Answering Saskatchewan government talking points #14: Saskatchewan’s “transformational clean technology”

The Saskatchewan government’s 2016 White Paper on Climate Change claims that “we are having the wrong conversation” by focussing on the need for emissions reductions in our own patch.  The authors make a number of questionable claims to back up this opinion.  Here is a response to one of them.

Saskatchewan believes there is a better way, and advocates placing real emphasis on developing transformational clean technology for use in Canada and around the world.

– Government of Saskatchewan White Paper on Climate Change

This would apply attainment of leadership status in some technological option which much of the rest of the world actually wants.  It should be abundantly clear by now that coal with CCS does not meet that criterion – and that it is difficult to describe the Boundary Dam 3 experiment even as moderately successful, let alone transformational.

Meanwhile, Saskatchewan has missed out on the opportunities which other jurisdictions have seen in efficiency, in solar, wind and sustainable biomass, in development of new batteries and in electric vehicles.  Under the present government’s climate policies, the province falls far behind its global partners and competitors when it comes to transformational clean technology.

Other jurisdictions anticipated the problems – and in particular the inflated cost – of coal + CCS, and they put their attention and their money elsewhere.  And things have worked out rather well for Danish and German exporters of wind technology, German and Chinese photovoltaics manufacturers, and many others.

If the provincial government means what it says, why can’t we join them in pursuing technological developments which are truly transformational and truly clean?  Work is still needed on next-generation biomass gasification and pyrolysis technology, on smart-grid integration, on new battery types, on infrastructure development for electric vehicles.  Maybe Saskatchewan’s expensive experimentation with CCS could be put to good use in research into carbon-negative BECCS (biomass energy with CCS).  Maybe the oil industry’s experience with deep drilling would enable development of cost-effective geothermal energy – in more geologically suitable areas if not in Saskatchewan.  Maybe we could become leaders in reclaiming methane instead of leaking, venting and flaring it.

But we also need to recognise that – helpful though it may be – technology is not enough to get us out of this crisis.  What will ultimately save us is a shift of awareness, so that we recognize the planet as a living system of which we are part, not a store to be aggressively plundered.

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