TransCanada and the oil industry are making a desperate bid to get Keystone XL approved, going so far as to say that the ignoble defeat of the Conservative Party in May’s provincial election in Alberta is good news for tar sands exploitation.
Last week, the new environment minister from the progressive New Democratic Party, announced that the carbon tax will increase from $15 per ton to $20 next year, and $30 the year after that.
TransCanada’s chief cheerleader for KXL told the industry consultant EnerCom’s “Oil & Gas 360″ that this is good news for tar sands exploiters.* Because stricter greenhouse gas regulations in Alberta means Keystone XL isn’t as bad for the environment, right?
A carbon tax doesn’t mean that the companies have to pollute less. It just means that polluting costs them more. Normally, that would mean they’d have an incentive to reduce emissions. Emit less carbon, pay fewer penalties. Makes sense.
But in tar sands exploitation, there’s really not much they can do to cut back on carbon production. The process is what it is– either dig up the bitumen-impregnated dirt with enormous excavating equipment or pump super-heated steam underground to liquefy the bitumen, and then use and energy-intensive heat/skim process to separate the bitumen from the dirt and clay. The wastewater, now full of carbon contaminants that can evaporate and leach into the air, is then kept in open-air ponds big enough to be seen from space.
A carbon tax doesn’t clean up the process any. It just makes it a little more expensive.
But with President Obama’s final decision on– and nearly certain rejection of– KXL coming up at any moment, you can’t really blame them for trying. They’re desperate, after all.
UPDATE 7.2.15 9:23pm
Our friends at Oil Change International, Sierra Club, and Environment America shake their heads and laugh at TransCanada’s gambit. Rob Verger at Vice has their reactions.
*My favorite part of the article is at the end, where OG360 announces, “The information provided herein is believed to be reliable; however, EnerCom, Inc. makes no representation or warranty as to its completeness or accuracy.” So, please remember, they don’t stand behind any of it. It might all be a big lie. But enjoy it anyway.