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Carbon capture is only one piece
Date:07 May 2012
Somewhat like Nixon going to China, Canada’s oilpatch might be the force that eventually drags the federal government into a more progressive — and coherent — policy on climate change. There are interesting signals coming out of Alberta that the federal government should pay attention to. The re-election of Progressive Conservative Premier Alison Redford, who is serious about climate change, is one signal. Her rival, Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, was booed in Edmonton for expressing doubts about global warming. Redford, on the other hand, is leading a large delegation to the Rio+20 summit in Rio de Janeiro. Another signal that something is changing occurred last month when TransAlta pulled out of what was to be the world’s first full-scale commercial development to capture and store carbon from a coal-fired plant west of Edmonton, a project heavily subsidized by both the federal and Alberta governments — to the tune of $400 million provincially and $370 federally. That project and several others were one-time darlings of both governments and a major plank in Canada’s weakening greenhouse gas commitments. If the project had gone ahead, it would have been a major step in fairly quickly reducing carbon emissions. The technology, which is complex and has been controversial, involves “capturing” carbon and putting it back into the ground, a game-changer for big emitters like coal plants. Other projects are under way, but many fear their backers will reach the same conclusion TransAlta did, that although the technology works, the project doesn’t make economic sense without a price on carbon.