Pipelines, emissions, and the federal government

The Harper government has developed a reputation for aggressively promoting the oil and gas industry. But according to an Alberta energy economist, the government strategy is doing more harm than good for Canadian oil sands.

Andrew Leach is the Enbridge Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Alberta and he says the government's failure to develop coherent climate policy makes the industry vulnerable to criticism, and that's clear in the recent fights over pipelines.

"I don't think you create smooth sailing by kicking sand in the face of your opponents," He says.

Leach says that the oil and gas industry is already bracing for a future that includes carbon pricing to meet emissions targets. He thinks that a clear climate policy would give the industry more certainty and would help Canada's position going into climate talks.

He believes there are many executives in the oil and gas sector who would like to go into the Paris 2015 climate talks with a credible climate policy so Canada is no longer the bad boy at the emissions policy table.

Leach also believes that the National Energy Board should consider climate change when it evaluates pipeline. He notes that much of the opposition to recent pipeline proposals such as Northern Gateway and Transmountain is based on the fear that pipelines will lead to oil sands expansion and therefore greater greenhouse gas emissions.

"Especially in a world where pipelines I think it becomes less credible to argue that oilsands production is not affected by pipelines."

Jim Brown

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