Wednesday, February 06, 2008

CO2 Capture and Sequestration - An Idea Whose Time Has Come in Alberta

There are some very interesting and critically important developments emerging in this election. Not the least of which is the environmental concerns over greenhouse gases in Alberta’s growing energy based economy.

The recent survey we did (Cambridge Strategies and The Policy Channel) on what are the most important values Albertans are concerned about around responsible and sustainable oil sand development had CO2 capture and wildlife habitat as the two top of mind issues for Albertans. It is an important political issue and a more important environmental issue for Alberta. You can read a report on the survey findings at Policy Channel (

Things are happening. Premier Stelmach referenced carbon capture in many of his MSM year end interviews. Carbon capture and storage was highlighted in the Throne Speech. Ed Stelmach pledged to get this issue moving and start to put the infrastructure in place in conjunction with the large emitters.

Just days before the Throne Speech the Canada/Alberta joint effort task force report on carbon capture and storage. This report advises government and industry on not only how to do this but to do it in a way that places Alberta in the global forefront on this technology and its application. It is going to be expensive but the alternatives of delay or do nothing is totally unacceptable.

Industry is stepping up on the concerns over CO2 emissions too. The industry consortium with major industry players like Enbridge, EnCana and TransCanada Corp are seriously into the issue from both a capture and sequestration perspective. Another Alberta based group ICO2N has just formed and will also look at the pipeline needs of carbon capture and sequestration. City of Edmonton owned Epcor Power LP is a big player in this initiative.

The retrograde consciousness of climate change deniers is long since past its political "best before date."(even though some deniers are still bleating and belching about it.). This is a complex policy area but the technology exists and is being used in other countries. It is even being used in Canada today but only to a moderate degree so far.

Our survey showed that current public perceptions in Alberta are that much more is being done on carbon capture that is the reality today. Perception is reality in politics and just because it is a cliche does not mean it is not true. But perception is not necessarily reality when it comes to assesssing the actual public policy processes, practices and their outcomes...particularly around how much actual CO2 capture and sequestration is really going on in Alberta. Not much - YET!

There is danger for both government and industry if citizen’s perceptions, expectations and, in particular, their aspirations are not being met on high value driver and critical issues like carbon capture and sequestration.

CO2 capture and sequestration is no longer a distant or emerging issue. Our survey shows that it is a current concern of most Albertans and they have a keen sense of its importance and urgency. The key players of industry and government are now engaged. The political will and economic muscle from leaders like Premier Stelmach and TransAlta’s CEO Steve Snyder (who chaired the Fed/Prov task force) has to be encouraged, sustained and enhanced to get this done right - and right away.

Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell famously said to the effect that elections are no time to deal with complex issues. When she said that, back in the day, it may have been true for her times. Today the reality is different due to the inter-related and highly integrated world has complexity everywhere all the time. This Alberta election is just the time to deal with a complex issue like CO2 capture and sequestration.

I am pleased that Premier Stelmach has put it on the political agenda for discussion in this election. Now Albertans have to inform themselves on what is happening around CO2 capture and sequestration and then they can help turn up the political heat on this initiative and turn it into a reality.
If GHG’s and climate change are important to you and you agree CO2 is a crucial part of the solution, one way I see to make it happen is to support Ed Stelmach’s Progressive Conservatives in this election. Ed has a good start but we all know he can do better. So encourage him and insist that he get this job done once his government re-elected.