Piping tar sands oil hundreds of miles, and leading the corporate energy world in climate change mitigation, can apparently go hand-in-hand according to a new report. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a U.K.-based nonprofit working with companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions, has included Alberta, Canada-based TransCanada as a corporate climate leader in its first-ever Climate Performance Leadership Index. One of five energy sector companies included on the “A List,” the report states that the sector has “very few companies that are able to meet the leadership criteria,” and that TransCanada is one of only three of these leaders to have set absolute targets for emission reductions.
“The bottom line is at risk from the climate crisis,” said Paul Simpson, CEO of CDP, in a statement. “The businesses that have made it onto our first ever global list of climate performance leaders are to be congratulated for their progress; they debunk economic arguments against reducing emissions. However, global emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate. Businesses and governments must raise their climate ambition. The data shows that there is neither an excuse nor the time for lethargy.”
TransCanada has set two GHG reduction targets, one for 2018 as part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), the first market-based carbon regulatory program in the U.S., and another in 2020 as part of Quebec’s cap and trade scheme. The report states that the five “A List” companies — Essar Oil, S-Oil Corporation, Spectra Energy Corp, Solstad Offshore, and TransCanada — considered the biggest business risk to be regulation. These include cap and trade schemes, air pollution limits, and carbon taxes — all of which are expected to impact business within three years.
“Our business strategy is informed by the risks and opportunities from climate change regulations, physical climate parameters and other climate-related developments such as uncertainty in social drivers,” states TransCanada in the report. “TransCanada is building a competitive advantage over competitors by focusing on investing in low-carbon infrastructure that has and may continue to be a core element of our continued capital program.”
The bottom line is at risk from the climate crisis.
The CDP report selected 187 companies out of nearly 2,000 that “illustrate that a low carbon future does not mean low profit.” Collectively these companies have reduced their total GHGs by 33 million metric tons in the past year — the equivalent to turning all of London’s car owners into cyclists for two and a half years according to the report. Categories include health care, financial, information technology, utilities, and several others.
The report states that solar and wind farms now offer viable alternatives to coal-powered plants as energy sources and that there have been significant developments in a global divestment movement to reduce dependency on non-renewable energy. For instance, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, alongside other influential investors, has announced the intention to sell $50 billion of fossil fuel investments and re-invest the proceeds in clean energy systems.
TransCanada has investments in natural gas, nuclear, wind, hydro power, and solar, however the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would transport dirty tar sands from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico has become the company’s Achilles heel. Having first been proposed just over six years ago, the pipeline has met with opposition up and down its route through the center of North America and the total cost of pipeline is likely to nearly double to $10 billion if it ever gets built. A TransCanada spokesperson attributed the cost increases to a protracted regulatory process, inflation, fluctuating currency rates, labor contracts, materials storage, and additional conditions put into place for the pipeline.
The pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude and estimates vary on how much it would contribute to Canada’s total GHG emissions. The State Department released an environmental analysis earlier this year that found that the GHG emissions directly tied to the pipeline would be negligible and that if it isn’t built the oil will be transported by other pipelines. However many environmental groups decry this logic.
Tar sands are the dirtiest, most carbon intensive oil on earth.
“Tar sands are the dirtiest, most carbon intensive oil on earth, releasing up to 22 percent more carbon pollution than conventional oil,” Kate Colarulli of Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil campaign said in statement upon the announcement of TransCanada’s A-listing. “TransCanada, as a company that seeks to expand market access for this climate-polluting fuel, is a climate laggard. The State Department, the U.S. EPA, climate scientists, and even Wall Street and industry analysts agree that TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will create massive amounts of carbon pollution and TransCanada’s new proposed pipeline, Energy East, is a climate disaster.”
Keystone XL requires approval by the U.S. State Department because it crosses an international border. The decision is currently on hold as Nebraska tries to resolve a legal dispute surrounding the pipeline’s route.
Jane Kleeb, a leader of Nebraskans fighting against the pipeline, said in a statement about the award that TransCanada has relentlessly pushed to foul the state’s land, water, and climate, and has threatened landowners with seizure of their land through eminent domain.
In September, TransCanada’s CEO Russ Girling said he is frustrated by critics of the pipeline who have cast the project as a symbol of increased GHGs and that “the actual people that are impacted by this project are supportive and willing to move forward with it.”