Pembina Institute Invented Alternative Facts on Renewable Energy’s Impact on Global Warming

Opinion – By Michelle Stirling © Feb. 24, 2017
In a National Newswatch op-ed of Feb. 21, 2017, Ed Whittingham of Pembina Institute attacks Dr. Jack Mintz, claiming Mintz was “discrediting” Canada’s emerging climate plan with “alternative facts” related to Alberta’s coal phase-out and predicted rising power utility costs.  Whittingham claims Germany is going off coal. The US EIA shows Germany is predominantly driven by 44% coal power, 10% natural gas and 15% nuclear. Much of Germany’s wind and solar production is exported, with surges often causing grid problems and blackouts in neighbouring countries. 
Whittingham decries the unnamed “utility experts” Mintz refers to in his Feb. 15, 2017 Financial Post column. Power generation experts abound in Alberta and they support Mintz’ views. Here are some names for Ed. #names4Ed
One is Dean Rosehart of the University of Calgary who hosted a 2015 Distinguished Speaker event on Alberta’s deregulated power system. Any of the panelists could have informed Dr. Mintz. Maybe he was even there!
In 2014, we asked one of those panelists, Evan Bahry, Executive Director of the Independent Power Producers Society of Alberta (representing all forms of power generation), what it would cost to phase-out coal.  He told us in an email, permitting us to quote him verbatim, that it would require the equivalent of eight natural gas plants of 800 MegaWatt capacity to replace the power of the existing Alberta coal fleet.  Using the new Shepard Energy Center as a benchmark, built at a cost of $1.4 billion, it would be about > $11 billion – a replacement price that ultimately consumers will pay.  On top of that, he would not venture a guess as to the compensation to coal industry and investors for early phase-out – only saying it would come up to “many billions.”
Gary Reynolds, former CEO of the Balancing Pool, who is frequently cited in the press, helped enlighten us on compensation costs for stranded assets and what subsidies would have to be paid to wind and solar to make it attractive for them to enter the market. He anticipated a $35/kWh rate – or about $900 million a year.  In 2012, Morrison Park Advisors noted in a report to the Market Surveillance Authority of Alberta, posted on their website, that there was no interest in wind/solar investments in Alberta because power prices were too low.
A recent report “Potential Impacts on the AB Electricity Market of Policy Implementation Choices for the Climate Leadership Plan” and public speaking events by Duane Reid-Carlson of EDC Consultants shows it will cost billions more than the Alberta government is saying it will cost to phase-out coal and implement wind and solar.  Billions must be spent for transmission lines and integration for intermittent wind and solar – for very little energy return on energy invested.  Prof. Michael J. Kelly, engineering professor at Cambridge, recently published a paper entitled “Lessons from Technology Development for Energy and Sustainability” showing that wind and solar energy return is so low that it cannot even provide sufficient energy for a basic society that has education, let alone one that revels in high culture and air travel
So – experts abound.  Whittingham is firing blanks.
Pembina’s Whittingham claims that humans can reduce rising global temperatures, it just might cost you to do so.  The Pembina crew claimed that back in 2002 when our soon-to-be scientific advisers debated Kyoto with Pembina representatives in the journal of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geosciences of Alberta.  Our scientific advisers said it was the sun that directly and indirectly drove climate change and warming/cooling cycles.  Pembina claimed that the IPCC had a consensus that it was human emissions.
Now, some 15 years later we find that, excepting a couple of naturally-caused El Nino’s, there has been no statistically significant global warming despite all dire predictions and despite a significant rise in carbon dioxide concentration. Warming has simply not matched the theory.  Of course, the World Meteorological Organization did claim it was the ‘hottest year ever.’ If you take their margin of error of 0.1°C it means that the temperature could have been +0.12°C (global warming) or -0.08°C (cooling).
And what of renewables saving the planet? Well, here is where Pembina’s alternative facts come in. Environmental activist Robert Kennedy’s quote says it best in Energy Post of April 7, 2016 – when you install wind and solar you are really just building a natural gas plant. One natural gas plant like Shepard for $1.4 billion will put out 800 megawatts of power  almost 24/7. In Alberta, just the transmission line to southern wind farms cost $2.2 billion. For that we only get ~7% of our power….only when the wind blows just right. 
Ontario Professional Engineers have reported that carbon dioxide emissions will rise if you add wind and solar to the grid because they must be backed up by natural gas plants. Only natural gas peaking plants are nimble enough to match Mother Nature’s dips and surges, but matching her whims creates more emissions.
How so?
Alberta power generation experts explained to us that the problem with wind is its randomness, wind is completely uncorrelated with demand. If the Alberta government adds another 5,000 MW then the total wind capacity* would be ~6,500 MW. Typically, this amount of wind would randomly experience 80% or higher ramps one or more times per week. This would be the equivalent of ramping 6.5 Shepard natural gas plants from off to full to off again. These plants are unable to do this over the long term. Thus, power operators may end up having to put in simple cycle units instead which, from a CO2 perspective, would defeat the alleged CO2-reduction purpose of adding wind.
If Pembina believes carbon dioxide from human industry drives global warming, why do they push wind and solar? Obviously for the subsidies or Renewable Energy Certificates – these enrich green crony capitalists at the expense of the poor and middle class, and do nothing for climate change or environmental benefits.
Further, as Warren Kindzierski, Associate Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta revealed in his peer-reviewed work and in a recent Financial Post op-ed, there is no air quality issue in Alberta related to coal-fired power plants as claimed by Pembina Institute and its acolytes. His research is supported by Alberta Health Services statistics, Alberta Air Quality data and numerous other peer-reviewed studies on related health/air quality issues.  
Our several reports, like “A Costly Misdiagnosis,”  “Burning Questions,” “Alberta Climate Plan and Carbon Tax – A Burden with No Benefit,” and “Dire Consequences” are filled with peer-reviewed references showing that Pembina is just wrong on coal-health claims and costs of coal phase-out and the climate plan. 
Whittingham and Pembina Institute are the ones promoting alternative facts – their costly misdiagnosis not supported by the evidence.
Someone should ask why we are adopting their discredited policies.
       30 –
“Lessons from Technology Development for Energy and Sustainability”

