Contributed by Robert Lyman 2020. Lyman’s bio can be read here.
The federal government is considering the report of a joint Canada-Alberta environmental review panel that assessed the proposed Teck Resources Frontier Oil Sands project.
The government will soon announce whether it will approve the project. According to press reports, the government is likely to reject it, although it may instead demand a “quid pro quo” from Alberta requiring Alberta to change its current climate policies to more closely align with federal policies.
According to evidence gathered by the panel, the project will produce about 260,000 barrels per day of bitumen and operate for 41 years. Over that time, it will provide 278,000 person-years of employment across Canada and yield $70 billion in tax and royalty revenue to governments. It will also emit 4.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, which represents 5.4% of oil sands emissions based on 2016 data, or 0.5% 0f total Canadian emissions. Teck has committed to make all of its operations “carbon-neutral” by 2050.
The Panel recommended approval of the project, subject to over 200 conditions.
The Hon. Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, implied in his recent public statements that federal approval might depend on whether the Province of Alberta committed to more aggressive emissions mitigation policies, including tougher targets and dropping the legal opposition to federal carbon dioxide taxes. There have been press leaks suggesting that the federal Cabinet is preparing to deny the Frontier project but “compensate” Alberta in some way.
The way the federal government has handled this case contravenes several principles of good public policy. It is single-mindedly adhering to a fundamentally flawed climate policy based on questionable science and ignoring the reality that Canada produces only 1.6% of greenhouse gas emissions in a world where emissions are growing steadily due to economic developments in Asia. It has made GHG mitigation the overriding goal of public policy, downplaying the many other economic, social, security and unity goals that we share as a country. It has adopted policies that place an inordinately adverse impact on one region, Alberta and Saskatchewan, penalizing them for taking advantage of their natural resource endowment. By apparently holding the Frontier project hostage to Alberta’s acceptance of changes in other policies, it has engaged in the long discredited practice of “policy linkage”. Good public policy is far more likely to result from objective analysis of the public interest in each issue, not a highly-politicized bargaining process involving unrelated issues.
Turning down the Teck project would have absolutely zero impact on the trends in global GHG emissions. It would serve only as a symbolic, extremely costly, gesture of commitment to Green ideology.