Canada, which makes up less than one half of one percent of the world's population uses more energy than all of the 760 million inhabitants of Africa, and is the world's eighth largest producer of greenhouse gases source. Canada’s voluntary carbon pledge was to reduce emissions by 17% on 2005 levels by 2020 and would actually allow its 2020 emissions to come in at 3% higher than its 1990 levels, the year usually used as a benchmark. Canada is also the only country in the world to have fully pulled out of the Kyoto protocol (April 2012) arguing that it would be too difficult to meet its emission reductions goals. link  Rather than heading for a 6% cut from 1990 levels by 2020, the Kyoto pledge, Canada was and still is set for a rise of about 16% - more like 30% if forestry is included. Out of 61 countries analyzed for their policies and action on climate change for 2012 Canada fell to 58th place according to Climate Action Network Canada (CANC).  

Canada is currently a paradox: the eastern province on Ontario is phasing out reliance on coal plants and nuclear while energetically moving towards carbon free sources, while out west oil companies invest billions of dollars in tar sand oil production at enormous costs to the environment. Hydropower generates 62.9% of Canada’s electricity (2010) while coal and natural gas supply 20.3% and nuclear 15.2%. Of the remainder, renewables, wind leads with 1.3%.

Not only are the Alberta tar sands the greatest pollution threat to the planet, they displace the greatest carbon sink we have to store carbon. This 17-minute video contrasts the damage at both ends – loss of habitat and creation of a carbon bomb, not to mention the cancer element to native populations. – View here

Industry figures show that at least 3.4 million litres of hydrocarbons have leaked from pipelines in Alberta every year since 2005  - link

  • Overview on climate change
  • Alberta's tar sands
  • Northern Gateway pipeline
  • Positive news from Ontario Province
  • Other news from Canada
  • Keystone XL pipeline and the US link
  • Coal and carbon sequestration

Overview on climate change

January 2014: Canada’s emissions soar and could probably worsen. Canada's carbon emissions will soar 38% by 2030 mainly due to expanding tar sands projects, according to the government's own projections. The Harper administration says it expects emissions of 815 million tonnes of CO2 in 2030, up from 590Mt in 1990. Emissions from the fast-growing tar sands sector is projected to quadruple between 2005 and 2030, reaching 137Mt a year.  Worse, Canada is likely under-reporting its emissions. According to the Climate Action Tracker, Canada appears to have vastly underestimated fugitive emissions (leaks) from gas exploration," possibly because of "inadequate accounting methodology”. link

Carbon emissions rose 24% between 1990 and 2008. 
2011: Canada replaces USA as climate change villain.  link

May 2014: IMF calculates Canada’s fossil fuel subsidies at $34 billion. The International Monetary Fund estimates that energy subsidies in Canada top an incredible $34 billion each year in direct support to producers and uncollected tax on externalized costs. The report estimated that eliminating the subsidies would reduce global carbon emissions by 13%. The stunning statistics specific to this country remain almost completely unreported in Canadian media. link

April 2014:  Oil and gas edges out transportation as biggest producer of greenhouse gases. An environmental analyst says the rise of oil and gas production as Canada's biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions adds further weight to calls for the federal government to bring in long-promised regulations for the oil industry. The Environment Canada report, quietly released, reveals the energy sector has now surpassed transportation as the largest generator of the climate-change causing gases. The report, covering the period from 1990 to 2012, states that oil and gas now account for one-quarter of Canada's greenhouse emissions, narrowly edging out transportation. link

April 2013: Canada not on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Canada’s target of reducing emissions is on par with the US – 17% below 2005 level by 2020. Currently the government’s projections show that Canada is on track to miss that goal by a wide margin, with emissions growing from today’s levels so that we end up 2% (rather than 17%) below the 2005 level. In 2011.   link

Harper government assault on science.

