There are existing technologies such as carbon sinks that could be used to reduce tar sand pollution. Jim Dinning, the frontrunner slash loser in the recent Alberta Conservative leadership race, was set to implement them. With his loss, the chance that Alberta will initiate significant environmental improvements on its own has declined.
It's time for the federal government to step in, and as Liberal leader Stephane Dion pointed out this week, we have a tool - government oil subsidies.
The Accelerated Capital Cost program, created 10 years ago to help a fledgling Alberta oil industry, is now giving an estimated $1.4 billion per year in tax breaks to an established, profitable - and environmentally disastrous - industry. Dion has suggested that the program be changed so that tax breaks are tied to environmental improvements. It's a wonderful idea.
Stephen Harper shot down the idea, saying central Canadians should stop picking on Alberta. But it is Harper who is standing alone on this issue, not Dion. According to the CBC, "former [Alberta] premiers Peter Lougheed and Ralph Klein, as well as Reform party founder Preston Manning, have all called for a move toward green technology. Lougheed has called it a "major wrong" that, under the current rules, Alberta taxpayers subsidize multiyear capital projects for an industry so lucrative that it has sent the cost of living skyrocketing in the province."
The second biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions is manufacturing, which is centered largely in Ontario. But Canadian manufacturers have done a lot to improve their environmental record, and are much less polluting than they were ten years ago. As technologies became available their adoption was not altruism - environmentally sensitive manufacturing is also cheaper. The reason for the increase in pollution in this sector is because the low Canadian dollar greatly increased the output of manufacturing since 1993.
At a press conference today, Harper made what may be a slip of the tongue, and used the phrase "so-called greenhouse gases." It may be that Harper's dismissal of Dion's suggestion has little to do with his love of Alberta and a lot to do with his stubborn state of denial over the environment.
Sierra Legal Defence Fund
Video of Harper saying "so-called greenhouse gases"