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Tackling Online Abuse and Disinformation Targeting Women in Politics – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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In 2017, soon after then Ukrainian member of parliament Svitlana Zalishchuk gave a speech to the United Nations on the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict on women, a fake tweet began to circulate on social media claiming that she had promised to run naked through the streets of Kiev if Russia-backed separatists won a critical battle. Zalishchuk said, “The story kept circulating on the Internet for a year,” casting a shadow over her political accomplishments.

Zalishchuk is not alone in her experience. Around the world, women in politics receive an overwhelming amount of online abuse, harassment, and gendered defamation via social media platforms. For example, a recent analysis of the 2020 U.S. congressional races found that female candidates were significantly more likely to receive online abuse than their male counterparts. On Facebook, female Democrats running for office received ten times more abusive comments than male Democratic candidates. Similar trends have been documented in India, the UK, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe.

Social media companies have come under increasing pressure to take a tougher stance against all forms of hate speech and harassment on their platforms, including against women, racial minorities, and other marginalized groups. Yet their patchwork approach to date has proven insufficient. Governments and international institutions need to press for more action and develop new standards for platform transparency and accountability that can help address the widespread toxicity that is currently undermining online political debate. If effectively designed and implemented, the EU’s Digital Services Act and U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s proposed National Task Force on Online Harassment and Abuse will represent steps in the right direction.

The Global Challenge

Online abuse against politicians is often misunderstood as inevitable: after all, most public figures occasionally find themselves on the receiving end of vitriolic attacks. Yet over the past several years, the gendered and racialized nature of the phenomenon has received increasing policy attention, as women appear to be disproportionately targeted by online abuse and disinformation attacks.

This pattern tends to be even more pronounced for female political leaders from racial, ethnic, religious, or other minority groups; for those who are highly visible in the media; and for those who speak out on feminist issues. In India, for example, an Amnesty International investigation found that one in every seven tweets that mentioned women politicians was problematic or abusive—and that both Muslim women politicians and women politicians belonging to marginalized castes received substantially more abuse than those from other social groups.

Lucina Di Meco

Lucina Di Meco is a women’s rights and gender equality expert, advocate, and author. She currently serves as senior director of the Girls’ Education & Gender Equality program at Room to Read and as a member of the Advisory Board at Fund Her.

Female politicians are not only targeted disproportionately but also subjected to different forms of harassment and abuse. Attacks targeting male politicians mostly relate to their professional duties, whereas online harassment directed at female politicians is more likely to focus on their physical appearance and sexuality and include threats of sexual violence and humiliating or sexualized imagery. Women in politics are also frequent targets of gendered disinformation campaigns, defined as the spreading of deceptive or inaccurate information and images. Such campaigns often create story lines that draw on misogyny and gender stereotypes. For example, a recent analysis shows that immediately following Kamala Harris’s nomination as the 2020 U.S. vice presidential candidate, false claims about Harris were being shared at least 3,000 times per hour on Twitter, in what appeared to be a coordinated effort. Similar tactics have been used throughout Europe and in Brazil.

The disproportionate and often strategic targeting of women politicians and activists has direct implications for the democratic process: it can discourage women from running for office, push women out of politics, or lead them to disengage from online political discourse in ways that harms their political effectiveness. For those women who persevere, the abuse can cause psychological harm and waste significant energy and time, particularly if politicians struggle to verify whether or when online threats pose real-life dangers to their safety.

What’s Driving Gendered Online Abuse

Some political scientists and social psychologists point to gender role theory to explain harassment and threats targeting female politicians. In many societies, the characteristics traditionally associated with politicians—such as ambition and assertiveness—tend to be coded “male,” which means that women who display these traits may be perceived as transgressing traditional social norms. Online harassment of women seeking political power could thus be understood as a form of gender role enforcement, facilitated by anonymity.

However, online abuse and sexist narratives targeting politically active women are not just the product of everyday misogyny: they are reinforced by political actors and deployed as a political strategy. Illiberal political actors often encourage online abuse against female political leaders and activists as a deliberate tactic to silence oppositional voices and push feminist politicians out of the political arena.

Saskia Brechenmacher

Fellow
Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program

Saskia Brechenmacher is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge and a fellow in Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance Program, where her research focuses on gender, civil society, and democratic governance.

