No 2140 Posted by fw, January 9, 2018
“We examine two interrelated questions here. First, is any oil sands oil production consistent with Canada’s 2030 emissions target, given the implications of continued production for the required emissions reductions in other sectors? Second, could Canadian domestic oil demand be reduced through automobile and truck fuel efficiency and other measures, as part of the effort to achieve our 2030 emissions target, to the point where domestic demand could be met entirely by domestic conventional oil production? As our calculations show, only with a complete phase-out of oil production from the oil sands, elimination of coal for electricity generation, significant replacement of natural-gas-fuelled electricity generation with electricity from carbon-free sources, and stringent efficiency measures in all other sectors of the economy could Canada plausibly meet its 30 percent target. … we need to begin a national conversation now about how to wind down the tar sands operations in an equitable way, and we have little time to lose.” —Prof. Danny Harvey and MSc student Lika Miao
Danny Harvey is a professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto, and does research and teaching related to the transition to a carbon-free global energy system. Lika Miao is pursuing an MSc related to net zero energy buildings, at the University of Toronto’s Department of Geography.
The evidence just keeps piling up to counter PM Trudeau’s pipe dream that an “all-of-the-above” climate action plan will meet Canada’s climate commitments.
The latest salvo to blow a hole in his dream is Harvey and Miao’s fact-based analysis in support of their proposition that “Winding down oil sands production to achieve our GHG targets and as a defensive measure against a collapse in oil prices must be seen as a national project.”
To be candid, my eyes glazed over when I encountered the author’s three supporting tables, with multiple rows of variables and multiple columns, and two stacked bar graphs. And the dense summarizing text derived from the tables and graphs was also a challenge to plough through.
For others who may also be challenged by stacks of numerical data, I suggest you focus on the big ideas that appear in the highlighted italicized subheadings and highlighted text of my repost below.
Bottom line, here’s a repeat of my main take-away from the above italicized passage –
As our calculations show, only with a complete phase-out of oil production from the oil sands, elimination of coal for electricity generation, significant replacement of natural-gas-fuelled electricity generation with electricity from carbon-free sources, and stringent efficiency measures in all other sectors of the economy could Canada plausibly meet its 30 percent target. … we need to begin a national conversation now about how to wind down the tar sands operations in an equitable way, and we have little time to lose.”
To read the authors’ piece on the Policy Options website, click on the following linked title.
Winding down oil sands production to achieve our GHG targets and as a defensive measure against a collapse in oil prices must be seen as a national project.
Two years after Paris, Canada’s total carbon emissions are about the same as they were 12 years ago
At the Paris climate conference in December 2015, Canada reaffirmed its target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 percent from the 2005 level by 2030. The Liberal government was roundly criticized by environmental groups and some opposition politicians for not going beyond the “weak” target of the previous Conservative government, but even today — two years later — there is still no plan in sight for how Canada could achieve its target by 2030, given that current total emissions are about the same as they were in 2005.
And the oil industry is planning an expansion of oil production in Alberta’s tar sands
At the same time, the oil industry is planning an expansion of oil production from the oil sands — one of the highest CO2-emitting sources of oil in the world on a per-barrel basis — and the federal government has approved contentious new pipelines to facilitate that expansion.
Two questions —
We examine two interrelated questions here.
To meet its 30% carbon reduction target by 2030, Canada would have to do the following —
As our calculations show, only with –
…could Canada plausibly meet its 30 percent target.
Canada should plan an orderly phase-out of tar sands production or risk collapse of oil price by 2030
However, expected improvements in the performance and reductions in the cost of electric vehicles, combined with across-the-board improvement in the efficiency of cars and trucks, could see a permanent collapse in the price of oil by 2030, if not sooner, rendering oil sands oil a permanent money loser. Thus, the most urgent task related to the oil and gas industry in Canada is to plan an orderly phase-out of oil sands oil production — before such a phase-out is imposed by external economic forces. Doing so would align Canada’s international climate promises with its economic well-being.
Environment and Climate Change Canada’s tables “assume significant energy efficiency improvements and fuel shifting from 2014 to 2030”
In 2016, the federal department responsible for tracking Canada’s GHG emissions, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), provided a breakdown of 2005, near-present (2014), and projected future (2030) national GHG emissions by sector and by GHG, along with the corresponding quantities of oil, refined petroleum products (RPPs) and natural gas liquids produced, imported and exported, and a breakdown of the amounts consumed by sector. We use a 2017 update of the emissions and energy flows in the 2016 analysis.