FYI Alberta – Our Request for Hearing by the Alberta Utilities Commission on Jenner Wind Farm was Rejected

Friends of Science Society does not represent any industry sector or any pecuniary interests – we examine the evidence over the ideology on climate change and climate policies and report on our findings.

In 2013, Friends of Science Society hosted Dr. Benny Peiser of the Global Warming Policy Foundation of the UK as guest speaker – the title of his talk was “To Heat or Eat: Europe’s Failed Climate Policy Fiasco.” His discussion of the ramifications of the EU climate policies to date were shocking.

Since 2002, our founding year, Friends of Science Society has researched and questioned the claimed economic and environmental/climate benefits of various climate change policies.  Dr. Peiser showed us the tragedy of Europe’s ‘rush-to-renewables.’


Consequently, we hoped that we would have an opportunity to have a hearing on the merits of the Jenner Wind Farm, the proponents being the Power Renewable Energy Corporation of Quebec.

A large part of our membership is made up of Alberta residents; many are experts in engineering, geosciences, solar sciences, power generation, business and industry.  We also have an international network of respected scientists and economists with whom we consult. We have informed opinions. However, we are a small organization with a nominal operating budget. We can speak up – but only the public can speak out.

In the interests of informed public debate, we are posting our submissions and the decisions by the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC).  All of this material is already in the public domain, available on the AUC website, but it may be hard to find for someone not familiar with the process of filing.

We are deeply concerned about the impact of climate policies, incentives to impose wind and solar on the Alberta economy (while phasing out #coal)  on business viability and on the impact on consumers, especially for those living on limited means.

