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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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Math lesson

Among the most intimidating aspects of working on oilsands, or any energy question, is unit conversions.  It seems that the hidden objective of most any publication is to express all results in the most inaccessible manner possible.

One of the biggest surprises for me in writing this blog has been the degree to which I use it as a reference. I will often look back at old posts for a link or a calculation, so I thought I’d build on that and write out some calculations I am working on this evening and try to break down some of that inaccessibility in the process.

Tonight’s math lesson involves working from a steam:oil ratio for an in situ oil sands project to get the total GHGs from natural gas combustion and electricity consumption associated with the production of the bitumen.

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