Alberta

Thu, 2011-05-12 12:37Emma Pullman
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Spill Baby Spill? The 5,000 Alberta Oil Spills Industry Would Prefer You Did Not Know About

Right now, the oil and gas industry is holding its breath as the approval of two major tar sands pipelines hang in the balance. The $13 billion Keystone XL pipeline would significantly increase the Canadian export of of dirty tar sands bitumen to the U.S. by as much as 510,000 barrels a day. And, on this side of the border, the ferociously debated $5.5 billion, 1,170 kilometre Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline would carry dirty tar sands bitumen to Kitimat, B.C., where it would be loaded onto supertankers bound for growing energy markets in Asia. 

As the decisions near, a series of major oil spills in the last year have highlighted the dangers these two pipelines pose, particularly given the major expansion of tar sands production they would enable. 

This week, a pump-station equipment failure at a TransCanada pipeline caused 80,000 litres of oil to spill in North Dakota. The Keystone system has suffered 12 leaks since it opened last June, all of them related to equipment failures at pump stations. Despite the frequent spill record, the pipeline is due to resume operations on Saturday

Thu, 2011-03-31 04:45Matthew Carroll
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European Union Pushing Back on Canada's Taxpayer Funded Tar Sands Lobbying

Canada Europe flags oiled

Canada does not - as yet - export much tar sands oil to Europe. So why, you might ask, have the Canadian and Alberta governments been working overtime using tax dollars to fund a massive misinformation and lobbying campaign on the other side of the Atlantic?

There’s a clue in this press release from January announcing Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert’s $40,000 lobbying jaunts to the US and Europe: “The European Union is not currently a major market for Alberta’s oil sands products, but any legislation or tariffs adopted by the union’s government can serve as a model for individual nations around the world. We want to continue to share our story with the legislators so they have the facts about our clean energy strategies”

(I’ll let the “clean energy strategies” rubbish slide for now.)

It’s not about protecting existing markets. At the moment the vast majority of exported tar sands oil goes to the US. For the most part, it’s not even about securing a regulatory environment in Europe that protects future potential markets (although that is no doubt a contributing factor). I’ll tell you why the Canadian and Albertan governments are so worried that they’ve been applying pressure on European legislators to a degree at least one EU parliamentarian has declared “unacceptable”.

It’s about precedent. And they’re scared.

Sat, 2011-02-19 15:44TJ Scolnick
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New Report: Keystone XL Pipeline Is Not Safe

TransCanada Corporation is facing another key hurdle in its efforts to obtain State Department approval for its proposed Keystone XL pipeline to deliver dirty tar sands oil from Northern Alberta to Texas refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

On Friday, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Pipeline Safety Trust, the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club jointly published a new report [pdf] which details the likelihood that there will be leaks and major oil spills into waterways along the pipeline’s path.

The report explicitly states how tar sands oil is more corrosive than conventional oil and therefore is a much higher risk to pipeline systems.

Mon, 2011-02-14 11:38TJ Scolnick
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The Facts Are In, The Tar Sands Are Dirty, But Industry Spin Campaign Continues

Last year, as part of its review of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline planned to deliver dirty tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the carbon emissions from Canadian oil sands crude would be approximately 82% greater than average US crude.
 
Tar sands oil producers, fossil fuel advocates and Canadian and Alberta politicians were understandably worried about the reputation of their dirty oil. To battle these new facts, these groups have actively engaged in a campaign to greenwash the tar sands by promoting it as “ethical oil”.  They’ve even commissioned their own report by the Cambridge Energy Research Associates suggesting that emissions from tar sands oil were only 5-15% higher than traditional oil products. 

Mon, 2011-01-17 13:58Emma Pullman
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Why We Need to Stop Calling Tar Sands Oil "Ethical Oil"

There are few terms in the Canadian vernacular that irk me more than “ethical oil”.  Since Ezra Levant’s 2010 book “Ethical Oil” hit the scene, it’s become the favourite language for government newspeak, and the media.  Worst of all, its given tar sands proponents and the Conservative Government fodder for their debunked argument that tarsands oil is good for us

Levant’s book looks at the ethical cost of our addiction to oil, and argues that Alberta tar sands oil is more ethically responsible than oil imported from despotic regimes in the Sudan, Russia, and Mexico, where human rights issues are of concern. 

Though neither Harper nor our new Minister of Environmental Destruction have read the book, the term was exactly what the Conservatives needed to bolster the much-maligned tar sands.  Prior to the echochamber that ensued after the publication of Levant’s book,  tar sands oil was often characterized as “dirty” and “controversial” - much to the ire of the government.

 Levant may well have learned the art of spin early in his career while spending the summer in an internship arranged by the libertarian and clean energy/climate change enemy Charles G. Koch Foundation, or through his work with the Fraser Institute.  Levant himself coined the term “ethical oil” in 2009 after being involved in a panel on tar sands oil.  The spin doctor finished the 90-minute debate having not managed to convince his audience of the merits of the toxic oil.  Without admitting defeat, Levant quickly realized that he was going to have to find a different way to spin the dirty oil apart from economic arguments which just weren’t resonating with people. 

