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Carbon capture codswallop

An informative diagram showing the carbon capture process./ CSIRO
An informative diagram showing the carbon capture process./ CSIRO

The only thing this process captures is misplaced attention.

Author: Billy Patterson

Carbon capture and storage? You mean carbon release and spillage.

First off, here’s what carbon “capture” and “storage” is in a nutshell. Our government, via SaskPower and the U of R’s own Petroleum Research and Technology Centre [PRTC], with Shell Oil on the board of directors, has I believe wasted billions of dollars of public money researching and innovating a dubious technology known as CCS.

Basically, liquefied carbon is “stored” underground. For over a decade, this has been in old oil wells. This is where the heaviest, dirtiest, thickest oil was still stuck. This carbon dioxide allowed the sticky oil to become viscous enough to be pumped out, barreled, and sold as conventional oil. So, if you’re keeping track, it hasn’t been “stored forever.” It’s re-released in the “enhanced oil recovery” process and adds to the disproportionate amount of climate change-causing fossil fuel emissions that Saskatchewan currently leads the world in contributing to. Yes, we’re even worse than Alberta on a per capita basis.

SaskPower has made hundreds of millions of dollars in profits off this technology since they started investing in it. Our public energy utility is more an oil company than anything else. Old-school businessmen trading energy like a stock on the global market and old-boy engineers overwhelm its highest echelons of office.

The era of having six giant coal-burning plants powering our province’s energy needs is becoming obsolete. This faux clean coal project only delays the inevitable. Renewable micro-power options like solar, wind, small hydro, and ground-source-heat-pumping, mistakenly called geothermal in Canada are coming back to Saskatchewan. This is just like when the first farming settlers powered their water pumps and charged their batteries with wind energy (wind mills). Nowhere else in the modern world has been stupid enough to invest so single-mindedly in an unproven, yet profitable technology.

SaskPower has unfortunately always seen these types of citizen-empowerment programs as a direct threat to their power monopoly. It’s proven by the fact they spend millions fighting the same legal battle over the Cities of Swift Current and Saskatoon’s bulk-power-purchasing agreements. For entrepreneurs, those cities have best chance of implementing renewable energy incentives.

The real tragedy behind this headline is how much of our sacred ecological heritage is being sacrificed at the altar of short-term oil company profits. The 1.6 million acres of the less than 2% remaining unique prairie ecosystems the Sask Party inherited from the Harper government, former award-winning Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration community pastures, have become riddled with oil wells, pipelines, and big trucks. How many of the dozens of surviving sage grouse and burrowing owls and other endangered species are being wiped out for oil company profits. It’s no surprise Tim McMillan, the MLA for Lloydminster, stepped down to run one of Canada’s top big oil lobby organizations, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Most students probably have not seen the U of R’s renowned PRTC building. Despite mysterious tarps labeled “hydrogen” and kept top-secret when visitors are touring, most of the interior of the research building is full of snake-like piping straight of a Mario Bros. level. Oil companies are allowed to burn mysterious experimental chemicals over our campus and over 7 full-time PhD professors and over 50 masters and PhD students waste their talents helping these oil companies green-wash their industry every semester. Where are the researchers on solar or wind power? If you didn’t know, Saskatchewan is the sunniest place in North America; we get 1.4 times solar per square meter then California.

CCS is not “sustainable.” It does not help our current cultures addiction to non-renewable resources for our energy wants. It also derails international climate agreements and steals billions of dollars that could have been spent on actual renewable energy options. Let’s imagine some other ways our Sask Party government could have spent this money on. 70,000 homes and businesses could have grid-tied solar panel systems with zero net emissions. Imagine if our government actually cared about the children of this province and encouraged it’s citizens to live and produce their own energy. Then go vote.

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