Much-scorned oilsands industry fights to improve its image

EDMONTON – Rick George has no illusions about how the oilsands industry that his firm started 41 years ago stands in fashionable opinion.

“There are a number of storm clouds threatening to rain on our parade,” the Suncor Energy president reminded the 2008 World Heavy Oil Congress in Edmonton this week.

Business and government leaders set out to counter green crusaders’ portraits of Alberta as a dirty energy superpower, or at least clear up some of the hazy imagery, by asking for the oilsands to be viewed through a reasonable sense of proportion.

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Emissions rules not so ‘tough’

The Alberta oil sands are the fastest growing sector of the Canadian economy and a major generator of jobs in Western Canada. That, in turn, renders oil-sands development vital to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s western-based Conservative government. But the oil sands are also the largest single source of greenhouse gases in Canada.

The tension between those opposite sides of oil-sands development has created a major predicament for Harper: How to sustain oil-sands growth and, at the same time, meet the target he has set for himself of reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020.

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