Tag Archives: First Nations

Alberta Canada: Don’t cheer the new premier yet. Demand she break the oil barons’ vice-grip

Repost from The Guardian
[Editor:  Significant quote: “…investment in oil and gas creates fewer jobs than practically any other industry. Investment in the clean energy sector, on the other hand, creates 7 to 8 times more work. The oil barons aren’t essential “job creators”; they’re economic suppressers.”  – RS

Don’t cheer Alberta’s premier yet. Demand she break the oil barons’ vice-grip

Alberta’s climate plan falls far short of what’s possible: unleashing a green economy that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and transitions off the tar sands

By Martin Lukacs, 24 November 2015 14.12 EST, updated 25 November 2015 10.28 EST
The Syncrude Oil Sands site near to Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Alberta’s new climate plan is drawing praise from sources that have rarely got on with the oil-exporter – Al Gore, labour unions and some of North America’s biggest green groups. At first glance, it’s not hard to see why: Alberta is promising an accelerated phase-out of coal, increased funds for renewable energy and impacted workers, and a price on carbon. It’s a major step hard to imagine scarcely a year ago, when the province was still under a multi-decade Conservative reign.

So why then are the oil barons celebrating? Beaming with pride, the heads of Canada’s biggest tar sands companies flanked Premier Rachel Notley during Sunday’s announcement.

Their hope: that Alberta’s globally tarred reputation will suddenly be scrubbed clean. Despite the lofty rhetoric, the government has committed only to bringing emissions below today’s levels by 2030 – making it even less ambitious than what Stephen Harper’s federal petro-state offered. This might be what the Premier meant when she promised that new pipelines – which companies desperately need to export tar sands – would soon benefit from “creative lobbying and advocacy efforts.”

The tar sands now has a glossy new sheen. Alberta’s plan sets a cap on their emissions – an acknowledgement that tar sands will no longer grow infinitely. Except it’s so high as to allow a staggering forty percent increase over the next fifteen years. And if a Conservative government returns to power, could it abandon the policy and ensure nothing is accomplished? In other words, this is a cap big enough to drive a three-story tar sands truck through.

Here’s the other reason the oil barons are cheering: they know they could be getting squeezed a hell of a lot more. After all, Alberta’s New Democratic Party got elected with a mandate for bold change. Albertans were tired of oil-soaked politicians who let companies vacuum up billions in profit amidst skyrocketing inequality and deteriorating public services. And the oil price crash made clearer than ever before the cost of a boom-and-bust economy built on a single volatile commodity.

Climate science backs that mandate for rapidly transforming our economy: it tells us that since we’ve delayed for so long, small reforms will no longer suffice. And Albertans understand the scientific reports that the vast majority of fossil fuels need to stay in the ground to avert dangerous climate change – the impacts of which they’ve already experienced in flooded Calgary and a drought-parched countryside. But while good times fueled denial, the ecologically suicidal politics of the establishment could be ignored. When the oil shock hit, they also started looking economically reckless.

As the oil barons thrash about in a self-induced crisis, this should be the time to part ways with them. Exxon is being investigated in the United States for having discovered the lethal consequences of climate change in the 1970s, then lied about it for decades while doing everything to make this catastrophe a reality. Low oil prices – which don’t look to be going away – have already forced the cancellation of extraction projects and created a thaw in investment throughout Alberta’s oil patch. The cost of renewable energy has dropped at incredible and unexpected speed. And just weeks ago, President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline. It was not, as Premier Notley put it, a “kick in [Alberta’s] teeth.” But you couldn’t pick a better moment to kick the oil barons to the curb.

None other than the Economist – not exactly a radical menace to big business – has argued that the oil price collapse offers a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to transform a dysfunctional energy system.

The Alberta government could start by vanquishing the myth that the oil barons are economically indispensable. As the oil industry has thrown almost forty thousand people out of work, they have proved their interests never aligned with Albertans. The facts always told a different story: investment in oil and gas creates fewer jobs than practically any other industry. Investment in the clean energy sector, on the other hand, creates 7 to 8 times more work. The oil barons aren’t essential “job creators”; they’re economic suppressers.

