Is it the Beginning of the End for the Alberta Oilsands?
Date Written: 27/10/2015
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX18231
A new report from Oil Change International challenges industry's common assumption that the continued production of oilsands crude is inevitable.
The report, Lockdown: The End of Growth in the Tar Sands, argues industry projections to expand oilsands production from a current 2.1 million barrels per day to as much as 5.8 million barrels per day by 2035 rely on high prices, public licence and a growing pipeline infrastructure, all of which are endangered in a carbon-constrained world.
According to the reports authors, production growth in the oilsands hinges on the construction of these contentious pipelines because the existing pipeline system is currently at 89 per cent capacity.
Report author Hannah McKinnon said oilsands pipelines represent a high risk, high carbon, high cost path that is at odds with diversifying the Canadian economy and building a cleaner, safer energy future.
A poll released by the Climate Action Network in April found the majority of Canadians feel addressing climate change is more important than developing the oilsands or constructing pipelines.
And this public concern, as the report shows, has had an incredible impact in making politicians, municipalities and Canadians more generally think about the kind of future Canada wants, and as a result, pipelines and expansion are hitting legal, political and public hurdles everywhere they turn.
Whether it is exposing Exxon's efforts to bury climate science for decades, calling out governments for basing energy policy on demand scenarios that take us towards five degrees or more of warming, or exposing the industry for meddling and undermining climate and clean energy policy the world over people power is killing fossil fuel fatalism.
Canadas newly elected Liberal government has indicated it will not support the construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline, which is currently facing 18 separate legal challenges.
Oil giant Total suspended its $11-billion Joslyn North project, Statoil halted its multi-billion Corner project and Shell shelved the Pierre River project while prices were still above the $90 per barrel mark, the report notes.
The groundswell of local, national and international opposition to the tar sands industry, which has become a poster child of a high-carbon future incompatible with a safe global climate, was not predicted by industry.
The report also found the rate of increase for clean energy jobs outpaced every other sector. In 2013, the most recent year for which data exists, Canadas clean energy sector provided 26,900 direct jobs.
The Oil Change International report found that public concern and efforts to slow and stop tar sands expansion by challenging expansion of the North American tar sands pipeline system are poised to have a meaningful impact on keeping carbon in the ground close to 34.5 billion tonnes of CO2 if existing hurdles to pipeline expansion are maintained.