Saskatchewan politics

It Would Be Really F**king Refreshing If the Leaders of This Province Would Be Honest About Carbon Capture, er, Taxes. (Potato/Potato.)

You may have heard Premier Brad Wall mention, on occasion, that he is against the federal Liberal government imposing a Carbon Tax on the provinces. The basic premise of Wall’s argument is that if a Carbon Tax is implemented in Saskatchewan you should probably head for your bunker, because the world will end immediately.

Can we just start with one fact?

Novel, I know.

As tough as it may be to swallow, my beloved Saskatchewan friends, the reality is you’re already paying a Carbon Tax. Every man, woman and child in this province has so far paid over $1400 each on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), or the $1.5-billion (and climbing) retrofit of SaskPower’s Boundary Dam 3 (BD3).

This is why the Saskatchewan government was cautiously optimistic that the federal government would recognize the billion-dollar BD3 as a valid effort to battle carbon emissions – because if it didn’t and we are forced to administer a Carbon Tax anyway, what would have been the point of spending a billion and a half dollars?

Federal Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna certainly fuelled that optimism when she toured BD3 in May of 2016.

mckenna

– Leader Post

“There are some amazing resources and amazing technology out here,” McKenna told reporters after her tour. “We have some problem solvers here….When you have carbon capture and storage, that’s certainly an innovative made-in-Canada solution, and a real opportunity for Canada to export.”

That sounded promising, but it wasn’t. The Trudeau government’s Carbon Tax bombshell dropped a few months later, and heads have been exploding ever since.

My favorite explosion might be the recent letter-to-the-editor in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix penned by Saskatchewan’s Environment Minister Scott Moe* in response to a Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) report slamming CCS.

“We shouldn’t be surprised the GWPF holds this view. The organization has been described as “the United Kingdom’s most high-profile climate change denier group.” What is surprising is that (Cathy) Sproule, who purports to be an environmentalist, is consorting with climate change skeptics to score political points.”

wrote Moe.

It’s about time somebody outed NDP MLA Cathy Sproule for her blatant consorting with climate change deniers.

(In the off-chance it isn’t obvious, I’m being deeply sarcastic.)

“The same day the Leader-Post published its story, IEA (International Energy Association) chief economist Laszlo Varro said in a commentary that BD3 and a similar project in Texas “have demonstrated that there is a solution to one of the most complex energy and climate dilemmas we face…”

The problem is that in his letter, Moe fails to provide the real reason why the IEA – a lobby group with a political agenda just like the GWPF, albeit a different one – was frantically promoting BD3 and a “similar project in Texas” that day.

See, just as the GWPF’s anti-CCS report was released to the public, the pro-CCS industry dove into a public relations tailspin to counter other really, really bad news: American coal giant Southern Company announced that it was suspending carbon capture at its $7.5 billion power plant in Kemper, Mississippi.

In fact, the quote Moe pulled was from a commentary called We can’t let Kemper slow the progress of carbon capture and storage, in the opening paragraph of which Varro says:

“Unfortunately, the Kemper experience may have created a legacy with damaging implications for the future of CCS and so-called “clean coal” technology.”

Did you miss that part Minister Moe? I’m going to assume so, because failing to include the context of the quote would seem rather misleading, no?

As for that “similar project in Texas”, Varro is referring to Petra Nova, the planet’s second-ever (Saskatchewan’s being the first) carbon capture retro-fit to an existing, coal-fired power station, built “with costs reportedly around 20% lower” than BD3.

It cost 20% less to build, and it’s “much larger” than Boundary Dam. Oh, and the United States government kicked in $190-million in grant money; the rest was funded by the private companies that built it, AKA not a billion-plus bucks from the taxpayer a la Saskatchewan.

In his commentary, Varro doesn’t mention Petra Nova’s woes – namely, its CEO admitted in a January 2017 Forbes article that tanking oil prices have had a huge impact on their bottom line.

Petra Nova’s CEO said in the same article that his company took the lead on the project in 2014 because “someone needed to prove the concept”. Awkward, given that “someone” was supposed to be Saskatchewan.

Anyway, while Moe conveniently forgot to mention Kemper’s shutdown, pretty much every other CCS player in North America has weighed in since it did. Predictably, the naysayers are having a field day, and its supporters are confidently, albeit a bit frantically, declaring that everything is fine.

Is CCS the answer to the world’s carbon woes? Probably not.

Is a Carbon Tax the answer to the world’s carbon woes? Probably not.

What I’m really sick and tired of hearing, however, is the rhetoric, fear-mongering and fibbing around both.

I mean, I don’t claim to understand how the CEOs, Presidents and Directors of organizations like:

  • Cenovus
  • Canadian Natural Resources Ltd
  • Suncor
  • Shell Canada
  • Exxon Mobil
  • BP
  • Statoil
  • TransCanada Corp
  • Enbridge
  • Royal Bank of Canada
  • BMO
  • Syncrude
  • The Co-operators
  • McKinsey
  • Desjardins
  • Unilever
  • Mining Association of Canada
  • Siemens
  • Teck Resources
  • Tembec
  • Price Waterhouse Cooper
  • Loblaws

can all be basically begging for a carbon tax, citing predictability, reduced regulations and market reliance…yet a handful of insulated bureaucrats inside the Government of Saskatchewan claim to know better.

I don’t quite understand how the SaskParty’s base, and in many cases, the lifeblood of the province – farmers – are freaked out about a Carbon Tax, when a) they can and would be exempt from lots of it, and b) this report from the University of Victoria found “little evidence that the carbon tax was associated with any statistically significant effects on agricultural trade or competitiveness” after BC’s carbon tax was implemented in 2008.

I don’t know, or really care, why a Carbon Tax failed in Australia but was a success in Britain. I do know the sky did not fall in either country.

I am definitely not cool with what Saskatchewan taxpayers have already paid for Boundary Dam 3, given the technology isn’t even remotely proven as efficient, nevermind environmentally…helpful.

The only thing I know for 100% sure is that you and I have already paid handsomely – more than any other province in Canada – for carbon emissions, and that has impacted the economy. Don’t believe me? Look around and ask yourself where that billion+ dollars could have offset cuts to healthcare, education and social services, or supplemented other industries.

Wouldn’t it be really f**king refreshing if the leaders of this province would open up honest dialogue about what’s best for us – our land, our air, our water and our children – including what, for better or worse, they’ve already done?

For those of you who care, I’m Tammy Robert – all heat and no light. Well, technically I’m a writer, but pay the bills consulting in media and public relations. Email me anytime at tammyrobert@live.ca

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*A similar letter, including passages and paragraphs repeated verbatim, ran the day before in the Regina Leader Post signed by SaskPower CEO Mike Marsh.

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