First, they didn’t reduce their greenhouse gas emissions because they didn’t believe climate change was real. Then, they didn’t do it because they didn't think climate change was their fault. And now, to hear the oil and gas industry and its proxies tell the story, they just can’t reduce their emissions quickly enough. They’d like to, you see. They really would. But they just don’t have the time or money to meet Canada’s 2030 target without hurting a bunch of people in the process.

This might have a fig leaf’s worth of credibility if it wasn’t for the fact that they’ve been talking about carbon capture technology for decades now. As environmental economist Andrew Leach noted back in 2015, the Harper government’s “Turning the Corner Plan” from 2008 included a policy that would “effectively require putting into place new carbon capture and storage technologies to prevent the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.” That never happened, of course. Neither did the same plan’s proposed 33 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions intensity relative to 2006 levels by 2020. In 2023, they’re a mere 13 per cent lower.

This is the conundrum facing the Liberal government’s Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault and anyone else who actually wants to see some walking on this file instead of just more talk. The latest stalling mechanism is the release of a report by S&P Global that claims Canada’s oilsands would have to cut as much as 1.3 million barrels a day of production to meet proposed 2030 federal emissions targets. That would apparently lead to a loss of between 5,400 and 9,500 jobs, a figure Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre conveniently rounded up to 10,000 in his predictably overwrought tweet.

It’s not yet clear what assumptions were fed into this report, although it’s a very safe bet that they align with the oil and gas industry’s interests — and were perhaps even informed by their funding. Either way, the theoretical job losses are a useful bargaining chip for both industry and the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan in their ongoing efforts to slow-roll federal climate policy and delay the imposition of any meaningful new regulations.

Those efforts include Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s ongoing refusal to even entertain the idea of a net-zero electricity grid by 2035, or an emissions cap on Alberta’s oil and gas sector. Scott Moe went even further, suggesting Guilbeault’s call to phase out unabated fossil fuels — that is, those not paired with carbon capture technology — amounts to a declaration of war. “If it wasn’t clear before, it is now,” the Saskatchewan premier tweeted. “The Trudeau government doesn’t want to just reduce emissions in our energy sector, they want to completely shut down our energy sector.”

That’s pretty hard to square with its ongoing support for LNG Canada (the biggest energy infrastructure project in Canadian history) and its $30-billion-plus investment in building the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline. But what is becoming abundantly clear is that industry and its political champions aren’t actually serious about building carbon capture projects. Both Alberta and Saskatchewan have ponied up mere pittances compared to what the federal government put on the proverbial table for new carbon capture projects, while oil companies and lobby groups like the Pathways Alliance keep declining to put much money where their increasingly big mouths are.

But for all their talk, it’s the lack of action here that really says the most. After all, given the projected path of carbon prices (up to $170 per tonne by 2030) and the carbon credits the companies can receive under the TIER program when they reduce emissions, they’re effectively admitting one of three things: oil prices are going much lower than they are today, the next federal government won’t uphold the current carbon pricing system or carbon capture technology will be much more expensive — and much less effective — than anyone thinks.

Either way, it’s time for Guilbeault to call this bluff once and for all. He should publicly dare the Smith and Moe governments to match the federal investment in carbon capture technology. He should challenge the Pathways Alliance and its network of oil companies to start putting some real money into play. Heck, the federal government could even offer to match investments in any offset credits needed to cover the 29 million tonnes of emissions they apparently can’t reduce by 2030, provided those offsets occur somewhere else in Canada.

And yes, if these companies won’t make the investments required to reduce their emissions, then the federal government will have to do it for them through a legislated emissions cap. Sure, the governments of Alberta and Saskatchewan would howl at that prospect. But they’d howl at almost anything short of a blank cheque made out to the status quo and signed by Justin Trudeau. Guilbeault and Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson need to summon their nerve, gather their forces and put an end to this charade. After more than a decade of playing for time on carbon capture technology, Canada’s oil and gas industry has run out of it.

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political will: the magic pixie dust of actually doing something.
Please mention the 400,000 manufacturing jobs that Harper sacrificed in Ontario to make canada a petro state. ( of course the econos have a sweet name for it, “ dutch disease”. which sounds like a fungus, not the destruction of a functioning economy)
10,000 lost jobs, a figure I would half or quarter to reach probable real numbers, is a fraction of what the devils handmaid did to ontario.
he told us to shut up and stop whining if I remember right

good advice for alberta and their snivelling idiot baby brother sask

Still flogging the carbon capture horse?
Fawcett's support for the technology is inexplicable.
He still has not done his homework on carbon capture. Will someone please buy Mr. Fawcett a subscription to The National Observer?

"Are Canada's carbon capture plans a 'pipe dream'?" (National Observer, 20-Jan-22)

"Lessons from Australia show CCUS is about capturing public opinion and public finances, not carbon" (National Observer, April 6th 2022)
"The principal purpose of CCUS has never been to tackle the climate crisis. Instead, CCUS serves to align public opinion and government policies with the fossil fuel industry's plans for unrestricted expansion under the cover of 'net-zero by 2050' rhetoric."

