26514Harper government gave big oil, pipeline companies $400 million to go green
- Dec 23 7:59 AMHarper government gave big oil, pipeline companies $400 million to go green
BY MIKE DE SOUZA, POSTMEDIA NEWSDECEMBER 23, 2013
Suncor was one of the top recipients of federal funding with nearly $134 million in subsidies for biofuels production ($117 million) and wind energy ($16.6 million) projects.
Photograph by: Jeff McIntosh, The Canadian Press Files, Postmedia NewsCanadian taxpayers have given more than $400 million to some large oil, gas and pipeline companies in recent years to support green projects that are also boosting the industry's environmental credentials.
An analysis of federal accounting records by Postmedia News shows that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has offered these subsidies to money-making companies such as Shell Canada, Suncor, Husky Energy and Enbridge to pursue projects in biofuels production and wind energy as well as new technology to capture carbon pollution and bury it underground.
About $1.4 million in federal government climate change spending has also benefited state-owned oil companies in Mexico (PEMEX) and China (the China National Petroleum Corporation) for projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Environment Canada said the international funding, part of the government's global climate-change commitment, didn't directly fund companies, but went through "industry partners with technical expertise" to help Mexico, Colombia and China reduce heat-trapping gases released into the atmosphere.
Suncor was one of the top recipients of federal funding from Natural Resources Canada with nearly $134 million in subsidies since 2007 for biofuels production ($117 million) and wind energy ($16.6 million) projects.
"The subsidies made these projects more attractive for all developers of new, emerging technology, including Suncor," wrote Suncor spokeswoman Sneh Seetal in an email to Postmedia News.
In some of its recent marketing campaigns, Suncor has featured images of its wind energy projects, promoting its environmental credentials, without making reference to the subsidies it receives from taxpayers.
Natural Resources Canada's biofuels and renewable power programs, which are being wound down by the Harper government, were meant to offer billions of dollars in incentives to producers, starting in 2007. They have generated a popular response from energy companies of different sizes and stimulated industrial growth. For example, Natural Resources Canada estimates that local biofuels production grew to over 1.88 billion litres of ethanol and 575 million litres of biodiesel in 2012, up from about 200 million litres of ethanol and no commercial biodiesel plants in 2005.
But department spokeswoman Jacinthe Perras said the biofuels program has been redesigned and will only spend $1 billion out of an original budget of $1.5 billion. While it continues to provide subsidies until 2017, she said the government announced in February 2013 that it would no longer accept new applicants.
Shell Canada also defended its own subsidy of $120 million, noting that it was in support of its Quest carbon capture and storage project that would require the company - which said it paid more than $400 million in 2012 for income taxes and royalties to the federal and provincial governments - to share its technical expertise with other companies.
Enbridge, which received about $22.8 million for wind energy projects, noted that it and other energy companies received the incentives based on the amount of power produced over a 10-year period. The Pembina Institute, an Alberta-based think-tank that researches sustainable development issues, said the biofuels subsidies weren't as effective at reducing pollution as other programs such as incentives for renovations to lower energy consumption.
"Strictly from a greenhouse gas reduction perspective, there are better uses for this money," said Ben Thibault, renewable energy policy analyst.
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