Environment Minister Jim Prentice admits that carbon capture projects won't be enough to minimize greenhouse gas emissions in the oil sands. Just the same, the government wants to reduce emissions to 20 per cent below 2006 levels by the year 2020.
"CCS is not the silver bullet in the oil sands," Mr. Prentice told The Globe and Mail's editorial board.
"It's important, but it is really in the upgrading of bitumen that CCS has more promise, rather than in the mining or in situ production," he said.
The industry will have to rely mainly on "other technologies" to reduce emissions at the production sites, he said.
The oil sands represents the fastest-growing source of emissions in Canada. Without dramatic mitigation efforts, Canada will find it nearly impossible to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent from 2006 levels by 2020, according to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, a government-appointed advisory group.
Mr. Prentice said he intends to spell out the government's policy on greenhouse gas emissions for each industry, including the oil sands, before the Copenhagen climate change conference in December, where countries hope to hammer out a global climate change agreement.
He then expects to unveil next year the actual regulations, which will take effect on Jan. 1, 2011.