta government will continue to churn out permits to expand oil sands production – the economic gains that can be made are simply too tantalizing to ignore.
The Oil Sands Debate
The oil sands have been the epicentre of environmental debate in Canada for the past two decades due to their large contribution of greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional oil. Even around the world, the Alberta oil sands have received negative media attention, having garnered the unflattering label “dirty oil.”
Unsurprisingly, such bad publicity has infiltrated Canada’s closest trading partner, as debates continue to escalate in the United States regarding the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline bringing Alberta oil to the US Midwest.
The recent numbers regarding oil sands production reveal the deleterious effect dirty fossil fuel consumption can have on emission reduction targets. And as Alberta proceeds to exploit its oil sands, it is becoming increasingly entangled in an unsustainable form of development.
Many are suggesting that a carbon bubble is forming because humanity can only afford to burn one fifth of its proven reserves. When the carbon bubble does burst, oil-based economies could be severely hurt as countries turn away from fossil fuels in favour of cleaner alternatives. If this is indeed the case, Alberta will be left behind in the future global economy.
What are your thoughts regarding the oil sands?
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