Big energy companies control pace of efforts to reduce emissions

greenhousethumbnailPremier Jim Prentice recently promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Alberta—which has a reputation for being Canada’s environmental bad boy. The reason for that reputation is that it’s home to the top greenhouse gas generating facilities in Canada.

Environmental activists said actions must be taken to reduce emissions at those facilities. But one of their owners said steps have already been taken to do just that.

The facilities that are taking these steps are Suncor Energy Inc. Oil Sands, the Sundance Thermal Electric Power Generating Plant, the Mildred Lake and Aurora North Plant Sites.

Combined, these facilities released more than 30 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2012.

In an email, David Suzuki Foundation science and policy manager Ian Bruce stated the amount of emissions produced by complexes like these mean Canada may not meet its 2020 target for greenhouse gas emissions.

Global environmental campaigning organization Greenpeace, agreed saying technology needs to be produced that can help reduce emissions.

But in a phone interview, Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema said further steps must be taken.smokeGreenpeace says some of the problems the province is facing is due to the power and influence big oil companies on the Albertan government.

Photo by Josie Lukey

“Alberta has a huge emissions problem and we are the most climate polluting province in the country,” Hudema said. “Unfortunately, that problem is just going to get worse unless the government actually steps in to do something about it.”

Hudema also believes that many environmental problems can be blamed on the power and influence of big companies over the Albertan government.

“They are hurting the democratic process here in Alberta, and so a lot of choices aren’t being presented,” Hudema said. “A lot of choices are really being suffocated and not being allowed to flourish in a province where really they should be flourishing.”

Wood Buffalo councilor Guy Boutilier, whose district is home to two of the three facilities, knows action must be taken for future generations.

“We breathe the air every day…” Boutilier said. “As a father I want Marc, my son who is six years old, to be healthy. So I care deeply about the environment.”

Boutilier, who also served as Alberta’s environmental protection minister in 2005, said research on the development and use of efficient technologies to reduce greenhouse gases is important to him.

“Canada has gone from moving at a tortoise’s pace to a snail’s pace.”

-Ian Bruce, David Suzuki FoundationSyncrude owns both the Mildred Lake and Aurora North Plant complexes, and Will Gibson, the Syncrude media relations advisor said technologies have already been developed and implemented by their research and development teams.

“It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do, from a business sense,” said Gibson.

Some of these innovations include implementing a task force to observe each facility in hopes to find ways in conversing energy and employing hydro-transport technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from trucks and conveyor belts.

“With any business you want to try and reduce your cost and it is just another incentive for us to look at ways to reduce our greenhouse gases because they represent a cost,” Gibson said. “Every time you see steam floating up over our plant that represents a cost in terms of dollars because it’s heat escaping.”greenhouseThe facilities released more than 30 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2012.

Photo by Josie Lukey

Nevertheless, the David Suzuki Foundation said there is a clear need to strengthen regulations to the oldest and dirtiest plants in Canada.

“Canada has gone from moving at a tortoise’s pace to a snail’s pace,” Bruce said in an email.

The provincial government did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Suncor, owner of Suncor Energy Inc. Oil Sands, and TransAlta—owner of the Sundance Thermal Electric Power Generating Plant—also did not respond to a request for comment. 

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