Archive | Oil and Gas Sector-Politics and Image

Canada — and particularly Alberta’s oil industry — paying higher price for climate change policy than U.S. – by Claudia Cattaneo (Financial Post – August 26, 2016)

As Alberta struggles with its most devastating recession ever, a new study highlights why different climate change policy choices made by Canada and the United States point to continued hardship for Canada’s top oil producing province.

The two trading partners are focusing on different areas for GHG reductions and are using different policy tools because of their unique resource endowments, geography, climate, history and politics, according to the study by IHS Energy, led by Kevin Birn.

In the U.S., the front line is power generation from coal, because that is its largest source of emissions. In Canada, the bull’s eye is on oil and gas, and particularly the oilsands. Continue Reading →

Fears of oil spill fuel Quebec opposition to Energy East pipeline – by Shawn McCarthy (Globe and Mail – August 4, 2016)

TransCanada Corp.’s Energy East project is encountering a major logjam at the Ottawa River, with Quebec officials refusing to issue permits to the company that would allow it to determine how to cross the waterway – citing Husky Energy Inc.’s spill in a Saskatchewan river last month as a troubling warning sign.

In filings with the National Energy Board, TransCanada said its usual method for river crossing was “not feasible” at its preferred Ottawa River crossing site, near the junction with the St. Lawrence River. It had promised to provide an alternative scenario this summer, but that work is delayed because county officials from Vaudreuil-Soulanges are denying the company the permits for geological testing of the riverbed.

TransCanada has not adequately communicated its plans, Raymond Malo, assistant director-general for Vaudreuil-Soulanges, said in an interview, and local government officials remain worried about the potential for a disastrous spill into the river, which would contaminate drinking water for millions of residents in the Montreal region. Continue Reading →

Nuke the oilsands: Alberta’s narrowly cancelled plan to drill for oil with atomic weapons – by Tristin Hopper (National Post – August 3, 2016)

It’s often forgotten what a technological feat it was to pump oil out of the Fort McMurray area. While it’s long been known that the Athabasca region is swimming with petroleum, geologists spent decades banging their head against the problem of how to turn oily sand into something that could be refined into gasoline.

Which makes it all the more fortunate that — just before science figured it out — Alberta kiboshed a plan that would have simply thrown nuclear bombs at the problem. “Nuclear miracles will make us rich,” declared famed physicist Edward Teller in a 1959 syndicated editorial.

As the first seeds of the anti-nuclear movement began to show themselves, Teller was trying to assure a worried public that they should welcome atomic bombs as bringers of “as rich a harvest as man’s ingenuity ever has produced.” Continue Reading →

Zero emissions bio-fuel myth ignores environmental costs of production – by Gwyn Morgan (Globe and Mail – August 1, 2016)

My last column pointed out that electric cars are only as “green” as the fuel used to generate the electricity they consume. For internal combustion-powered vehicles, much of the focus has been on trying to reduce carbon emissions by adding ethanol to gasoline and vegetable oil to diesel.

These “bio-fuels” are sourced mainly from cereal grain and vegetable oil. Ethanol is manufactured by fermenting and distilling grain, while vegetable oil comes mainly from palm trees. Bio-fuel production has become an enormous global industry producing some 100 billion litres annually. Mandatory ethanol and vegetable oil standards have been enacted in 64 countries.

But are bio-fuels really greener than the fossil fuels they displace? Answering this question needs to start with correcting the popular misconception that burning bio-fuel produces significantly lower emissions than gasoline or diesel. Continue Reading →

Notley’s lawsuit to stop power companies from leaving contracts ‘could be a Monty Python script’ – by Claudia Cattaneo (Financial Post – July 28, 2016)

The Alberta government’s clumsy attempt this week to protect consumers – i.e. increasingly hostile voters — from the consequences of its aggressive climate change policy is backfiring, with the NDP getting blowback the size of a Chinook for not knowing the terms of its own 16-year-old power contracts, then suing to dodge the costs.

The province’s attorney general filed a bizarre lawsuit Monday to stop power companies – including utilities owned or partially owned by Alberta’s two largest cities, Calgary and Edmonton – from backing out of power contracts made less profitable by Alberta’s increased carbon costs.

