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U.S. emissions laws could backfire, Alberta minister warns

U.S. emissions laws could backfire, Alberta minister warns

By Archie McLean, Canwest News Service June 14, 2010

EDMONTON — New low-carbon fuel standards proposed in the Northeastern U.S. could actually slow the greening of the oilsands, Alberta Environment Minister Rob Renner warned Monday.

“We need to make sure that whatever we do doesn’t have the unintended consequence (of discouraging further investment) into technology that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Renner said from Boston, where he was attending an energy forum.

Low-carbon fuel standards penalize fuels, such as shale gas or oilsands, that are more carbon intensive than other sources.

California brought in such a law in 2008, with the aim of reducing emissions by 10 per cent over the next decade.

Now a number of eastern and Midwestern states are weighing similar laws, which would force refiners to cut back on the amount of oilsands fuel or buy offsets or credits. They recently signed a memorandum of understanding urging the U.S. government to impose national standards but warning they could go ahead on their own if those don’t materialize.

Renner is on a four-day trip to the U.S. to tout the province’s environmental gains and argue against potential fuels standard laws.

U.S. environmentalists called Renner’s behaviour “outrageous.”

“It’s basically the government of Alberta using taxpayer money to undermine efforts to build a clean energy economy,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, the international program director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The environment minister’s job is to work on building a clean energy economy, to work on fighting climate change, to work on environmental problems, not to promote something as dirty and destructive as the tarsands.”

Casey-Lefkowitz and seven other people from the NRDC toured the oilsands Monday and were planning a trip to Fort Chipewyan.

Renner said it’s good for critics to get a first-hand look at the oilsands, but said the U.S. fuel laws could have the opposite effect than what’s intended.

“It’s not up to us to tell other jurisdictions what they should and shouldn’t do. It’s up to us to ensure that as they make policy decisions, they do so in the context of thorough information and balanced information,” he said.

Renner said there’s a perception that the province isn’t doing anything about greenhouse gas emission and climate change. But he pointed to Alberta’s climate change policy, which has reduced the province’s emissions per barrel of oil produced.

Renner’s American tour continues this week with stops in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Edmonton Journal
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