Is Alberta about to hit the brick wall?

As Planet Earth hurtles faster and faster towards environmental oblivion, it’s interesting to hear and read about some of the ridiculous and even borderline-bizarre plans that have surfaced recently seeking a ‘quick-fix’ to the numerous environmental catastrophes that are already plaguing the world.

As Planet Earth hurtles faster and faster towards environmental oblivion, it’s interesting to hear and read about some of the ridiculous and even borderline-bizarre plans that have surfaced recently seeking a ‘quick-fix’ to the numerous environmental catastrophes that are already plaguing the world.

And even more ridiculous and bizarre are those who are actually falling for these magic bullets. Take the Government of Alberta’s latest scheme to ‘hide’ their carbon gases underground for example.

At a staggering cost of $2 billion, the province has committed to the idea of pumping their waste carbon into the ground despite the fact that little or no scientific research has been done to see what exactly what will happen as a result.

In fact, according to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, the little bit of research that has actually been done in connection with the entire notion could likely end up not only wasting the $2 billion, but it could also result in triggering earthquakes, of all things.

In a recent interview that appeared on their website, environmentalist Lawrence Solomon suggested that rushed, politically-driven policies to reduce carbon dioxide through the Kyoto process are harming our environment. Regarding expensive and experimental schemes to bury CO2 into the ground, Solomon said, “Not only might you be burying billions in the ground but these carbon sequestration schemes, according to a recent study at Columbia University, could be inducing earthquakes. So we could actually be doing a great deal of harm to our cities because these carbon sequestration schemes are often located near cities.”

While the article went on to describe how better the $2 billion could be spent in the areas of housing, health care, education and a number of other critical areas, it failed to ask the obvious question: Why not spend the money cleaning up Alberta’s dirty little secret up in Fort McMurray or even better, why not put it towards research so the government doesn’t have to look for ‘voodoo’ schemes to solve the problem?

“Effective public policy is about the smart use of scarce resources. Rushed schemes based on questionable computer models like carbon capture, come at real costs of, for example, fewer needed public housing units, other spending that more effectively benefits our environment like better water and sewer systems, more spending on education or healthcare, and lower taxes,” the article stated.

Of course the entire ‘burying gas scheme’ and the $2 billion has all of a sudden become rather irrelevant following the announcement last week that the United States Congress upheld a provision of the US Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 restricting the import of energy-intensive fuels, (in other words: dirty oil) such as is being produced right here in Alberta’s backyard.

According to a press release issued by Greenpeace, “Section 526 of the Act ensures that US federal government agencies do not exacerbate global warming by entering into contracts to purchase synthetic, alternative, or non-conventional fuels with higher global warming-related emissions than conventional fuels.”

“Of course, we will remain vigilant against new attacks on Section 526, but this decision in the Defense Authorization Bill debate should carry great weight,” said Liz Barratt-Brown, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The bottom line is Americans want their government to invest in new clean energy, not high carbon fuels of the past.”

Further, Greenpeace said the decision was, “a huge coup for clean energy advocates, and a blow to the Canadian government, the Department of Defense (DOD) and oil companies, who were staunchly campaigning for a weakening of language that would allow the purchase of dirty fuels.”

Section 526 effectively prevents the largest single fuel purchaser in the US, that being the federal government, from using taxpayer’s money to contract for high carbon fuels.

Needless to say, the announcement, which has been in the works for a while, has both the Canadian and Alberta governments in a bit of a hissy fit, and who can blame them?

After all, if the Americans are no longer interested in purchasing Alberta’s dirty oil, who exactly is?

Of course, it’s a rhetorical question because even though they don’t want it, you can bet the Americans will do their level best to forbid any other country from purchasing it, especially one of their adversaries such as China or Pakistan.

Based on that, you’ve really got to wonder what exactly is in the cards for Alberta in the near future.

Oh sure, the Stelmach government has made a few attempts to convince the Americans otherwise but no matter how well they try selling it, nobody’s buying into it.

In fact, both Stelmach and Deputy Premier Rom Stevens have made a number of lobbying trips to Washington, D.C. claiming that the Alberta tar sands should not be included in the provisions to Section 526 and have even spent $25 million on a public relations campaign in an attempt to sway public opinion south of the border.

“This is a big step for clean energy supporters,” said Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema. “Despite tremendous pressure coming from the Canadian government and a swarm of multinational oil companies, the US has taken another step in saying no to the tar sands and yes to a cleaner, greener future.”

And that can’t be good for any of us.

In fact, it could be only a matter of time before the cold, hard realization that nobody wants Alberta’s dirty oil at any price hits home. Furthermore, what’s going to happen when all the province’s markets for oil have dried up but the province is still on the hook for untold billions of dollars to clean up what both Greenpeace and the Sierra Club deem, “the single greatest environmental disaster on earth.”

Depending on how things unfold with the presidential elections in the United States, it could get much worse for Alberta too. With a decidedly ‘green’ outlook on things, Democrat Party candidate Barak Obama is leading the polls and could very well become the next American president.

Now may be the time for Albertans to start holding on extra tight, because the nice, relaxing drive the province has been on for the better part of the last 50 years could be about to end and hopefully, it isn’t into a brick wall.