Some clarification please, Mr. Mulcair.

Yesterday, NDP leadership candidate and environmental hawk Thomas Mulcair announced his intention to implement a, “new comprehensive plan to combat climate change.”  According to his press release, “Mulcair’s new plan would still be industry-focused and based on the principle that ‘polluters pay’, but it would expand beyond the 700 largest emitters in Canada to cover all major sources of climate change pollution.” Want to understand what this means?  Here are three questions you should ask – Who’s covered? What’s the cap?  Who gets the permits?

Read more

Globe Article and Reader Comments

Last week, I summarized my two (#1 and #2) posts on Kyoto compliance and withdrawal into a shorter piece on the Globe and Mail’s Economy Lab.  One of my regular readers, who unfortunately prefers to remain in anonymity and wrap his/her sometimes insightful comments in insults and derision, points out that there are important differences in timing between the Kyoto compliance period and the period in which penalties for non-compliance would be levied.

Read more

Canada’s climate challenge: 1 out of 3 ain’t good enough.

Canada needs to offer up more than easy soundbites and appeals to Nature editorials to move from a climate change laggard to a leader. Today, Canada re-affirmed its position that it would not be signing on to a new commitment period for the Kyoto protocol, and you can count me among those who expect an announcement later this month that Canada is withdrawing from the Kyoto protocol in general.    The question which remains is, “what now?”

Today in the House of Commons, Conservative MP after Conservative MP detailed the government’s commitment to putting the policies in place to meet their pledge to reduce emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. Even if that proves to be the case, I fear it will not be good enough to move Canada from laggard to leader in the eyes of both international observers and more importantly Canadians. In order to do that, I think there are three elements on which Canada needs to deliver, and meeting our targets is just one of the three.

Read more

Keystone XL decision – more questions than answers.

When I left the house this morning to attend the launch of the Alberta Government’s new Oilsands Information Portal, I was expecting that there might be a question or two on the Keystone XL saga.  It turns out that we just missed the big news story of the day.  Just as the event wrapped up, news started breaking that the US State Department was going to request a new route be examined for Keystone XL in Nebraska. At a minimum, this would delay the pipeline’s Presidential permit until at least the first quarter or 2013, although previous statements from TransCanada suggested that the timelines could be on the order of 3 years. I spent most of the afternoon answering the same questions from reporters both in Canada and the US, so I thought I’d try to elaborate on some answers here and draw some lessons from the decision.

Read more

What should Canada’s position be on the EU and oilsands?

The upcoming vote in the EU on implementing the Fuel Quality Directive, expected next month, has generated a great deal of press in Canada because the directive targets Canada’s oilsands by assigning a default value of emissions which is higher than that applied to conventional fuels.

The EU’s policy is aimed in the right direction – Article 7a of the EU’s Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) obliges suppliers of transportation fuel to reduce the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions intensity of their fuel by 6% by 2020, relative to 2010 levels.  Despite good intentions, some of Canada’s criticisms of the FQD make sense. Most importantly, the FQD eliminates incentives for both improvement in emissions intensity and data disclosure from many sources of fuel, both conventional and unconventional.  The FQD also has the potential to mute incentives to innovate for some oilsands firms.

Read more

Math Lesson #2: Life Cycle Assessments and Oilsands: don’t just say dirty oil, know what it means.

The only thing more delayed than the EU’s decision on oilsands and their fuel quality directive is my blog post on the EU’s fuel quality directive and oilsands. This isn’t it…but it’s a start.  For now, you get more math, mostly for my future reference, but some of you may find it useful as well. What you’ll see is that the question of life cycle assessment of oilsands crude has a lot of assumptions behind it, and it’s worth understanding if you’re going to wade into the debate. If you want to learn a bit more about them, read on…

Read more

Keystone XL and US Energy Security – You can’t have it both ways.

Energy security has been one of the key issues in the discussion over the Keystone XL pipeline approval in the US – if you’ve not been following this, here’s a great primer from CFR’s Michael Levi. Some fuel was added to this fire with an article this morning in The Hill in which Steven M. Anderson, a retired US Army brigadier general, claims that Keystone XL would be welcome news to America’s enemies, some of whom continue to supply the US with oil.

Interestingly, if you look at the top sources of US oil imports, many including Canada, Mexico, the UK, and Brazil would hardly qualify as enemies, but certainly Venezuela and Saudi Arabia have less than amicable relationships with the US and Iraq is another issue altogether. The US will clearly benefit from less demand for oil from unfriendly states – that I get. Beyond that, I cannot follow Mr. Anderson’s logic.

Read more

Are you smarter than an energy 101 student at U of A?

I often get asked, “what do you teach?” I thought that a good way to answer this question might be to let you have a look at the midterm questions I asked my Energy 101 class yesterday here at the Alberta School of Business.  This is a new course, created last year, which aims to enhance student energy literacy, prepares students for co-op, summer, or permanent jobs, and complements our BCom degree programs in Natural Resources, Energy and Environment (if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll often see the #nree hashtag).

One of the key messages I send to my students is to know what you know and what you don’t. As such, the grading scheme I used had one point for each correct answer,with one point deducted for each incorrect answer (you need not attempt every question) and graded the section out of 20, despite there being 25 questions.  Answer 20 questions correctly and you’d get full marks.  Answer 25 correctly and you’d get 5 bonus points.  Answer 20 correctly and 5 incorrectly and you’d get 15 points out of the possible 20, and so on. After you’ve tried the questions, you can check your score on the solution key here: BUEC_488_midterm_2011_mc_solns.

Good luck! Let me know how you do.

Read more