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United States : Oil sands emissions dwarfed by coal.

U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson has suggested repeatedly that Canada needs to do more to reduce the carbon footprint from the oilsands, most recently in a Calgary speech July 19. Perhaps the ambassador should look more closely into his own mirror because, in point of fact, this would appear to be a case of Old King coal calling the oil sands black . A few pertinent facts are worth noting:

greenhouse gas emissions from the Canadian oil sands in 2007 were 37 megatons out of a total in Canada of 747 megatons, ie. 5% of the Canadian total but 0.5% of the U.S. total.

Emissions from U.S. coal-fired electricity from the same period were 1,987 megatons or 28 % of the U.S. total.

Emissions from Canadian oilsands represented 2% of the total emissions from U.S. coal.

Emissions from Canadian coal-fired electricity from the same period were 99 megatons, almost three times the amount from oilsands. This is, no doubt, the reason Canada is moving to phase out all coal-fired electricity by 2025. The United States has yet to take any action to reduce coal-fired electricity.

Keep in mind too that 80% to 85% of the emissions linked to the oilsands come from the cars and trucks using gasoline refined from the oilsands and not from the production per se.

In other words, while there is clearly both the scope and the need for the oilsands industry to do more, there is much more scope and even greater need for the United States to do more to reduce emissions from coal if there is to be a significant improvement in the North American environment.

While the Obama administration has, so far, talked a good game on climate change, there has been very little concrete action. Rhetoric about cap and trade and about reducing oil dependency has failed to generate the necessary legislative consensus for tangible commitment.

In governance, there is a distinct difference between saying it and doing it! And, given the highly polarized political mood of Washington, and with elections in November, little more than rhetoric is likely to emerge this year.

Given the highly integrated nature of our two economies, and the fact that Canada is the largest foreign supplier of all forms of energy to the United States oil, gas, electricity and uranium it is essential that the two countries work together on a mutual plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This calls for serious analysis, firm political leadership and pragmatic action. This joint responsibility is not well-served by unilateral finger pointing or sanctimonious sermons.

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Date:Jul 28, 2010
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