So why – and this applies equally to Prime Minister Trudeau – fixate on building cross-country pipelines, when you could create more jobs in clean energy? Tackling climate change could be not just a public relations strategy to finesse the exporting of Alberta’s bitumen. It could be a chance to massively boost and transform the economy – making it more healthy, just and humane.

Look at what Germany – a similar, industrialized nation – has accomplished. In just over a decade, Germany has generated 30 percent of their electricity through renewables and created 400,000 good jobs in clean energy, much of it community-controlled and run by energy cooperatives. Using the right policies, Alberta could make this transition happen even more quickly, with greater benefits for First Nations, workers, and those getting the worst deal in the current economy.

It’s not too late to seize the historic opportunity. The NDP could still put forward a plan to create 200,000 good, green jobs over the next several years. Reports have laid out how this could happen with targeted investment: in accessible public transit, in energy-saving housing retrofits, in eco-system restoration, and by taking advantage of Alberta’s incredible potential for renewable energy. Nature didn’t make Alberta an oil province. Erect new signs: welcome to solar, wind and geothermal country.

How should Alberta pay for this transition? By putting their hands on the enormous profits of the industry that created the crisis in the first place. The new carbon tax – and the royalty hike the government must vigorously pursue – should be raised to send a stronger message to the market to jump-start a transition off oil.

Economists have shown a fair and effective tax would look more like $200 a tonne. $20 or $30 a tonne will not cut it – especially when half of the revenue generated will return as subsidies to oil and gas companies and dirty electricity generators. At this rate, most oil companies will be spending barely $1 more per barrel of oil. Polluters should be paying, not being paid off. The only message this will send the market is to “dig, baby, dig.”

Rolling out a plan to create a new, cleaner economy that’s more just and prosperous would convince voters there is an alternative to the oil economy. At that point the NDP could initiate a debate on a moratorium on tar sands development that has been called for by a hundred of North America’s top scientists. Scientific studies show we could get all of our electricity from renewables by 2030, not just 30 percent as Alberta now promises; and an economy entirely run by renewables by 2050. When popular movements can build pressure for such a transition, one thing will be sure: oil barons won’t be hand-clasping on the stage – they’ll be howling from the sidelines.

These movements, with Indigenous communities leading the way, have pushed the Alberta government this far. Now they must push them farther, and faster. It’s not time yet to cheer Alberta’s premier. Demand instead she break the oil barons’ vice-grip on our future.

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    United Church of Canada Sells Fossil Fuel Holdings, Commits $6 Million to Alternative Energy to Save Creation

    Repost from The Christian Post

    United Church of Canada Sells Fossil Fuel Holdings, Commits $6 Million to Alternative Energy to Save Creation

    By Vincent Funaro , August 16, 2015|8:05 am
    UCCan_Sq250x250
    United Church of Canada

    The United Church of Canada plans to invest nearly $6 million into alternative energy sources that it acquired from selling all of its assets in fossil fuels. The denomination views the move as a bold step toward stewarding the gift of creation.

    “Care for creation and concern for the way that climate is impacting the most marginalized populations made this move an act of justice, of faith, and of solidarity with First Nations and other impacted communities,” said Christine Boyle, General Council commissioner of the United Church and a veteran climate advocate, according to the National Advocate.

    The church will sell off around $5.9 million in holdings from 200 of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies.

    The United Church of Canada joins both Pope Francis and the Episcopal Church in their quest to help the environment.

    Leaders of the Episcopal Church voted to sell off the denomination’s holdings in fossil fuel, which amount to $380 million, in a move to combat climate change last month.

    “The vote says that this is a moral issue and that we really have to think about where we are putting our money,” said Betsy Blake Bennett, archdeacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska.

    “At a point where we are losing species and where human life itself is threatened by climate change, the Church, by acting on it, is saying that this is a moral issue and something that everyone needs to look at seriously,” added Bennett.

    The Episcopal Church’s position echoes that of Francis who released an encyclical dealing with climate change back June. It dealt with how climate change is affecting God’s creation and was supported by over 300 Evangelical leaders.

