21 October 2009

The Canadian government's soft spot for dirty oil

Our governments' love affair with the production of dirty oil is well known. Both the Alberta and the federal governments dote on the tar sands, infamous as the world's dirtiest oil. Not as well known is our federal government's support for burning dirty fuel.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intends to ban Great Lakes' freighters from using bunker fuel. The agency claims the fuel's exhaust is likely a human carcinogen, and contributes to heart and lung disease, particularly in children and the old. Frank O'Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, calls bunker fuel the "nastiest fuel known to man."

Our government is co-operating with the EPA's proposals for ocean-going ships but not for Great Lakes shipping. However, because freighters on the lakes cross back and forth between the U.S. and Canadian side, Canadian ships will have to comply with American regulations. Our government has, therefore, asked the Americans to weaken the new rules until ships can install smoke-stack scrubbers to deal with emissions. The problem is that the scrubber technology doesn't yet exist.

This is a familiar story. The Alberta and federal governments' answer to oil sands emissions is carbon capture and storage, another largely unproven technology.

From production to consumption, our benighted leaders are a pushover for dirty oil. No wonder dozens of countries walked out on Canada's address during the environmental conference in Thailand earlier this year. Our reputation as a weak sister on climate change is growing.

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