Canada subsidizes fossil fuels at expense of environment: Kairos

Published June 1, 2008

Alberta’s tar sands production has raised ecological concerns.

The federal government will spend $1.5 billion in additional subsidies to tar sands companies that emit greenhouse gases harmful to the environment, far more than it will spend on initiatives to promote energy efficiency, conservation and renewable alternatives, said Kairos, a Canadian ecumenical justice organization.

The government confirmed the tax break figures in response to a formal petition that Kairos filed with the auditor general of Canada last November. (The Anglican Church of Canada is a member of Kairos.)

“Why does Canada spend millions of dollars on subsidizing oil and gas industries – a prime cause of climate change – and so little money on green alternatives when the majority of Canadians want action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? That was the essential question we asked the government,” said John Dillon, program co-ordinator and co-author of a new Kairos study, Pumped Up: How Canada Subsidizes Fossil Fuels at the Expense of Green Alternatives. “The government didn’t answer the core question.”

Pumped Up cited that in 2006 and 2007, the federal government announced $8.6 billion in funding for 20 energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction initiatives over the next two to nine years. “After accounting for inflation, these funds amount to less than the subsidies provided to oil and gas industry from 1996 to 2002,” the study said.

The study also concludes that by 2012 the greenhouse gas emissions from Alberta’s tar sands could “wipe out all anticipated reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from all federal government programs.”

It said Canadians in general, and aboriginal people living downstream from the tar sands, bear the costs of extracting oil from the tar sands.

Tar sands production “is incompatible with meeting (Canada’s) Kyoto commitments to reduce greenhouse gases,” said the Kairos study, adding that the process of extracting oil and upgrading bitumen into synthetic crude oil “consumes a huge amount of water and natural gas.”

Most of the synthetic crude extracted from the tar sands will be shipped to the United States, the study said.

Redirecting subsidies from fossil fuels to green alternatives will not be enough to achieve the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set by the Conservative government, let alone Canada’s commitment under the Kyoto protocol, Kairos said.

Kairos called on the government to adopt strong measures to cap emissions and impose various forms of taxes on carbon fuels and to promote exports and foreign direct investment in “renewables, not fossil fuel production.”


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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