An Irresponsible Energy Strategy
The Conservatives in Canada’s federal government, as well as those in Alberta’s provincial governmental, are eager to expand the production oil in Alberta’s Tar Sands. But, in order for that to happen, pipelines must be built to get the bitumen into the hands of new customers. There is the Keystone XL pipeline to Texas. The Northern Gateway pipeline to the Pacific Coast of British Columbia. And now, the latest addition to the collection of Tar Sands pipeline that will (I hope) never get built is a proposed pipeline that would go from Alberta, through Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec to end up at refineries in Atlantic Canada. The distance between those two end points, in a straight line, is beyond 3,000 km (or 2,000 miles for those who do not use the metric system).
Obviously, the real length of this pipeline will be much greater.
Politicians here in Atlantic Canada (most notably the premiers of PEI and Nova Scotia) seem very excited about the idea. They make the usual arguments that this pipeline will create “economic growth” and “jobs” while “reducing energy prices”. All of which is highly debatable. But now, there is a new argument: that of a “national energy strategy”. At their annual meeting last weekend, Canada’s premiers made us believe that this Alberta-to-the-Maritimes pipeline will be the first step in a Canadian energy strategy – one that is founded on the exploitation of non-conventional fossil fuel sources such as the Tar Sands and shale gas.
I couldn’t help myself… I decided to write to my local paper (although I don’t believe they’ve printed my letter. But that’s OK because I also e-mailed it to various politicians). Here is what I had to say (limited to only 350 words):
An Irresponsible Energy Strategy
During their annual meeting last weekend, Canada’s premiers discussed the possibility of a national energy strategy revolving around a proposed pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to the Maritimes. Such a pipeline is terrible idea for a variety of reasons. However the strongest argument against it happens to be the one that nobody talks about: climate change.
The math on climate change is simple. The proven reserves of fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) around the world add up 2,795 billion tonnes of carbon. In order to limit warming of the planet to 2 degrees Celsius (which, according to climatologists, is the point at which dangerous climate change becomes catastrophic climate change) we can only burn the equivalent of 565 billion tonnes. In other words, we need to leave 80% of the world’s reserves in the ground in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. Not only that, but we need to get off of fossil fuels very quickly: at our current pace we will burn through that 565 billion tonnes in 16 years!
The International Energy Agency (IEA) supports these numbers. They are the facts we have to work with.
That makes a pipeline from the Tar Sands to Atlantic Canada completely irresponsible because it will encourage the burning of fossil fuels and delay investments into renewable sources of energy. And that is the complete opposite of what we must do. Canada does need a national energy policy. However, that policy needs to based on the fact that we must aggressively tackle the threat of climate change. To do so, our energy policy needs to revolve around energy conservation, energy efficiency and the development of renewable sources of energy.
We have to adapt our policies to the reality of climate change. Let us start by stopping this irresponsible pipeline.
I hope somebody reads it…