Canada – No new coal plants?

For a minute I thought the pain from playing volleyball last night, plus opening my computer up sleepily at 5:45 in the morning before catching an early bus to work had me hallucinating, but yes, the Canadian federal government actually wants to impose a moratorium on the construction of new coal fired power plants unless they include sequestration (which to me means no new power plants).

The federal government is planning sweeping new climate-change regulations for Canada's electricity sector that will phase out traditional coal-fired power

Any new coal plants will have to include highly expensive – and unproven – technology to capture greenhouse gas emissions and inject it underground for permanent storage, Environment Minister Jim Prentice said in an interview yesterday.

Ottawa also plans to impose absolute emission caps on utilities' existing coal-fired power plants and establish a market-based system to allow them to buy credits to meet those targets, Mr. Prentice said.

via Ottawa takes aim at coal power.

I have a certain distrust for this government, so details are crucial. The right things are being said:

  1. All new plants will need sequestration
  2. A cap and trade to deal with existing coal fired power plants
  3. Phase out of facilities after “fully amortized life” – Not clear on exactly what that means
  4. 90% Emissions free power sector by 2025

As the article points out, Canada relies on coal much less than a lot of other countries, only 18% of current emissions are from coal, as opposed to the US, where about 40% is from coal.

So, time to celebrate? Not exactly. Canada’s latest release of 2007 data indicates horrendous performance.

Canada 2007 GHG Inventory

Overall, total increase was 6 Megatonnes from 2004 to 2007. But the increases from the Tar Sands were nearly 16 Mt, meaning most of Canada’s other sectors saw decreases, thanks to a number of mild winters and greater efficiency.

Clearly, this performance is going to continue until the Tar Sands are included in any CO2 reduction strategies, whatever we do, or don’t do with the coal will have a little bit of impact, but will definitely not help Canada achieve any of its short or long term goals.

So, one cheer for this announcement. I suspect that the administration needs something to take to meetings, and is hoping that a coal moratorium will distract people from the biggest culprits, the Tar Sands and our insanely high per capita GHG footprint. A “no new coal” moratorium would be a huge deal in the States, and off the charts in China or India as far as reducing emissions go. But Canada, not bad, but definitely not good enough!

The Tar Sands will only be stopped when the US steps up to the plate and gets its Cap and Trade going.