As of January first, 2017, Alberta’s NDP government has implemented the new provincial carbon tax, which is a tax of twenty dollars per one metric tonne of carbon emissions. Over all, the popular sentiment that most Albertans have to this recent tax has been negative, and many people seem to be expressing the view that they feel like they are being punished for driving a car and heating their homes. However, although this new tax is a minor inconvenience to some Albertan’s pocket books, the Alberta government will be putting the majority of the money generated by the carbon tax into renewable energy sources to supply electricity for the province. Perhaps the most important environmental project that the Alberta government will move forward with due to the newly generated funds, is the phasing out of coal powered electrical plants by the year 2030.
Right now Alberta depends on coal-powered plants to generate the majority of its electrical energy, and the province of Alberta emits more pollution from our eighteen coal plants than the rest of the other provinces's coal plants combined (Government of Alberta website). Sixteen percent of Alberta’s greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to the burning of coal, and the particulate matter that is released into the environment is extremely dangerous to every organism’s health. Although phasing out the use of coal to create electricity seems like a difficult and expensive feat, it is extremely possible and has already been done in Canada’s most populated province.
In 2014 the province of Ontario closed down their last functioning coal plants, and experienced immensely positive results. Since phasing out coal Ontario has eliminated thirty megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, which is the equivalent to the emissions produced by seven million vehicles (news.ontario.ca). In addition, there have been zero smog advisory days in the entire province since 2014, where as before, Ontario had 240 smog advisory days from 2003 to 2013 (airqualityofontario.com). Now that the province of Ontario is coal free they get their energy from alternative, more sustainable sources. They are now powered by 60% nuclear power, 24% hydroelectric power, 10% natural gas, and 6% wind energy (Ontario Ministry of Energy).
However, now due to the new carbon tax, the Alberta government will be investing more into other renewable energy sources such as wind farms, solar fields, and hydroelectric plants. A common criticism of renewable energy is that it could possibly put people who work in the fossil fuel industry at risk of losing their jobs, which is a valid concern especially in our rough economic state. In response to this criticism, one might consider the amount of job opportunities that will be created by the renewable energy industry’s demand for workers. Certainly wind farms, solar fields, and hydroelectric facilities (and possibly one day nuclear power plants) don’t just spring out of the ground and operate themselves! We will need plenty of workers to build, maintain, and operate these sources of renewable energy for years to come, creating thousands of permanent jobs and careers for Albertans. Luckily the province of Alberta has vast amounts of empty space just waiting to be utilized for renewable energy, and we most definitely have a high demand for jobs, and plenty of workers to meet that demand. With the recent implementation of the carbon tax, Alberta is taking its first steps toward joining the race for renewable energy sources, and a coal free future.