Obama’s plan to fix climate change

… and how it puts the heat on Canada

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

To combat Canada’s reputation as a climate laggard in the United States, the Harper government likes to emphasize that the two countries are committed to the same goal for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. The federal government has even paid for advertisements in Washington stressing this very point. The problem is that the U.S. has a credible pathway to achieving its target, while Canada is, by the government’s own admission, unlikely to come close to achieving it—our current path will only get us halfway there.

The contrast could soon grow dramatically.

On June 2, U.S. President Barack Obama will unveil the centrepiece of his presidential legacy on climate change: long-awaited regulations to clamp down on existing coal-fired power plants, the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. He is already facing a backlash—not only from Republicans, but also from Democratic lawmakers running for re-election in coal-heavy states, who accuse him of waging a “war on coal.” The theme is likely to become a leading line of attack against vulnerable Democrats in the high-stakes mid-term elections in November that could flip control of the Senate to Republican hands.

But as he heads into the final stretch of his presidency, Obama appears determined to leave a legacy on climate change. Rather than quietly publish the new power-plant rule in the Federal Register, Obama plans to announce it personally, said Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy. The personal touch, she said, is “a strong indication of how important he sees this.”

Any muscular action by Obama will put renewed pressure on the Harper government, which is already failing to keep pace with the U.S. But it is more and more difficult to see how Canada will catch up.

Five years ago, at an international conference in Copenhagen, Canada and the U.S. both committed to the same specific goal: to reduce their annual carbon emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020. Both countries reported on their progress toward their targets to the United Nations earlier this year, and the difference in commitment was obvious. The U.S. plan declared proudly that “President Obama’s climate action plan will keep the U.S. on target to reach our goal.” Canada, by contrast, muttered that meeting its commitment “could be challenging.”

Although the Canadian government likes to say it is “halfway there,” a more accurate description is that absent new policies from Ottawa, Canada will have fallen short of its target by half by the time the clock runs out. Canada’s national goal for emissions is 612 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere in the year 2020. But Harper’s current policies have us on track to spew 734 million tonnes of carbon into the air that year. Harper has taken some steps, including tightened fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks. Without those measures, Canada would have been on track to emit 862 million tonnes of carbon by 2020.

The U.S. is in a similar situation, at least in the absence of stringent action on coal. It has cut emissions significantly since 2005, but without additional policies, emissions are expected to grow slowly between now and 2020 as the economy improves. The difference is that the Obama administration has laid out a real path to reaching its goal and is preparing to move down that path with the new coal-fired power plant rules. Of course, the rules will face political and legal challenges, so nothing is certain. But the Canadian government has not even identified a path that would get the country close to the goal. Instead, it has vaguely told the UN that businesses, individuals, provinces, and cities will have to take some kind of actions on their own in order for Canada to meet its target.

At the heart of the gap between the two countries is a hard economic reality for Canada: it’s likely to be much more expensive to reduce emissions here than in the U.S. Mostly this is due to the fact that our fastest-growing source of emissions—the oil sands of Alberta—are expected to continue to grow and are of significant economic importance to the country. Meanwhile, the most emissions-intensive sector in the U.S.—coal—is already declining, even without Obama’s coming policy intervention. American coal-power emissions dropped 14 per cent from 2005 to 2011 and are expected to decline another seven per cent by 2020. This has come thanks to the availability of cheap natural gas, which produces much less carbon when burned, along with reductions in total electricity demand and the impact of existing regulations targeting mercury emissions from coal-fired power. For the U.S. to meet its 2020 commitments, it will need to accelerate trends already in progress—reductions in emissions from power generation—by moving itself from coal to cheaper natural gas more quickly. For Canada to meet its targets, it will need to reverse trends in oil sands emissions growth.

It is now becoming clear that when both countries committed to the same goal back in 2005, Canada signed on for far more economic and political pain. Canada would need to impose a higher cost on carbon emissions in order to incentivize the necessary spending by industry or behaviour changes by consumers. In the U.S., it was estimated when the commitments were made that it would take the equivalent of a $35 per tonne carbon tax to meet its 2020 commitments, according to a U.S. leading think tank, Resources for the Future. In Canada, similar analyses suggested at the time that it would take $100 per tonne.

A $100 per tonne price on carbon is not being seriously contemplated by Canada. Alberta’s much-vaunted carbon “levy” is just $15 per tonne. In recent years, a $40 per tonne charge was floated but was quickly walked back by then-premier Alison Redford. Prime Minister Harper’s government once talked about requiring carbon capture and storage from all new oil sands facilities and imposing a significant price on carbon from firms that did not improve their emissions performance, but the idea faded away.

