Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stelmach Goes Green - Big Time With Big Money.

I have not had a chance to digest the $4B scope and scale of the climate change policy announcement made by Premier Stelmach on July 8. Today I took some time and I have to say I am impressed on the Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) and the significant public transit investment. The news release, backgrounder and video of the announcement are worth reading and watching.

The top GOA priority is to “Ensure Alberta’s energy resources are developed in an environmentally sustainable way.” The mandate bullets in that priority include to “Implement carbon capture and storage research and demonstration projects (and to) Implement the climate strategy, including conservation, energy efficiency and adaptation initiatives.”

This announcement not only aligns with and delivers on these priorities; it surpasses some of them by not merely doing research on CCS, it is getting right into the action and investing serious sums in projects. The value-add of enhanced oil recovery (EOR)from injecting CO2 into conventional wells is estimated to recover up to 2B barrels of oil without further drilling or fragmentation of the land with roads and seismic lines. I hope they only allow EOR for those producers that are the best stewards in the oil patch and who have the best records for reclamation of abandoned well site and roads as preconditions to playing in the EOR opportunities.

Some will be critical and others will be cynical but at least they are contributing to the conversation about conservation and mitigation of our carbon footprint in Alberta. I am a partisan and support the PC Party, most of the time, but not all of the time. On this one initiative I whole-heartedly applaud the effort.

I think this policy pronouncement will add to transferable technological innovations and new adaptations in energy production as well as addressing emissions issues. I heard Environment Minister Rob Renner say in the announcement video that Alberta will move beyond intensity emissions and “reduce real emissions by 2020.” That is the kind of serious and significant commitment we need to have our government take. He has said all along that intensity measures of GHG emissions were interim measures only and we would get to absolutes emission reductions. He has set the date to get that done and while it is 12 year out that is pretty impressive given the size, scope and scale of development going on in Alberta these days.

The public transit aspects are equally as exciting as they encourage creativity and adaptability in how we respond to the growing economic and population needs in our cities, large and small. Again we see a serious effort to shrink the carbon footprint of the province.

Dirty oil and dead ducks in toxic tailing ponds and a sense that Albertans are greedy and indifferent to the environment is the growing sentiment in many parts of the world. This announcement, if executed rightly and rapidly will not change that image by itself, but it will be a profound and resonant rebuttal of the damaging presumption about Albertans that exists in too many minds of too many people in the world today.