Friday, December 08, 2006

Responsible Tar Sands Time Has Come

Stéphane Dion has an eye towards ending the perverse subsidization of Alberta's tar sands industry. The industry has been benefiting from tax breaks and subsidies totaling $1.4 billion throughout booming crude oil prices and record corporate profits, but Dion's energy and climate change plan would change this by allowing the tax breaks to continue only if tar sands projects go carbon neutral.

Dion proposes linking tax breaks to greenhouse-gas emissions and water usage. Those projects that demonstrate they are “carbon neutral and/or provide significant water usage improvements...based on third-party verification” would retain the 100-percent capital-cost allowance. Others would not qualify.

The move would be both timely and visionary while offering the business community an opportunity to become world leaders in solving global warming. A recent report from the Pembina Institute, a not-for-profit environmental research organization, places the cost of making tar sands operations carbon neutral between $1.76 and $13.46 per barrel. With oil prices holding around $60 per barrel, the industry could take on those costs and still be profitable. Allowing tar sands developments to keep current subsidies in exchange for carbon neutrality would be a win-win solution - one that would result in a Canadian oil industry that leads the world sustainable business, while ensuring their long-term profitability in the face of a looming environmental crisis for which they are largely to blame.

Dion won the Liberal leadership on the strength of his environmental platform, and that same platform will form the policies that the Liberals bring to voters. The tar sands industry would do well - both on the bottom line, and in the public eye - by supporting a plan that allows it to keep millions of dollars in tax breaks while ensuring Canada fulfills its moral obligation to address global warming.

That is value that green washing and climate change denial could never buy.

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