July 2012: Canada’s new budget ‘guts’ environmental protections. Canada entering a new dark age for environmental for science and environmental protections. The Harper government is engaged in a broad assault on environmental protection and environmental science, gutting laws, programs, budgets, and research projects. Critics say that assault reached a crescendo in recent weeks with the passage in Parliament of an omnibus budget bill known as C-38, which guts or significantly weakens rules relating to fisheries protection, environmental assessment, endangered species, and national parks. link

June 2012: Harper government proposes more extreme measures to secure oil sands development. The Canadian government is threatening to revoke the charitable status of environmental groups opposed to pipeline projects. And Public Safety Canada, the equivalent of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has classified environmentalists as a potential source of domestic terrorism, adding them to a list that includes white supremacists. link

Climate Action Network Canada is the only organization in the country, composed of over 75 member organizations, with a mandate to promote the climate movement as a whole, rather than the interests and programs of any one organization.
April 2012: "All Over the Map 2012: A Comparison of Provincial Climate Change Plans", by the David Suzuki Foundation. The report doesn't rank any province as "Best" for its climate initiatives, but Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia rank as "Very Good", while Alberta and Saskatchewan rank as "Worst". In an October 2011 review by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, the Environment Commissioner reported that the federal government's strategy is "disjointed, confused and non transparent" and that, overall, the government's policies are now projected to be 90% weaker than they were in 2007. link

September 2011: New report - failure to tackle climate change will cost billions. Canada can expect to pay between $21 billion and $43 billion each year by 2050 if it fails to come up with a domestic plan within a global agreement to tackle climate change, according to a comprehensive study, titled Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada - pdf  link                    
Alberta's tar sands  

Launching May 2013 in Canada, Europe and the U.S., TarSandsRealityCheck.com presents up to date, accurate facts about Alberta's tar sands to counter the high-level pro-oil sands lobbying ongoing in Canada, the U.S. and Europe around the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and Europe on the Fuel Quality Directive. 

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million
to 399 ppm over the last 150 years. The tar sands contain enough carbon
 - 230 gigatons - to add 120 ppm.

July 2014: Confirmed health threats from tar sands production. Another study has surfaced showing marked increases in life-threatening illnesses to people who live or work near tar sands development projects. The University of Manitoba study, which examines the health of First Nations that live near tar sands operations, finds they have a much higher incidence of cancer than the general population. Why? Besides polluting the air and water, environmental contaminants from production are highly concentrated in wildlife, many of which they eat. The contaminants either impact human development, are carcinogenic, or damage DNA.  link

Tar Sands mining and environmental costs. Canada’s oil sands, a mixture of sand, clay, water and heavy oil (called diluted bitumen) contain the world's second-largest concentration of crude at about 170 billions barrels.This oil is significantly more acidic and corrosive than standard oil. Pumping it at a high temperature and high pressure for long distances is a relatively new and untested venture. Alberta has economically recoverable reserves are put at 300 to 400 years of production at current rates. In 2008 1.2 million barrels a day were produced. Canada's reserve is shown as 173 billion barrels, placing it second only to Saudi Arabia in global oil reserves. It is an expensive, energy-hungry process - the richest oil sand is about 10% oil, and it takes about two tonnes of it to make just one barrel of oil. Oil sands production is said to emit three to five times the amount of greenhouse gases than conventional oil production. Pollution from this process has brought, besides increases in cancer, deformed fish with tumors, popular fish with so much mercury they should not be eaten, and some hunters and trappers were saying the meat tasted unusual.  link 1   link 2  
Scientists estimate the amount of carbon locked up in the tar sands, 230 billion tons, would be more than enough to spike global warming to catastrophic levels.

November 2014: Oil sands linked to cancer-causing toxic air emissions. New federal government research has confirmed that oilsands tailings ponds are releasing toxic and potentially cancer-causing chemicals into the air. Environment Canada report agrees with earlier research suggesting amount of toxic compounds emitted by industry has been dramatically underestimated. link

July  2013: Tar-sands leak that can’t be controlled.
Thousands of barrels of tar-sands oil have been burbling up into forest areas for at least six weeks in Cold Lake, Alberta, and it seems that nobody knows how to staunch the flow. An underground oil blowout at a big tar-sands operation run by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. has caused spills at four different sites over the past few months. Media and others have been blocked from visiting the sites, but the Toronto Star obtained documents and photographs about the ongoing disaster from a government scientist involved in the cleanup, who spoke to the reporter on condition of anonymity.  link

