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A government-mandated moratorium would have been better, says Ricardo Acuña

Ricardo Acuña, executive director of the Parkland Institute, writes in Edmonton’s Vue Weekly that, “After years of pressure from environmental groups, First Nations communities, public interest organizations and virtually everyone else with an eye to the long-term well-being of Alberta, players in Alberta’s tar sands have shelved the massive expansion plans they have been pushing.”

“OK, it’s not an official moratorium, but for all intents and purposes it’s the same thing…I understand that it was the falling price of oil that forced the hands of these companies, and I also understand that they have only delayed their expansion plans rather than cancel them. But in the end, the result is the same—for the time being, tar sands projects have essentially stopped expanding.”

“Instead (of managing a moratorium), the government let the market take the lead and we must all now face the consequences. In December 16,000 Albertans lost their jobs, and more than 25, 000 jobs in total have been lost in the province since November. These are people with mortgages, car loans and credit card bills who no longer have an income.”

A GOVERNMENT-MANDATED MORATORIUM WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER “A government-mandated moratorium two years ago would have formed part of a plan to transition away from dirty fuels and toward renewables, and as such would have included training and transition programs for workers affected by the move.”

ALBERTA GOVERNMENT SEEKS TO STIMULATE THE TAR SANDS “Early indications are that the province will react to the current breathing space created by low oil prices by doing everything in their power to stimulate a return to out-of-control growth in the tar sands.”

“A new committee has been struck by the government to study the ‘competitiveness’ of Alberta in attracting oil and gas investment. Their mandate is to study tax structures, royalties, regulations and application processes, and report back to the energy minister in September with a series of recommendations. Not surprisingly, this committee is made up exclusively of government energy bureaucrats and industry reps.”

LIKELY CALL FOR LOWER ROYALTIES, TAXES AND REGULATIONS “This is clearly not a study, but rather a negotiation between government and industry about how much lower royalties, taxes and environmental regulations need to be if industry is to put an end to this virtual moratorium.”

ALBERTA TO PROVIDE MORE INCENTIVES TO OIL CORPORATIONS “At the same time, Premier Stelmach has asserted that his government will deal with the economic downturn by providing incentives to Alberta’s oil and gas companies to increase activity. That’s right, the way we’re going to support Alberta’s 25,000 newly unemployed workers is by giving more of their tax dollars to the companies that laid them off—the companies who’ve been making record profits up until now while Albertans’ wages have remained at essentially the same level they were at in 1980.”

TAR SANDS SUPPLY GLUT WORSENS THE ALBERTA ECONOMY “Interestingly, according to analysts at Merrill Lynch, one of the reasons that the price of oil is not rebounding is that Canada is flooding the US Midwest with tar sands oil, creating ‘a major supply glut’ at the Cushing, Oklahoma oil depot. That glut is contributing to the excess of supply over demand in the US, which is reinforcing the depressed commodity prices. In other words, cutting back on tar sands production would actually also make a positive contribution to the price of oil internationally and, by extension, to the fate of the Alberta economy over the next year.”

The full opinion piece by Ricardo can be read at

The Parkland Institute website is at

Thank you to energy campaigner Andrea Harden-Donahue for sending me Ricardo’s opinion piece.