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Oil Sands CEO Calls for Allowing Increased Industry GHG Emissions

Globe and Mail. Marcel Coutu, chief executive officer of Canadian Oil Sands Trust and Chairman of the Board of Syncrude Canada, is calling for allowing Alberta’s oil sands producers to significantly increase their greenhouse gas emissions, even if that means forcing other sectors to take on additional expensive obligations to meet Canada’s climate change targets.

Coutu is on a national tourgiving Canadians a candid view from the inside of one of Canada’s largest oil sands operations.

In Toronto, Coutu said that capping oil sand emissions would stifle growth in Canada’s most important resource development.

Mr. Coutu—whose company owns 36.7 per cent of the Syncrude oil sands project—acknowledged other sectors would have to take up the slack if the oil sands have only intensity-based requirements and Ottawa imposes a national cap on emissions.

“That’s the math and there is no escape from that,” he said. “What we have to do is prioritize what is most important to the economy and our quality of life. At the end of the day I don’t think there is a single element of our economy that is more important than energy.”



The mind boggles! Better to shut this industry down before it does irreparable damage to the local environment. It's contribution to energy security is problematic at best, given the energy expenditure to get the tar out, and the clean-up costs.



Many would agree with you. There must be better ways of extracting oil from tar sands.

One of the best way to force those guys to use improved methods would be with a progressive $400/tonne GHG emission tax, starting with a very low $10/tonne + an added $5 or $10/tonne a month for the following 40 or 80 months.

Without meaningful penalities, those guys will keep on polluting and Aberta's GHG of 75 + tonnes/per capital would soon reach and unthinkable 150+ tonnes/per capita.

However, the current PM will give them more tax credits instead.

Nick Lyons


Let the oil sands developers pay the true costs of their activities, and see what happens. I'm guessing oil sands development would cease as un-economic.


Taxing industry to death so it can develop new technologies to extract the oil sounds like a lawyer's knee jerk solution to the problem.


Tar sands extraction clearly needs to be phased out, not expanded. Even if they could innovate to reduce emissions for extracting oil, the product itself is so polluting to use that continuing to extract tar sands makes no sense.


I like Nick's idea of making them pay the TRUE costs. For far too long we have let companies cut corners to make higher profits and let someone else pick up the tab afterward.

It is just good accounting and good policy to have them pay ALL the real costs of doing business. Otherwise, it is just a subsidy to pollute. Someone said that you should not provide incentives to do bad things and I agree.


Many sources claim that the voluntary pollution report system currently used by the Tar Sands oil extraction operators includes less than 50% of the actual total GHG created.

Water, ground, fine particles and many other pollutants are mostly left out.

Governments should not rely on the polluters to report the pollution they create.


What a crock. We need to not only stifle growth in the oil sands, but shut it down. This kind of economic growth is not good, it is taking us backwards. It's unsustainable. We are becoming addicted to oil in more ways than one. We need it to drive our cars. But now it also comprises a significant proportion of our economic activity. That has come from economic growth by bringing more people into the country. "Bigger" is not "better", although the economists would like you to believe that because they're all making money off it. Let's say for sake of argument oil represents 5% of our economy. Let's say if these guys get their way it increases to 10% of the economy in 10 years. And let's say in 15 years the oil industry crashes because EV's have taken over the world and demand for oil drops dramatically, so price also drops and then it's not profitable to take it out. In order to stop extracting oil, that would result in a 10% contraction of the Canadian economy --- catastrophic. I say, cut it off now, and instead invest in alternative energy like wind and solar. Those are sustainable and there will be no crash because they won't eventually stop as oil will.

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