The Harper government for years has been promising to bring forward specific regulations for the oil and gas industry, but has not acted. The Prime Minister has said he wants to regulate the sector only “in concert” with Washington because unilateral measures by Ottawa would disadvantage Canadian energy producers, who sell almost all their oil and natural gas exports to the U.S. But proposals to enact similar regulatory standards for oil refineries in the U.S. have languished, and no regulation of emissions from U.S. oil and gas production are likely at the federal level.

The political path for the U.S. to reach its 2020 commitments has been full of obstacles. Aspirations for a joint cap-and-trade system died after conservatives blocked a vote on such a bill in the Senate early in Obama’s first term; Republican control of the House of Representatives since 2011 killed any further chances of such a deal.

Still, Obama has unilateral, executive-branch, rule-making powers under the federal Clean Air Act to go after coal-powered plants. Although coal consumption is declining, without new policies in place, U.S. coal power is still projected to account for 1.6 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020—that’s over 30 per cent of the U.S. total emissions allowed under the Copenhagen agreement. (Likewise, without new policies, Canada’s oil and gas sector will also account for about a third of its 2020 goal for total emissions, or 200 million tonnes.)

As the President pushes forward, his party could pay a high political cost. While national Democratic activists support strong coal regulations, they’re controversial in conservative-leaning regions that could be crucial for determining which party controls the Senate. Last week, seven Democratic senators, including several in vulnerable seats up for re-election in Louisiana, Arkansas and Virginia, asked Obama to abandon an existing rule that requires future coal plants to use costly carbon capture and storage techniques to reduce emissions, arguing the technology is commercially unproven. Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democratic candidate within reach of ousting the Republican Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, in Kentucky, which has many coal mines, is particularly vulnerable on the issue. “I don’t agree with the President’s war on coal,” she declared this month after her party’s nomination contest.

Canada has already adopted tough rules that require coal plants reaching the end of their useful lives to either shut down or adopt retrofits that reduce their emissions to levels comparable with a natural-gas power plant. Because such reductions are not practically achievable without the expense of carbon capture and storage, it is usually not economically viable to retrofit an old plant and they instead shut down. But those rules will have a much smaller impact on Canada’s emissions than they would if Obama announces something similar in the U.S. next month simply because we use much less coal, thanks to Canada’s greater reliance on low-emission hydroelectric and nuclear power.

If Obama’s move on coal is substantive, Canada will have a hard time keeping up. Oil sands extraction uses a lot of energy to turn water into the steam and to refine the heavy bitumen into lighter forms of oil. Carbon capture and storage may hold out the most promise for deep reductions in emissions, but this remains prohibitively expensive, adding as much as $10 per barrel to production costs, with about 50 per cent of that reflected in lower royalties and taxes from oil sands. Moreover, requiring carbon capture and storage on all new facilities could cut projected oil sands emissions by half—but that would still only get Canada to 70 per cent of its goal by 2020.

Of course, Canada could reduce emissions by reducing the production of oil sands. This would be the most expensive option. Reductions in production would likely come at a cost, to firms and provincial coffers, of $20 to $40 for each barrel of oil not produced, or $200 to $1,000 for each tonne of carbon not spewed into the atmosphere.

There’s no question the Canadian government faces a trade-off. The costs of action are high. Yet if the government decides not to take stringent action on oil and gas emissions, we will not meet our international commitments. When that happens, blame will fall on the oil sands, and, as the noisy opposition in the U.S. to the Keystone XL pipeline has shown, this will make it harder to sell oil sands products. Profitability and tax revenues will take a hit one way or the other.

With stringent coal regulations, the U.S. can reach its target with no direct regulations on oil and gas. Canada can’t. The question for the Harper government is whether it will swallow the political and economic costs of doing what it takes to meet our commitments—or come clean and admit that “halfway” to our goal is far as Canada will ever get.


Obama’s plan to fix climate change

  1. Canada’s GHG emissions have fallen by 5% since 2005, the last year of Liberal power. The fact the authors leave this super extremely important and pertinent fact – a fact outright covered up by the media to a degree that it comes as news to most Canadians – suggests – no, proves – bad faith on their part.

    This is a slam Harper by slamming Canada hit piece. Shameful. Canada’s record on reducing GHG is outstanding, doubly so when you consider we have such a high immigration rate and our population grows 1.2% a year, something the United States does not have to contend with.

