Since the second day of Canada’s election campaign, NDP leader Jack Layton has been making a pitch to position his party as the defender of the environment. Layton is calling for a complete shut down of development in Alberta’s oil sands until his party’s concerns about health and safety are met.
Alberta’s Ed Stelmach has responded to Mr. Layton’s critique of the oil sands, cautioning that halting development would wreak major destruction on Canada’s economy. A percentage of Canadians might even embrace economic downturn. But some misconstruals of fact by Mr. Layton seem too egregious to go uncorrected:
In a recent Globe & Mail interview, Mr. Layton is quoted as saying “We spend twice as much energy, sometimes three times as much energy, as we produce just to get the energy out.” This claim is 100% false. It would be a waste of time and money for an energy provider to spend double or triple the energy just to get oil out of the ground.
On his website, Layton promotes the misconception that the oil sands are “big polluters” and represent Canada’s largest contribution to greenhouse gases. But not all Canadians are aware that the oil sands represent only 4% of Canadian emissions and account for less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Layton also ignores in situ developments, which do not require tailings ponds, have a relatively minimal surface footprint, and represent 80% of Alberta’s bitumen resources. Shouldn’t politicians be aware of this distinction before recommending policy on oil sands development?