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Canada Proposing Joint Climate Change Pact to President-Elect Obama

The Globe and Mail reports that Canada Prime Minister Stephen Harper is proposing to strike a joint climate-change pact with president-elect Barack Obama. The initiative would seek to protect Alberta’s oil sands projects from US climate-change rules by offering a secure North American energy supply.

Key federal ministers issued the call for a climate-change pact Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Mr. Obama won his historic election victory, in a clear bid by Ottawa to carve out a key place for Canada on the new administration’s agenda.

Energy security has been a major issue in the US election, and Mr. Obama campaigned heavily on eliminating dependence on Middle East and Venezuelan oil. But he has also condemned the United States’s reliance on “dirty oil”—his advisers have specifically criticized the oil sands—and has promised tougher climate-change action.

A Canada-US climate-change pact could tie those issues together by adopting common standards and mechanisms such as a market-based emission trading system, while acknowledging the important contribution the oil sands make to North American supplies and the need to adopt technologies that would reduce oil sands emissions.

Comments

Will S

This appears to be a ploy to sidetrack Obama from full international participation in climate discussions.

NAFTA already guarantees a large percentage of oil from the Canadian tar sands.

Nick(Colorado)

NAFTA guarantees the same level of access to
Canadian energy, for the US, as for Canada. I
think that it is a misnomer to mention fixed
percentages of the whole. If Canada scaled
back the tar sands due to emissions, this
would effect the US and Canada the same, thus
being OK under NAFTA.

creativforce

It doesn't matter who we buy our oil from. If we don't buy it from Venezuela, they'll sell it to someone else (who may have bought it from Canada's oil sands). Oil, like water, finds its own level. What matters is using less! Energy independence only exists when we make our own using sun, wind, and geothermal. Oh, and by the way this also saves the planet.

HarveyD

creativeforce:

You have a good point. A very high percentage of the oil used in Eastern Canada comes from Venezuela while Canadian Oil extracted from Alberta tar sands is shipped to USA.

Unless much cleaner methods are found to extract oil from tar sands and we find ways to use this type of fuel without creating GHG, the world would be better with it.

Biofuels may be less damaging but massive production may not be sustainable.

Electrification of most (if not all) transportation vehicles, commercial and domestic HVACs etc seems to be one of the best solution.

Of course, cleaner ways to produce electrical energy must be used. I would include nuclear to your list in sufficient numbers to replace all existing coal fired power plants.

Kristoff

Bizarre - sounds like they are immediately asking the president elect to change the climate by making a pact with the devil. Money talks and there is a fortune to be made from oil sands. It's typical that the politician makes no mention of Canada's Wind Power or spare Hydro Electric Power potential.

The Pickens plan to use Wind Power to displace Natural Gas will enable trucking to switch from diesel to CNG or LNG. The Pickens plan proposes wind farms and new electricity power lines in the great plains right up through the Dakotas and into Canada. Canada has spare HEP potential which could also be connected to those power lines to provide load-following / peak power.

What we really need is a pact to develop the Pickens plan from the north as well as from Texas.
Canada should commit now to building a new HEP dam in Canada while the US president elect should commit to building a new power line to connect the new dam to a US city like Minneapolis or even Chicago.
Canada and the USA can then plan to build wind farms to connect to the new (and existing) power lines.

Read the speech on Canada's wind and hydro power potential by the Canadian Minister of the Environment.
http://www.ec.gc.ca/media_archive/minister/speeches/2005/051028_s_e.htm

"With 13 percent of the world's output, we are one of the world's largest producers of hydropower. We are also the world's second largest electricity exporter. Over 60 percent of all our exported electricity is generated by hydro power. Hydro power contribution to Canada's economy is huge — $1.8 billion in exports in 2002."
"Given the great potential of both hydro and wind power in Quebec and the nature of the electricity system, there is no more suitable area in the world to integrate the two. Hydro-Quebec is well on the way to becoming the world reference for quality and reliability of wind integration on the electricity network.
And it is a good fit. Wind power and hydropower work well together. They are both highly complementary in supplying electricity to customers over a grid system. Wind power is variable over short time periods while reservoir-based hydro power can be dispatched to account for the viability of both customer load and availability of wind power to provide a highly reliable electricity supply.
Because of the Canadian hydro resources available, Canada has the potential to obtain as much as 20 percent of its electricity as wind power."

HarveyD

An alliance with Canada's anti-Kyoto PM to fight GHG does not make sense and would be against the President Elect declared ways and mandate (unless he can pressure Canada's PM into making an about turn on GHG).

Reducing USA Oil consumption by up to 66% would do it. However, it cannot be done overnight. An all azimuth program would be required to make such a change in 10 to 15+ years.

HarveyD

Kristoff:

I fully agree with you.

Northern Canada has some of the best high quality (8 & 9) wind power potential, often colocated with huge hydro potential.

Large water reservoirs make excellent storage units for wind power. Wind turbine can be (fully) used as prime power sources with hydro as peak and/or back up.

In Quebec and Labrador alone, there are another 40 000+ mega-watt of hydro power to be developped together with another 90 000+ mega-watt of high quality wind power. Something like 35000 to 45000 large 5 mega-watt wind turbines would be required. It is a chalenge but not impossible to do.

