Wildrose vows to kill $2B Carbon Capture Plan
By Darcy Henton and Richard Cuthbertson, Calgary Herald May 25, 2011
In releasing her party's energy policy in Calgary on Tuesday, Smith said Alberta's energy industry should be calling the shots on technical issues -not government bureaucrats.
"We don't believe that government bureaucrats are the ones that know what needs to be done," she told reporters following her speech. "We believe the expertise lies with industry."
Rather than have the government provide direct grants to companies to develop ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the Wildrose would use tax incentives to accomplish those goals, she said.
Smith said the Conservative program to invest $2 billion into carbon capture and storage initiatives will result in a "multibillion-dollar boondoggle."
"We would sooner cut our losses right now and create a more generous environment for tax incentives," she said. "We think the industry knows what the answers are and they just need tax policy and regulatory policy to enable them to do it."
Smith said the Wildrose plan is "far better than the picking-the-winners-andlosers strategy" the Tories have chosen.
The Wildrose platform also calls for creating royalty and tax regimes that attract investment in energy industries, consulting extensively with industry and other stakeholders to ensure new policies do not hurt Alberta's investment climate, creating new markets for natural gas and cutting red tape.
Critics attacked the platform Tuesday as vague and focused on currying favour with the oil industry.
NDP energy critic Rachel Notley said her party supports pulling the plug on the carbon capture scheme and controversial Bill 50, which negated the requirement for transmission line public hearings, but the parties are at the opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the oil and gas royalty regime.
"Industry needs to start paying its fair share of royalties," Notley said. "The Wildrose is clearly not interested in pursuing that, but we're not going to stop."
Energy Minister Ron Liepert interpreted the Wildrose promise to change the way electricity is purchased as a call for a return to a regulated electricity industry.
"If they want to campaign on going back to a regulated rate, let them go ahead . . . but I can tell you there won't be the investment in generation in this province that is required in the future," he said.
"It would seem to me that a party that continues to call itself a free-enterprise party, but also wants to return to regulation, is not a free-enterprise party. They've got to figure out if they are the NDP or something to the left of the NDP."
Liepert said that aside from the Wildrose positions on oilsands land use planning, Bill 50 and carbon capture and storage, its energy policy is "pretty much an affirmation of what we're doing."
But he rejected Smith's assertion the Stelmach government is picking winners and losers with its $2-billion investment in corporate carbon capture projects.
"If we had taken that same head-in-the-sand approach to the development of the oilsands 50 years ago, we wouldn't have the oilsands today," he said. "Industry has clearly said this is not something it can do on its own."
Liepert said Albertans will see who is right in 20 years, but in the meantime "we're returning billions of dollars in royalties back to the province by using carbon dioxide to recover oil that is not recoverable under any other means."
Andrew Leach, an energy and environment economist at the University of Alberta's school of business, said the Wildrose policy strikes the right chords, but is lacking in details that would set out clearly for Albertans what it plans to do.
"I think the conversations we need to be having are in there, but there are a lot of open questions," he said. "But I can see why Wildrose wants to keep some of its policy powder dry. I don't expect we'll see much more before we get a lot closer to the next election."