Explaining Canadian oil and gas: From where do emissions come? Where are they going?

Pages from Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Canadian Oil and Gas Sector

It could be said that in 2013 Canada was defined by its oil and gas sector. In a year highlighted by climate change activism, infrastructure and pipelines, economic growth, interprovincial relations and relations to the U.S. and now Asia, the

NREL renewable electricity study holds good news for Canada

Concentrating solar power is one of several technologies that can help the U.S. achieve an 80% renewable electricity supply by 2050 according to a study published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

By Trieu Mai Canada and the United States share a continent that is blessed with renewable energy potential in the form of sun and wind, biomass and geothermal, waves and rivers. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) published its Renewable

The urgency to build Keystone

tar sands

By Mitchell Beer The push to build the Keystone XL pipeline may be less about a pending decision in the United States, and more about mounting fears that the opportunity to fully develop the Alberta oil sands could close forever. Crazy

Low-carbon energy choices go back to underlying values

Dennis Moore will attest that redistribution can be tricky. The redistribution of energy supply and demand is a prime example.

By David Layzell The conversation about low-carbon energy futures will only deliver effective solutions if there is a full understanding and discussion of the costs, benefits and trade-offs behind various options for transforming our energy systems. This larger dialogue will

Two signs of hope as fossil fuels enter their twilight

Jeremy Grantham, Co-founder and Chief Investment Strategist of Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo

By Mitchell Beer In this hour-long interview with TV host Charlie Rose, legendary money manager and investment analyst Jeremy Grantham cites the decline in fertility rates and the rise of renewable energy as his two sources of hope for civilization.

Going to the root of the problem

About 15 per cent of GHG emissions from fossil fuels are generated in the entire “well to tank” process. The remaining 85 per cent occur when the fuel is burned.

By Oskar Sigvaldason When you set out to solve a big, complex problem, it is essential to put your effort and resources where they will generate the best results. Based on my experience as a member of the Global Studies

Finding solutions in a sandbox: The role of universities

The Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) at UBC (Credit: David Dodge via Flickr)

By John Robinson Overcoming obstacles that lie on the road to a sustainable, low-carbon future is not child’s play. Yet there’s inspiration to be found in a favourite childhood gathering place.  Visualize a giant sandbox, a place in which there

Trottier inventory points to inevitable low-carbon transition

Portrait of Bill McKibben, author and activist. photo ©Nancie Battaglia

By Bill McKibben After reading the Trottier Project’s Inventory of Low-Carbon Energy for Canada, what I find most striking about the results is how utterly unremarkable they are. The findings on Canada’s reserves of low-carbon energy are consistent with recent

The reconfigured grid in a low-carbon energy future

With capacity factors as high as 30 to 50 per cent in some parts of the country,wind’s contribution to meeting Canada’s energy needs in 2050 is not constrained by the size of the resource. (Credit: Ole Houen via Foter.com)

By Ralph Torrie The Trottier Energy Futures Project’s Inventory of Low-Carbon Energy for Canada shows that our supplies of sustainable, low-carbon energy will be more than enough to meet our needs through 2050. But one of the biggest questions is

Canada Has No Shortage of Low-Carbon Energy

Solar photovoltaic and wind energy could each provide 150 terawatt-hours of electricity per year by 2050— half of Canada’s current electricity consumption. Image courtesy of franky242/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If anything limits Canada’s transition to a low-carbon energy system, it will be integration, economics, and politics, not the lack of energy itself.

An Inventory of Low-Carbon Energy for Canada, the Trottier Energy Futures Project’s second research report, shows that Canada will have no shortage of renewable fuels and electricity by mid-century. But our ability to hit an 80 per cent target for reducing our energy-related greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will depend on an integrated energy system that combines individual technologies to deliver affordable, reliable, sustainable energy services.

A transition in petroleum’s future?

Image courtesy of domdeen via FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As U.S. President Barack Obama moves closer to a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline,the dire warnings about the future of Canada’s petroleum resources are reaching a fever pitch.

But alongside the familiar arguments about buying oil from friends instead of enemies (for the U.S.) and sustaining a cornerstone of the national economy (for Canada), there’s a new line of attack that almost sounds perverse.

What’s a barrel of oil really worth?

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What is a barrel of oil really worth?

The answer starts out sounding like a joke that begins, “An oil producer, an economist, a consumer and an ethicist walk into a bar…”

Oil prices and low-carbon futures: the horns of a dilemma

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Canada epitomizes the dilemma of the petroleum addiction that has the world in its grasp.

Like the other industrial economies of the OECD, Canada has had constant access to cheap and abundant oil over the past century, which has played no small role in shaping the type of society we have become. Everything from our industrial structure to our settlement patterns, from our food production to our supply chains, is predicated on cheap, abundant petroleum, and we feel threatened by the prospect of higher oil prices.

