Canada's Conservative government released a federal budget last week that would kill off the country's main program for developing renewables and channel most of the money from a new “Green Infrastructure Fund” into carbon capture and storage CCS technology, or so-called “clean” coal.
Of course, the carbon capture is not aimed at coal here specifically, but at the oil sands. More bad news –
The new pro-coal budget effectively killed all support for the nation’s ecoENERGY Program for Renewable Energy (equivalent to America’s Production Tax Credit for renewables). The program was the nation’s main support mechanism for developing renewable energy. The Pembina Institute, a Canada-based sustainable energy think tank, reacts to the budget defeat:
“The federal government’s failure to renew and expand this program has jeopardized at least 1,500 megawatts of “shovel read” wind energy projects across the country, while putting the brakes on billions of dollars of potential future investment.”
The renewable energy industry had hoped for a five-year extension of the program in the budget, which would have spurred over $6 billion of private investment in the Canadian economy and created 8,000 jobs, according to the Institute.
Note that this is not just the Conservatives. The Liberals are supporting this budget, and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff has spoken glowingly about the oil sands industry.
At this point, we do not control our own environmental future. The Conservatives are an Alberta centred party and their motivation is not surprising. The Liberals clearly want back in power and do not have the money to fight another election next month. Canadians seem to not favour the most logical option, a coalition government of the left leaning parties which make up a majority of seats and voting percentages in parliament, so the Liberals have to support the Conservative budget or face an election soon.
With Ignatieff leading the Liberals, they know that all they need a little time to get money and reverse their losses from the previous election. His personal popularity advantage over previous Liberal leader Stephane Dion will most probably lead to better election results, especially if the Canadian economy continues to tank. A Liberal budget would have not killed the renewables, but would have not done anything to make the oil sands projects pay for all their externalities either.
With the two main parties objectively in favour of unproven boondoggles and greenwashing, only firm decisive action by the US administration to institute some kind of carbon controls will change the game in Canada. My fear is that by killing money support at a critical time, you kill the renewables industry and disperse its people elsewhere, and no reversing course in 3 years will get those people and companies back.