In our opinion, affordable and reliable power is a ‘human right’ in a ‘winter’ country like ours – and to our luck and credit, Alberta is blessed with excellent, high quality, low-emissions coal reserves that would last hundreds of years, that we own, as well as Alberta’s power producers having several low-emissions, high efficiency coal-fired power plants. Based on our review of climate science, the evidence and the relative benefits of coal power to Alberta, we reject the claims that phasing out coal will do anything but make Albertans poor. Based on our review of the evidence about health care, affordable and reliable power is the most crucial element of modern health care. (Please see our detailed review of the Alberta Climate Plan – A Burden with No Benefit.  Regarding health care and anti-coal activists, please see our reports “Burning Questions” and “Dire Consequences”)

We invite you to review our submissions and the relevant decisions.  We are interested in informed, thoughtful and civil public debate.  It is our opinion that we have an obligation as do you, as citizens of Alberta (and Canada), to speak up on these matters.

Our request for a hearing:


AUC decision:


Our request for appeal:


AUC decision:


The foregoing are our opinions based on substantial evidence, and are offered without malice and with the intent to inform thoughtful public debate on these important, multi-billion dollar/multi-decade energy policy decisions in Alberta.

Rather than killing bats and birds as wind farms do, it seems that Alberta’s coal-fired power plants are a happy nesting spot for Peregrine Falcons.

Comments welcome. We appreciate civil comments and open debate. Thank you.






Alberta government – Myths? How about “Whoppers”?

 Posted by Michelle Stirling, Communications Manager Feb. 25, 2017

This post responds to Alberta Environment and Parks recently posted three part series entitled “Myths and Realities of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan.”  Part Two   Part Three

The sad part of this is that the “myths” claimed by the government are far closer to the sorry truth, hence their need to try and rebut the public perceptions, with press releases and the three-part blog posts. 

Following the Alberta government’s “interactive” telephone town hall discussions with Minister Shannon Phillips December 13 and 14, 2016, the Ministry of Alberta Environment and Parks issued three “clarifying” notes, titled “Myths and realities of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan”, intended to address what they feel are misunderstandings associated with the Plan.  These were issued Dec 22, 2016, Jan 13, 2017, and Feb 17, 2017.  Make what you will of the timing: It could be it takes a long time to determine the myths, it could be that such public notices should be spaced out nicely, it could be that important issues like this just take the government PR people a long time to sort out.

Never mind.  Where to start?  Perhaps with the description of the “interactive telephone town hall discussions”.  They claim 50,000 Albertans “participated” which, while the number may be true, the description is stretching the truth.  Some questions were asked, and sounded very much like carefully screened “softballs” lobbed up for the benefit of the Minister to enable her to breathlessly read what appeared to be prepared talking points.  The only Calgary question which seemed the least bit contentious was mysteriously cut off part way through, which did not stop the Minister from then reading off a few more prepared points in “reply”.  

Now, if anyone knows about myths, it is governments proposing “Climate Leadership”, and Alberta is no exception. Our federal government is also no stranger to telling whoppers and the “Big Lies” to support their climate stance; please see our previous post on the Canadian government submission supporting its “80 by 50 plan”:

So here is a very quick look at, and replies to, the Alberta government’s three postings on myths and realities:
“It’s a Myth” Claim #1: The carbon levy (note, not a tax!) will raise household costs by thousands of dollars per year. The they claim the “levy” will “marginally increase the cost of gases used for heating and transportation”.

Comment – The truth: What is their source for the statement “thousands of dollars per year”, perhaps they could provide a citation?  Various groups have suggested the tax will be expensive, such as:  The Alberta government’s reply simply tries to obfuscate the fact that costs will go up by carving it into components and talking about the first year, when the rate is lowest.

“It’s a Myth” Claim #2: Rebates make the levy ineffective. They argue rebates are tied to income, not energy use.

Comment – The truth:  Perhaps the main point which is missing is that this tax will have no effect on climate, period.  It is simply a wealth transfer and vote-buying mechanism, with some substantial carving off of revenues to pour down the green energy transition drain.  The sad part is that it will still be regressive because of its effect on overall cost of living, and its negative effect on economic development and investment in Alberta.  We will all suffer from the economic drag, with those on the lower end of the income scale hurting most of all.


“It’s a Myth” Claim #3: This won’t actually reduce emissions. They argue pricing carbon is “economist-approved” and hey, it worked in BC. NOT!  Here are NDP critics bashing the BC Carbon Tax.

