by Ken White
GLOBE-Net, April 25, 2012 - Statistics Canada
recently released figures on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from
2004 to 2008 that contain a few surprises.
While the usual suspects - energy and transportation still loom
large on the top 20 polluters list, the agriculture sector and its
value chain emerges as a rather serious GHG offender, well ahead of
pipelines, transportation and the cement industry.
Highly polluting agriculture-related industries include: Crop and
Animal Production; Dairy Product Manufacturing; Meat Product
Manufacturing; and, Pesticides, Fertilizer and other Agricultural
Beef production has always been in the cross hairs of criticism
for the amount of GHG emissions generated per pound of finished
product; but who would have thought agriculture was a larger GHG
polluter compared to trucking or rail transportation, or the oil
and gas extraction sector when measured per $1,000 of
: Top Twenty Industries Emitting the Highest GHG Emissions
The electric power, transmission and distribution sector tops
the GHG emitter list, due largely to the use of thermal coal to
generate power. It is followed by pesticides, fertilizer and crop
and animal production.
And the big three transport industries - pipelines, water and
air transportation - also figure high on the list. Cement and
concrete, chemical manufacturing and synthetic rubbers and resins
are also strong emitters. The median rate of GHG emissions is 0.4
tonnes per thousand dollars of production. See Figure 1.
So who's doing a better job at cleaning up their
With respect to rates of improvement in cleaning up their GHG
emissions act, some of the usual suspects still lead the charge in
terms of GHG emissions. But the data reveals a few surprises with
respect to GHG intensity per sector.
Who would have thought that universities and public institutions
were lagging behind the coal industry in terms of how fast they
were cleaning up their emissions act?
The industries showing the greatest
improvement in GHG emissions from 2004 to 2008 include tobacco
manufacturing, coal mining, metal ore mining, oil and gas
extraction and petroleum and coal products
Those industries that are substantially improving (i.e. cutting)
their emissions include coal mining, oil and gas extraction,
petroleum and coal products manufacturing and oil and gas
engineering construction. These industries were all improving at a
rate of 10 percent or better compared to a median rate of 5.5
annually from 2004 to 2008.
The laggards in terms of the rate of GHG emissions improvement
compared to the median rate of improvement include: Health Care
Services Other than Hospitals; Religious Organizations; Postal
Service and Couriers, Hospitals; Municipal Governments and
Universities, Architect and Engineering Firms and Non-Profit
Organizations. See Figure 2.
Figure 2: Top Twenty Industries Improving in GHG
Emissions 2004 to 2008, Annual Percentage Change
How do the Oil Sands compare?
According to a recent report by Natural Resources Canada,
"Extracting bitumen and other heavy crude oil requires more energy
than the production of lighter and more accessible forms of crude
oil. This tends to make heavy oil production more
emissions-intensive per barrel of oil produced.
In broad terms, oil sands-derived crude oil on a life cycle or
well-to- wheels basis is on average 5 to 15 percent more GHG-
intensive than emissions from average crude oil."
However, the report stated "the oil sands have a long history of
technological innovation that has led to improvements in energy
efficiency and associated emissions reductions…."
Between 1990 and 2009, oil sands GHG emissions per barrel were
reduced by 29 percent, and it is expected that emissions per barrel
will decline by an additional 10 percent over the next 20
: Industries Lagging Behind the Median Rate of GHG Improvement 2004
Let's not kid ourselves.
In spite of improvements in the rate of GHG emissions, both the
energy and transportation sectors remain as serious emitters of
However, the resource sectors - including coal mining and oil
and gas extraction - have made considerable improvements in the
rate of GHG emissions over the past four years.
So while the conventional wisdom is to point fingers at the oil
sands sector for its poor GHG emissions record, the fact is this
sector is showing a surprisingly strong improvement rate due to its
emissions reduction efforts.
Now if those industries showing the lowest rates of improvement
could match the oil patch, things might get better faster.
Come on governments, universities, hospitals and you
'non-profits' - it's time to pull up your socks.