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Alberta taking a step away from coal

Provincial government aims to take stress out of shifting to a low-carbon economy.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Alberta taking a step away from coal
Provincial government of Alberta creates task force to help steer transition away from coal. Photo by Debbie Hill/ UPI | License Photo

EDMONTON, Alberta, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- The provincial government of Alberta said it formed a panel of experts to help address some of the challenges in shifting to a low-carbon economy.

A three-member panel of experts will work on behalf of Alberta's government to discuss challenges faced by those impacted by the retirement of coal-fired power plants and the mining operations associated with them.

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"We want to see a fair transition that responds to the needs of workers as Alberta transitions to cleaner sources of electricity generation, including ending harmful coal emissions," Economic Development Minister Deron Bilous said in a statement.

According to the provincial overview of its energy portfolio, coal offers twice the energy potential of other non-renewable resources. The government said the type of coal found in Alberta is low in sulfur and burns "relatively clean" compared with other types of coal found around the world.

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The government nonetheless said pollution from coal-fired power will be eliminated by 2030 as natural gas and renewables move in to take the place of coal.

In a yearly profile, the provincial energy regulator said more than 30 billion tons of coal was produced from seven mines and fed four processing plants. In terms of revenue under its jurisdiction, coal accounts for about 1 percent, compared with 98 percent for combined oil and natural gas.

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The coal panel announcement comes just days after Bilous appointed a five-member task force to help steer research, development and deployment of technology that could be used to advance a low-carbon economy in Alberta. Last week, he unveiled a $23 million package to help pay for long-term, locally developed projects meant to create jobs and diversify the provincial economy.

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Alberta lies at the heart of the Canadian oil sector and lower crude oil prices have resulted in a 3.7 percent contraction for the provincial economy. In July, the last full month for which Alberta's government has data, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 8.6 percent, up from the 7.9 percent the previous month. The national unemployment rate for July was 6.9 percent.

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