    “But the drop in emissions is due to provincial actions!” you say? Exactly. The environment is largely a provincial matter in Canada, which is one of the most decentralized countries in the world. It’s not as if Pauline Marios would have welcomed a federal intrusion here.

    Shameful Andrew. You smeared Canada here. You could have celebrated out 5% drop in emissions but you covered it up just to slam your own country.

    In a broader context, emissions in Brazil, Russia, India, and China are rising so rapidly that these tiny drops by Obama the author is applauding – which haven’t happened yet – will be less than a drop in the ocean. Trashing the North American continent in a purely symbolic move to stop climate change is actually unethical, is actually treasonous when the rest of the world is not doing the same.

    By “failing” to meet Copenhagen objectives our total emissions will have still fallen, while our economy and population grow. That’s failing upwards, and a damned sight better than the BRIC countries where emissions are skyrocketing.

  2. Thankfully this scam will be ended once Republicans take over the Senate this year and the Presidency in 2016. Obama has totally screwed up the relationships with all her allies but these will be repaired once he’s gone. Canada and the US will soon have it’s mutually beneficial relationship back on track.

  3. Science was 100% certain the planet was not flat but were 95% sure for 32 years that CO2 could flatten the planet? Move on;
    *Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.
    * “Socialist” Canada killed Y2Kyoto with a freely elected climate change denying prime minister and nobody cared, especially the millions of scientists warning us of unstoppable warming (a comet hit).

    • Scientists (such as they were at the time) knew that the Earth was spherical dating back to Aristotle in 330 BCE. Its circumference was correctly measured by Eratosthenes in 240 BCE. We have come a long way since then.

      The facts that the Earth is warming, that the cause is primarily due to increased greenhouse emissions, and that those emissions are primarily anthropogenic in nature are all well-established. C02 won’t flatten the planet. The Earth itself cannot be affected by changes in the biosphere. The question is whether or not the place that the Earth is becoming will be a place that we will want to live in, or a place that can support our kind of life. Many of the great mass extinctions of global history have been due to dramatic changes in climate.

      • ABARLOW,

        First off, you need to pick a point and stick with it. You say the facts are that the earth is warming, but even the IPCC admits there hasn’t been any warming for almost 18 years. If the “climate scientists” are to be believed, there should have been a linear relationship with CO2 levels and increases in temperature. There hasn’t been. CO2 has gone up, but the temperatures have not. We can agree that human industry contributes to increases in CO2, but so far….no impact; according to the IPCC.

        then you wrote this:
        “”Many of the great mass extinctions of global history have been due to dramatic changes in climate.”

        Ok…so, then tell us. These mass extinctions must have occurred since the late 1800’s, if your logic is to be considered. You believe that CO2 causes dramatic climate change, but write that the global history shows dramatic climate changes have occurred in the past. I’m assuming you are aware, that most of these dramatic changes in climate had nothing to do with humans, as for many of these extinctions……we were not yet around.

        You make the point for the skeptics. Climate changes….always has, always wiill.

        thanks for coming aboard.

        • As ever, James is full of cr@p

          “You make the point for the skeptics. Climate changes….always has, always wiill. ”

          So your “point” is that because their have be dramatic changes in climate before Homo Sapiens that have caused massed extinction, therefore humans cannot cause climate change?
          There you have it folks, the deduction and logic of James R. Halifax in all it’s glory.
          Hey James, falcons ate passenger pigeons before humans arrived in North America, therefore humans could not have caused passenger pigeons’ extinction!

  4. Climate Blame was an excuse to hate neocons, a lazy copy and paste news editor’s dream come true, a never ending study of what can’t be proven or dis-proven for lab coat consultants, and a political promise from pandering politicians for better and colder weather.
    And what century is this again?

  5. Did Obama-become-President-for-Life of something?

    How can a Presidential directive, from a president who term ends in 30 months, be considered a credible long term plan? Regulations imposed by presidential edict and not legislatively enacted are not much of a plan. It is a campaign strategy for the midterm elections in 6 months.

    Under Obama, the United States has been exporting ever increasing record amounts of thermal coal to Asia, and restarted them to Europe. The celebrities don’t mention or try stopping the coal trains to American ports.

    The entire state of North Dakota lights up at night (as seen from space) like New York or LA because of uncontrolled natural gas flaring from Bakken oil wells. Contrast that to the still dark skies over similar regions in Saskatchewan in Alberta where the shale and tight sand oil boom is occurring.

