Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall thinks he has a good story to tell the United States about how his province is dealing with climate change. But he admits he hasn't been all that successful at getting it out - at least until last weekend.
After engaging the law firm of former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins to help him, the Premier played host to a high-powered congressional delegation that included Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Democratic Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Jessica Maher, a representative from the White House's environmental czar's office.
Mr. Wall has managed to generate interest in his province's climate-change initiatives at a time when Ottawa is struggling to defend itself against criticism that Canada has become a laggard in combatting greenhouse-gas emissions.
The three U.S. officials came to look at Saskatchewan's carbon sequestration technologies, in which carbon is buried underground rather than emitted into the atmosphere.
Their tour also included an examination of a joint carbon-capture project with Saskatchewan's neighbour to the south, Montana.
Saskatchewan is a province of just one million people, but it is an outsized emitter of carbon dioxide, responsible for 9 per cent of the country's emissions.
That has forced it to look at novel ways of dealing with its energy sector.
"We know we have work to do," Mr. Wall said. "Our government understands and we want to do it in a way that will still allow our economy to grow.
"So to the extent that carbon capture and sequestration technology is part of the solution … it will help us, frankly, be competitive to make sure that fossil fuels can be part of the transition energy of the future."
Mr. Wall said this was the first congressional delegation to come to Saskatchewan, whose energy initiatives lack the visibility of neighbouring Alberta among U.S. officials. He noted as well that his province's energy-use profile is the same as the U.S.'s - 50 per cent of the province's energy is derived from coal.
"The senators were very interested in that because enhanced oil-recovery usages for CO2 are simply not an option in the Carolinas, but they know that it can be stored," Mr. Wall said.
"They rely a lot on coal. That is the CO2 elephant in the room and we've got to deal with that."
One of the projects the delegation toured is the Weyburn project in Weyburn, Sask., which for the past eight years has been used to study the efficacy and stability of storing carbon dioxide.
"The news is that the storage is stable and we're developing new technology all the time," Mr. Wall said. That includes, he said, a saline aqua storage, in which the carbon dioxide is stored in underground water formations that "are so brackish they are of no other use."
Then there is the joint carbon-dioxide clean-coal project with Montana.
That state's Governor, Brian Schweitzer, is a friend of Mr. Wall's as well as a partner in this demonstration project that will capture carbon dioxide from a Saskatchewan coal generating facility near the border and sequester it in Montana.
The project will cost more than $150-million - $50-million of which has been allocated by Saskatchewan taxpayers. The U.S. senators will be recommending that their government contribute to the Montana portion of the project.
Mr. Wall wants Prime Minister Stephen Harper to tell his story on the world stage. But Mr. Harper, who was in New York with other global leaders yesterday for a United Nations summit on climate change, was met by criticism that Canada should pledge to cut emissions more aggressively.
"In the last couple of years, I'm afraid, Canada has not been seen as sitting at the table," said Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "I think Canada should be doing much more."
Mr. Wall, however, said his province is "actually doing something about CO2, not moving it around, not creating a market but actually doing something. But not without some risk. It is about innovation and research. We think it is a positive story."