Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s calls to phase out Canada’s dependence on fossil fuels struck a nerve among those in the country’s oil producing areas.
Canada must make a concerted effort to transition away from oil and toward renewable sources to reduce greenhouse gasses, Trudeau told reporters Friday after being asked about his support for pipelines. Public officials in Alberta, where much of the country’s oil is produced, railed against the prime minister’s comments.
Alberta’s tar sands produce 70 percent of the country’s oil and 80 percent of its natural gas. Albertan oil sands production rocketed during the mid-2000s, when high oil prices drove investment.
Brian Jean, who leads the opposition against Trudeau’s Liberal Party, said the oil industry provides thousands of jobs and any plans to shutter the industry would “have to go through me and four million Albertans first.”
Jason Kenney, one of the leading candidates for Alberta’s Conservative party, meanwhile said the industry represents trillions of dollars of economic activity and helps pay out the country’s retirement pensions.
“That’s our ability to pay for pensions, health care, and infrastructure and education. It also represents hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs for working, middle-income families,” Kenney said.
Environmentalists blasted Trudeau in December after the prime minister approved the building of a controversial oil pipeline connecting the country’s oil fields to the Asian markets.
Activists with the Oceans Society and Raincoast Conservation Foundation, for instance, filed a lawsuit on Dec. 21 challenging the approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline, a $6.8-billion project tripling the capacity of the northern Alberta-to-Burnaby pipeline system to nearly 1 million barrels of oil a day.
The project was not considered controversial at the time, because it follows an already existing line that has been shipping oil from northern Alberta to the coast of British Columbia for decades.
Trudeau believes the project is an important cog in the effort to keep Canada’s carbon emission levels low.
“What we need to make sure we are doing is that we are keeping it efficient, we are keeping it responsible environmentally and we are preventing it from going above that cap,” he told reporters at a conference in December in response to a question about how pipelines square with his desire to fight global warming.
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