Alberta has finally decided to update their energy and environmental policies after years of ignoring the fact that their policies are killing nearly everything within the province. Premier Rachel Motley has announced sweeping changes that will bring Alberta into the 21st century. They are going to phase out their coal plants and put on caps on how awful the tar sands can be!
Notley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips dropped nothing less than a policy cluster-bomb of mandated targets, rules and often the mere hint at mechanisms and subsidy packages to enact it all. Alberta will follow British Columbia in introducing a cross-economy carbon tax, $20 per tonne in 2017 and $30 the following year—rebate and offset programs to come. The province will mimic Ontario and mandate the end to coal power by 2030—compensation and negotiated phase-outs to come. Methane emissions from venting, flaring and leaking, will have to be cut nearly in half in a decade—a goal that drillers and others will struggle now to meet in near-lockstep with the Obama administration’s approach on the greenhouse gas that’s more intense than carbon.
Lastly, there’s the oilsands policy, designed to get the biggest nods and high-fives out of foreign partners and environmentalists: a hard cap on emissions from that sector, 100 megatonnes. When Notley was asked about Oil Change International’s tweet that this means “no new tar sands growth,” the premier furrowed her brow and said no. Furrowing and shaking their heads along with her were four oilsands executives invited to share the announcement, from Suncor, Shell, Cenovus and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. Murray Edwards, the CNRL chairman few watchers expected to appear at such an event, was gushing in his congratulations about the collaboration between industry, the province and green advocacy groups: “This plan recognizes the need for balance between the environment and the economy.” The cap was set at 100 megatonnes, with more room for bitumen upgrading; Alberta’s oilsands currently produce 70. So there’s room to expand the traditionally vilified resource for years to come, and much more if they make good on pledges to slash the per-barrel emission rates. CNRL and counterparts get room to grow, and the climate change panel report by University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach predicts that in most cases, the designed changes won’t cost more than $1 per barrel for most operators.