The new leader of Canada's opposition Liberal party, who wants to cut emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, said his plans to improve the environment would not kill the booming oil industry.
MONTREAL The new leader of Canada's opposition Liberal party, who wants to cut emissions of greenhouse gases blamed for global warming, said his plans to improve the environment would not kill the booming oil industry.
Stephane Dion won a leadership convention Saturday on the back of a promise to boost environmental sustainability and to ensure Canada sticks to the Kyoto protocol on climate change, which calls for deep cuts in Canadian emissions.
This is not a popular idea in the powerful western province of Alberta, where emissions of greenhouse gases are soaring as energy companies open up vast oil-rich tar sands.
Dion says the smarter use of modern technology -- such as storing carbon dioxide underground -- could help solve the problem.
"We won't kill the industry, we'll make the industry sustainable," he told a news conference. Canada is the single largest supplier of energy to the United States.
Polls show Dion currently stands a fairly poor chance of defeating the Conservative government in an election expected next year. The Conservatives draw much of their support from Alberta and are protective of the oil industry.
Environmentalists are particularly unhappy about the giant oil sands around the northern Albertan town of Fort McMurray, where they say development is out of control as local authorities scramble to cope with a huge influx of workers.
Green groups also say the massive amounts of superheated steam used in the process of separating oil from the tar are putting local water supplies are at risk.
"We have a very good plan for Alberta, precisely because there are so many things to do in Alberta. We have a golden opportunity," said Dion, giving few specific details.
"If we succeed in Fort McMurray, perhaps sustainable development will succeed everywhere in the world and we will export our know-how and we'll make megatons of money," the French-speaking politician said in English.
"Certainly it will mean to revisit the system, but not to put the money out of Alberta, (but) to help to save their water, to save their development," he said.
The Conservatives say Ottawa cannot possibly meet its Kyoto target, which called for a 6 percent cut in 1990 emissions levels by 2012. Emissions are currently 35 percent above that target and still rising.
Dion has proposed giving tax breaks to Canadians to persuade them to buy high-efficiency appliances.
In his speak to the leadership convention Friday night, he said Canada's 33 million people consumed as much energy as all 800 million people living in Africa.
"I say that a country so blessed -- with 10 percent of the world's fresh water, 7 percent of the world's land and 14 percent of the world's energy reserves -- must be a responsible custodian to the world," he said.