Alberta prepares to throw money down a hole

Carbon storage will cost $3 billion a year and double electricity rates, yet still not meet the province’s reduction targets

Alberta’s Stelmach government has consistently pooh-poohed monetary constraints on its oil sands emissions—whether a carbon tax or cap and trade—in favour of the panacea of carbon capture and storage, which it says will keep Alberta’s cash at home. And how! Today Edmonton Journal columnist Graham Thomson exposes the folly of the Stelmach argument. “What we already knew was that the Alberta government is planning to spend $2 billion over 12 years on three pilot projects to bury up to five million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2015,” writes Thomson. “What we didn’t know is the cost of ramping up the process.” According to a recently released report commissioned by the Alberta Tories, Accelerating Carbon Capture and Storage Implementation in Alberta, those costs will be enormous—”up to $3 billion a year for 10 years,” Thomson writes. “That gets us burying 30 million tonnes a year. But Alberta wants to bury 140 million tonnes a year by 2050.” Electricity rates, meanwhile, are expected to “at least double” (coal-fired power plants are major emitters), meaning Albertans will pay twice, first as taxpayers, then as consumers. Burying carbon will certainly keep Alberta dollars at home—buried deep beneath the earth. “No other jurisdiction in Canada has done as much as Alberta” to hammer out a plan that will reduce emissions, writes Thomson, and with good reason. “That’s going to help Premier Ed Stelmach gain the higher moral ground at next week’s annual premiers meeting in Regina.” That too may be so. Still, isn’t it time the province reconsidered putting a reasonable price on carbon?

Edmonton Journal