Infrastructure spending fast-tracked in Alberta, federal stance on pipelines still unclear

Intro

As oil prices continue to nosedive around the world, Canada plans to play its odds placing bets on the risky commodity, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged $250 million dollars to support infrastructure projects in Alberta, in a bid to accelerate the export of fossil fuels to global markets. Trudeau spent the last few days in Canada’s heartland, meeting with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and oil patch executives. Home to Canada’s tar sands, Alberta has been particularly vulnerable to the global oil market slump, with its provincial GDP expected to dip by two per cent in 2016, “a sharp downturn from the 3.5-per-cent average increase in GDP in the 2000-2014 period.” Energy East, a pipeline that would transport crude from Alberta to Canada’s Atlantic coast and onward to foreign markets, is one of the projects being considered by the federal government, and if approved, could get backed by these new funds. During meetings, neither Notley nor Trudeau offered assurances that this pipeline would get built, yet have both insisted that Alberta needs to get its province’s resources to market in “a responsible and sustainable way.” Despite this, many governments, municipalities, and First Nations are pushing back against fossil fuel infrastructure growth for their environmental and economic risks, further widening the gap between those in favour of accelerating the clean energy transition and those behind the curve.

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Key Points

  • Pipelines devastate communities and wreak havoc on the environment. Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline would pump crude from Alberta’s tar sands all the way to British Columbia’s Pacific coast, without providing an effective strategy for managing an oil spill in the ocean. The Energy East pipeline, meanwhile risks generating up to 32 million tonnes of additional greenhouse gas emissions each year while failing to protect First Nations communities and cutting through densely populated cities.
  • Canada can only fulfill its climate commitments if it is ready to let go of its pipeline dreams. Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands are rising faster than the country’s ability to curb them. With North America’s energy ministers meeting next week to foster opportunities for better climate and energy projects, Canada’s federal government could seize this opportunity to step up and show that it is committed to fulfilling the climate pledges it made during the election period and in Paris.

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