Can Enbridge be trusted to build and operate the Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline in a safe and sustainable manner? Judging from today’s scathing National Transportation Safety Board report on Enbridge’s horrendous pipeline spill in Michigan two years ago, the answer would appear to be a resounding “No”! But that’s just one of the difficult questions faced by Enbridge today.
Recently I noted that planned expansion of the Alberta oil sands can not possibly be reconciled with the Harper government’s promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades. (And Simon Fraser climate policy researcher Mark Jaccard apparently agrees). And I also exposed the ever mounting number of evident links between the Conservative government, including Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver, and the pro-oilsands EthicalOil.org PR group (a.k.a the Ethical Oil Institute).
From: Quesnel Cariboo-Sentinel
Now Oliver has upped the ante on both contentions spectacularly. Answering questions from NDP environment critic Megan Leslie in the Canadian Parliament today, Oliver repeated a previously debunked claim that oil sands emissions (not intensity, but actual emissions) have fallen. And he implied that emission intensity (i.e. GHGs per barrel) continues to fall. Those same mistaken assertions were also made by former Ethical Oil executive director Alykhan Velshi in the ironically titled “Myths and Lies” section of EthicalOil.org, albeit with incomplete hasty corrections later on. And Oliver never did come clean on his understanding of climate science, doing little to reverse the impression that anti-science contrarians have gained a significant foothold in Ottawa, and that Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have no intention of meeting their climate commitments.
“Canada’s message: The world and its climate be damned”. That headline on Jeffrey Simpson’s scathing commentary on Canada’s pending formal withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol said it all. Writing in the Globe and Mail, Simpson touched on several themes that have become staples at Deep Climate: the Canadian government’s hypocritical excuses for lack of action, the intellectually dishonest “ethical oil” argument, and the continued sly pandering to a political base of “climate deniers and skeptics”. These are all worthy topics to explore in the coming months, especially that last one.
But I want to turn today to an analysis of the Conservative government’s putative alternatives to Kyoto, namely the 2009 Copenhagen agreement, as well as the GHG reduction plans put forth in 2008 by Canada and the province Alberta (home to the oil sands and Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper). That analysis confirms the contention of Jeffrey Simpson and others that the government of Canada is “mocking” the 2020 target agreed to only two years ago; the promised 17% reduction in annual GHG emissions (relative to 2005) is already out of reach. A big reason for this is an Alberta target (itself very unlikely to be met) that calls for a rise in GHG emissions until 2020. Not only that, but Alberta’s 2050 target, predicated on massive expansion of oil sands operations, is only 14% below 2005 levels, and sets Canada on a path that can not possibly be reconciled with the Harper government’s own stated long-term target, let alone any reasonable goal compatible with Canada’s responsibilities.
Here is part of a high-minded statement of purpose from a Canadian non-profit organization; see if you can guess which one.
The objects for which the Company is established are:
(a) To support and encourage research and education respecting the following:
(i) the use and development of natural resources including, without limitation, the extraction, production, development, conservation, protection, and distribution of natural resources, and other related matters, throughout Canada and the World;
(ii) conservation and protection of the environment;
(iii) ethical issues and considerations in respect of the items described in subparagraphs (i) and (ii) including, without limitation, issues and
considerations of environmental responsibility, peace, treatment of workers, democratic rights, and human rights; ….
Suzuki Foundation? Nope. Well then, how about the energy think tank Pembina Institute? Wrong again, although this newer organization is also based in oil rich Alberta.
Say hello to – wait for it – the Ethical Oil Institute. Today I’ll take a first look at the hitherto unknown entity behind the latest push to defend the Alberta oil sands (a.k.a. tar sands). I’ll review the emerging roles of the Conservative-linked masterminds behind the initiative, namely pundit and author Ezra Levant and government spokesperson turned blogger Alykhan Velshi. And I’ll introduce Levant’s silent partner in the Institute: Calgary lawyer Thomas Ross,who also happens to be a partner at oil patch law firm McLellan Ross and one of the leaders of the firm’s OilSandsLaw.com initiative. All of this belies the studiously cultivated image of Ethical.org as a “grassroots” organizational effort; indeed, it looks more and more like industry sponsored astroturf.