  6. Canada (Harper) could call out Obama by asking for a 100% ban on Coal fired plants in North America.

    Canada has 19 coal fired electric plants generating 15,353 MWe.

    Obama has 649 coal fired electric generation plants putting out 380,981 Mega watts.

    Shut them all down Now !!!!!

    Let Americans pay 20X what they currently pay for clean Canadian Hydro electricity.

  7. You guys aren’t going to go gracefully, but you’re going to go regardless.

  8. and still none of these action come anywhere near what is needed. Its almost a wast of time debating this.

    We need a war effort to tackle this thing.

  9. Canada has adopted tough rules on coal plants, Andrew? Oh, you mean those regulations that Peter Kent watered down from their original state as proposed by my former MP, and Environment Minister, Jim Prentice in 2010?

    Prentice laid out a 45 year lifetime for existing plants, and a performance standard for new ones; 375 tonnes of CO2 per gigawatt-hour of electricity produced (tCO2/GWh), roughly equivalent to a combined-cycle gas plant.
    Prentice’s timeline was well founded. Alberta’s industry group CASA, the Clean Air Strategic Alliance, had already agreed in 2003 that Battle River 3, currently Alberta’s oldest and dirtiest plant, should close shop in 2014, after a 45 year lifetime. This year. Now.
    Prentice retired from politics, however, and we got Peter Kent as his replacement. Kent put the coal regs through a couple of rinse cycles, and we ended up with a forgiving 50 year lifetime for existing plants, and a performance standard of 420 tCO2/GWh instead of 375; a difference of about 12%. How’s that for bold leadership?

  10. Find us deniers just one IPCC warning says; “inevitable” or “will be” or beyond; “95%” and “could be”. Science is 100% certain the planet is not flat but CO2 could flatten it?
    You can’t tell children science “believes” as you remaining and determined “believers” do.

    • Science deals in probablilities. It’ll also tell you you “could” get cancer or emphysema from smoking.
      So, light ’em up!

  11. Hudakian comparisons. You know better, Andrew.

    In the U.S., it was estimated when the commitments were made that it would take the equivalent of a $35 per tonne carbon tax to meet its 2020 commitments, according to a U.S. leading think tank, Resources for the Future. In Canada, similar analyses suggested at the time that it would take $100 per tonne.

    A $100 per tonne price on carbon is not being seriously contemplated by Canada. Alberta’s much-vaunted carbon “levy” is just $15 per tonne. In recent years, a $40 per tonne charge was floated but was quickly walked back by then-premier Alison Redford.

    Oh, I get it. The “levy” word.

    Currently, $15/tonne beyond 88% of historical emissions at some baseline. So, assuming business as usual (BAU), $15/tonne x .12 = $3/tonne or somewhere in the order of $0.15/barrel (from memory when I last cranked the #s)

    $40/tonne beyond 60% historical. BAU $40/tonne x .4 = $16/tonne or in the order of $1/barrel.

    Useful when comparing apples and apples later on, when you look at CCS:

    Carbon capture and storage may hold out the most promise for deep reductions in emissions, but this remains prohibitively expensive, adding as much as $10 per barrel to production costs

    • Ha. I’m doing Hudak math as well.

      $15/tonne x .12 = $1.80 / tonne (not $3). Should still be around $0.15/barrel – assuming my original calcs correct.

      $40/tonne x .4 = $16/tonne. Or about 9 x higher. $1.35 ish.

      • Yes, in other words we can’t get close to $100, even when we only apply the tax on a small share of emissions, so there’s no chance we’ll get to the kind of stringency a $100/tonne average cost of carbon implies. Thanks for making my point.

        • About 20 years ago (probable when I was around your age), I was discussing costs charged with a pipeline contractor who building a sour gas pipeline for the firm I was representing in the foothills. The contract had wording with some ambiguity.

          He accused me of using “weasel words”. That registered. An important lesson learned.

          • I see this comment caused AL to blow a twitter gasket. Let me perhaps elaborate.

            It seems to me that many economists, journalists, poli sci individuals refer to themselves as “professionals” or their work as a “profession”.

            But, I disagree – there is no professional association regulating what individuals say, do, the standards required etc.

            Although I am not currently registered, this relevant section of the APEGA Guideline might provide some context for my comments, section 4.1.1. And perhaps act as a surrogate set of rules for those with no set rules :

            * Holding “paramount” public safety, health and welfare means that this takes precedence over all other considerations. Professionals must, in all work for which
            they are responsible, guard against conditions which are threatening to the life safety, longer term health, financial matters, societal welfare, or sustainable development within our environment.