The lawsuit also strangely targets its own regulatory agency, the Alberta Utilities Commission, for “unlawfully” agreeing to terms in 2000 that allowed termination of so-called Power Purchase Arrangements “if a change in law renders the PPA unprofitable, or more unprofitable.” Continue Reading →

Anti-Keystone XL group takes first shot at its new target: Energy East – by Claudia Cattaneo (Financial Post – July 26, 2016)

The big U.S. green group that led the assault against Keystone XL is firing its opening salvo Tuesday against Energy East, joining an already-crowded field of opponents and proving Alberta’s and Canada’s climate change plans are failing to moderate anti-pipeline campaigns.

The New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is holding a telephone press conference to talk about a report it prepared “documenting TransCanada’s plan and discuss the potential harm if it goes forward to communities (including those that depend on fishing), iconic species (among them whales), special places and the climate.”

In a news advisory, the NRDC paints Energy East as even worse than KXL. Both pipelines are proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp. Continue Reading →

Enbridge to pay US$177 million for one of the largest onshore oil spills in U.S. history – by Geoffrey Morgan (Financial Post – July 21, 2016)

CALGARY – Canada’s largest pipeline company Enbridge Inc. has reached a US$177-million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency over two pipeline spills in the summer of 2010 that released more than 26,500 barrels of oil into rivers in Michigan and Illinois, bringing the total cost of the controversial clean-up to more than US$1.2 billion.

Enbridge Energy Partners (EEP), a U.S. subsidiary of the Calgary-based pipeliner, said Wednesday it has agreed to pay US$62 million in fines, reimburse the U.S. government US$5.4 million for its clean-up efforts and spend US$110 million to prevent spills in the future.

Those costs are in addition to the US$75 million Enbridge agreed to pay to the state of Michigan in a 2015 settlement. The company said it has now spent US$1.2 billion between fines, settlements and clean-up efforts as a result of the spills. Continue Reading →

The Future of Big Oil? At Shell, It’s Not Oil – by Matthew Campbell, Rakteem Katakey and James Paton (Bloomberg News – July 20, 2016)

The energy giant is shifting to gas as the industry adapts to climate change.

At Australia’s Curtis Island, you can see Big Oil morphing into Big Gas. Just off the continent’s rugged northeastern coast lies a 667-acre liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal owned by Royal Dutch Shell, an engineering feat of staggering complexity.

Gas from more than 2,500 wells travels hundreds of miles by pipeline to the island, where it’s chilled and pumped into 10-story-high tanks before being loaded onto massive ships.

“We’re more a gas company than an oil company,” says Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive officer. “If you have to place bets, which we have to, I’d rather place them there.” Continue Reading →

Expedited reviews are the solution to costly pipeline obstructionism – by Claudia Cattaneo (Financial Post – July 20, 2016)

A new report by the Vancouver-based Fraser Institute says every effort should be made to expedite pipeline project reviews because continuing delays are costing Canada’s economy and governments billions a year.

It’s what the former Conservative government and the current U.S. government did to rescue energy projects from regulatory and legal jams orchestrated by a growing cadre of opponents.

It would require Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government to back up on hurdles just put in place, such as more consultations on the two major proposed pipelines still in play – the TransMountain expansion and Energy East – aimed at restoring trust in regulators. Continue Reading →

Alberta’s ‘lost generation’: Longest post-war recession leads to brain drain among – by Claudia Cattaneo and Geoffrey Morgan (Financial Post – July 19, 2016)

Alberta’s longest post-war recession has sliced 6.5 per cent from its GDP over the past two years and kicked off an exodus of people, but it has been especially painful for the province’s geoscience community, the backbone of the oil and gas industry.

The recession has pushed up the provincial unemployment rate to 7.9 per cent, but for geologists and geophysicists, the jobless rate is closer to 50 per cent, and industry leaders say prospects are dim for the next two or three years.