February 2013: Oil sands mining uses up almost as much energy as it produces. The average "energy returned on investment," or EROI, for conventional oil is roughly 25:1. In other words, 25 units of oil-based energy are obtained for every one unit of other energy that is invested to extract it.  But tar sands oil is in a category all its own. Tar sands retrieved by surface mining has an EROI of only about 5:1, according to research scheduled to be released. Tar sands retrieved from deeper beneath the earth, through steam injection, fares even worse, with a maximum average ratio of just 2.9 to 1. That means one unit of natural gas is needed to create less than three units of oil-based energy. The latest EROI values for tar sands were calculated by David Hughes, a fellow at the Post Carbon Institute, a non-profit devoted to issues such as climate change and energy scarcity. Hughes' figures include the energy it takes to mine bitumen as well as to upgrade it to synthetic oil that can be put into a refinery. It also includes the liquefied natural gas used to turn it into diluted bitumen (dilbit) so it can flow through pipelines. The EROI for oil sands would fall closer to 1:1 if the tar sands' full life cycle, including transportation, refinement into higher quality products, end use efficiency and environmental costs, was taken into account. link

March 2013: Alberta, which like other Canadian provinces controls its own natural resources, has the least ambitious target for CO2 emission reduction of any province. By 2020 Alberta's emissions would be well above the 2005 level -  emissions are projected to grow from 231 million tons to 285 million tons. Canada's most recent annual emissions trend report projected that the country will achieve only half the nationwide greenhouse gas reductions it has pledged to make by the year 2020. link

January 2013: 'Idle No More' takes center stage in North America against tar sands oil. In an urgent pursuit for environmental justice and basic human rights, First Nations gather across North America under the banner of Idle No More. link

More problems

Other problems are fueling opposition to pipeline saftey in general; spills and environmental detsruction among them. The First Nations in particular have become a significant force for Enbridge to confront. The more liberal province of British Columbia is increasingly reluctant to host pipelimes considered to be unsafe, and shipping off their coastline a threat to pristine shorelines.

September 2012: Shell admits to environment damage inevitable in oilsands. Shell analyzed the environmental impact of looming oil sands construction, concluding that if the industry continues on its current course, it will run past annual limits on sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in the area studied. Those substances contribute to acid rain, and the projection suggests Alberta will be forced to confront whether it is willing to act in the name of the environment, or move the yardsticks to preserve its bedrock industry.  link
August 2012: Enbridge admits inadequate plans for potential spill.  link

Two major spills:

June 2013: Huge Alberta pipeline spill raises safety questions. A massive toxic waste spill from an oil and gas operation in northern Alberta is being called one of the largest recent environmental disasters in North America. First reported on June 1, the Texas-based Apache Corp. didn’t reveal the size of the spill until June 12, which is said to cover more than 1,000 acres. A recent investigation found that over the past 37 years, Alberta’s extensive network of pipelines has experienced 28,666 crude oil spills in total, plus another 31,453 spills of a variety of other liquids used in oil and gas production, from salt water to liquid petroleum. That averages out to two crude oil spills a day, every day. link

June 2012: Rainbow Lake spill among largest in North America.  A huge spill has released 22,000 barrels of oil and water into muskeg, an acidic soil, in the far northwest of Alberta. The spill ranks among the largest in North America in recent years, a period that has seen a series of high-profile accidents that have undermined the energy industry’s safety record. The Enbridge Inc. pipeline rupture that leaked oil near Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, for example, spilled an estimated 19,500 barrels. link