"500 organizations in Canada, U.S. urge feds to stop investing in carbon capture technology" (National Observer, 20-Jul-21)

"Taxpayers should not foot the bill for carbon capture" (National Observer, 17-Mar-22)

"New climate plan's reliance on carbon capture called 'not at all realistic'" (National Observer, 31-Mar-22)

"Yet even RBC admits that a rapid deployment of [carbon capture] technology isn't very likely.
"'It's pricey, slow to build, adds costs, relies on complex engineering, and sometimes fails to capture or store emissions effectively,' RBC explains in the April report (2022). 'The technology also needs to be tested in large-scale settings. As yet, there are no major plants that capture CO2 from the combustion of natural gas, which is the primary application for the oilsands.'
"But there is one clear advantage to be gained from carbon capture and storage — it buys the oil and gas industry time.
"To climate experts like Richard Brooks, director of the climate finance program at the advocacy group, RBC's current climate strategy is merely an excuse to keep fossil fuel profits flowing as long as possible.
"'RBC says it wants to achieve net zero by 2050,' he said. 'But you scratch slightly below the surface, not very far, and you can see that they have no plan to get there.'"
"What Haunts Canada's Banks? A Green Pivot from Oilsands" (The Tyee, 4-May-22)

Fawcett: "they’re effectively admitting one of three things: oil prices are going much lower than they are today, the next federal government won’t uphold the current carbon pricing system or carbon capture technology will be much more expensive — and much less effective — than anyone thinks."
Yes to the last item.

First off--more expensive and less effective than YOU thought, not than anyone thought. Lots of climate realists have been pointing out for most of those decades that carbon capture was just a stalling tactic.

That out of the way--10,000 jobs. That's not actually a whole lot, and it's spread out over 7 years. The Bank of Canada kills more jobs every time they raise interest rates. Do the cap, create 15,000 replacement jobs just to make it clearly more than are lost, and tell 'em to go screw themselves.

The bottom line when it comes to climate change is, as smug bastards just like the ones squealing now always used to tell us when it was about free trade, there are going to be winners and losers. And the main losers have to be oil and gas and coal companies. Period, full stop, the end--they have to go down. If they'd been willing to get with the program 30 years ago, they'd already be diversified away from their death fuels enough to survive. They insisted on trying to kill the entire rest of the planet for the sake of a few more billions--to hell with their profits. I don't care if every oil executive on the planet ends up penniless, they should be glad they haven't been strung up to lamp-posts (they may yet be if they keep this crap up). Work a just transition for the actual workers, but the industry has to die.

My sentiments exactly. Live by the market, die by the market.

As for the jobs, I wonder how that compares to the huge effects mechanization has brought ... and have to point out that had they got with the program back in 2006, they'd have had over 15 years head start, and the 5-10K jobs would have spread over a quarter century. 200-400 jobs a year: less than attrition due to retirement.

And they'd be peaking right about now, with all the boomer oil-patch hs drop-outs sitting back and collecting nice pensions: no cause to complain at all. Except, perhaps, that they expected to pass their jobs along to grandchildren perhaps.

A war of jobs. Now that could be interesting.

One Alberta-based green steel plant supported by several sources of renewables would probably cancel out half of PP's over extended 10,000-job reach. Add a couple or three green cement plants (converting the Exshaw plant to electricity would be a good start) would likely top over the 10K total job figure. Add Passive House and mass timber building codes along with Calgary's Green line rapid transit project with zoned transit-oriented development (not necessarily with towers) and one could say Alberta would create more jobs through climate action than the entire oil industry, and that would more likely be with Trudeau's help.

Glad to see Max starting to turn the corner on CCS. Yes, he hasn't arrived at total rejection yet, but he did expound on what will be the main killer of this tech: Cost. The other big knock on the CCS dream is feasibility. There are too many questions on capacity and long term leakage to support it over simply electrifying everything with clean power and replacing carbon outright, an idea that has been in practice for years and is affordable.

Comes the revolution! Oh to be young again! Never mind, I can always just sit in my Passive House and watch it on You Tube.
Seriously though, right on the money. Thoughtful and pragmatic.

I'd love to see a carbon analysis on those "mass timber" constructions. The glues used to hold'em together are petro products, aren't they?
We've already turned our forests into carbon sinks: those need to be replaced, leaving no "extra" wood to cut.

Speaking of which, it seems to me that replanting the same and only the same species that have been growing in warming areas might not be as well advised as interplanting with species from one or two growing zones warmer. We already have ample examples of how our forests are holding up to warming, and the insect infestations no longer held in check by reliably cold winters.

I've seen analysis from the U of T Engineering Dept. about 10 years back that concluded the life cycle emissions from downtown Toronto (buildings, transportation, industrial activity...) are a fraction of the life cycle emissions in the suburbs on a per capita basis.

That includes reinforced concrete construction in downtown over wood frame in the burbs.

There is a similar carbon profile relationship between concrete and mass timber. There are lots of data on that from many reputable sources, from specialist architects like Vancouver's Michael Green to universities. It is reasonable to assume that mass timber buildings downtown will reduce the overall downtown emissions profile even further.

UBC has been researching mass timber for about 25 years and has widely promoted it as a sustainably grown material, with continuous cover and selective thinning being top recommendations. Industry and governments have not exactly complied, but the data is there along with a growing list of the benefits of an increasing number of mass timber buildings in our cities in terms of carbon reduction in construction and design and cost. Wood can replace concrete and steel, and these three components are the most important and resilient building materials in our society.

To focus on the glue component is to draw attention to the drop and away from the bucket. Modern forest ecology (especially the relationship with soil biology) is steadily soaking into forest practices (not fast enough in my view) and combined with deeper research into the effects of climate heating on forests and the related fires, the chances are increasing that a continual and permanent harvest of wood from each woodlot without clearcutting is possible.

It should go without saying that plantations are not feasible in conservation, Riparian and old growth areas, which need to be set aside forever.

There is one compelling solution to the carbon and methane induced climate change. Confiscate the profits as humanity's fine for pollution. The transition scheme is this, any and all fossil fuel investment return that is not reinvested in renewables is subject to confiscation as a pollution penalty.

We can call it GreenCapture, carbon capture is disallowed by default and carbon profits cease to exist.