U.S. President Barack Obama has revealed his intent to see a 30 per cent reduction in carbon emissions, from 2005 levels, by the year 2030.
It's an ambitious salvo in the fight against climate change. Obama's actions have drawn rave applause from environmental groups, but states that lean heavily on coal for power production are understandably leery.
And some are waiting for specifics on how the U.S. will reduce carbon emissions. But the future of conventional coal-fired power plants could be bleak.
Obama's announcement also has many people waiting for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's next step. Harper has previously stated his desire to harmonize Canada's climate targets with those of the U.S. Obama's statements might have diminished Harper's enthusiasm for harmonized environmental policies.
But as debates begin on the future of coal generation in the U.S., and as Canada mulls how it might cope with new American strategies, the finishing touches are being applied to the game-changer. And it's happening in our backyard.
The integrated carbon capture and storage project at the Boundary Dam Power Station is nearly completed. It's going to significantly curb the greenhouse gas emissions coming from Boundary Dam, thanks to a carbon capture island and a retrofit of Unit 3.
There'll be a grand opening celebration later this year that will attract some very prominent people. Once the pomp and circumstance wrap up, people from around the world are going to be coming to Estevan to marvel at the carbon capture and storage technology, learn about the process, and find out whether it will work in their own provinces, states, territories and countries.
If the technology is viable, then not only can we look forward to rebuilds of Units 4, 5 and 6 at Boundary Dam, and at the Shand Power Station, but it will assure the long-term viability of coal in other jurisdictions, too.
From an economic perspective, coal remains the most common sense source of electricity. It's relatively cheap compared to other sources, and it can provide baseload electricity that many non-renewables, such as wind, can't match.
It makes sense to use the resources that we're blessed with, including coal.
The days of conventional coal power plants in Canada are coming to an end. The Harper government has said that there won't be money for new or renovated conventional coal generating stations. Thankfully, they haven't said the same thing about new-wave coal technology like what is happening near Estevan.
Obama's administration can tout reduced carbon emissions, but he can't disregard the potential impact that new coal technologies offer. If they work, they have to be part of his plans. And if that's the case, Harper would be wise to be in harmony with Obama.