April 2011: Setback for tar sand oil firms. Alberta's government has produced new environmental rules that that would revoke a number of oil sands leases, including those which already have active projects, in an effort to protect sensitive habitat, wildlife and forest land in the most industrialized area of the province. The consultation process is scheduled to wrap up in 60 days, and the minister said he wants to have the final draft of legislation before Cabinet in 90 days. link  
May 2012: Tar sands more polluting than other fuelsThe Congressional Research Service is a branch of the Library of Congress that conducts policy analysis for lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Their latest report finds crude oil produced from Canadian oil sands (also known as tar sands) emits 14 to 20% more planet-warming gases than the conventional oil that is typically found in U.S. refineries. Conventional oil can be put right into a pipeline, or you can process it and it can go into a pipeline that goes to a refinery. Bitumen from the oil sands is too viscous to flow, so you have to do some pre-processing. This involves what's called upgrading, which is kind of like refining, or it involves diluting the bitumen with a light hydrocarbon diluent [like] a natural gas liquid…so it will flow through the pipeline. Once you do that it can be sent it to the refinery. Because it either requires an upgrading step on-site before it's shipped, or more intensive refining to produce the same gasoline or diesel, the energy intensity and emissions from producing fuels from the oil sands tend to be higher, on average, than conventional crude oil. link

August 2010: Carcinogen levels in oil sands waste water increase. Levels of cadmium, lead and nickel in giant 'tailings' lakes have increased as much as 30% in four year according to new government data. The country's five active oil sands mines released around 50,000 tons of potentially harmful pollutants in waste lakes between 2006 and 2009.  link  

(Note - tar sands are also referred to as oilsands).

Northern Gateway pipeline

June  2014: Canada’s Prime Minister approves Northern Gateway pipeline contingent on Enbridge meeting 209 conditions, none of which addressed climate change. The Canadian government singled out discussions with First Nations as one of the major conditions that Enbridge needs to meet for the pipeline to be built. However, the pipeline is still bound to face significant opposition. link

May 2013: British Columbia opposes Enbridge pipeline. In its 99-page submission, the province questioned Enbridge’s claims that it could mitigate spills in its remote mountain wilderness and off its rugged coastline, and there was little evidence about how it will respond in the event of a spill. The Northern Gateway project is unpopular in southern British Columbia, where the majority of the province’s population lives. While the decision to grant Enbridge a permit ultimately rests with the federal government, several environmental groups said that the province’s opposition had probably doomed the pipeline.  link
(August 2013) How Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline lost its way - link

June 2013: Northern Gateway pipeline doomed by BC and aboriginal opposition? link

February 2012: China option will be tough for PM Harper. Prime Minister Stephen Harper may find the China option could prove to be even tougher than Keystone. Though it appears a classic supply-demand match on the surface, the plan faces hurdles that range from how long it will take to build the pipeline to environmental dangers and questions about China's human rights record. China imports no oil from Canada at present, and the infrastructure is not in place in Canada to get the crude from the massive tar sands of Alberta to the Pacific coast, forcing a long-term view of a partnership. A myriad of legal and regulatory issues play a big role in the delay. Also the Chinese are in the process of investing in Canadian assets. A major poll last year showed 76% of Canadians opposed the idea of a state-owned Chinese firm trying to buy a controlling stake in a Canadian company. It also said more Canadians saw China's growing strength as a threat than as an opportunity. link

September 2012: Landlocked tarsands dilemma – northern route alternative. With all routes under challenge for exporting Alberta’s tar sands oil, Northwest Territories premier Bob McLeod is advocating a rerouting of the pipeline through the Mackenzie Valley, where the territory has been trying to construct a natural gas pipeline for decades. "If we can't go south, if we can't go to the United States, if we can't go to Asia, and if we can't go east, then we have to look at other options, which could include a northern route." link

Positive news from Ontario

December 2013:  Coal gone - nuclear pullback. The Ontario government releases its Long-Term Energy Plan which balances a big ramp-up in renewable energy and notable pullback in nuclear. Ontario's estimated 2013 electricity production mix is 59% nuclear, 28% renewables, 11% natural gas, and 2% coal. The forecasted 2025 electricity production mix: 42% nuclear, 46% renewables and 12% natural gas. Ontario plans to bring 20GW of renewable energy online by 2025, representing nearly half of installed capacity. More than 10 GW of wind, solar, and bioenergy will come online by 2021, moved back from 2018. link
As of early 2013, about 2,700MW of wind and solar power are currently feeding electricity into Ontario’s grid system, 75% of it wind. That amount is set to more than triple by January, 2016. link   

