This week on Terra Informa Dave Kaczan and Steve Smiley look into whether Canada is getting good value for its petroleum resources and what effect resourse dollars are having on our democracy. Matt Israelson has a review of Andrew Nikiforuk’s book “Tar Sands”. And Rebekah Rooney brings us another of her Science Shorts, this time looking at effects of urban habitat on amphibians.
Here is this week’s selection of environmental new stories, brought to us by Eric.
A proposed plan to preserve, protect and restore Alberta’s wetlands has been scrapped by the Alberta government, according to a lobby group representing oil and other resource companies. Conservationists are alarmed by a statement released by the Alberta Chamber of resources which says that it has convinced the government to reverse a plan to require oilsands and mining companies to fully restore the wetlands they mine. Alberta currently has no regulations for how companies use wetlands after they mine it. The proposed “no net loss” policy was supposed to go in effect last April. Environment Minister Rob Renner says he hasn’t made a decision yet on the subject. (article by John Cotter [CP])
The Alberta government is cutting royalty rates for conventional oil and gas. Premier Ed Stelmach announced on Thursday that rates for oil and gas will be cut as much as 20%. Oilsands projects are not included in the change. The move has had mixed reactions from the opposition. NDP Leader Brian Mason suggested that Stelmach is reacting to pressure from the oil and gas sector, but Wild Rose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith argued that Stelmach owed Albertans an apology for increasing the rates in the first place. The reduction in royalties will cost the government $828 million over the next three years. (Edmonton Journal article)
The judge preciding over Syncrude’s trial for the infamous duck incident has ordered that statements made by Syncrude be examined for legal admissibility before they are allowed as evidence. Calling a Voir Dire, Judge Ken Tjosvold decided that statements made by more than 20 employees during the weeks after the April 28th incident must be examined by the court. Syncrude has pleaded not guilty to charges under the Alberta Environmental Protection Act, and the Federal Migratory Birds Convention Act. It could face up to $800,000 in fines and its executives could spend up to six months in jail if the company is found guilty. (Edmonton Journal article)
Related to the trial, on Wednesday, Greenpeace activists presented Premier Ed Stelmach’s Spokesman with two blown up photos of ducks from the tailings pond incident. The photos have been entered as evidence at the trial against Syncrude. During a press conference on Monday, Stelmach said he had not seen the pictures. NDP Leader Brian Mason also tabled photos of the Ducks “mostly for the benefit of the premier” in the legislature. (Edmonton Sun article)
A study lead by the University of Calgary has concluded that Carbon Capture Technology is indeed possible. But in a strange twist of fate the only way it will be economically feasible is if the government imposes a large carbon tax. Managers of the study concluded that they could safely inject Carbon dioxide into rock formations on a large scale. But the cost of doing so means it would only happen if there was a significant price on carbon. Authors of the study listed prices ranging from $50-$100 per tonne. The current price on carbon is a $15 per tonne, which is not enough to warrant the expense of CCS, say the study’s authors. (Calgary Herald Article)
Youtube videos (above) launched by the satirical lobby group “No more grizzlies”, which depicts grizzly bears destroying cities with laser vision, among other things. The campaign was launched by the Alberta Wilderness Association as a way to spread the message that Alberta’s grizzlies are in trouble.The campaign was launched after sustainable resources minister Mel Knight suggested he was open to allowing a limited grizzly bear hunt in the future. No grizzly bear hunts will be permitted in 2010.
Energy and resources, especially oil, drive the Western Canadian Economy. We hear a lot about the environmental damage that results from this, but today we investigate the possible political and economic implications of such dependency. What does Canada have to show for its fossil fuel wealth compared to other oil rich countries? And is there a danger that oil wealth is distorting sectors of our economy, not to mention our democracy? To answer these questions, Terra Informa’s David Kaczan spoke to Dr. Gordon Laxer, director of the progressive think tank the Parkland Institute, based in Edmonton. Gordon Laxer is a Political Economist and has written extensively on such topics for both an academic and broader audience.
Check out the Events featured on the show here.