Thu, 2014-04-24 13:21Raphael Lopoukhine
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Alberta Ramps Up “Responsible Energy Development” Sales Pitch in Wake of New Keystone XL Delay

Alberta oilsands tar sands julia kilpatrick

Days after another delay by the Obama administration on TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, members of the Alberta government are hitting the U.S. circuit to promote the oilsands and boost their “green” credentials.

Three government officials are heading to key regions in the U.S. to push for continued market access and advertise what Albertan energy minister Diana McQueen calls “our commitment to clean energy development.”

Alberta hopes to showcase investment in carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology as part of a successful emissions reduction plan.

Critics say the Alberta government’s talk about “sustainability” and “clean energy” is not in line with reality.

If you’ve been following the Canadian government’s sales pitch for the Keystone XL pipeline, you’ve probably heard this claim before: ‘Emissions per barrel have been reduced by 26 per cent between 1990 and 2011,’” writes P.J. Partington, senior federal policy analyst with the Pembina Institute.

However, the reality, Partington writes, is that “since 1990, oilsands production has quintupled, while GHG emissions from production and upgrading have quadrupled.”

Thu, 2014-04-24 11:16Farron Cousins
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Report: Arctic Oil Spill Readiness Virtually Nonexistent

Sea ice in the Arctic Circle is currently melting at a pace far greater than scientists had originally projected.  While this is bad news for the planet — sea ice helps reflect the sun’s rays and keeps the arctic cooler — it has created new paths for the oil industry to exploit the resources hidden deep under the icy water.

Drilling activities in the Arctic have currently stalled, but this stall isn’t going to last forever.  The Arctic is estimated to hold about 13% of the world’s oil reserves, and at least one-third of the total oil within U.S. territory.  This means that the oil companies don’t need to worry with drilling on foreign lands or about the prospect of not hitting a massive payday.  They will return.

That’s the problem – they will return.  According to a new report by the National Research Council, that is a very scary scenario for both the climate and the environment.  The report says that increased drilling and the placement of oil pipelines make oil spills a question of “when,” not “if.”

The report lays out two very specific themes with regards to Arctic drilling. The first is that there is no discernable oil spill response plan, and the second is that the history of oil companies tells us with great certainty that there will be a massive spill as a result of the increased activity in the region.

Wed, 2014-04-23 20:00Guest
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Only With Political Will Can We Avoid The Worst Of Climate Change

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

It’s fitting that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was released during Earth Month. After all, the third chapter of its Fifth Assessment focuses on ways to keep our planet healthy and livable by warding off extreme climatic shifts and weather events caused by escalating atmospheric carbon.

Doing so will require substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions – 40 to 70 per cent by 2050 and to near-zero by the end of the century. We must also protect carbon “sinks” such as forests and wetlands and find ways to store or bury carbon. The good news is that weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, conserving energy and shifting to cleaner sources comes with economic and quality-of-life benefits.

There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said economist Ottmar Edenhofer, co-chair of Working Group III, which produced the chapter.

Doing nothing isn’t an option. That would lead to a significant increase in global average temperatures and extreme weather-related events such as storms, droughts and floods, wreaking havoc on our food systems, communities and the natural environment we depend on for our health and survival. Technological measures and behavioural change could limit global mean temperatures to less than 2 C above pre-industrial levels, but only with “major institutional and technological change.”

Because we’ve stalled so long, thanks largely to deceptive campaigns run by a small but powerful group of entrenched fossil fuel industry interests and the intransigence of some short-sighted governments, we must also consider ways to adapt to climate change that’s already occurring and that we can’t stop.

Wed, 2014-04-23 17:40Stephen Leahy
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Critics Concerned Pipelines, Tankers Reason for Downgrading "Threatened" Status of Humpback Whales

humpback whale mike baird

This week the federal government was legally obligated to establish protected habitat for threatened North Pacific humpback whales. Instead the Harper government suddenly moved to take the humpback off the “threatened species” list. That would eliminate the legal requirement under Canada’s Species At Risk Act for protecting habitat along the British Columbia coast.

The government based the downgrade on a recommendation made by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), the independent scientific body that designates which wildlife species are in trouble, in 2011.

Critics have noted the decision eliminates a major obstacle to both the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. After the conditional approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline by the National Energy Board's joint review panel, the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre launched a legal complaint on behalf of B.C. Nature requesting the government's recovery strategy for humpback whales be taken into consideration.

A federal recovery strategy for humpback whales on the B.C. coast released in October cited potential increased oil tanker traffic as a danger to dwindling populations. The recovery strategy, released after a five-year delay, also noted the danger toxic spills posed to critical habitat.

If built, the two pipeline projects would increase oil tanker traffic from eight to 28 per month, increasing the risks of collisions with whales, potential spills in vital habitat and excessive noise.

Wed, 2014-04-23 15:07Julie Dermansky
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Barnett Shale Fracking Victims Win First Round in Court Battle with Gas Industry

Legal tremors are reverberating in the Barnett Shale region in Texas after yesterday's $2.925 million dollar verdict in favor of the plaintiffs Bob and Lisa Parr, who sued Aruba Petroleum for damages to their health and the devaluation of their home in a fracking nuisance case.

Earthworks energy program director Bruce Baizel stated in a press release that the jury’s decision is important for two reasons:

When evidence of fracking’s impacts are shown to an impartial jury in a court of law, they find them to be real and significant. And it shows why the fracking industry is reluctant to allow lawsuits of this type to go to trial. Instead fracking companies try to force out of court settlements that gag the harmed family as a condition for financial compensation. They almost always succeed, hiding from the public the proof of fracking’s dangers. Consequently, industry and government continue claiming fracking is harmless. We hope this lawsuit will make regulators, in Texas and around the country, reexamine their assumptions about fracking’s dangers, and their responsibility to keep the public safe.”

The Parrs were part of an Earthworks' study entitled “Natural Gas Flowback: The Dark Side of the Boom.” The study complied data on the health effects of hydraulic fracking and gas industry activities in the Barnett Shale.

According to the report, Lisa Parr's blood and lungs were tested by Dr. William Rae of the Environmental Health Center in Dallas. The report states that Dr. Rae “found more than 20 chemicals, including six that matched the VOCs detected by TCEQ’s air sampling of the well site.”

The Parrs’ neighbors, the Ruggieros, also had to deal with the health consequences and nuisances caused by Aruba Petroleum’s operations including noise and air pollution. They settled and signed a confidentiality agreement. Though Tim Ruggiero doesn't discuss the settlement or Aruba Petroleum, he wrote a personal essay, “Leaving Gasland,” concluding that for him “Leaving Gasland is not winning, it’s merely an end to losing.”

Aruba Petroleum released a statement to ThinkProgress today stating, “The facts of the case and the law as applied to those facts do not support the verdict,” and that “Aruba is an experienced oil and gas operator that is in compliance within the air quality limits set by the Texas Railroad Commission and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.”  

The Parr case has already started to redefine what winning can look like, even though Aruba Petroleum is likely to appeal.

“We hope this lawsuit will make regulators, in Texas and around the country, reexamine their assumptions about fracking’s dangers, and their responsibility to keep the public safe,” Baizel says.

Here is a slide show of images taken in the Barnett Shale region in Texas.

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