Hicks on Biz: Alberta is already a world leader in reducing CO2 emissions BY GRAHAM HICKS, POSTMEDIA NETWORK FIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, MARCH 26, 2016
Okay, so we are expected to suck it up and take one for climate change.
Soon, Alberta’s middle class families will be turning over hundreds more dollars a year in a carbon tax – i.e. much higher taxes on gasoline powering our vehicles and natural gas heating our homes, and who knows what else.
This will raise billions of dollars, which will all be re-invested, Premier Rachel Notley promises, into ways and means of becoming a “carbon-free” province.
Here’s my problem: Notley’s criticism of past Conservative governments for “not doing anything” about climate change is totally and absolutely wrong.
Alberta – our research institutes, universities, energy companies and our unique Climate Change & Emissions Management Corporation (CCEMC) – was a global leader in reducing GHG (greenhouse gas emissions) well before Ms. Notley came to power, and continues to be a world leader.
Let me count the ways.
Up in the oilsands, most of the major underground oil sand companies are close to installing new technologies that will reduce GHG emissions by 20% to 25%. In underground operations, recyclable solvents will replace or reduce the need for super-heated steam to loosen up underground bitumen. With super-heated steam removed or reduced, natural gas need not be burned to create the steam. Ergo, less GHG emissions and less water use.
A company called N-Solv, working at Suncor, is ramping up its solvent technology from a pilot project to a 5,000 to 10,000 barrel per day facility. Cenovus and Imperial Oil are working on solvent assist – using less steam and more solvent. Suncor is working on a combination of solvents and electromagnetic energy to somehow eliminate water from the conventional SAGD – Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage – bitumen extraction process.
The S in SAGD will soon stand for Solvent, not Steam.
Carbon capture projects took a shot to the jaw last year when two firms, TransAlta and Swan Hills Synfuels, opted out of grand CO2 capture schemes due to costs.
But two other major carbon capture projects, at Shell’s Scotford refinery and at the under-construction North West upgrader and refinery, are still proceeding. Around the world, mega-carbon capture projects are moving into full-scale commercial use. Costs are being driven down.
It was in carbon capture that the provincial Conservative government under then-Premier Ed Stelmach placed its environmental marbles, committing $170 million a year over 15 years to accelerate and build carbon capture projects.
Carbon capture holds out particular promise for coal-fired power plants, bringing GHG emissions down to negligible levels. Oops, I forgot. By government decree, we are phasing out all coal by 2030 no matter how effective carbon capture may be. Can anybody explain the logic?
Multiple new promising scientific processes to convert CO2 - now going up the smoke stack - into other valuable non-polluting chemicals are being pursued by our scientists. CO2 and methane are being made into benign methanol fuel; CO2 and hydrogen into methanol; sunlight, CO2 and waste water into methanol; CO2 into carbon monoxide; CO2 and methanol or natural gas into other specialty chemicals.
All along the innovation chain, from laboratory research to proof-of-concept to pilot plants to limited commercial production to full commercial production, Alberta’s experts are moving as fast as possible to create an emissions-free world through lowering GHG emissions from our biggest single natural resource, fossil fuels.
Yes, plenty of work is also being done in renewables. The CCEMC, set up once again under Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach’s watch, has invested over a third of the $350 million collected from Alberta’s current corporate carbon tax into renewable energy projects.
Critics who want Alberta to focus much more on alternative energy development rather than cleaning up fossil fuels are forgetting we’re very much in the wind-power game. Wind currently provides eight per cent of Alberta’s power generation.
Alberta is providing strong leadership in lowering methane venting, flaring and leaks. Of the greenhouse gases, methane is considered to be 25 times more potent than CO2 at creating global warming.
Which begs the question – why the need for a new, massive carbon tax, when there’s so much happening already?