            *During the early stages of a project, for instance environmental approvals, it is each professional’s responsibility to present factually, objectively, and clearly the expected impacts and consequences. Society should then be able, through its regulatory bodies or political processes, to make an informed decision to proceed, or not.

            *Once approved, the responsibility of professionals is then to minimize and mitigate environmental impacts of the project. See the APEGA “Guideline for Environmental

            *APEGA professionals must strike a balance between being enthusiastic champions on behalf of their employers or clients, versus maintaining objectivity, credibility, and the trust of the public.

            *It should be recognized that professionals will occasionally have a legitimate disagreement about the degree of risk presented by a project versus the degree of protection of the public interest which is warranted. The Code of Ethics provides a framework for respectful and constructive disagreement, as well as a process for
            resolution – see the discussion “Having Recommendations Overruled” in the commentary following Rule 3.


            If Macleans doesn’t want anonymous comments of substance, which seems to offend the author, put the membership requirements back in place.

          • “although I am not currently registered”

          • Yeah, you could have checked that yourself. The registry is online.

            Just a matter of paying my dues – and reapplying now I’m back in AB.

        • what seems to be glossed over is the impact of taxing carbon. Does anyone consider that oil companies will NOT be absorbing these costs…the costs will be passed to the consumer.

          A Tax on carbon, truly is a tax on EVERYTHING. Not a risk we should take based upon the faulty science of climate alarmists.

          (man made) global warming is a fraud on a massive scale, just to take more $ from us. don’t say you weren’t warned.

          Look what it has done to Ontario.

          • Do nothing:

            Hotter in Hell.
            Wings don’t last as long in Heaven.

            Pick your poison.

          • DoTTTT By regret wrote:
            “Do nothing:

            Hotter in Hell. Wings don’t last as long in Heaven.
            Pick your poison.”

            Better to do nothing, than to do the wrong thing based upon erroneous “science” created by activists with a marxist bent.

            Don’t believe in Heaven or Hell……………and “poison” is the effect of draining the treasury to create some scheme designed to keep the third world in the dark ages, and ushering the West along the same path.

            If you want to see what these kooks are really aiming to do…just look at Ontario’s Green Energy Act.

            Spend the money where it will DO the most good. don’t spend it simply to feel good.

          • “…scheme designed to keep the third world in the dark ages”

            I thought the conspiracy was to redistribute wealth to the third world?
            It must be distressing that Harper is keen to match any US action to address a problem which is really just fraud designed to (fill blank with whatever conspiracy objective you favour), rather than provide stand of for the truth and provide leadership.
            Is Harper part of the conspiracy, or is he just a gutless coward?

          • Lenny asked:
            “I thought the conspiracy was to redistribute wealth to the third world?”

            I should have clarified. It would be closer to state the money was to be distributed to “third world leaders” who would then continue to do what they are currently doing. Nothing….other than lining their own pockets at the expense of their citizens.

            The eco-nuts do NOT want poor backward african nations to have indoor plumbing, electricity, stable food supplies, etc. They want the world to STOP consuming……and multiplying.

      • The ‘much-vaunted Alberta carbon “levy” ” has been characterized by some critics as an exercise in greenwashing – make the public believe significant efforts are being made, while in reality, it is at such a low level that it has no real effect on investment behaviour. It’s largely a rounding error, and the O&G companies will simply pay it.

        Andrew Leach has neglected to address my comments here directly. So, lets turn to twitter to find out the justification he’s using:

        Running On Climate ‏@climatedoc 5h
        @InklessPW @andrew_leach @luizachsavage Tho n.b. Alberta’s “levy” boils down to much less than $15 on GHGs. http://ow.ly/xvHXl

        Andrew Leach
        @climatedoc @InklessPW @luizachsavage no, its exactly 15 on what it covers. It just doesn’t cover all emissions. Neither does BC.

        7:02 AM – 2 Jun 2014

        Well, yes and no. Keep in mind Andrew is writing an article in Macleans – not an economics blog – his first -so perhaps he can be forgiven this time for keeping his academic hat firmly in place.

        The problem with his argument is that in a production facility, everything goes through the same process. You don’t just take a 12% slip stream and install new carbon reducing equipment on that small portion because that’s how the tax is calculated.

