Toronto – Comments by President Barack Obama last night on the tar sands suggest Canada will have a difficult time developing a technological fix to dirty oil.
Obama put forward carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a potential solution for carbon emissions from U.S. coal plants and a way to help these plants meet tough new caps on greenhouse gas emissions.  However, while the Canadian federal and Alberta governments have been promoting CCS to control emissions from the tar sands, the government’s own research suggests it will have limited application there.
“Unless the federal government puts a serious price on pollution, carbon capture and storage cannot solve the problem of skyrocketing tar sands emissions,” said Aaron Freeman, Policy Director for Environmental Defence.
A Canadian government memo marked “secret” was obtained in November 2008 by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that said this about the applicability to CCS in the tar sands:
“Only a small percentage of emitted CO2 is ‘capturable’ since most emissions aren’t pure enough. Only limited near-term opportunities exist in the oil sands and they largely related to upgrader facilities.”
With CCS’s limited application to the tar sands, emissions will grow significantly in the tar sands if the government’s current development plans go forward.  With a declining cap on greenhouse gas pollution, as proposed by Obama, other sectors, such as the manufacturing sector in Ontario and Quebec, will have to take on an unfair share of emissions reduction.
 “Whether or not you believe in carbon capture and sequestration, all polluting sectors – whether coal fired power or the tar sands – need a declining cap on emissions,” said Freeman.  “The Canadian government’s desire to increase tar sands pollution will be inconsistent with Obama’s approach to reducing North America’s greenhouse gas emissions, and unfair to other parts of the country.”
The CBC article, and federal government memo, is available online at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/11/24/sands-trap.html.
About Environmental Defence (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, clean water and thriving ecosystems nationwide, and to bring a halt to Canada’s contribution to climate change. Nationwide.
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