Comment – The truth: Some economists argue not necessarily for a carbon tax as an inherently good thing, but rather it as the least of all evils.  Further, economists who tentatively support a carbon tax, recommend that it must be accompanied by casting off all the other job-killing regulations and rules which we are saddling ourselves with (as if that would ever happen!).  As for BC, please show me an unbiased study which clearly demonstrates that the claimed drop in energy-related GHG emissions in BC is solely due to the BC carbon tax – they also only mention 2007-2011, why? Perhaps its because BC reports that by 2014, the last year available from the BC government inventory, GHG emissions are UP about 3% over 2011.  There are some interesting stats within that as well: Energy as a category emits 5% more, within that we have Pipeline Transport up 28% and Transport generally up 11%.  I guess British Columbians are coming to grips with the carbon tax, at least in terms of consumption.  For BC inventory figures, please go to:

“It’s a Myth” Claim #4: Albertans were not consulted on the Plan. The Alberta government argues that the government appointed a panel and engaged with Albertans.

Comment – The truth: Actions, spirit and intent are all important.  Driving ahead with pre-conceived ideas and a biased reporting mechanism while “engaging” with your electorate fails the test.
As we pointed out at the time in various commentaries and videos, the Alberta Climate Panel was too one-sided.

By the way, showing idle wind turbines manufactured by a failed Danish company does not seem like a great way to illustrate the point in the Alberta government blog. Oh well, at least when they are idle they are not slicing and dicing birds and bats. 

vestas photoshopped wind farm from ab govt blog.pngSource: Alberta government blog Part Two – this eerie image appears to show photo-shopped Danish wind turbines damaging Alberta’s world famous view of the Rocky Mountains – a multi-million dollar a year industry. BTW here’s the carbon footprint of a wind turbine. Shocking.

“It’s a Myth” Claim #5: Alberta will see energy prices rise like Ontario.  The Alberta government makes five false points attempting to rebut this:

1. AB gov’t says: Renewables are not being funded by adding costs to consumer electricity bills, but through reinvesting carbon revenues.

The truth: This is being disingenuous at best (insincere, dishonest, false, deceitful, etc).  Higher prices are higher prices, whether showing up in your energy bill or your tax bill or your grocery bill or your reduced job prospects.

2. AB gov’t says: A competitive process is being used in Alberta, ensuring only the most cost-effective projects receive support.

The truth: Being the best of the worst does not mean “cost-effective”, not does it mean costs will not go up, as they surely will.

3. AB gov’t says: More than 43% of Ontario’s cost increases are related to nuclear, which is not applicable in Alberta.

The truth: So what?! We are eliminating coal, which will come at a tremendous direct and indirect cost to all Albertans, largely hidden away in various government categories of expenditures.  Coal is the primary source of power generation for system load in Alberta. (see graph at bottom of post)

4. AB gov’t says: In Ontario solar and wind prices were bought at much higher prices than will be the case here.

The truth: For one thing, not having gone through a tendering process yet, the Alberta government simply cannot make this claim. And again, buying unreliable solar and wind at inflated prices, even if slightly lower than Ontario, will mean higher costs! Further, as we have outlined, there was NO INTEREST in wind/solar investment in Alberta  as prices were too low– so wind and solar will have to be subsidized to attract investors. Experts put that at about $35/kWh which taxpayers will pay, one way or another.

5. AB gov’t says: Alberta’s plan is based on carbon pricing and investing in “energy transition and efficiency”.  

The truth: So is Ontario’s, just expressed in a different way.  There is no jurisdiction on the planet which has made any meaningful transition to renewables and generally all who have tried are suffering the consequences of significantly higher prices, whether through prices, tariffs, taxes, or all of these.


Ontario Society of Professional Engineers show the price rise for power by source of generation.  Wind and Solar components require extensive multi-billion dollar investments in integration and transmission lines in order to operate on the grid.  At present, the price of coal power ‘at the gate’ (before administration, distribution costs, etc.) is about 2 cents/kWh in Alberta.  Ontario only had about 24% coal power generation; coal serves about 64% of Alberta’s system load  (see graph bottom of page).  Prices will be significantly affected in Alberta, as well consumers will bear the $3 billion compensation costs, the >$11 billion for replacing the coal fleet with natural gas, and there will be virtually no environmental or ‘climate change’ benefit as natural gas paired with volatile wind and solar ends up putting out virtually the same carbon dioxide emissions as coal.  Natural gas is also a market commodity, subject to wild price swings.


