Kicking the oil subsidies habit

11 Jul 2010

Canada’s leadership is standing by its fossil fuel subsidies, despite earlier pledges to get rid of them, the Vancouver Sun reports.

At the G20 meeting—the rich countries’ club—in Toronto in June, one of the things they were supposed to work on was getting rid of these subsidies. For one thing, when budgets are tight, then there’s no reason to subsidize an industry that is, by and large, making record profits.

But according to leaked documents from the G20 meeting, which ClimateWire got a hold of, Canada wasn’t going to end their subsidies.

Why not? The Vancouver Sun article doesn’t say. My guess is that it’s because Canada has a lot of work going on to wrest gasoline from their vast deposits of oil sands. According to the government of the province of Alberta that’s working on this, the deposits are ” the second largest source of oil in the world after Saudi Arabia.”

I think Canada and its companies don’t want to give up on the decades-long dream of developing the oil sands. For the most part, they’re not economical yet, and big oil companies that had oil sands projects going pulled the plug when the economic crash took its bite. But some companies are rushing back into oil sands now.

One way to fight this would be to put a modest price on carbon emissions. From well to tailpipe, gasoline from oil sands put out a lot more CO2 than regular gasoline. (Although, barrel for barrel, compared with deepwater drilling, it does cause less oil covered seabirds.) With a price on carbon, oil sands will look a lot less attractive. But getting Canada to agree to that is a whole other matter.


books I've read on failure & grace

The World Without Us
The Last Oil Shock: A Survival Guide to the Imminent Extinction of Petroleum Man
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Hell and High Water: Global Warming--the Solution and the Politics--and What We Should Do
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl
The Tipping Point
Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time
The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization
Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850
Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World

Mason's favorite books »