A report from the Globe and Mail today underscores just how important dirty oil is to Canada’s designs on the US energy markets:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is proposing to strike a joint climate-change pact with president-elect Barack Obama, an initiative that would seek to protect Alberta’s oil sands projects from potentially tough new U.S. climate-change rules by offering a secure North American energy supply.
This will be *the* tell-tale on Obama’s ability to push new energy solutions past the considerable influence of the oil majors. Cheap oil is out. What’s left is much more energy intensive to produce. Industry distracts policymakers with the promise of Carbon Capture and Storage. But even if CCS comes to pass (not bloody likely, but let’s say they make it in 2-3 decades from now, best case) and even if its implementation brings the carbon intensity of heavy crudes into line with conventional stuff, we’re only back to square one on the real problem–breaking free of a fossil-fueled economy. In fact, we’re two steps back because we’ve stranded our investments in an energy infrastructure that won’t outlast global warming.
One early sign of how Obama will respond will be his selection for the top spot on Climate in the new Administration. No doubt Canada’s oil lobby are rooting against reports that Mary Nichols is on the short list. As head honcho at the California Air Resources Board, she’s overseen development of the Low Carbon Fuel Standard. Recently released drafts seek to reduce the carbon footprint of California’s transportation sector by imposing penalties on refineries that choose to process dirty crudes like those from Canada’s tar sands. It’s a bold move, and target #1 for Canada’s oil lobby in the US.