Please, Albertans are not stupid.  We see what has occurred in Ontario and every other “green” jurisdiction and we very rightly ask why we will be any better off.  Stop calling the rational objections of Albertans “myths”the only myth is that we will achieve different results by applying substantially the same policies.

“It’s a Myth” Claim #6: Carpetbaggers will come to your door selling green services and stuff. Government legislation will save you.
Comment – The truth: Not worth talking about. People are quite capable of buying their own LED light bulbs and low-flow shower heads without government assistance.

“It’s a Myth” Claim #7: Home inspection is needed to see if I qualify for a rebate. The Alberta government reply “this is a scam.”
Comment – The truth The truth comes out! So the Alberta government created a program, with the direct effect of encouraging scams of various kinds.  Then they made a new law to make the scam illegal. Yet, to participate in parts of the Alberta government program, you do have to call in and schedule a home inspection – and of course more government employees will probably be required to handle that need.  So… green job creation. More bureaucracy. In short, the Alberta government’s attempt to decimate what it says are ‘myths’ only serves to demonstrate what big whoppers they are putting out to the electorate.

As we have pointed out in the past, Alberta’s first climate leadership plan began in 2002 and was far-reaching and ahead of its time.  Many of the efficiencies the present government is claiming to want to achieve, were done over a decade ago, but Alberta’s reputation was smeared by offshore-funded activists. When will governments do something about THAT?



Source: AESO 2016 Market Report on 2015 stats

The most recent report shows little change (pg. 11)





Rebuttal to Dr. Vipond’s Blog on Financial Post Article on Alberta Air Quality and Coal Phase-out

by Norm Kalmanovitch, P. Geoph., Lead Author of our 2015 report “Burning Questions” and spokesperson in our “Burning Questions” video.

On Jan. 30, 2017, the Financial Post published an article by U of A professor Warren Kindzierski. P. Eng., disputing air quality/coal emissions claims of the NDP government. On Feb. 1, 2017, Dr. Vipond, a coal phase-out proponent and representative of CAPE, tweeted us his blog response. Here is our response to him, prepared by Norm Kalmanovitch, P. Geoph.

Note: Friends of Science Society is an independent non-profit funded by members. We do not represent any industry sector and have no corporate memberships.

Air Quality Facts

According to the World Health Organization, the safe maximum safe level of exposure to PM2.5 is 25µg/m3 and annual maximum is 10µg/m3

Guideline values

10 μg/m3 annual mean
25 μg/m3 24-hour mean

20 μg/m3 annual mean
50 μg/m3 24-hour mean

PM2.5 air pollution, mean annual exposure (micrograms per cubic meter)

Brauer, M. et al. 2016, for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015.

This study from the World Bank shows that the world’s PM2.5 increased from 38.031µg/m3 in 1990 to 42.274µg/m3 in 2015

Canada’s PM2.5 level decreased from 7.8µg/m3 in 1990 to 7.2µg/m3 in 2015

Since the WHO standard for safe annual mean is 10µ/m3, and Canada is below the safe standard we do not have to reduce our PM2.5 but the world does because the average level is over four times the safe standard!


Environment Canada did a study of PM2.5 in Canada and found that Alberta as part of the Prairies and Northern Ontario grouping remained below the national standard of 10 μg/m3



The PM10 Standard for safe annual mean is 20 μg/m3 annual mean. This report shows Calgary at 9μg/m3 and Edmonton at 11μg/m3 so both major cities in Alberta are well below the safe standard of 20 μg/m3 annual mean.

Toronto and Montreal which do not rely on any coal-fired power generation were worse than both Alberta cities powered by coal!


Select cities in Canada

  • Whitehorse: 3
  • Fredricton: 6
  • Victoria: 7
  • Vancouver: 8
  • Halifax: 8
  • Ottawa: 9
  • Calgary: 9
  • Regina: 9
  • Moncton: 10
  • Edmonton: 11
  • Toronto: 13
  • Montreal: 19


Source: Environment Canada


Screenshot example of real-time map of world PM2.5 emissions available online. PM2.5 concentrations do fluctuate according to weather conditions, wildfires, industrial activity. 


