Controversial TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline Criticized By U.S. Farmers and Mayors

March 31st, 2011

new policy adopted by the US National Farmers Union slams the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would pump bitumen from the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta thousands of miles across America’s farm belt to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas. The Nebraska Farmers Union notes:

“The proposed route of the 1,980-mile pipeline would slice through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It would cross the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska – source of 30 percent of the nation’s agricultural water and drinking water for millions – with a pipeline carrying diluted bitumen, a thick, heavy, corrosive and toxic form of crude oil associated with pipeline ruptures at 16 times the rate of conventional crude.”

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Waterless Tar Sands Extraction Misses the Point

March 23rd, 2011

Sar Sands Open Pit Mine Just in time for world water day, researchers at Penn State university have discovered a new “waterless” method for extracting oil from the thick mix of clay, water and bitumen that makes up the tar sands.

The current method for getting the oil out of the sand involves using huge amounts of both fresh water and energy. Hot water is mixed into the sand, which is then piped to an extraction plant and shaken up to release the bitumen. Some of the water from the process is recycled, but huge amounts are simply dumped into toxic lakes.

The new process, according to the Penn State scientists, uses ionic liquids – salt in a liquid state – to separate out the oil from the sand, and, since it doesn’t use water, doesn’t create the tailings ponds. It has been widely reported as cleaner and eco-friendly.

There is not, and never will be anything intrinsically eco-friendly about the tar sands.

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Unelected Canadian senate kills climate bill

November 17th, 2010

In a surprise move yesterday evening, Canada’s unelected senate held a vote on the Climate Change Accountability Act, and killed it.

The bill would have forced Canada’s government to set long-term targets for emissions reductions in line with science: 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, and interim targets for 2015-2045, as well as report on progress to parliament on a regular basis. It was a simple framework requiring the government to come up with a plan – nothing more, nothing less.

The lack of willingness to take action on climate change at the federal level in Canada is nothing new. We’ve had years of stalling under Stephen Harper’s minority conservative government that goes far beyond simply failing to act, to intentionally derailing international efforts to make progress. Last year at the climate negotiations in Copenhagen, Canada was named “Fossil of the Year” for continual obstructionism and inaction.

The real surprise here is the outright and flagrant subversion of democracy.

The bill had the support of the majority of Canada’s elected Members of Parliament, and had already been approved by the House of Commons. Harper was unable to prevent the bill being approved when all three opposition parties banded together in support of it. Getting the bill passed by the House of Commons took a huge amount of work to build cross-party support, but was a great example of Canada’s democracy functioning as it should; a majority of MPs came together to push through legislation that the majority of Canadians wanted, even though the party in power (with the largest number of MPs, but a minority overall) was against it.

Despite promisses to the contrary, in late 2008 Harper, fearing his government would be defeated, stacked the senate with new appointments. Yesterday, his unelected appointees did what he could not accomplish through democratic means in the house of commons, and killed the climate bill, contrary to the will of parliament.

The NDP leader Jack Layton put it bluntly:

“This was one of the most undemocratic acts that we have ever seen in the Parliament of Canada … To take power that doesn’t rightfully belong to them to kill a bill that has been adopted by a majority of the House of Commons representing a majority of Canadians is as wrong as it gets when it comes to democracy in this country.”

And so off Canada will go to Mexico, where we have one more shot at a climate change deal, with no plan and no targets. If ever there was a need for democratic reform in Canada, it is now.

Originally published at

Canadian Parliament Supports Strong Copenhagen Target

November 26th, 2009

“Lead, follow, or get out of the way!”, was what Power Shift Canada told the Canadian Government loud and clear on October 24th. Since then, youth across the country have been rallying, calling and dancing to demand that the Canadian government adopt Bill C-311 (the Climate Change Accountability act) which would mandate targets to cut global warming pollution in line with science. “It’s time to listen,” we told them, and all these efforts have finally started to pay off. The minority Harper government used stalling tactics to delay a vote on that bill in committee most likely until 2010, but the Canadian parliament just passed a motion that Canada should put forward the first target from the delayed bill as the Canadian position in Copenhagen. It passed 137-124 with the united support of all three opposition parties:

That, in the opinion of the House, Canada should commit to propose at the Copenhagen conference on climate change

  1. reducing, through absolute reduction targets, greenhouse gas emissions in industrialized countries to 25% lower than 1990 levels, by 2020;
  2. the necessity of limiting the rise in global temperatures to less than 2oC higher than in the preindustrial era; and
  3. supporting the developing countries in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and adapt to climate change.

The motion isn’t legally binding, unfortunately, like bill C-311 would be, but it does send an important and powerful message to the world: the current Canadian government’s position on climate change does not represent the will of the majority of Canadians, and the opposition parties are willing to unite against the government over this issue. This gives a huge boost to those countries who are willing to push forward towards an ambitious, binding treaty in Copenhagen, and they should take note: the Harper government is now totally wrongfooted on their climate policy, and barely hanging on to power by a thread. Lead, and Canada will follow.

Originally published at

The Time Is Now

October 4th, 2009


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  • About the Author

    Photo of Matthew Carroll Matthew Carroll is an environm­entalist, scientist, and campaign strategist, currently living in Grimsby, Ontario, Canada. He has a masters degree in atmospheric chemistry from University of Leeds and University of Toronto, and over eight years’ experience educating, facilitating, and engaging youth in local, regional, national and international decision making. Matthew firmly believes that climate change is the defining social justice issue of this generation, and that young people have a pivotal leadership role to play in building a just transition to a zero-carbon future.

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