Collaboration is the Only Way Forward

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Climate change is the greatest challenge facing life as we know it on the Earth today. But before we plan the changes in technology, behaviours and industrial structures that will reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we need to know what we are aiming for.

Low-carbon futures: the solutions outside the energy system

There are several fundamental drivers of energy-services, such as housing mix, that exist outside the energy system.

Many of the most promising and exciting opportunities to cut energy use and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are actually only indirectly related to energy.

Eighty per cent less carbon: the logistical equivalent of war

The boom in energy technology required to reduce carbon emissions by 80% is at least of the magnitude seen post-Second World War. Notre réponse - Production Maximum - Canadian World War II Poster (Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-30-20)

This phrase leapt out at me as we worked on messaging for the release of the Trottier Energy Futures Project’s Low-Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios in late January:

To reach a target of 100 megatonnes in 2050 (20% of the 500 Mt we produced in 1990), Canada would require a boom in clean-energy technologies and low-energy practices on at least the magnitude of the post-Second World War boom in fossil fuel consumption.

Eight low-carbon energy scenarios: Similar paths, and one big gap

Several of the studies reviewed by the Trottier Project included scenarios relying on nuclear power. Others suggested a shift towards energy efficiency and renewables instead.

The Trottier Energy Futures Project (TEFP) found a lot of similarities, a few differences and one almost universal gap in its study of eight national scenarios of a low-carbon energy future.

The TEFP’s new report, Low-Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios, summarizes research from eight wealthy, industrialized, mostly urbanized economies: Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

80% Less Carbon: Get Ready for a Prosperous Future

Some European nations have per-person greenhouse gas emissions that are half of Canada's. These countries can still reduce their emissions by a further 80% by 2050. (Photo Credit: Steven Vance via Flickr)

It’s easy to fall into the assumption that using less energy means doing without, that a low-carbon, low-energy economy will leave us all freezing in the dark.

But if you somehow drew that conclusion from Low-Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios, the report released last week by the Trottier Energy Futures Project (TEFP), you’d be missing the point of the research.

An 80% Carbon Reduction: It’s Not Just Business as Usual

electricity grid-shutterstock_36469870

An 80% reduction in Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions is achievable by 2050, according to the Trottier Energy Futures Project (TEFP)’s review of low-carbon scenario research from eight industrialized countries.

But the report, Low-Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios, shows that an 80% reduction is also transformative, requiring us to use energy and organize our economy in new and different ways.

No More Arabica? Coffee Drinkers Storm the Barricades on Climate Change

Credit Harry Rose via Flickr

Well, whatever it takes to get people’s attention with proof that climate change is real, is right in front of us, and will touch every aspect of our everyday lives.

Forget the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (if your geography gives you that luxury). Never mind record floods, droughts, and Arctic sea loss. With long, lazy holiday mornings on the horizon, just wait for the social media circuit to light up when people realize their children and grandchildren will some day be deprived of their morning joe!

When the Problem Threatens the Solution


Perhaps no other industry but farming is as affected by the weather as the electric power sector. When the lights go out, the weather is usually at least part of the cause. And the weather itself drives demand for space conditioning-heating and cooling are strategically important markets for the electric power industry.

The Journey Upstream


The market for energy resources and commodities is at the centre of every industrial economy, and that won’t change in a low-carbon energy future. But the transition to that future will depend in part on our ability to shift the focus from the Joules and kilowatt-hours Canadians consume to the energy services we require to live, work, study, and play.

Driving to Earth Hour

Credit StacieBee via Flickr

Our daughter mentioned Saturday afternoon that a friend of hers would be marking Earth Hour with an acoustic guitar performance at our local fair trade coffee house.

We’ve supported the annual show of awareness and support for low-carbon energy futures since it came to Canada in 2008. So at the appointed time, four of us piled into our reasonable efficient, low-sulphur diesel vehicle…and drove to Earth Hour.

Following the Evidence Where It Leads


One of Canada’s leading climate scientists found himself with a more nuanced result than he might have expected when a casual conversation led him to look into the direct climate impact that would result from burning all the oil in the country’s oil sands reserves.

From Kyoto to Durban: Getting It Done

There was a long, loud echo in the room when youth delegate Anjali Appadurai addressed the UN Climate Change Summit in Durban December 9. Appadurai pinpointed a disconnect in global climate meetings that has been evident since 1995, when the first Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change convened in Berlin.

The Energy Productivity Supergiant


The improvement in Canada’s energy commodity productivity is the single largest contributor to the country’s energy security over the last 40 years.

Price Signals Matter, But Which Prices?

Geothermal pipeline being vented

One of the first steps is to stop assuming that price signals will be strong enough or fast enough to deliver the climate change action we need, when the history of energy pricing tells an entirely different story.

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