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Mon, 2011-06-13 12:43TJ Scolnick
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Canada Hiding Its Carbon Emissions Growth Amidst Rapid Tar Sands Boom

Each year, in advance of United Nations (U.N.) climate discussions, governments around the world submit an inventory of their carbon emissions. This year, Canada is taking a unique approach to lower its reported emissions in preparing the annual carbon inventory – it has purposefully excluded information in order to give the false impression that when it comes to climate-altering tar sands pollution, “everything is fine.”

In reality, Canada’s carbon emissions have tripled since 1990, and Canada is making only minor progress to lower its carbon production 17% by 2020, according to Environment Canada’s own figures.

Last week, however, it was revealed that in the 567-page report detailing the country’s emissions, the Canadian government decided not to include 2009 data. Why? Perhaps because it documents a 20% increase in pollution from Alberta’s tar sands industry. The elusive data was only gradually released through emails in response to an investigation by Postmedia News.

Thu, 2011-06-02 16:15Farron Cousins
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UK Opposed to Europe’s Tar Sands Import Ban

While most European countries are working on a proposal that would effectively ban the use of Canadian tar sands in the European Union, the United Kingdom has made it clear that they will not support any measure to reduce their reliance on tar sands. Britain joins the Netherlands as one of only two countries that want to continue to have the option to use oil derived from Canadian tar sands.

The EU is working to produce a new “fuel directive” this year that would reduce the amount of emissions acceptable from fuels used for transportation. The directive would require a 6% reduction in the amount of emissions from vehicle fuel over the next 9 years. Because the emissions from tar sands run about 23% higher than those from traditional fossil fuels, this would mean that their use in the EU would be effectively prohibited.

Wed, 2011-05-04 13:56Emma Pullman
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Facing Four More Years of Harper Inaction, Canadians Must Rally Their Own Climate Leadership

Earlier this week, Canadians flocked to the polls for the fourth time in 7 years. This time around, the election was triggered when the minority government led by Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper was found in contempt of parliament in March for failing to release information related to the costs of proposed crime legislation and the purchase of stealth fighter jets.

From the moment the election was announced, Harper derided it as ‘unnecessary’, and ‘unwanted’ even though public polling clearly indicated widespread displeasure with his handling of the economy, public programming including programs for women, the environment, and for proroguing parliament twice. After the 2008 election, when voter turnout was the lowest in Canadian history (59% overall, and a dismal youth turnout of 37%), people wondered if this so-called ‘unwanted’ election would fail to motivate voters to the polls.

While pundits and pollsters made their best guesses leading up to election day, no one correctly anticipated the outcome. With just under 40% of the vote, the Conservatives finally won the majority they have coveted since ascending in 2006. The New Democratic Party (NDP) won 102 seats and formed the official opposition for the first time in history. The Liberal Party was reduced to a mere 34 seats, and the Bloc Quebecois lost 90% of its seats to end up with 4. On the positive side, Green Party candidate Elizabeth May won her party’s first seat in North American history.

Of the 14 closest ridings that Conservatives won seats, the combined margin of victory in all those ridings was 6,201 votes. That means the real difference between a Harper minority and majority was just over 6,000 votes. While 5.8 million people voted for Stephen Harper, another 9 million – the ‘real majority’ – voted for change. But, with his new majority, Harper no longer has to worry about impediments to his extreme ideology; he can ram his anti-science, pro-polluter agenda down the throats of the Canadian public. That spells trouble for Canada’s environment, and it’s especially bad news for the global climate.

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.

Mon, 2011-03-21 12:35TJ Scolnick
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Pew Report Highlights Importance Of Canada’s Boreal Forest For Water Reserves and Climate

A new Pew Environment Group report [PDF] confirms the importance of Canada’s Boreal forest in safeguarding public health and the climate. The report details many benefits the 1.2 billion acre forest delivers to human health and wildlife, including protecting freshwater reserves and animal habitat, as well as preventing the effects of global warming. The decades of research behind this study also reveals that the forest’s health is increasingly at risk due to rapid industrial development, namely mining and gas extraction. 

For those unfamiliar with Canada’s Boreal forest, it is recognized as an ecological marvel, boasting half the world’s lakes larger than a square kilometer in size; 5 of the world’s 50 largest rivers; almost 200 million acres of surface water; and the world’s single largest remaining unpolluted fresh water body, Great Bear Lake.

The forest contains 25 percent of the world’s wetlands, and has more surface water than any other continental-scale landscape. It is the most intact and preserved forest on the planet, safeguarding biodiversity and food supplies, and contributing to the culture and history of many nearby communities.

Although it is less well known for its role as a massive carbon sink, the forest plays a vital role in regulating the climate and diminishing the effects from global warming.

