Are the Media Fairly Reporting on Coal Phase-out in Alberta?

by Michelle Stirling, Communications Manager @August 2016

In the fall of 2015, two Edmonton media outlets ran articles about coal emissions that wildly exaggerated the source evidence they used. We objected to both media outlets. The Edmonton Journal refused to run our rebuttal statement. To be fair, they had recently published another article of ours on the topic headline as: “Opinion -Scare quality versus air quality.” however, we felt the errors in the “Hot spots” report (see links below) in question were so glaring, that either the Journal should write a retraction, or they should accept our rebuttal.

They did not. The editorial management at the time declined our rebuttal. We saw no retraction or correction.

We also sent a letter to the taxpayer-funded CBC Edmonton, which had similarly mis-reported the information. They said they would look at it and get back to us. They did not.

The Journal had also published a letter to the editor days after our first item which was headlined “Friends of Science don’t deserve ink.” and laden with unsubstantiated smears by a renewables activist (who apparently doesn’t know that all wind and solar devices are made from lots and lots of fossil fuels!)

As the coal phase-out discussion continues, we now publish our proposed rebuttal letter of the time as a matter of public interest.

Why Friends of Science Deserves Ink – Edmonton Media Misinforms Public on Environment Canada Report

By Michelle Stirling @2015

Two recent (Oct. 2015) Edmonton media stories took information from a spring workshop of the Joint Oil Sands Monitoring group and turned it on its head, to misinform the public.

The Edmonton Journal headline of Oct. 8, 2015, claimed: “Hot Spots depict how coal plants contribute to Edmonton pollution in new Environment Canada images.” In fact, the new Environment Canada data showed the coal-fired power plants as blue dots and indicated that there were significantly reduced emissions.

satellite measurements of Change


Research scientist in charge of this project, Heather Morrison of Environment Canada (EC), in her video presentation on the matter, states at 4:09 that there has been a decrease in sulfur dioxide concentrations from the coal-fired power plants “which aligns very nicely with the mitigation that has happened over that time period…” (2005 to 2013)

The Journal ran a colorful image of emissions with Alberta lit up as if as air polluted as Ontario. Scary!  But Heather Morrison said: “..what you can see is the measurements are sparse across the landscape and look disproportionately large because they had to make the dots big enough that you can see them.”

On the same day, CBC Edmonton ran a similar story on this headlined:  “Computer-generated video shows pollution spread across the Prairies” Oct 8, 2015.

Again, the reporter is overstating the case. The images are from a computer model, not real emissions. Outputs from models are not data. The real life empirical data shows a decrease of pollution, despite a population increase.

Alberta’s population grew from 3.256 million in 2006 to 4.120 million by 2014. If sulfur and nitrogen oxides – SOx and NOx – emissions are at about the same levels in 2014 as they were in 2006, that means in real terms a reduction of just over 26% per capita by industry.

The CASA Data Warehouse air quality monitoring records show no exceedances of NO2 or SO2 (the substances studied) during the time frames of the modeling study except occasional short-term exceedances at Redwater, far from coal-fired power plants.

Further, NOx and SOx are essential for a healthy eco-system. In 2011, Mother Nature’s wildfires in Alberta alone, emitted the equivalent of 448 million diesel truck emissions of fine particulate matter (PM2.5), along with 30 million tons of SO4 (sulfates) and 16 million CO2e tons of nitrogen oxides.

It seems the misinformed media slant comes from the phase-out coal activists at Pembina Institute and the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), whose representatives are quoted in the stories.

Pembina and CAPE are trying to foist more wind and solar on Albertans by demonizing coal. One has to question this blatant misrepresentation of the facts, especially as Pembina Institute is influentially represented on Alberta’s climate panel.

If Pembina Institute and CAPE are so keen to phase-out coal, maybe they should write the first estimated $11.1 billion compensation cheque, plus $11 billion to transition to natural gas, plus millions more for power grid interties and infrastructure. Maybe they should pick up the tab for you and I of the tripled power costs that would be the end result if they succeed in foisting renewables – wind and solar – upon us.

There is a federal coal plant retirement program in place. If we wait 10 years, most of the coal-fired power plants will retire on their own and it won’t cost taxpayers these billions, often presented as only “pennies a month.”

Google engineers have shown that wind and solar are not effective for power generation, they are ridiculously expensive, they mess up the grid, and they do not address climate change or air pollution.

Friends of Science, maligned by many, appear to be the only watchdog ferreting out the evidence over climate change ideology. That’s why we deserve ink – to clear the air of eco-smog.

– 30 –

RE: Edmonton Journal “Hot spots depict how coal plants contribute to Edmonton pollution in new Environment Canada images.” Oct. 8, 2015

“Computer-generated video shows pollution spread across the Prairies” Oct 8, 2015

To read the full letters to both outlets, read this blog post.

1 Comment

  1. knittingwithheart

    Informative post, to anyone willing to hear!
    —Jackie @ KWH, south of Edmonton— :-/ ♥ <3

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