How government can help make Canada's oil sands cleaner and better

Canada must dramatically reduce carbon emissions from its oil sands and squeeze more value from the raw bitumen, or risk "environmental blacklisting and technological underdevelopment," wrote Konrad Yakabuski in an article for the Globe and Mail on Saturday.

According to Clement Bowman, first chief of the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA) in 1975, the requisite visionary leadership to meet this two-front challenge will not come from industry but from government:

“You can’t make the argument that other countries can extract value from our resources but we can’t. If we say that, we’re doomed…Government has to set the vision. Industry won’t do it.”

Mr Bowman knows about overcoming odds. Facing constant rejection from the big oil companies and with support of the Alberta Heritage Fund, during his tenure Mr. Bowman led AOSTRA to the oil sands technological breakthrough, Steam-Assited Gravity Drainage (SAGD), that returned Alberta to petroleum prominence in the 80s.

Yakabuski urges Alberta's Premier Alison Redford to breathe $3 billion of new life into AOSTRA, which has floundered over the past two decades.

He pushes Bowman's theme, stating that "if public policy were determined only by people who believe that government mucks everything up or that every public cent spent on research is corporate welfare, then we’d still be living in a world without CAT scans, the Internet, Google…SAGD and shale gas."

To read Yakabuski's article in full, click here.


Sources: The Globe and Mail; Alberta Oil Sands Research and Technology Authority