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. 

Thu, 2011-01-27 05:00Emma Pullman
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Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife: Not Even Canadians are Safe from the Kochs Anymore

Koch Brothers

From Koch Industries’ roots as “the biggest company you’ve never heard of”, David and Charles Koch have become household names for funding climate change denial and efforts to steer the United States away from a clean energy future.  They suffered a little hiccup when California voters failed to buy the arguments of the dirty oil interests bankrolling Prop 23.  Then, when David Koch was booed at the Nutcracker ballet just before Christmas, it started to look like the tides were shifting on public opinion around the billionaire brothers. 

Despite the headway made in holding the Koch Brothers to account, they’ve creeped their way into Canada. 

Well, let me be clear.  It’s not as though Koch Industries is a totally foreign force in Canada. Koch and its subsidiaries currently operate in seven Canadian provinces, and according to a Greenpeace report, Koch has held multiple leases in Alberta’s tar sands, and since the 1990s the Koch Pipeline Company has operated the pipelines that carry tar sands crude from Canada into Minnesota and Wisconsin where Koch’s Flint Hill Resources owns oil refineries.

On the policy development front, they’ve busily bankrolled Canada’s Fraser Institute to the tune of $175,000 between 2005 and 2008 to ensure Canada remains in the Stone Ages when it comes to environmental policy.  

This time though, it’s gotten political.  According to Chris Genovali’s piece in the Huffington Postrenewable energy in Ontario is under attack by the Kochtopus.

Thu, 2011-01-06 15:19Emma Pullman
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Minister of Environmental Destruction Says He Will Not Let Emissions Rules Hamper Tar Sands Development

Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent is off to a great start convincing Canadians that he is concerned about the environment.  After just than two days in office, he has already tried to persuade Canadians that Alberta’s filthy tar sands oil are “ethical oil” and unworthy of the negative reputation that countless citizens, politicians, and environmental organizations have given them.  Today, he’s promising that the Harper government will not impose any greenhouse gas reductions on the oil patch that will discourage investment. 

Curbing regulation in favour of profits doesn’t really sound like the work of the Minister of the Environment.  This suggests, rather troublingly, that the profits of the oil and gas sector, and in particular Alberta’s tar sands, are more important to the Harper government than their environmental impact.  Let’s get something clear: is Kent the Minister of Environment, or the Minister of Environmental Destruction? And who is he working for? Corporate interests, or Canadians?

Tue, 2010-12-14 12:18Emma Pullman
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Legislation Introduced To Ban Oil Tanker Traffic On B.C.’s North Coast

Today, Vancouver Quadra Liberal MP and former B.C. Environment Minister Joyce Murray introduced legislation in Canada’s House of Commons that would formally ban oil tanker traffic in B.C.’s North Coast.  Bill C-606 comes days after a successful House of Commons motion demonstrated support for a legislated ban on oil tankers.

Though the motion carried, the victory was only bittersweet because the motion passed is not binding, and merely calls on the Tory government to legislate a formal ban.  The Conservative government maintains that a ban is unnecessary since a long-standing, informal moratorium on oil tanker traffic and all offshore oil and gas activity has been in effect since 1972.  Yet last year, the Harper government quietly affirmed that it is not legally bound to maintain a moratorium on oil drilling off the coast of British Columbia.  The government determined that the 1972 ban doesn’t technically apply to oil-tanker traffic.  To date, eight Canadian prime ministers have upheld the moratorium, but that could all change.  The B.C. government is currently lobbying the federal Conservative government to revoke the ban.  Opposition parties fear the Tory government will allow the ban to be lifted in order to profit from growing Asian energy markets.

Fri, 2010-12-10 11:10Bill Hewitt
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PART TWO: The Paradox of Canada’s Tar Sands and America’s Drive to Substantially Decarbonize Energy

(Cont’d from Part 1) As far as the credibility of the U.S. and Canada in international climate negotiations, the Sierra Club’s Kate Colarulli thinks that continued tar sands oil production and consumption hurts both countries badly.  Canada’s reputation is particularly poor in this context.

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s International Program, feels the same way.  Canada, in her view, has been completely discredited at the table as a direct consequence of the tar sands.

In Cancún, Canada has been an extremely visible target because of the tar sands.  Protesters there have made the salient point that Canada is dragging its feet on robust greenhouse gas reduction targets because of their desire to continue and radically expand the tar sands extraction.

Canada was also being tarred in Cancún – pun intended – by being the recipient of three “Fossil of the Day” awards, as voted by over 400 international organizations.  Canada was similarly dishonored at the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties for “…years of delay, obstruction and total inaction.”

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