In their first four data columns, tables 1 and 2 show the ECCC oil and natural gas amounts, respectively, while table 3 shows the ECCC numbers for GHG emissions. ECCC’s 2030 projections already assume substantial energy efficiency improvements and fuel shifting from 2014 to 2030:
In approaching Canada’s 2030 target, the authors show the impact of a sequence of four actions
As a first step in approaching Canada’s 2030 target, we assume no improvement in energy efficiency beyond that embedded in the ECCC scenarios, but we consider the following sequence of actions:
Figure 1 — Decrease in electricity related carbon emissions offsets a 1.3% increase in tar sands emissions
The results are shown in figure 1 in relation to Canada’s 2030 target, along with the 2014 emissions breakdown.
What’s needed to exactly meet Canada’s 2030 target
We next derive from the ECCC numbers the combinations of efficiency and electricity supply measures that would be needed to exactly meet Canada’s 2030 target, for three oil sands oil production scenarios that we call Increase, Freeze and Phase-out. The results are shown in the final three columns of tables 1, 2 and 3.
Under the Phase-out scenario, in which domestic oil demand is reduced by 16 percent below the ECCC projection,
In the Phase-out scenario,
Canada’s compliance with the Paris goal means it must meet the 2.0°C global warming target
Although our focus here is Canada’s 2030 target, we must not lose sight of the fact that Canada’s Paris emissions reduction pledge and those made by other countries are intended only as a first step in achieving the overarching goal, adopted by Canada and every other country in the world at the Paris meeting, of limiting global mean warming to no more than 2.0°C above the preindustrial mean. Compliance with this goal requires that net anthropogenic CO2 emissions fall to zero by about 2060.
Transition to hybrid electric vehicles could help to significantly reduce oil demand
Long before that, stringent global fuel efficiency standards could dramatically reduce oil demand: an advanced hybrid electric vehicle would require three to four times less fuel per kilometre in urban driving than today’s conventional vehicles and two to three times less in highway driving. An advanced plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in electric mode and an advanced all-electric vehicle would require about 10 percent as much energy (as electricity) per kilometre as today’s conventional vehicles use (as fuel). Furthermore, these vehicles could be less costly than conventional vehicles on a life-cycle basis by 2030.
And reduced oil demand in the transportation sector would result in cuts to expensive tar sands oil
There will be political pressure (the Paris target) to reduce GHG emissions to near zero by mid-century, the technical means exist to do so in the transportation sector, and this transition could be economically attractive in its own right. In such a world, expensive, carbon-intensive oil from the Canadian oil sands would be one of the first fuels to be cut.
Transition to a post-carbon economy must be seen as a national priority, over-riding concerns of oil-producing sectors
As discussed by Chris Turner in The Patch: The People, Pipelines and Politics of the Oil Sands (2017), the development of the oil sands has been a national project going back to 1913, and it has provided significant economic benefits both to Alberta and to all of Canada. Winding down oil production from the oil sands, both to achieve our own climate targets and as a defensive measure against the inevitable permanent collapse in oil prices as the world makes the necessary transition to a post-carbon economy, must equally be seen as a national project — a matter of concern to the entire country and not just to the producing regions and industry.
Moreover, tar sands production represents only 2% of the Canadian economy
Overall, oil sands operations do not represent as large a fraction of the Canadian economy and even of the Alberta economy as one might think: the direct contribution of the entire oil, gas and mining sector to Alberta’s 2016 GDP was 16.4 percent, of which oil sands mining and processing was likely about one-third (or 5 to 6 percent of total provincial GDP). Oil sands royalties accounted for only $1.2 billion out of $42.5 billion of provincial revenue in 2015-16 (2.9 percent of the total), and oil sands oil production is estimated to account for only 2 percent of Canadian GDP.
Time is short – a gradual phase-out of tar sands operations must begin immediately
With a gradual (12-to-15-year) phase-out of oil sands operations, workers and capital can be redeployed to emerging sectors (renewable energy and building retrofits, among others). Nevertheless, we need to begin a national conversation now about how to wind down the tar sands operations in an equitable way, and we have little time to lose.
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