Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Green Innovation and the Economic Importance of Fossil Fuels in Canada

Fossil fuels are the cornerstone of the Canadian economy and many companies are developing technological processes to help minimize their environmental impacts. Fossil fuels and the tar sands in particular are powerful economic drivers of the Canadian economy. The tar sands generate $91 billion for the Canadian economy. Oil and refined petroleum products are responsible for 25 percent of Canadian exports. The oil sands have seen substantial growth in the last couple of decades and they have provided a corresponding number of jobs. As reported in the Financial Post, a February 2014, IHS CERA study, showed that in 2012, oil sands generated almost a half a million jobs in Canada (478,000) Canadian jobs or 3 percent of all jobs in the country and

We are seeing "green" innovation in the Canadian fossil fuel industry including investments in carbon capture and storage. This type of innovation could reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 20 percent or more, tailings could be reduced by 80 percent and river water could be diminished by 25 percent.

Companies like Titanium Corp. have developed a process of transforming tailings into a valuable commodity. Another process developed by MEG Energy Corp. would eliminate the need for diluent to transport bitumen, reducing energy intensity and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 21 percent. A technology developed by Western Hydrogen Ltd. that converts natural gas into hydrogen using molten salt gasification, could reduce GHG emissions by 23 percent.

Even if these claims are true, the remaining carbon load from extracting tar sands oil are far too onerous to consider. The combination of GHGs, toxicity, and environmental damage associated with extraction and transportation make it impossible to effectively green fossil fuels.

As explained in the most recent IPCC report, to have a chance of curtailing climate change we must divest from fossil fuel and develop renewable sources of energy.

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