In their recent commentary in the Star Tribune ("Stop tar sands extraction; stop pipelines," Sept. 6), state Sens. John Marty and Mark Miller, of Minnesota and Wisconsin, respectively, make the case against pipelines carrying oil sands. To anyone following the pipeline debates of recent years, their arguments will be familiar, especially in relation to climate change.
But while these arguments are familiar, they do not hold true. Climate policy in Alberta, Canada, where the oil sands are produced, has changed significantly over the past year, and this is changing the way people think about the oil sands.
In November 2015, the government of Alberta announced that it would increase its existing price on carbon to $30 per ton by 2018 and expand the coverage across its economy so that the price would apply to between 78 and 90 percent of Alberta's greenhouse gas emissions. Last June, the Alberta Legislature passed a law implementing the government's plan. Alberta also will match President Obama's methane emissions reduction target for the oil and gas sector and place a legislated cap on greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands, ensuring that emissions from oil sands production cannot grow indefinitely.
At the policy announcement, the government was joined by Canadian environmental and indigenous leaders and garnered statements of support from the Environmental Defense Fund, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other U.S. figures supportive of pragmatic climate solutions. Critically, a group of CEOs from some of the largest oil sands companies also participated. They endorsed the policy and continue to work with the government through the implementation process.
Simply put, Alberta's measures create North America's most rigorous greenhouse gas standards for the oil and gas sector, and Alberta's oil sands industry is committed to reducing its emissions through more efficient operations and new technology.
On Sept. 2, the Energy Information Administration announced that gasoline prices over the Labor Day holiday were the lowest in 12 years. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, this is due in part to a secure, reliable supply of oil sands oil delivered via pipeline from Alberta. Our Canada-U.S. energy partnership has served our countries well for many years and, we hope, will continue for years to come. This is the argument that pipeline proponents have made in the past and it holds true today.
What has changed is that Alberta is responding to legislators like Marty and Miller and stakeholders across North America by ensuring that our secure, reliable energy is coupled with an ambitious climate policy. We believe strongly that the next phase of the Canada-U.S. energy relationship will include progress on both dimensions. This is why our government is working with industry to place the oil sands at the leading edge of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In June, President Obama stated that "Alberta, the oil country of Canada, is working hard to reduce emissions while still promoting growth." This statement reflects the new reality of our energy relationship with the U.S. Alberta does not want to be your energy supplier of necessity; we want to be your energy supplier of choice, especially if you are looking for a partner committed to the fight against climate change.
In long-standing debates, it is easy to slip into familiar positions and old arguments. But when the facts change, so should the debate.
When it comes to oil sands and climate change, we believe Minnesotans and Wisconsinites should take a fresh look.
Gitane De Silva is Alberta's senior representative to the United States.