April  2013: Ontario puts an end to coal-burning power plants. At the end of 2013, Ontario is scheduled to close the last of its big coal-fired generators, and leave a single small coal-fired unit available during periods of peak electrical demand until it closes in 2014. In shutting down the province’s 19 boilers fueled by coal, Ontario will become the first industrial region on the continent to eliminate coal-fired generation. link 
January 2013: At the end of 2013, Ontario will become the first jurisdiction in North America to shut down almost its entire coal fleet making more than 99% of the province's electricity generated from non-coal sources. link

Solar in Ontario

(July 2014) A surge in solar installations is taking place in Ontario. The biggest project outside Ontario right now is a small 1MW solar farm under construction near Kimberley, B.C. But in Ontario, big solar farms have become positively commonplace.(link) Ontario will have an estimated 1,100MW of solar installed at the end of 2013 and roughly 900 MW will be added in 2014. Solar energy, one of the key pillars of the Green Energy and Economy Act (GEEA), is casting a dark cloud over Ontario electricity bills and is a big factor in recent and future bill increases. link

April 2014: 95GW of potential solar energy in southeastern Ontario. Southeastern Ontario is capable of producing solar energy almost equal to the amount of power generated by all nuclear reactors in the United States, according to studies conducted by the Applied Sustainability Research Group at Queen’s University. The studies are the first to investigate the region’s solar energy potential and yielded unexpected results. “We came up with enormous numbers and we were being conservative. There about 95 gigawatts of potential power just in southeastern Ontario - that shows there is massive potential,” said Joshua Pearce, a mechanical engineering professor at the university and leader of the research group.  link  

February 2011:: Ontario targets 10.7GW renewables by 2018. Ontario’s energy plan represents a 450% growth in installed wind capacity in the next seven years, from 1.59GW to 7GW. The new energy plan involves the installation of new transmission system upgrades and is expected to lead to the creation of at least 12,500 new jobs. The plan is also anticipated to lead to more than $12.5bn in new investment in the province, and $22m in annual lease payments to landowners. The country has more than 4.15GW of installed wind energy capacity, close to 1.59GW of which is in Ontario. Quebec and Alberta each have less than half this level of wind power, with 663MW and 806MW of installed wind capacity, respectively. link    
July 2009: - and a setback for nuclear power. Two years into a $20 billion nuclear upgrade project meant to replace aging reactors with next-generation technology, the Ontario government postponed the entire process citing excessive cost and uncertainties involving the ownership status of the sole Canadian bidder. Ontario receives 50% of its energy from nuclear sources. In a statement, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance said the government’s actions “hint at a more enlightened approach to Ontario’s energy future - one that favors plentiful green and clean alternatives over high-cost, high-risk nuclear power.”  link

Other news from Canada

August  2013: Protests now pose threat to eastern pipelines. Protest movements have to date blocked the construction of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline south to the Gulf Coast, and Enbridge's Gateway pipeline west to the Pacific. There is a growing desperation of Alberta's oil barons and their allies in government. Alberta's oil companies are sitting on top of rising but landlocked bitumen production, and they are losing billions in profit. link
June 2012: British Columbia set to boost its controversial carbon tax by $5 a tonne on July 1, further driving up the price of gasoline and other petroleum products as the province attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 33% below 2007 levels by 2020. link 

September 2011: Banner year for Canada's wind energy. By the end of 2011 Canada's total wind capacity will surpass 5,300MW, enough to power 1.5 million homes a year. In 2001, total installed wind capacity was only 198MW. Another 6,000MW of wind projects are in the pipeline for the next five years. link

September 2011: Geothermal could supply all Canada's energy needs. A report, from seasoned government scientists working within Natural Resources Canada, shows that Canada’s in-place geothermal power exceeds one million times Canada’s current electrical consumption, though it  does acknowledge that only a small fraction of this resource is close enough to transmission lines and population centres to be economically tapped, at least in the near term. The opportunity, particularly in British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories, but potentially across all of Canada, can’t be overstated. Calculations suggest as few as 100 projects could meet Canada’s energy needs. link

