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‘Obama will go for hard cap on emissions’, says Jeffrey Simpson

Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson writes this morning that, “On Thursday, President Barack Obama will present his 2010 – yes, 2010 – budgetary proposals. Albertans in particular and Canadians in general might get a shock.

“Mr. Obama will propose what he’s always promised: emissions caps for greenhouse-gas emissions that cause global warming. He will create a market for permits to be purchased from the government, then traded among emitters.”

THIS IS DIFFERENT FROM HARPER’S ‘INTENSITY’ APPROACH “Nothing like this has been proposed by the Harper government…The centrepiece of the Harper approach has been that companies will have to reduce the intensity of their energy use and emissions and, if not, pay into a technology fund that might some day come up with ways of lowering emissions…This intensity approach is quite different from Mr. Obama’s hard cap…The Prime Minister and his spokesmen have been saying the two systems – intensity and hard caps – amount to the same thing, when, in fact, they do not.”

NOW IS THE TIME FOR ALBERTA TO CHANGE DIRECTION “Now would be a perfect time to take a deep breath in Edmonton, study what’s coming from Washington, and change direction, because the recession has put on hold so many tar sands projects. Alberta has a perfect opportunity to change course without upsetting much ongoing work, because there is so much less of that work now going on.”

“Last week, the Alberta government introduced legislation to provide the authority to administer the $2-billion in provincial funding for sequestration projects…Studies make it clear that large-scale sequestration projects are long-term, technically demanding bets. Even if some commercial sequestration arrives within a decade, Alberta’s tar sands emissions will keep growing, as its recent document admitted. The government believes sequestration might capture five million tonnes of carbon by 2015 (wishful thinking); from 1990 to 2006, Alberta’s total emissions rose by 62 million tonnes.”

HARPER’S EMISSIONS TARGET IMPOSSIBLE IF TAR SANDS EMISSIONS CONTINUE TO INCREASE “The Harper government has told the world that Canada will reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 from 2006 levels. This cannot be done if Alberta’s emissions rise by 20 per cent in that time frame, as the province’s policy allows. Happily for Canada, the Obama administration is prepared to lead within North America, and we will have no choice but to follow. The sooner heads-in-the-sand politicians understand this new reality, and prepare for what’s coming, the better.”

The full column can be read at