        For example – suppose I wanted to install a heat exchanger to recover waste heat – the hot end product is used to pre-heat the cold raw material – so that the end product is cooler, and the inlet stream is warmer – requiring less gas for heating.

        Normally, you would determine the capital cost of the equipment (sized for TOTAL input and output) and the TOTAL savings in energy, including the 12% “levy”. Then you would run the economics and see if it meets your corporate hurdle rate.

        You could also do a break even calculation. What carbon tax would be required to make the heat exchanger economic? You would estimate gas savings (no change from before as it is process/equipment limited), then determine how high the effective carbon tax on that saved gas would need to be to heat the whole production (again not just the slipstream).

        Why “effective” carbon tax is important. Especially when writing for the layperson.

        • DOTTTT BY REGRET wrote:
          “Why “effective” carbon tax is important. Especially when writing for the layperson’

          While your condescension towards the “layperson” is obvious, the layperson(s) already understand that a carbon tax will hurt them. You don’t need to dumb it down for them……they are quite aware of it already.

          • There’s your comment, and then there’s reality:
            The only thing that hurts them is freeloaders like you who feel entitled to make everyone else subsidize your lifestyle.

          • I wrote “layperson” not “lazy thinking person”.

  12. Of course, Canada could reduce emissions by reducing the production of oil sands. This would be the most expensive option. Reductions in production would likely come at a cost, to firms and provincial coffers, of $20 to $40 for each barrel of oil not produced, or $200 to $1,000 for each tonne of carbon not spewed into the atmosphere.

    Ahhh, the opportunity cost argument. Assuming the capital goes elsewhere (outside of Canada), or dies (the dead money argument).

    Or…reduced manic development reduces inflation on remaining investments or operating properties improving margins, requires less public infrastructure, etc. The dynamic part.

  13. I get a kick out of dysfunctional politics. Fact is USA likes it oil with USA munitions and blood in it.

    I have been to Texas more than one as a oil patch worker. Don’t tell me Canada is a bigger polluter. So far all we here is gloom and doom the planet is warming tax us more, raise our costs of living, devalue our incomes and make other people richer.

    But warming has a good side too, means more farm land to feed the next billions of people as we over populated the planet. Added moisture might make desserts forests again…sure some “rich” might lose some beach-front but I am looking at the world view and food supply. Tundra simply doesn’t produce much food or life.

    And taxing us more to live in cold mostly winter Canada, maybe time to move south and avoid the massive tax greed on the utility bills and cost of living including food. Maybe we should tax exports like we do oil, including food so we can subside people to live in Canada. After all, it takes CO2 to make food…why not tax our exports?

    • After all, it takes CO2 to make food…why not tax our exports?

      Because you’d be more likely to stay.

    • I appreciate that you spent a few minutes thinking about what gunna happen when teh wurld gets hawt, but believe or not, there are actually experts in countless fields including agriculture who study the projected impacts of warming and publish their finds.

      • …findings

  14. I am Canadian
    According to the EPA, Power-Plants are responsible for 72.3% of stationary emissions of CO2.
    Clearly President Obama has identified the problem, and seems determined to find a solution.
    The fossil fuel Industry has gone to great lengths to confuse people on this issue by trying to re-direct attention to the transportation industries emissions, and claiming energy costs will increase with anything other than fossil fuels.
    Globally there are 56,121 fossil fuel power-plants and that source of income (trillions) to the Fossil Fuel Industry is apparently worth more than the electricity generated.
    My proposed solution would use Human Excrement instead of Fossil Fuels which I believe would reduce energy costs as the costs associated with the present handling/ treating of sewage is also (trillions).
    Protecting the market share for established interests “often referred to as
    Buggy Whip manufacturers syndrome”, is in direct conflict with the alleged goals of Capitalism and “letting the market decide”.
    Perhaps the Fossil Fuel Industry should consider becoming part of the solution.

    • A solution to what?
      Most of the Great Lakes area and most of Canada and the USA hasn’t had a smog warning day (actual smog) in close to 10 years now. It’s never good enough is it, even after defeating the smoggy 70’s when a river caught fire in Ohio. But we keep that finger on the fear button as usual. Note: “Be kind to the air days” and smog “alerts” and “advisories” and “watches” are not measurements of smog, just predictions that a “Smog Warning” could be issued within the next 36 hours. Be happy

      • Smog is a different problem entirely. In fact, ironically, our efforts to reduce smog have probably actually increased the rate of global warming–the primary constituent of smog, sulfur dioxide, acts as a cooling agent.