“We are looking at another lost generation of geoscientists,” said Marian Hanna, president of the Canadian Society of Exploration Geophysicists (CSEG), who has been unemployed for a year. Continue Reading →

How Alberta’s new oilsands adviser dreamed up the ‘Great Bear Rainforest’ to rein in our resources – by Peter Foster (Financial Post – July 15, 2016)

Justin Trudeau keeps saying that B.C.’s Great Bear Rainforest is “no place for a pipeline.” This assertion has no more rational basis than “Four legs good, two legs bad,” or “Because it’s 2015.” It does, however, reflect the extraordinary success of the radical environmental movement in controlling, or stopping, economic development by rebranding — or claiming guardianship over — great swathes of Canada, and infiltrating the political system.

Trudeau’s chief adviser is Gerald Butts, former head of WWF Canada. Go to WWF Canada’s website and you will find the claim that the Great Bear is, guess what, “no place for an oil pipeline.”

Radical greens scored another, and closely related, victory this week with the appointment of Tzeporah Berman, co-founder of ForestEthics (now known as STAND) and former co-director of Greenpeace’s global climate and energy program, as co-chair of the panel appointed by the Alberta NDP government to look at how its cap on greenhouse gas emissions will work. Continue Reading →

Northern Gateway ruling puts future pipeline consultations to the test – by Jeffrey Jones (Globe and Mail – July 13, 2016)

CALGARY — Ottawa’s haste to get an oil pipeline to the Pacific built ended up being a project’s undoing. The federal Court of Appeal’s quashing of the Northern Gateway pipeline’s approval exposed the slipshod approach the former Conservative government took with rules of consultation with First Nations.

Now, for the Liberals and the energy sector, there are lingering risks for future pipelines and other resource projects that go beyond what the court used to strike down the Northern Gateway decision.

They boil down to a fundamental question – what must consultation achieve? Yes, aboriginal groups have rights to be informed and accommodated, but it remains to be seen how much power an opponent who refuses to be swayed ultimately has over a project’s go or no-go ruling. Continue Reading →

A decade of bitumen battles: How 10 years of fighting over oilsands affects energy, environment debate today – by Jason Fekete and Chris Varcoe (Financial Post – July 9, 2016)

Ottawa/Calgary – OTTAWA – Standing two storeys tall, the 180-tonne yellow dump truck parked on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., commanded attention all around Capitol Hill.

With tires four metres high, the Caterpillar 777F hauler — similar to the monster machines used in the oilsands — was the main attraction for Alberta’s exhibit at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in July 2006. The behemoth machine symbolized the province’s growing energy bounty: a secure supplier of crude to the United States, boasting some of the planet’s largest oil reserves.

But in a global game of Show and Tell, the move would also backfire. During that two-week stretch, the truck unexpectedly became a powerful symbol and prime target for a U.S. environmental movement searching for a focal point for its next campaign. Continue Reading →

Trudeau’s Northern Gateway snub a page torn from President Obama’s playbook – by (Claudia Cattaneo (Financial Post – July 8, 2016)

In Montreal this week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau left the impression he’s not going to take a new look at the now permit-less Northern Gateway pipeline, likely putting the project on the backburner for as long as he’s in power.

It’s what the Federal Court of Appeal asked his cabinet to do in last week’s 153-page decision as a way to remedy “inadequate” consultation by the Crown with impacted aboriginal communities.

Meanwhile, the court took the draconian step of quashing the project’s permits, granted by the previous Conservative government after years of regulatory hearings, planning, consultations, and more than half a billion in spending by proponent Enbridge Inc. and its partners. Continue Reading →

Dirty or clean, politics drive cross-border energy deals – by Konrad Yakabuski (Globe and Mail – July 4, 2016)

The U.S. President who infamously opposed one form of cross-border energy infrastructure is putting his weight behind another. But will Barack Obama’s support for more cross-border electricity transmission links rescue provincially owned utilities from the deep holes they’ve dug by spending billions on new hydro projects amid a flooded North American power market?

The goal set at last week’s North American Leaders’ Summit to increase the share of clean energy in the continent’s electricity mix to 50 per cent by 2025, from 37 per cent now, could largely depend on the fate of a several proposals to build new transmission lines to transport Canadian hydropower south.

Yet each of those proposals faces steep opposition from U.S. environmental groups and electricity distributors, which argue that Canadian hydropower is neither clean nor renewable, while its cost far exceeds that of greener homegrown alternatives. Continue Reading →