Canada on March 10 unveiled new environmental rules requiring future oil sands companies to capture and store carbon, and a ban on new construction of dirty coal burning power plants, both as of 2012.
The two sectors are key emitters of greenhouse gases linked to global warming, Canada's Environment Minister John Baird said. The new regulations are needed for Canada to meet its target for reducing greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020, he said.
"Our regulations will apply to all big industry," Baird said. "From the oil industry to chemical companies; from smelters to pulp and paper mills, all big industry will have to do their part."
But environmentalists have widely panned Baird's environmental plan for being too timid. For example, while oil companies will be required to cap carbon emission per barrel of oil, the number of barrels of oil produced will not be limited, leading to a spike in overall CO2 emissions, if production continues to rise, they say.
At an estimated 173 billion barrels, Alberta's oil sands are the second largest oil reserve in the world behind Saudi Arabia, but they have been neglected, except by local companies, because of high extraction costs. While conventional crude oil is pumped from the ground, oil sands must be mined and bitumen separated from the sand and water, then upgraded and refined.
Since 2000, skyrocketing crude oil prices and improved extraction methods have made exploitation more economical, and have lured several multinational oil companies to mine the sands. According to officials, oil sands output is expected to triple over the next decade, making Canada one of the biggest energy producers in the world by then.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008