    • Dennis, instead of waiting for the Fossil Fuel Industry to become part of the solution….why don’t you start first?

      1. Stop driving your car.
      2. Stop heating your home.
      3. Stop eating food that is grown out of your immediate area.
      4. Don’t fly.
      5. Move into a tent with no heat, electricity, water, etc.

      You call it the Fossil Fuel Industry, but if you want to be honest, you could also call it the “Industry to allow us to live a modern and comfortable life.”

      • I focus my efforts on reducing 72.3 % of stationary emissions, and you suggest I should redirect my attention to the 0.000000000001 % of these stationary global emissions that I may be accountable for.

        Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye?

        • As expected……

          You are focussed on what other people do, and actually following a lifestyle you demand of others’ is beneath you.

          Do you know what “Hypocrisy” means, Denny?

      • Call it the Fossil Fuel Industry,
        Lets something straight this industry did much to advance the evolution of the Human Species.
        This Industry is to be commended for the Billions of Human’s alive, in sufficient numbers to Power the Planet with our own wastes and poisons!
        To much of a good thing, seems an appropriate analogy.
        Like an Ice-cream headache.
        The organizational skills of the Fossil Fuel Industry, if applied to global implementation of my facilities, would ensure success in Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change!
        This Industry has manufactured and operated and maintained 56,121 fossil fuel power-plants.
        Technology Transfer of skills to participate in the manufacturing operating and maintaining my facilities is the proverbial Win/Win scenario.

        • Dennis Baker, revealed:
          “This Industry is to be commended for the Billions of Human’s alive, in sufficient numbers to Power the Planet with our own wastes and poisons!
          To much of a good thing, seems an appropriate analogy.”

          Denny, at first I wasn’t sure of what school of “Climate science” you belonged to, but this comment gave you away.

          clearly, you are one of those eco-nuts who value the planet over the people, and don’t consider that we can all manage ok without depopulating the place. You write about the Billions of people alive on the planet, and then consider that perhaps this is too much of a good thing. How many should we get rid of Denny? How many of the billions of humans alive today…..do you think should be un-alive?

          If eliminating people to save the planet is what you are really looking for Denny; one comment.

          You go first.

  15. You remaining and determined “believers” and news editors and politicians knowingly exaggerate science’s 32 years of being 95% certain that THE END IS NEAR.
    Deny that!
    Call three decades of never being certain anything you want it be except sustainable.

  16. Well, there are hard truths for us Canadians to contend with. Climate change is real. There are economic consequences of action for Canada. Therefore, these decisions are not simple. Given that we are one of the most loose federations in the world, policy making is all the more challenging.

    Ontario and Quebec’s decline in manufacturing have needed BC and Alberta to choose the natural resources route to keeping Canada in the G-8. Our productivity gap is ballooning and revenue from other sectors falling. Unless we address our skills gap, develop other sectors, and improve our productivity and competitiveness, we will need to struggle with trying to meet opposing goals.

    And having said all that, the US may only be meeting its goals now because shale has come to their rescue.

    But it definitely can be done. We just need to set our minds to it.

    • So, increased storm activity, increased wildfire activity, and increased drought are all used as excuses as to why we need to do something about “climate change”.
      According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there is no discernible pattern of increased wildfires in the USA over the last decade. Over 75% of all wildfires are still human caused, and are consuming no more acreage than in the past. They are, however, consuming more structures. Visit Utah, Colorado, Montana, or Arizona and you’ll see why.
      It has now been over 3100 days since a category 3 or greater hurricane has made landfall in the USA. Sandy was a Cat2, and the damage from it was largely due to new shoreline development since the last major hurricane in the region. Storms of 1938 and 1944 were far stronger.
      Tornado activity is down in the USA two years running. Again, greater property damage stemming from urban expansion and inflation is responsible for increased storm damages.
      Drought in the Colorado River Basin is often highlighted as a symptom of warming. Yet the geological record shows mega-droughts of 40 years plus as far back as 500 years. The late 19th and early 20th century were very wet compared to the average and mean.
      The supposed 97% consensus basically amounts to 79 people who actually gave enough of a hoot to respond to a questionnaire.
      The immediate and real consequences of climate change action (new emissions regs on coal will cost over $1000 per American citizen, per year) are demonstrably worse than the hypothetical consequences of inaction on a hypothetical problem. The warmists routinely come across as totalitarian and Marxist, yet vast swaths of the media seem to fail to grasp this.
      Interestingly, this magazine has an article about the dumbing down of America. When the President doubles down on climate change, it merely demonstrates that dumbing down has reached the White House.
      It’s either that or he is actually evil. There are no other choices here kids.

