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ENVIRONMENT & TRAVEL February 2007
 
 Alberta's oil sands
Global warming in Canada: a political opportunity ?
by Rémy DUPRE & Guillaume LEFEVRE

Canada is one of the few developed countries to be a net exporter of energy. As such it has both a direct and indirect responsibility for global warming. However its government has often been accused of being lame and parochial with regard to environmental matters.

Just before the beginning of a heated parliamentary session, natural Resources Minister Cary Lunn invited the media to his department's suburban research centre for the promotion of clean-energy technology.
It was an appropriate setting to unveil a series of "new" environmental policies, including incentives for companies to invest in more wind power and programmes encouraging energy efficiency measures for vehicles and homes. For instance, power greedy air-conditioners were declared environmentally unfriendly. The surplus electricity required to operate them in summer forces coal power-plants to fire up their production. As this increases green-house gas emissions dramatically, the purchase of environment friendly air-conditioners will now be encouraged through tax-reductions.

While the federal government's interest in environmental issues was welcomed by green activists, it was also accused of stealing the opposition's clothes as the propositions actually resurrected several Liberal initiatives buried only a year ago.

Bruce Mc Callum, President of the Canadian Bio Energy Association, called for much more drastic measures particularly in relation to the issue of oil. Canada is currently the world's seventh producer of oil with 3 billion barrels per day. This represents a huge source of income for previously undeveloped regions such as British Columbia or Alberta where oil sands were considered too expensive to develop. Canada is said to hold the world's second-largest oil reserves behind Saudi Arabia. It also has vast deposits of natural gas.
The advocates of renewable energy consider that, to date, the Harper government has been far too cosy with oil companies, and has completely failed to tackle the ensuing environmental problems. They are now waiting for a clear signal from the Conservatives on a federal subsidy called the Wind Power Production Initiative. This Liberal program, which involved spending 886 million dollars over 15 years to improve wind power alternatives, was shelved last year.
As Mc Callum put it in The Globe and Mail: "the Harper government claims it has turned over a new leaf, the big question is, do they have the political will to make polluters pay?"



Sources: "Ottawa set to unveil climate plans," The Globe and Mail 16 January 2007.
"Welcome to the new climate," The Globe and Mail 27 January 2007.

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