Smith: Federal embrace of carbon tech is a win for energy industry

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There has been a battle going on behind the scenes for several months and it appears the energy industry is about to win it.

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On Monday, federal ministers Jonathan Wilkinson and Stephen Guilbeault co-authored a column titled “Every tool in the toolbox: Why we need carbon capture, utilization and storage in the fight against climate change” in the National Observer.

In it, they confirm they will soon release a detailed plan on how Canada will cut emissions to reach net-zero by 2050. It will be aggressive, they say, and carbon tech will be part of it.

Here’s how they describe new carbon tech: “Basically, it’s the deployment of technologies that capture carbon dioxide from heavy industries — think cement, steel, fertilizer, oil and gas — and then either permanently store it deep underground by inserting it into rock formations or completely repurpose it to make new products like soap or cement.”

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They use Project CO2MENT in Richmond, B.C., as an example of a company with a “capture unit” that infuses CO2 in cement for concrete, “thus storing it permanently.” They call Canada a global leader in this startup industry, as we already have five facilities and multiple patents.

They go on to say the scale-up of this technology needs to be rapid and immense. The International Energy Agency says, without the use of carbon tech, the cost of reaching 2050 goals will be $15 trillion higher. And so, they are proposing a tax credit to help drive it.

The only catch is the credit can’t be used for enhanced oil recovery. You can’t win them all.

But to understand how remarkable it is that they penned this letter in the National Observer you have to know a little more about it.

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It was founded by Linda Solomon Wood in 2015 and joined The Climate Desk, a multi-media journalistic effort started by Mother Jones to provide climate coverage to a global shared audience of more than 300 million. 

There has also been a very aggressive campaign by extreme greens to derail the government’s plan.

Just a couple of months ago, the National Observer published a column titled “Are Canada’s Carbon Capture Plans a Pipe Dream?” It cites a letter penned by 400 green activists and academics written to the ministers on Jan. 22, decrying a tax credit for carbon tech. They say “carbon capture prolongs our dependence on them at a time when preventing catastrophic climate change requires winding down fossil fuel use.” That’s strange. I thought this was just about keeping CO2 from going into the atmosphere?

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The alternative they offer instead is “increased electrification, wide-scale use of renewable energy, and intensifying energy efficiency.”

The problem is, the world has now discovered intermittent energy, such as wind and solar, can’t be used to power an industrial grid without backup from reliable sources.

Not to mention, a full decade focused almost singularly on increasing renewables for heating, power and transportation, has increased the amount of energy consumed from biomass, geothermal, solar, hydro, wind and biofuels from just 8.7 per cent to 11.2 per cent.

At this rate of conversion — a mere 2.5 percentage points per decade — this strategy alone can’t get the planet to net-zero by 2050, much as some wish it to be so.

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Last week, I took part in a panel hosted by the Canadian Energy Executives Association, where Wilfrid Laurier professor William McNally made the point above to students at Bishop’s University and the University of Toronto. Among the panellists, we had Natalie Giglio from Carbon Upcycling explaining how the company she works for captures CO2 in cement. Stephen Buffalo, from the Indian Resource Council, moderated an Indigenous panel of chiefs explaining how they are partnering with energy companies to deploy carbon technology.

Layer on the energy crisis that is spiking power and heating bills, the war in Ukraine creating supply concerns, and the need to lift billions of people on the planet out of poverty, and you’d be happy to hear our message was very well received.

I think this is what it means to be hoisted on one’s own petard.

The extreme greens have done such an effective job of convincing politicians they must act quickly to make a massive reduction in emissions, the politicians now realize the only way to deliver is to look to the carbon technology the fossil fuel industry has already developed.

I don’t think that was the plan, but I do think we should count it as a win.

Danielle Smith is the president of the Alberta Enterprise Group. She can be reached at

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