In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

The American perspective on energy future

Posted 9/30/2009 by Grant Mitchell


The Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources is in Washington D.C. this week as part of our study on Canadian energy strategies with respect to oil and gas; the oil sands; US climate change initiatives including cap and trade; alternative energy sources; and energy security.

We are scheduled to meet with Canadian Embassy officials, Ambassador Michael Wilson, US energy and environment officials, American NGO’s and various US Representatives and Senators. We are looking to gather American perspectives about the current and future continental energy relationship. I expect that there will also be the occasion for the odd plug to be made for Alberta and Canada. While there are significant environmental issues associated with the oil sands, the reality is that the US will continue to buy our oil and we will have to find solutions to the environmental issues. At the very least, it is important to make it clear that Canada is aware of these issues and the need to solve them. There is certainly momentum in the US to deal with GHGs and we need to work with them to do so.

There are many questions that I am interested in getting answers to and this is a remarkable opportunity to do so:

  1. What will become of the Waxman-Markey bill once it gets to the Senate? There is speculation that the Senate will kill it or let it die. That could leave Mr. Obama with only the Environmental Protection Act which is a blunt instrument but would allow him to make progress on CO2. As I understand it, this would leave him to set standards which polluters would have to meet but without any sort of credit trading. We need to clarify what the American approach will be as it will inform the way Canada structures our GHG policies.
  2. What are the implications for Canadian exports to the US under an American regime to reduce GHGs? Will mitigating climate change become a veiled way to create barriers to the import of Canadian products?
  3. If the US does cap and trade, will they auction allocations and if so what percentage? Will they use this money to offset costs for consumers and/or to promote technology development?
  4. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, has billions to allocate for climate change initiatives. Why has he decided apparently to go around the bureaucracy? Why has he cancelled research support for hydrogen based technologies?
  5. What arguments does the Obama administration use when talking with people who believe that climate change science is faulty and that it is not been driven by human activity?
  6. Are average Americans and bureaucrats aware of how much oil they import from Canada and Alberta? About 1.3 million barrels of their 21 million barrels consumed daily comes from Alberta and most of that is oil sands oil. About 400,000 of those barrels are refined in Alberta and the other 900,000 is refined in the US.
  7. What is the US doing to promote alternative energy sources and are these energy sources in anyway economic now or in the future?
  8. What are the implications of the emerging low carbon fuel standards for Canadian heavy oil?

It will be very interesting to see the answers I get to these types of questions.


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