Monday, November 30, 2009

Environmental Hypocrisy

There are some fairly crude arguments being leveled against our fair country in the run-up to the Copenhagen meetings on climate change. Let's start with the most obvious target the tar sands. Some British journalist (no not Iggy) levels a standard line of attack in today's globe: "The Canadian oil sands are a threat hanging over the whole world." Yes, evil, evil oil sands. There's a funny thing about oil production in Canada, it costs a ton of money, so unless the world really needs the oil, there's very little production. Here's Canada's oil exports since 1990 all figures in US dollars:

1990: $4.7 Billion at an average of $23/barrel = ca. 135 million barrels
1995: $7.1 Billion at an average of $17/barrel = ca. 417 million barrels
2000: $13 Billion at an average of $27/barrel = ca. 481 million barrels
2005: $24.8 Billion at an average of $50/barrel= ca. 496 million barrels
2008: $63.2 Billion at an average of $91/barrel = ca 695 million barrels

Canada's domestic consumption of oil hasn't increased significantly over the same time period. So yes, the oil sands are dirty but when we are exporting 700 million barrels of oil to other countries who need the oil, should we be blamed for having oil that's more ecologically expensive to get out of the ground? Canada should not be blamed for sitting on a large deposit of natural resources. It tends to skew the data. We don't consume most of the resources we extract. It isn't our carbon footprint, in the case of crude at least, it's the American carbon footprint that should be blamed.

Canada is also not the per capita leader in carbon emissions. In 2004 (which is the most recent year with complete data that I can find), it wasn't even close. Oil rich Qatar (who is rarely chided) led the pack with 79.3 t CO2 per person. Canada was one quarter that at 20 t CO2 per person. Other oil producers also topped Canada including Kuwait (37.1) the UAE (34.2) Bahrain (23.9), the US (20.6) and an odd name on the list, tiny EU member Luxembourg (25). Often ignored, in that number is that according to David Suzuki's people, Canada's two most populous provinces have seen their per capita emissions DROP since 1990. Indeed Qu├ębec has seen its total emissions fall according the Suzuki Foundation. Almost all of Canada's problems lie in the oil patch which as shown above has largely been a spike in exports. We are environmental laggards only because we are leaders in natural resource extraction. Canada demonstrates a fatal flaw in how we assign blame for carbon emissions. It is not the criminal it is being made out to be.


Gary said...

A great post that casts an entirely different light on the AGW debate as far as Canada's role is involved. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Sure I have a meth lab. But I don't actually USE the meth, so that makes it okay. Is that kind of what you're trying to say?

Anonymous said...

That has been part of the problem right from the start.Since their are very few resource rich nations it is easy for the bulk of nations to blame them for the emissions. Add to it the fact that even fewer nations with Natural resources are considered wealthy we can see that Canada has been an easy target.

Unlike Meth the world needs our resources to feed their citizenry, heat their homes, build their infrastructure and fuel their cars.

40 European countries all want the oil and wheat etc. but somehow they get away with telling us we are responsible for the GHG's.This is why Kyoto should not have been signed in the first place.

As for the provincial breakdown this is seriously flawed.PEI and Ont etc. did not sign Kyoto.Canada did. The next extention to this logic is to break down emissions by county. This would allow more people to distance themselves from the GHG's emissions.

The oil may be in Alberta but everyone fortunate enough to have a pension plan is partly invested in it. The blaming of one province over another is a copout.


CanadianSense said...

So you agree when MI told National Geographic to shove it, he should have called Al Gore a moron as well for his statements about our Oil Sands?

Al Gore and his friends are on the ground floor for the sub-carbon market.

Big Banks, Hedge Funds, stand to make Billions.

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