China is often referenced as an example of the horrors of coal use. The reason that China has such high levels of pollution is that they do not employ the same level of pollution control on coal-fired power plants that we do here in Alberta.


This picture of a coal-fired power plant in China shows the steam coming out of the hyperbolic cooling towers and steam CO2which are non-polluting and PM2.5 and PAH pollution coming out of one of the main stacks.


Further, China also has a popular charcoal-grilled street-food culture that contributes to large volumes of noxious emissions at ground level.


Major cities like Beijing with 11.51 million people experience exaggerated “smoke from neighbour’s bar-be-que” effect from street vendors. China has imposed bans from time to time.

Likewise, rural China residents cook and heat their homes by burning biomass – dung or wood – which is responsible for deaths and significant pollution globally.



Consequently, while old or poor emissions-managed coal-fired power plants in China certainly contribute huge volumes of pollution, ground level pollution is significantly affected by both charcoal grilling in urban centers and biomass burning for cooking and heating in rural areas.

The experience in China is so far removed from how air quality and industrial pollution is managed in Alberta, that should not be used as an indictment against modern/supercritical coal-fired power in Alberta.  On the topic of biomass, let us also look at Alberta inequities.

Biomass uses wood by-products and wood pellets for fuel which produce both PM2.5 and PAH pollution when burned. Biomass power plants are not monitored so we have no way to tell what level of these pollutants is emitted from this Boyle Biomass power plant. We do know that some pollution is emitted because these power plants do not have the same level of pollution control found on all Alberta coal-fired power plants.


Note in this Huffington Post article there is no mention of any pollution controls but there is mention of “carbon credits” because this biomass is deemed to be “renewable energy” which is both excluded from the carbon tax and benefits from receiving carbon credits

On an annual basis ALPAC brings in $14 to $18 million from selling power to the grid. They also generate carbon credits and make about $2 million a year from that and get another $7 million a year from the Alberta Bio-Producer credit program. This is on top of $350 million a year in pulp sales.


On the other side of the ledger is our coal-fired power plants which pay a hefty carbon tax for the CO2 pollution that they emit with this tax going to subsidize biomass power carbon credits for putting out real pollution!!!

Genesee Generating Station

Alberta’s Genesee coal-fired power plant. 




New Reports Challenge SHARE on Climate Change Risk and ‘Denial’ for Pension Fund Trustees and Corporate Boards

Friends of Science Society has issued two new reports. The first entitled “Climate Change Risk Clouds Boardroom Competency” challenges a recent report by SHARE – Shareholder Association for Research and Education. SHARE claims energy and utility corporate boards should have ‘climate change competent’ directors. Climate change is a complex interdisciplinary field far removed from the core business of corporations.


“Climate Change Risk Clouds Boardroom Competency”


Cover images licensed from Shutterstock

The second report is entitled “Climate Change Insights for Pension Fund Trustees and Beneficiaries.” This document disputes an earlier SHARE report by law firm Koskie Minsky LLP,  telling pension fund trustees “climate change denial is not an option.”

Based on Friends of Science Society’s research and in our opinion, due to the influence of tax-free pension funds, Sovereign Wealth Funds, other institutional investors and union beneficiaries, taxpayers are being forced to accept policies based on climate change ideology, not evidence. These investor-promoted policies will enrich tax-free institutional funds at the expense of non-beneficiary taxpayers.

This SHARE report was funded by the West Coast Environmental Law Foundation, an environmental group supported by some of the same foundations that are also signatories to a letter to Premier Notley on climate policy.


“Climate Change Insights for Pension Fund Trustees and Beneficiaries” 


Friends of Science Society question the propriety of unelected, unaccountable tax-free investors, collaborating to change public policy, over the wishes of the electorate.