More long distance very high votage power lines would have to be built but that is not a chalenge.

Enough extra hydro + wind power could be produced to supply most of Eastern USA.

aym

Canadian tar sands output goes into the central US. Ironically, about the same amount comes into the East coast for processing for the provinces of Ont->eastward. About a million barrels/day.

NAFTA only stops Canada from restricting its output to the US. A clause by the way that Mexico didn't ratify. It doesn't stop the US from internally stopping imports.

There might be an interesting clause though that might stop the US from using pollution as a reason to stop imports. I remember a gasoline additive being added to gasoline in the US that was considered by Cnd to cause cancer. It was restricted. The company applied under Free-trade rules and won. But in the this case, a unified restriction that would be applied to both countries might be able to pass and restrict imports of tar sands oil to the US from Can. That would impact shale oil projects in the US north west but I expect those plans to be put on hold with the present price of oil per barrel anyway.

Canadian Hydro potential could be used to even out winds' variability but that goes to the point that a larger more robust grid in any case would allow winds' variability to be better distributed among all the different areas demands and spinning reserves. It would be even better if the hydro sources could be in some way converted to pumped storage but that is quite speculative and unknown.

Anyway, it's far more likely that this in hand approach is more about steven harper's diplomatic way to get in and try to sell the oil sands as some sort of N-Am energy security thing and sabotage any talk of restrictions on tar sands production. His power base is mostly in western canada. His stance on the environment is taken from the republican george bush playbook. His public face has been the "in Canada" BS face that Bush developed to do nothing by appealing to patriotism. Harper's stance on the environment can be seen on Canada's interactions on the international stage from Minister Ambrose on down.

It's a photo op to make harper look progressive but I'm betting behind the stage it will be used as an opportunity to sell, sell, sell tar sands oil.

HarveyD

aym:

Yes, that's what Harper may be trying to do.

However, it would be much better for Americans and Canadians to develop clean hydro + wind power (a very interesting combination when water reservoirs are used to store surplus wind power). Water pumping is not really required, just reduce or stop hydro production when wind power is enough and save the water for peaks and low wind periods. A water reservoir is a huge battery.

Building the required extra transmission lines or improved grid is no longer a challenge.

It is doubtful that Harper will tolerate the switch from polluting tar sands oil extraction to clean electricity production an export?

Mark M

The Alberta oil sands is a provincial and federal cash cow, Harper will do all he can to maintain that. He does not believe in protecting the evironment or in global warming, he only gives it lip service when he needs to. There are very few incentives or alternative initiatives from the Feds in Canada, most are from the provinces or from cities, just like in the U.S. (under Bush).
I hope Obama says no, we need leaders to make decisions that are sometimes difficult but force us to make changes that in the 'long run' will be better for us.

Andrey Levin

In between 2012 and 1214 Gateway pipeline from Alberta to Pacific coast will be functional. Also, only 100 million dollars and about one year is required to reverse flow in Enbridge #9 pipeline and Alberta oil will be delivered to Atlantic coast. If Americans prefer to buy oil from Saudi, Venezuela, Russia, Iraq, Nigeria - go ahead. Canadian oil will find its customers.

plop

The chinese don't care where their oil comes from. The objective is to have cheap oil for them, not that environment thing. They don't think in ways like that.

aym

@HarveyD,

I'm not contingent on the use of pumped storage to use wind. Hydro is a great load leveler and produces some of the cheapest electricity and complements wind the best.

I'm putting out the idea of pumped storage upgrades because it would greatly improve overall usage and allow higher levels of wind power in the system. Excess power would be used to keep reservoir levels even higher allowing greater retirement of natural gas generation. Use of hydro is limited by the reservoir levels and downstream impacts.


Gateway at minimum is set by the company to open in 2015.

http://www.reuters.com/article/mergersNews/idUSN2453723820081024

And that's if they can get the native groups cooperation. If they can get around the people of BC's opposition to oil tankers.

And the biggest if at all is the present economic situation. Just as the recession of the 70's pushed back global peak oil, the present situation will delay this one. Already some tar sands plans have been put on the shelf. It wouldn't be surprising if the situation pushed the pipeline plan back another 2+ years.

If the US overall, develops plans to curtail energy use and slow down its tar sands consumption as part of it, then it is fair to assume that worldwide demand will also drop. Given the price differential in the production of regular crude to tar sands, that would definitely lower the need for west coast access.

Present tar sand projects are most likely to stay the way they are at present production. The US still has an invested infrastructure heavily requiring imported oil. Until structural changes do occur, if at all, and they get large enough to make an impact, the addicted US will still make desperate deals like any addict for their fix and in this case for oil

sulleny

Fascinating. An early on demonstration of who will be running Obama and how they fast they make him dance from the get-go. With sands jobs and massive income on the line there is little chance Canada will agree to restrictions not brought on by lower demand. Lower demand will come tangential to electrification AND vastly increased production of alternatives.

Obama's primary directive will be energy independence emphasizing sustainability. But he will not be allowed to trash the jobs market or economy to do so. The ancillary positive effect on environment will be appropriately positioned behind independence. An interesting first round.

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