Monday, November 29, 2010

Liars, Damned Liars and the Conservative Party

    The Toronto Star /  Canadian Press Service are reporting that despite repeated claims that the Canadian government would address global warming and GHG emissions in step with the United States, Environment Minister John Baird has stated that this will not happen.
    With the failure to institute cap and trade in the US, the Obama administration has announced a "Plan B," passed by executive order, that strengthens the EPA regulation over greenhouse gasses. To quote the article:
    The first step tightens rules for existing facilities planning any expansion that would increase emissions. Then, starting in July, the rules will be extended to include newly constructed facilities.
    The EPA says its regulations target operations that produce nearly 70 per cent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.
    The agency estimates the more stringent rules will require first-time permits for about 550 sources between 2011 and 2013. It also expects an additional 900 permits for new and modified projects each year.
    Although the EPA regulations are national, Texas has announced that the state will refuse to meet the federal guidelines. Baird offers the excuse that because of this refusal, this makes the US regulations "not national."
    Frankly, this position is absurd. It is the equivalent to suggesting that because Alberta has argued with, and been in contravention of, aspects of our national healthcare program, that this invalidates Medicare. It was not true in the case of Medicare, and it certainly isn't true in the case of the new EPA regulations.
    The Conservative Party has been relying on the American Republicans tactics of lies, denial, and fear to keep any meaningful change in American policy on GHGs from being enacted. With the strengthening of EPA regulation by the White House, this claim that "when the Americans do something, we'll do something" has been rendered moot. The Americans have done something-- and, importantly, something that could make a difference here in Canada. They have targeted GHG emissions from stationary sources. In Canada, that means only one thing; the Alberta tar sands projects.
    If the Conservatives were to actually harmonize Canadian environmental regulation with the US, this would force greater efficiencies on the tar sands projects, possibly restricting their (currently a cancer-like unrestrained) growth. It would do nothing to address the appalling waste handling in the tar sands, nor would it do anything to deal with tailpipe emissions (a 1970s problem addressed by a Conservative proposal to harmonize Canadian regulation with American earlier this year).
    The Conservative Party under Stephen Harper has made it abundantly clear that they will not, under any circumstances, do anything that might slow the exploitation of the tar sands, or that would impose any kind of regulation on them. This does, from their point of view, make sense; any regulation of the tar sands would raise, in Alberta, the spectre of the hated National Energy Program. Which, of course, would mean political suicide for the Tories in Oilberta. The Tories have recognized that opposing corporate interests, particularly in the oil patch, particularly in Alberta, is a non-starter. This despite the fact that most Albertans couldn't have told you what the NEP was about in the '70s, never mind now.
    In our current irony-impaired environment, Baird made his comments while preparing to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference that begins this week in Cancun, Mexico.

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