    The 184-page “Laudato Si,” translated in English as “Praise Be to You,” included the pope’s response to these challenges from a spiritual perspective.

    “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; He never forsakes His loving plan or repents of having created us,” Francis wrote.

    “Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world’s poorest. Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded.”

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      Scientists call for end to tar sands mining

      Repost from The Guardian
      [Editor: This story is also covered (with great photos) in the National Observer, “Over 100 scientists call for oil sands moratorium.”  – RS]

      North American scientists call for end to tar sands mining

      More than 100 US and Canadian scientists publish letter saying tar sands crude should be relegated to fuel of last resort, because it causes so much pollution
      By Suzanne Goldenberg, 10 June 2015 13.14 EDT 
      The Syncrude tar sand site near to Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta, Canada
      The Syncrude tar sand site near to Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta, Canada | Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

      More than 100 leading US and Canadian scientists called for a halt on future mining of the tar sands, saying extraction of the carbon-heavy fuel was incompatible with fighting climate change.

      In a letter published on Wednesday, the researchers said tar sands crude should be relegated to a fuel of last resort, because it causes so much more carbon pollution than conventional oil.

      The letter, released two days after G7 countries committed to get off fossil fuels by the end of the century, added to growing international pressure on the Canadian government, which has championed the tar sands and is failing to meet its earlier climate goals.

      “If Canada wants to participate constructively in the global effort to stop climate change, we should first stop expanding the oil sands. More growth simply shows Canada has gone rogue,” Thomas Homer-Dixon, professor of governance innovation at the University of Waterloo, said in a statement.

      The researchers included a Nobel prize winner, five holders of Canada’s highest national honour, and 34 researchers honoured by Canadian and US scientific societies.

      The researchers said it was the first time that scientists had come out as professionals in opposition to the tar sands. The letter offered 10 reasons for the moratorium call, ranging from extraction’s impact on local First Nations communities to destruction of boreal forests and climate change, and argued that foregoing tar sands production would not hurt the economy.

      They said they hoped to present those findings to Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, who has lobbied hard in Washington and European capitals for the tar sands.

      “We offer a unified voice calling for a moratorium on new oil sands projects,” the scientists said in the letter.

      “No new oil sands or related infrastructure projects should proceed unless consistent with an implemented plan to rapidly reduce carbon pollution, safeguard biodiversity, protect human health, and respect treaty rights.”

      They said the decisions made by Canada and the US would set an important example for the international community, when it comes to fighting climate change. “The choices we make about the oil sands will reverberate globally, as other countries decide whether or how to develop their own large unconventional oil deposits,” the scientists said.

      Since 2000, Canada has doubled tar sands production, and Harper has lobbied Barack Obama to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would open up new routes to market for Alberta oil.

      The crash of oil prices will likely put some future projects on hold, but are unlikely to affect current production, analysts said.

      The organisers of the letter said all future projects should be shelved unless Canada put in place safeguards to protect local people and environment and prevent climate change.

      “The oil sands should be one of the first fuels we decide not to develop because of its carbon intensity,” said Thomas Sisk, professor of environmental science at Northern Arizona University, and one of the organisers of the letter.

      “It is among the highest emitting fuels in terms of greenhouse gas emissions … If we are trying to address the climate crisis this high carbon intensive fuel should be among the first we forego as we move to an economy based around cleaner fuels.”

      Researchers including Sisk first outlined reasons for opposition to the tar sands in Nature last year.

      Wednesday’s intervention deepens an emerging political and economic distinction around coal and tar sands among climate campaigners.

      As a fossil fuel divestment movement moves from college campuses to financial institutions, a number of prominent supporters, such as Rockefeller Brothers Fund, moved swiftly to ditch coal and tar sands holdings, but plan more gradual moves away from oil and gas.

      Scientists agree that two-thirds of known fossil fuel reserves will need to stay in the ground to avoid warming above 2C, the internationally agreed threshold on catastrophic climate change.

      The Guardian supports the fossil fuel divestment campaign, and has called on two of the world’s largest health charities, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, to rid its holdings of coal, oil, and gas.

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