Hydropower in Canada. According to a study commissioned by the Canadian Hydropower Association, Canada has 163,000 MW of untapped hydropower potential, more than twice the country's existing hydropower capacity. Already, hydropower accounts for 60% of Canada's electricity consumption. That number is sure to rise as construction of several new hydropower plants near completion while more coal-fired plants are shuttered in the name of clean air. link  

Keystone XL and the U.S. link

See page on Keystone project as it affects the USA here

There are three proposed pipeline projects slated to move oil sands crude out of northern Alberta to other markets: the $7-billion Keystone XL, which would shuttle 700,000 barrels of oil a day to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico; Enbridge Inc.’s $6.6-billion proposed Northern Gateway, designed to carry 525,000 barrels a day to a port in Kitimat, B.C., so tankers can take oil to Asia; and Kinder Morgan’s planned expansion of its existing Trans Mountain system, which would cost around $4.3-billion to take an added 400,000 barrels a day to Burnaby, B.C. link  [The Northern Gateway is opposed by at least 50 first nations along the pipeline corridor and on the B.C. coast and it is also the next target for the North American environmental movement that so successfully delayed the Keystone pipeline from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast. The earliest it could possibly open is estimated for 2017]  The proposed 728-mile Northern Gateway pipeline underground pipeline would cross more than 785 streams and rivers in a region that is prone to landslides and forest fires. It would be even more vulnerable to ruptures than ordinary pipelines, because bitumen is highly corrosive. Bitumen is also much harder to clean up in the event of a spill, campaigners warned. "If bitumen sinks, conventional equipment like booms and skimmers do not work," said Katie Terhune, the energy campaigner for the Living Oceans Society. And transporting crude in supertankers was even riskier than moving it through pipelines. "One mistake in navigation and we could have a catastrophe," Terhune said. link

Coal and carbon sequestration - CCS

October 2014: Canada’s first large-scale coal-fired CCS power plant switched on. The project, the first commercial-scale plant equipped with carbon capture and storage technology, was held up by the coal industry as a real life example that it is possible to go on burning the dirtiest of fossil fuels while avoiding dangerous global warming. The Boundary Dam power plant promises to cut CO2 emissions by 90% by trapping the greenhouse gas underground before it reaches the atmosphere. The company said the project would reduce emissions by about 1 million tons a year, or the equivalent of taking 250,000 cars off the road. CCS is viewed with deep suspicion by environmental campaigners because its economic viability , so far,  depends on using the CO2 to increase oil production, and because it is more expensive than renewable sources of energy link (See CCS globally would cost $17.6 trillion. link)

August  2011: Canada proposes crackdown on coal-fired power. The Canadian government has proposed long-awaited rules that could result in the phasing out of coal-fired power plants that do not incorporate carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. Announcing the proposals last Friday, environment minister Peter Kent said the new standards would come into effect from 2015 and force developers of coal-fired power plants to ensure they do not exceed the emissions levels achieved by cleaner gas-fired power plants. The proposed rules contain a number of exemptions for CCS demonstration plants and emergency facilities, but if adopted they would effectively ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants that do not feature CCS. As such, the government expects the move to spur investment in alternative natural gas and renewable energy technologies.  link 

Arguments that tar sands expansion can go forward on the basis that CCS will "fix" its carbon footprint are not defensible. CCS would likely only reduce 10-20% of the overall greenhouse gases associated with its total lifecycle emissions making it still dirtier than conventional fuel, and it is fraught with technical challenges. A 2008 Canadian government CCS task force found that "only a small portion of the CO2 streams are currently amenable for CCS." This is because facilities in the tar sands are diverse and geographically dispersed requiring the construction of a massive infrastructure. There are also substantial transportation emissions associated with production, many of the carbon streams are not pure enough to capture adequately, and we are only starting to understand the greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands that are associated with land use change. CCS also does not address the myriad of other environmental challenges in the tar sands nor does it address the issue of downstream combustion emissions.  link    

(Check here for more on CCS - carbon capture sequestration.)

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