Wed, 2011-01-12 23:17Emma Pullman
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State Department Refuses to Release Information on Tar Sands Oil Pipeline

The U.S. State Department notified a coalition of environmental groups last week that it has denied their Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for correspondence between the agency and a former presidential campaign staffer of Hillary Clinton’s, who, in his new role as oil industry lobbyist, is seeking Secretary of State Clinton’s approval for a tar sands oil pipeline.

The coalition, including Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law, and Corporate Ethics International submitted a FOIA request in December targeted at Paul Elliott, now a lead lobbyist for TransCanada, the company aiming to build the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring 900,000 barrels a day of dirty tar sands over 2,000 miles through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, and a further 1,661 miles to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The State Department denied the FOIA request on the grounds that the groups had not “reasonably described the records [they sought] in a way that someone familiar with Department records and programs could locate them” and cited the groups’ request for a waiver on the fees associated with the processing of the FOIA as reason to deny their request.

Marcie Keever, legal director for Friends of the Earth argues that the State Department did not have legitimate legal grounds to deny the FOIA request.

Thu, 2011-01-06 16:27Emma Pullman
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Breaking News: Fire Breaks Out At Tar Sands Site in Alberta

Thursday afternoon, fire broke out at the Horizon oilsands site near Fort McKay in northern Alberta.  Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., which owns the site, confirmed that the fire was set off by an explosion around 5:30 PM Eastern Time Thursday.

The fire itself started in an upgrader across from the plant where bitumen is converted into crude oil.  The 480-foot coker structure, which uses heat to convert bitumen into crude oil caught fire.  Individuals at the site claimed that the explosion caused flames and smoke to shoot hundreds of feet into the air. 

Tue, 2010-11-30 23:06Emma Pullman
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Canada Already on Track to be Fossil of the Year in Cancun; Cleans up on Day One of the Talks

Canada is off to an impressive start at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, if what you’re measuring is climate inaction and environmental embarrassment. 

Today, at the first set of the Fossil of the Day awards, Canada took home not one, or two, but all three of the awards.  The dubious ‘honour’ is voted on by an international coalition of than 400 leading international environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, who vote on the countries that performed the worst during the past day’s negotiations.  Turns out if you are really committed to climate inaction, fail to have any plan to meet already weak targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, defeat a climate change bill that was already passed in your House of Commons by holding a snap vote by an unelected Senate after no debate, and are complicit in trying to weaken climate policy outside of your own national borders, you can win all three of the humiliating prizes. 

The gentleman accepting the shameful awards on behalf of Canada hopped from podium step to podium step, barely able to juggle his armful of awards.  Looks like Canada can clean up humiliating awards, but can’t clean up its act.

In the next two weeks, we’ll see if Canada will take home the Fossil of the Year for the forth year in a row.  From the look of things now, we might as well preemptively cue the Jurassic Park theme music. 

Watch this hilarious video to see Canada’s flagrant lack of commitment to climate change policy given its due recognition.  We can only hope that history does not repeat itself once more.  Prove us wrong, will you Mr. Baird? 

Thu, 2010-11-25 09:46Emma Pullman
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Alberta and Canadian Governments Complicit in Killing Climate Policy in EU & U.S. to Support Toxic Tar Sands

The Alberta government’s multi-million dollar public relations campaign to spin dirty tar sands production in a positive light has received quite a bit of flack from those who see through efforts to tout the tar sands as green, or as a “national treasure”

They haven’t just been investing in $56,000 advertisements and op-ed pieces. The governments of Canada and Alberta are also engaged in something much more insidious: a concerted effort to weaken climate policies in other countries, with the aim of ensuring that no impediments exist to Canada’s filthy tar sands. 

The shocking report released by Climate Action Network Canada shows that the Alberta and Canadian governments have been complicit with industry in efforts to undermine climate legislation in the EU and U.S. The report highlights three devious efforts by industry and government to oppose or weaken energy policy abroad: California’s low-carbon fuel standard, which encourages cleaner fuels and discourages burning dirty fuels; Section 526 of the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act, which stops departments from buying the dirtiest kinds of fuels and the European Union’s Fuel Quality Directive, an effort to lower CO2 emissions and move toward cleaner-burning fuels.

Government and industry are behind “a concerted effort to weaken climate policies outside our borders, with the aim of ensuring that no doors are closed to Canada’s highly polluting tar sands,” the report’s authors write. This is the heart of corporate-government complicity, with the secret oilsands advocacy strategy being led by the Foreign Affairs Department, with officials working in both the U.S. and the European Union.  The report’s authors fear that these examples appear to be just the tip of the iceberg.

Tue, 2010-11-23 06:55Brendan DeMelle
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Had Enough Tar Sands Greenwashing? Join the CAPP Ad-Jam Contest

Are you sick and tired of the greenwashing efforts by the Alberta government and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) to paint Canada’s toxic tar sands as ‘clean’?

Greenpeace Canada is launching an ad-jamming contest to combat the greenwashing campaign launched by CAPP in a series of print and video ads

“It is time to show CAPP that any attempt to greenwash the tar sands will not go unchecked,” say Greenpeace organizers, who have set up a Facebook group to “Put a CAPP on Tar Sands Greenwashing.”

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