Opinion: It’s time to start phasing out the oilsands

Total ASA, France’s largest oil corporation is exiting from Alberta’s oilsands in stages. From now on, Total will focus on low-cost, lower-emissions oil.

Total’s pullback opened a flood. Royal Dutch Shell, and Houston-based Marathon Oil and ConocoPhillips sold off huge oilsands investments last month. Norway’s Statoil left completely, losing a bundle.

Investments in the oilsands have bled red ink since the international oil price crashed in 2014. Seventeen major oilsands projects have been shelved or cancelled. Jeff Rubin, former chief economist for CIBC, writes that next to the Arctic, oilsands oil is the world’s costliest. With the current low international oil price, new oilsands projects couldn’t be funded by any Canadian financial institution.

Should Albertans pray for another boom and promise not to “piss” it away, or view it positively as the start of phasing out the sands, and phasing in a low-carbon future? It would be good for Albertans, other Canadians and all humanity. Trudeau acknowledged this when he said we can’t shut down the oilsands tomorrow. We need to phase them out. By approving the major expansion of two bitumen-exporting pipelines, and cheering Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL line, Trudeau is not starting down that road soon.

The important question is whether the market will close the oilsands, likely abruptly at some point, or whether the Alberta and federal governments will pro-actively manage the transition to achieve a soft landing for oilsands workers and other Albertans.

A council appointed by former Alberta Conservative premier Ed Stelmach in 2011 warned that oilsands production will almost certainly be displaced in future by lower-cost, lower-emission alternatives. We can wait until then or make strategic investments now to shape the Alberta we want.

Big Oil and big bankers see the writing on the wall, more for investment reasons than to save the planet. Mark Carney, governor of …read more

Source:: Edmonton Journal

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