Monday, March 02, 2009

On wild cards and delusions...

Another excellent piece from Tyler Hamilton in The Star:

Canada's oil and gas sector is a crucial engine of our economy and isn't going away, so any technologies that help reduce or capture emissions are both welcome and necessary.

But can these technologies help us right now, particularly to justify rapid expansion of oil-sands projects? And, taken alone, are they enough?

Don't bet on it. Climate expert James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, got it right earlier this month when he called the oil sands a climate-change "wild card" that shouldn't be played. "You just can't do it, that's what politicians and international leaders have got to understand."

Canada, however, is playing that card. It's gambling that technology will make sure the house wins.

But here's the rub: Prime Minister Stephen Harper is delusional if he believes that capturing carbon dioxide from coal plants and oil-sands operations and storing it underground is going to have a material impact on reducing greenhouse-gases over the next decade, let alone the next two decades.

Not because the technology doesn't work or isn't safe, which is still up for debate, but because it's too expensive and risky to deploy on the scale that's required.

The thing is, Harper isn't really delusional. He's just greenwashing, which according to Wikipedia occurs when "significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green."

Compare that to Chantal Hebert's piece in the same edition (Oil sands exposé deserves more energetic response). It's hard to tell from her column if she thinks that Harper should actually do something about the environmental problems of the oil sands, or if they just need better PR!

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