Sunday, February 07, 2016

Upstream, Downstream


At the end of January, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr announced new guidelines to evaluate the impact of new pipelines. Jason Maclean writes:

The new regulations stipulate that oil pipeline decisions will be based on science and traditional indigenous knowledge; the views of the public, including affected communities and indigenous peoples; and the direct and upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that can be linked to pipelines.

During their press conference announcing the new regulations, McKenna and Carr repeatedly intoned that “Canada needs to get its natural resources to market in a sustainable way.”

When pressed about greenhouse gas emissions, McKenna told reporters that the guidelines included projections about both upstream and downstream emissions. And there is the rub:

While this is a notable improvement on the NEB’s steadfast refusal to consider either the upstream or downstream emissions of oil pipelines, the problem remains that most of the GHG emissions arising from a pipeline are downstream emissions. An environmental assessment that arbitrarily excludes downstream emissions effectively exports not only Alberta’s bitumen crude oil but also its ultimate emissions.

In terms of science, peer-reviewed analyses demonstrate that in order to have a better-than-even chance of keeping global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average, at least 85 per cent of Alberta’s remaining ultimately recoverable bitumen must remain in the ground. In one model, the percentage rises to 99 per cent.

No oil pipeline that will expand the extraction of Alberta’s unconventional oilsands can pass a scientifically valid climate test because any increase in unconventional oil production is incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. This is the scientific standard that must be applied to the Energy East project proposal if the government’s assessment is to be trusted by Canadians.

Justin Trudeau has vowed to assist Alberta's ailing economy and to fight climate change. If those commitments mean seeing the Energy East Pipeline construction through to New Brunswick, it appears that Trudeau has vowed to square the circle.

It will be interesting to see if he can do that. That feat has been tried before -- but without much success.


The Mound of Sound said...

We simply cannot have it both ways. Trudeau won't risk being the one to stop the bitumen trade. I expect he's hoping international action will finally undermine the economic viability of bitumen against less expensive, lower-emissions alternatives.

Canadians have created a lofty self-image that falls into tatters whenever we encounter a difficult moral decision with economic implications.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Prime Minister Trudeau will have to "square the circle" in order to help Canada's economy while honoring his environmental commitment. It's not the only "circle" he'll have to square. His election platform promised some wonderful things that will be very difficult to deliver;in several instances,perhaps impossible. Unless his government does something more than talk about what it's going to do and actually does something soon, I think his honeymoon with Canadians will be very short. Even now, some are drumming their fingers on the table.

Owen Gray said...

The time is coming when the rubber will hit the road, Anon. And delivering on his promises won't be easy.

Owen Gray said...

The regional tensions in the country don't make things any easier, Mound. The tension between Alberta and Quebec is only one example. We tend to think of our neighbourhood first and the entire country second.

ron wilton said...

We can only hope that 'they' take into account the added CO2 that the mountains of pet coke left over after refining the dilbit when burned will add to the problem.

Residents of Nova Scotia are being subjected to high levels of petcoke emissions and New Brunswick is contemplating using it as well.

I cannot think of a more perverse product from start to finish and can only imagine how much better off we would all be if our governments had put oil sands subsidies into alternative energy sources.

Steve said...

the problem with oil is not bringing it to market its oil

Owen Gray said...

Peter Lougheed knew that the oil sands were more of a curse than a gift, ron. He was thrown out of Calgary's Petroleum Club. The mad quest to develop the tar sands has led us to where we are today.

Owen Gray said...

We haven't yet comes to terms with the fact that there are better fuels than oil, Steve.

the salamander said...

.. I recently posted this comment to tireless Montreal Simon.. and hope OK that I simply paste in in here.. certainly it looks at another aspect of 'pipelines to tidewater' the clarion cry of many many folks. Energy East of course seems a more recent option re the Great Tidewater 'Opportunity' .. and its likely I've previously commented re all other pipelines & their tidewater terminals, storage, liquefaction & storage and overseas supertanker transport, whether dilbit, natural gas, shale oil.. or inbound pipelines to wells, frack sites or upgraders carrying fresh water or diluent, or transferring toxic wastes to tailings ponds, or processed water & flowback liquids from fracksites etc.. and one supposes we could include abandoned well disposal sites as part of the 'supply chain' to disposal as well

'to Simon'

.. I think it quite important that.. for example, Energy East be portrayed accurately.. and certainly the other pipeline projects. But Energy East is now being described, by proponents and cheerleaders in ridiculously simplistic vague generalities..

Its to the behefit of all Canadians, our economy depends on this, Energy East will ensure energy security, without this pipeline Alberta oil will continue to be unfairly discounted, it will fuel Canada's economy, there will be failsafe precautions, its safer than rail transport, it will be refined in Quebec and the Maritimes, we must get our resources to tidewater, we must not miss this vast economic opportunity, we don't need any more reviews just build it... and here and there we can catch the pimping that Energy East can fuel the Chinese Economy.. or eliminate the need for unethical oil .. and hallelujah.. its a nation builder !

Canadians need serious intelligent spin reversal.. and the know it all cheerleaders, the ignorant captured politicians, pundits, partisan wedge wankers need some serious shaming and be directed to the corner with a dunces hat to wear..

The question, or challenge.. is how to correctly portray, explain, reveal the reality of Energy East, whether good, bad or ugly.. in just as simple word bites, imagery, graphics, facts, links.. Truths, not hot air or fluffing propaganda. Letting shrill cheeleaders like Joe Oliver drive the narrative via OpEd public platforms.. or Rex Murphy, or Andrew MacDougall, Ezra Levant, Paul Godfrey et al is absurd and dangerous. Its bad enough that elected public servants blathering is catching a free ride by mainly lazy mainstream media..

The actual facts re Energy East, like where the diluted bitumen is destined, via an aged natural gas pipeline with some new sections, could likely best be represented by Grade School student projects.. Google Search pumps obvious facts in 15 to 20 minutes.. like none of the 3 refineries are capable of refining dilbit, that the refineries already have long terms supply deals arranged, and that another pipeline from Quebec will be onstream long before the 1.1 million barrels a day arrive from Hardisty, Alberta. The dilbit is 90% destined to Asian markets, folks.. and when that 'heavily discounted' diluted bitumen is pumped into Chinese supertankers, it will not miraculously attain Benchmark Brent sweet crude prices.. and we deserve to know exactly who is making a profit and who is being subsidized by taxpayers to enable that profit ..

When did acceptance of being played for fools become a Canadian Value ?

Owen Gray said...

An excellent question, salamander. If we are reaching Asian markets via the Atlantic rather than the Pacific we are not doing the planet a favour.

Dana said...

"When did acceptance of being played for fools become a Canadian Value?"


Owen Gray said...

1867 was actually quite an accomplishment, Dana. There were a lot of people betting that Macdonald couldn't pull it off.

Dana said...

It may have been accomplishment but it was also the beginning of whatever could be called "Canadian" anything. So Clearing The Plains became a Canadian value. Land ownership skulduggery for corporate ends became a Canadian value. Close fisted intimidation of regional aspirations became a Canadian value.

Played for fools and naifs since 1867.

Owen Gray said...

Politicians have never been Boy Scouts, Dana. Our history is full of shameful deeds. On the other hand, if MacDonald et al. had not made the deal, we might be looking at President Donald Trump or President Ted Cruz.