For the Liberal leadership, supporting the operation and expansion of the Athabasca Tar Sands involves a wobbly conjuring trick - pretending that the Tar Sands can somehow be made environmentally acceptable. I'm not excusing the other two parties, they're as bad or worse, but it's the Liberal Party that has always been my home team.
Making the Tar Sands palatable has entailed the idea that all those massive carbon emissions could be captured and then pumped into safe storage underground. It's telling that the other environmental devastation wreaked by the Tar Sands tends to go unmentioned, swept under the carpet.
Carbon Capture & Sequestration, CCS, or, as I sometimes think of it, Michael Ignatieff's Magic Wand. It's the stuff of charlatans, hucksters and swindlers. It doesn't work and, worse, it's lethal when it fails. To do it properly would render Athabasca's bitumen commercially unviable. No one's going to pick up that tab. Certainly Big Oil won't. Neither will Alberta or Ottawa. The best they're willing to do is pump the stuff underground and then look the other way.
A few days ago Andrew Nikiforuk, writing in The Tyee, blew the whistle on Canada's CCS showcase demonstration project in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. About a decade ago it was decided to pipe carbon dioxide from a coal gasification plant in North Dakota and pump it into the partially-empty Weyburn oilfield. So far about 17-million tonnes of CO2 have been pumped into the Weyburn reservoir. Government regulators have declared it safe but it's not. In fact that CO2 has begun leaking back to the surface as it was bound to do and has been detected in concentrations twice the level necessary to asphyxiate a person. Nikiforuk chronicles the leakage and a variety of other problems now facing residents in the Weyburn area.
In short, this CCS business is hogwash, potentially highly lethal hogwash. It's time the Liberal Party picked itself out of the petro-gutter and took the high ground on Athabasca. The Tar Sands are dirty, far dirtier than the Alberta or federal governments have been willing to admit. There is no Magic Wand solution to the Tar Sands and there never will be. A real Liberal leader would have the courage to say so.