      • Bill…

        Don’t use facts for these folks………you just make them angry when you destroy the narrative. shame on you.

    • Chris A….here’s your first problem.

      “Well, there are hard truths for us Canadians to contend with. Climate change is real”

      Actually, no its not.

      If you want to know what causes climate change, go out side and look up. It’s that big ball of burning hydrogen in the sky. That is your climate control device.

      • Impressive scientific work as always, James.
        Is your paper being reviewed for publication as we speak?
        I can’t wait to see what you turn your genius to after saving us from worrying about climate change and collecting your Nobel.
        Curing aids? Malaria?
        Pioneering new brain surgery techniques?

        • Lenny, sometimes the most obvious answer….IS the answer.

          I don’t need to publish my work…….it is confirmed every time daylight arrives.

          As for my Nobel Prize…sorry, not interested. It lost all meaning when folks like Arafat and Obama were awarded them.

          As for pionerring brain surgery techniques….hmmm……can I start with your brain? I would prefer to practice on one that is already showing signs of functionality problems.

          • I know it’s obvious to you, but it contradicts the actual published science, the largest scientific assessment ever undertaken, the vast majority of scientists, and the opinions of just about every national science academy and government on the planet.
            So, you’ll really have to publish.
            I know you care, because you take every opportunity to repeat yourself, over and over again in comments here. What excuse could you possibly have for failing to publish such an “obvious” scientific paper which would have such a huge global impact? Sounds like it would be easy.
            BTW, tell me more about the Nobels awarded to Arafat and Obama for their groundbreaking work in science.

  17. Obama’s plans are pointless and futile. For one thing, as American use less coal, China and India use more. SO what is gained? Then there’s the fact that CO2 is NOT the most important climate driver. It’s the sun. See Nir Shaviv’s excellent website: http://www.sciencebits.com/

  18. I am saddened by the content of the article and by many of the comments. First, the comments. Even for an Enbridge Professor of Economics, it must be disappointing to have the comment section filled by deniers. A short aside here, please. It would be great if everyone comment made a full disclosure in their signature. For example, Joe from Alberta, paid shill of the oil industry, or Mary from Ottawa, paid by the PMO.
    Second, the column itself.
    1 Condemning Obama for starting with the low hanging fruit is pointless. Of course any politician is going to start with the low hanging fruit. The problem in Canada is Harper denies there are any fruit at all. Or, it would seem, suggests that all the fruit are somewhere else. And denies there is any problem.
    2 Mr Leach understands we have a problem. He understands we must act to start solving the problem. I suspect, deep down, he also understands that action would be best begun by a Conservative. The Oil Patch will scream, but not half as much as it will scream when other than a Conservative starts us down the road we need to follow. So, by writing an entire column which appears solely aimed at given Harper cover for doing nothing, Mr Leach has firmly placed himself on the wrong side of history.
    3 By using the high estimate of the carbon tax required rather than a low starting value for that tax, Mr Leach makes it easier for Harper to claim that Carbon Taxes don’t work or cannot be used in Canada. Again giving Harper cover for a wrong decision. The BC Carbon Tax, even though it does not cover all sources of carbon dioxide, has been in place for 6 years (exactly on the date of the original column). In that time carbon dioxide emissions are down in BC and the economy has grown faster than the Canadian average. The tax is revenue neutral (personal and corporate income taxes are down) and regionally fair (colder regions get more back). It is too bad the current Premier of BC is in the thrall of Fossil Carbon and has stopped increasing the Carbon Tax. So, action can be taken that does not hurt the economy and does reduce emissions. Giving the LIE to Harper.
    4 Giving credit where credit is not due. Mr Leach credits Harper with tougher vehicle fuel standards. In fact, since the standards were mandated in the US, they would have happened in Canada since all our vehicles are built to US standards. So the Harper action added nothing. When the best you can do is give the Prime Minister credit for nothing, that says a lot about both the Prime Minister and the author of the article.
    5 I have to add, when I first ran across Mr Leach inMacleans, I though his articles contained some interesting concessions to the need for action. On reflection, I am not so sure.
    Disclosure – I live in BC, pay carbon taxes, pay less income tax, have never worked for a fossil fuel company, have two science degrees. I am not being paid to write this comment.

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