Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

"Alberta plans to satisfy world's tar sands concerns"

Alberta plans to satisfy world's oilsands concerns
Expansion must be done responsibly, premier says
RENATA D'ALIESIO, Calgary Herald
Published: Friday, April 18, 2008

Alberta must develop its energy resources in a responsible and sustainable way because the eyes of the world are closely watching, Premier Ed Stelmach said Thursday.

In particular, they're eyeing the oilsands and how the second-largest reserve in the world is developed. Stelmach noted $20 billion of new investment is projected for the oilsands this year, according to Statistics Canada.

"Worldwide energy demand is expected to grow by 50 per cent over the next 30 years, and demand for secure, sustainable energy -- those solutions will grow with it," he told a crowd of 1,673 people who paid $450 a plate to attend the annual premier's dinner at the Telus Convention Centre.

"Alberta's future depends on meeting both those demands as a global leader in responsible resource development and in energy technology and innovation."

Stelmach's comments come as pressure mounts on Alberta at home and abroad to improve its environmental record in the oilsands.

A coalition of American and British investors released a statement Thursday expressing disappointment with European energy giant BP's investment in the oilsands, calling it a "disturbing step backwards."

The coalition, which includes Trillium Asset Management, Boston Common Asset Management and Sierra Club Funds, contends the development's environmental footprint is too large to justify. It also plans to target ConocoPhillips and Chevron at their annual shareholder meetings later this spring.

The oilsands are one of Alberta's biggest sources of greenhouse gases. Their overall emissions are expected to grow as more projects come online, drawing fire from some environmental groups and political leaders around the world.

When Stelmach visited Washington in January to meet U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney, he was dogged by environmental activists who labelled Alberta's energy supply as "dirty oil."

The premier called that label "total bunk" after his speech Thursday.

The oilsands are a boon to government coffers, growing more lucrative by the day as oil prices soar to record highs.

While the province's economy runs on oil and gas, Stelmach said the province wants to broaden its focus to other sectors.

He told the crowd that a new premier's economic strategy council will advise the government on a long-term plan for building a strong, stable economy. He also talked about establishing a trade agreement with Saskatchewan similar to one reached with British Columbia.

Liberal environment critic David Swann welcomed Stelmach's promise to develop energy responsibly.

However, Swann said he believes Alberta is falling short in addressing the oilsands' ecological footprint on water and climate change.

If oilsands development doesn't slow, Swann contends negative perceptions will grow, and threats to boycott Alberta's energy may become reality.

"We are in a very important time in our history, and a potentially dangerous time, not only for the environment, but for the economy, as well."


© The Calgary Herald 2008

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