Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Oil money pays for public transit in Alberta

There's little question that, from the environmental movement's perspective, oil=bad while public transit=good. But what happens when money generated from oil revenue goes to pay for massive public transit infrastructure projects, using money from current emissions to help reduce future pollution? It may not work out to an equal equation, but it certainly muddies the picture.

And that's what's happening these days, out west in Alberta.

There's little question that oilsands development, on its own, is bad for the environment. Even conventional oil is difficult, but the more intensive refining process of the oilsands (although getting better thanks to new techniques, oilsands remains a much more environmentally-damaging source of oil than conventional sources) makes for even higher emissions. But as the province's deficit shrinks, thanks largely to oil royalties and related income, that money is being shared with her biggest cities, for public transit--culminating in a $2B funding pledge last month.

With the promise, each of Calgary and Edmonton will receive $800M for their respective transit infrastructure, and other Alberta cities will duke it out over the remaining $400M. Officials in Edmonton are breathing a sigh of relief thanks to the promise, because it means their NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology) light-rail line will proceed as scheduled, and should be completed in 2014.

And Edmonton will be able to complete more transit projects, as well. From the Edmonton Journal:

The provincial money also gives Edmonton a big boost toward completing LRT lines to Lewis Estates and Mill Woods, but the federal government must also kick in cash, as it has for transit systems in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa, Boutilier said.
So, although it might mean a deal with the devil from an environmentalist's perspective, some good is coming out of the oilsand development in Alberta: upgrades to public transit.