Prep­ping for a car­bon-con­strained fu­ture One of the many things Peter

Pro­vin­cial car­bon tax or no, busi­nesses should get ready

Alberta Venture - - Editor’s Note - Michael Gan­ley Ed­i­tor mgan­ley@al­ber­taven­ @Michael­b­gan­ley

Tertzakian talked about in his in­ter­view for this is­sue of Al­berta Ven­ture was the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine. He made the point that it is in­cred­i­bly in­ef­fi­cient, us­ing only about 15 per cent of a bar­rel of oil to pro­pel the ve­hi­cle down the road. The rest is blown out the ex­haust pipe as heat. “We banned the in­can­des­cent light bulb be­cause it was so in­ef­fi­cient,” he says. “If you ban that, log­i­cally you should ban the in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine too.”

Ic­ing the ICE may sound rad­i­cal. It has, after all, shaped trans­porta­tion, ur­ban de­vel­op­ment and much more about the ways hu­mans or­ga­nize and en­ter­tain them­selves for more than a cen­tury. But don’t bet the farm it won’t hap­pen. Last Oc­to­ber, the Ger­man Bun­desrat – a leg­isla­tive body rep­re­sent­ing that coun­try’s 16 states – called on the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion to pass laws en­sur­ing that by 2030, “only zero-emis­sion pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles will be ap­proved.” So it’s not a ban, ex­actly, ap­ply­ing as it does only to pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles, and it’s still a long way from law, but Ger­man reg­u­la­tions have typ­i­cally shaped EU reg­u­la­tions, and the like­li­hood that the ICE faces a long, slow de­cline – from this mea­sure and other pres­sures – is high.

Re­gard­less of how that story ends, it’s one more bit of ev­i­dence that the world is head­ing, lurch­ing and un­cer­tainly, to­wards a car­bon-con­strained fu­ture. Whether be­cause of a road tax on Hum­mers (as ex­ists in many Euro­pean coun­tries) or a cap-and-trade sys­tem like that be­tween Cal­i­for­nia, On­tario and Que­bec or the car­bon cap­ture and stor­age ef­forts we see in Saskatchewan, the cost of emit­ting car­bon is go­ing up.

All busi­nesses should be pre­par­ing for the mar­ket shifts this will cause. En­bridge, for ex­am­ple, has ag­gres­sively been shift­ing its busi­ness from one weighted to car­bon-in­tense oil to less in­tense nat­u­ral gas and re­new­ables. And then there are the op­por­tu­ni­ties for new busi­ness. Just one ex­am­ple: On page 50, Questor’s Au­drey Mas­caren­has talks about the rel­a­tively cheap waste-heatto-en­ergy tech­nol­ogy her com­pany can pro­vide. It can re­duce green­house gases and save you money on your en­ergy bill. The bot­tom line is that those who con­sume less en­ergy in the cre­ation and de­liv­ery of their wid­get will have an ad­van­tage over those who con­sume more. They’ll be the ones that thrive in the new en­vi­ron­ment.

This doesn’t mean the end of the oil and gas in­dus­try. Global de­mand re­mains around 100 mil­lion bar­rels per day, and it isn’t go­ing away any­time soon. But it does mean a pre­mium will be placed on lower-car­bon hy­dro­car­bons. As Tertzakian also points out, Al­berta’s hy­dro­car­bon re­sources run the gamut from the dri­est of nat­u­ral gas through the con­den­sates and light oils to heav­ier oils and then fi­nally the oil sands. There’s lots of room in there to de­velop rel­a­tively low-car­bon re­sources.

So Al­berta’s new car­bon tax isn’t the only rea­son to re­duce fos­sil fuel con­sump­tion. There are many, in­clud­ing the most im­por­tant of all: the moral im­per­a­tive that hu­man­ity stop se­cret­ing so much car­bon into the at­mos­phere. Global warm­ing is real, the burn­ing of fos­sil fuel con­trib­utes sig­nif­i­cantly to it, it is dam­ag­ing the planet we all share and all of us have to carry some of the bur­den of slow­ing it.

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