Rule of Law- Over “Climate Justice”

Some time ago, climate activists noticed they were not winning over the American public, whose opinion was deeply divided on global warming/climate change. They turned to legal venues to promote their agenda, including shareholder proposals and legal complaints. Any jurisdiction, like Massachusetts or the UK, who enacted reductions of fossil fuel emissions will be subject […]

via Climate Case: Judge Defends Rule of Law — Science Matters


Contributed by Robert Lyman @ 2017

At a town hall event in Peterborough, Ontario on Friday, January 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to a question concerning his Government’s recent decision to approve the expansion of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline by saying it was a matter of trying to balance economic and environmental concerns. He went on to say that, “We can’t shut down the oil sands tomorrow. We need to phase them out. We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels but it’s going to take time and in the meantime we have to manage that transition.”


One might be forgiven for wondering about the logic that would lead the Prime Minister of Canada to say that, as a matter of national policy, we should phase out one of the most important sources of economic and industrial development in the country, a source of literally tens of billions of dollars annually in government revenues, business and personal incomes, employment and export revenues. The case, one can only surmise, rests on accepting the thesis that humans are causing catastrophic global warming, that Canada’s actions will remove that threat, and that the commitments that Canada made at the December, 2015 Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris oblige the government to make massive reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.


Each of those points is highly questionable, but let us follow their logic to see where they lead. The COP21 Agreement contained no commitments with respect to emissions reduction targets. It contained only a loose political expression of support for collective action to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2.0 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels and specific commitments to file periodic reports on the nationally-determined actions that governments were taking to achieve that goal. Separately, the Government of Canada agreed to set targets – a 17% reduction from 2005 emission levels by 2020 and a 30% reduction from 2005 emission levels by 2030. Canada has not yet enunciated a goal for 2050, but the targets set to date are consistent with the view propounded by many environmental lobby groups that emissions in the industrialized countries should be reduced by 60 to 80% below 2005 levels by 2050.


Achieving major emissions reductions will be especially difficult given that normal economic growth would lead to their increase. Environment Canada, in its most recently published review of Canada’s GHG emissions trends in 2014, projected that, after declining from 736 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2 eq) in 2005 to 699 Mt in 2012, emissions would grow to 727 Mt in 2020. The fastest growing source of emissions at the sectoral level is the upstream oil and gas industry, including both conventional and non-conventional (i.e. oil sands) sources.


Looking at the numbers, reducing emissions from the projected 2020 levels to the targeted ones would mean a reduction from 727 to 611 Mt, or 116 Mt; reducing emissions from projected 2020 levels (there are no authoritative projections of 2030 levels) by 2030 would mean a reduction from 727 to 515 Mt, or 212 Mt; and reducing emissions from projected 2020 levels by 2050 would mean reductions ranging from 433 Mt (60% target) to 580 Mt (80% target).


Environment Canada projects the emissions from all oil and gas production in Canada to be 204 Mt by 2020. That includes emissions from not only the oil sands but also the conventional oil and gas production in Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and the territories. If that could be done by 2030, it would almost attain the national emissions reduction target for that year. It would not come even close to meeting the much more ambitious targets the environmental lobby seeks for 2050.


But why focus on oil and gas? The logic, one can only presume, arises not only from the fact that present emissions represent a large share of the Canadian total. It is also the fact that, comparatively speaking, the oil and gas upstream industry is considered emissions-intensive.


A great irony is that, viewed on a total fuel cycle (”wellhead to tailpipe”) basis, 80 to 85% of the GHG emissions associated with oil occur at the tailpipe, or point of combustion stage. Yes, it is the downstream use of fossil fuels that causes the most intensive emissions! So, which are some of the other emissions-intensive parts of the Canadian economy? Here’s a list:


Electricity Generation

Freight Transportation


Metal and non-metal mining

Smelting and refining


Fertilizer production

Motor vehicle and parts manufacturing


Pulp and Paper

Iron and Steel



The fact is that governments will not be able to achieve the large emissions reduction now committed to or contemplated unless they address, cut back or “phase out” emissions in all these economic activities.


The next time Prime Minister Trudeau announces in Ontario that, in the national interest, we will have to phase out an emissions-intensive industry, maybe he should substitute “motor vehicle and parts manufacturing” for oil sands. It would only be logical.