Gerald Butts, President of WWF Canada (and for the sake of full disclosure, my former boss in a past job) brings a reality check to the notion that the oil sands are just a quick, cheap and easy technology-fix away from being "clean":
"...the science tells us that it may be technically feasible (though exceedingly expensive) to capture 90 per cent of the carbon emitted by a new coal-fired generator, but just 10 per cent of the greenhouse gases associated with oil from tar sands."
The only point I would add to Butts' op-ed is that beyond the cost associated with carbon sequestration (i.e. there is no reason to believe that coal and oil sands production are still in the market price-wise with capture technology added on), this isn't a technology that is necessarily "just around the corner."
Ronald Reagan invested billions of dollars in researching the exact same technology in the early '80s (in the context of "clean coal"), George W. Bush invested billions more earlier this decade, and on we go.
Actually, "on we go" suggests that we are closer to rolling out the technology commercially than we were 25 years ago, which is actually not the case - we are pretty much in the exact same place. Notionally, we know how to capture carbon and bury it, and we are just a breakthrough or two away from rolling it out on a wide-scale. Proponents point to a few small demonstration plants as proof of what's possible, and ask for just a few more billion dollars from governments to get over the finish line. But realists question whether it will ever come, and at what cost. So much like the cure for cancer Butts references, it may be here tomorrow - I just don't know that I would bet my life (political or otherwise) on it.
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