Laura Boldrini, an Italian politician and former UN official who served as president of the country’s Chamber of Deputies, experienced this situation firsthand: following sexist attacks by Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right Northern League party, and other male politicians, she was targeted by a wave of threatening and misogynistic abuse both online and offline. “Today, in my country, threats of rape are used to intimidate women politicians and push them out of the publish sphere—even by public figures,” notes Boldrini. “Political leaders themselves unleash this type of reaction.”1

What Can Be Done

In recent years, women politicians and activists have launched campaigns to raise awareness of the problem and its impact on democratic processes. Last August, the U.S. Democratic Women’s Caucus sent a letter to Facebook urging the company to protect women from rampant online attacks on the platform and to revise algorithms that reward extremist content. Similar advocacy initiatives have proliferated in different parts of the world, from the global #NotTheCost campaign to Reclaim the Internet in the UK, #WebWithoutViolence in Germany, and the #BetterThanThis campaign in Kenya.

Civil society organizations that support women running for office are also spearheading new strategies to respond to gendered online abuse. Some are offering specialized training and toolkits to help women political leaders protect themselves and counter sexualized and racialized disinformation. In Canada, a social enterprise created ParityBOT, a bot that detects problematic tweets about women candidates and responds with positive messages, thus serving both as a monitoring mechanism and a counterbalancing tool.

Yet despite rising external pressure from politicians and civil society, social media companies’ responses have so far been inadequate to tackle a problem as vast and complex as gendered disinformation and online abuse—whether it targets female politicians, activists, or ordinary citizens. For example, Facebook recently created an Oversight Board tasked with improving the platform’s decisionmaking around content moderation—yet many experts are highly skeptical of the board’s ability to drive change given its limited scope and goals. Twitter reportedly increased enforcement of its hate speech and abuse policies in the second half of 2019, as well as expanded its definition of dehumanizing speech. However, its policies to date lack a clear focus on the safety of women and other marginalized groups. Broader reforms are urgently needed.

Increase Platform Transparency and Accountability

Major social media platforms should do more to ensure transparency, accountability, and gender sensitivity in their mechanisms for content moderation, complaints, and redress. They should also take steps to proactively prevent the spread of hateful speech online, including through changes in risk assessment practices and product design.

To date, most tech companies still have inadequate and unclear content moderation systems. For example, social media companies currently do not disclose their exact guidelines on what constitutes hate speech and harassment or how they implement those guidelines. To address this problem, nonprofits such as Glitch and ISD have suggested that social media platforms allow civil society organizations and independent researchers to access and analyze their data on the number and nature of complaints received, disaggregated by gender, country, and the redress actions taken. According to Amnesty International, tech companies should also be more transparent about their language detection mechanisms, the number of content moderators employed by region and language, the volume of reports handled, and how moderators are trained to recognize culturally specific and gendered forms of abuse. To this day, most tech companies focus on tackling online abuse primarily in Europe and the United States, resulting in an enforcement gap in the Global South. Greater transparency about companies’ current content moderation capacity would enable governments and civil society to better identify shortcomings and push for targeted resource investments.

The move to more automated content moderation is unlikely to solve the problem of widespread and culturally specific gendered and racialized online abuse. Until now, social media companies have used automated tools primarily for content that is easier to identify computationally. Yet these tools are blunt and often biased. So far during the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook, Twitter, and Google have all relied more heavily on automation to remove harmful content. As a result, significantly more accounts have been suspended and more content has been flagged and removed than in the months leading up to the pandemic. But some of this content was posted by human rights activists who had no mechanism for appealing those decisions, and some clearly hateful content—such as racist and anti-Semitic hate speech in France—remained online. “Machine learning will always be a limited tool, given that context plays an enormous part of how harassment and gendered disinformation work online,” notes Chloe Colliver, the head of digital policy and strategy at ISD. “We need some combination of greater human resources and expertise along with a focus on developing AI systems that are more accurate in detecting gendered disinformation.”2

The proliferation of online harassment, hate speech, and disinformation is not only driven by gaps in content moderation but also by a business model that monetizes user engagement with little regard for risk. At the moment, Twitter and other platforms rely on deep learning algorithms that prioritize disseminating content with greater engagement. Inflammatory posts often quickly generate comments and retweets, which means that newsfeed algorithms will show them to more users. Online abuse that relies on sensational language and images targeting female politicians thus tends to spread rapidly. Higher levels of engagement generate more user behavior data that brings in advertising revenue, which means social media companies currently have few financial incentives to change the status quo.

Advocates and experts have put forward different proposals to tackle this problem. For example, social media companies could proactively tweak their recommendation systems to prevent users from being nudged toward hateful content. They also could improve their mechanism for detecting and suspending algorithms that amplify gendered and racialized hate speech—a step that some organizations have suggested to help address pandemic-related mis/disinformation. As part of this process, companies could disclose and explain their content-shaping algorithms and ad-targeting systems, which currently operate almost entirely beyond public scrutiny.

In addition, they could improve their risk assessment practices prior to launching new products or tools or before expanding into a new political and cultural context. At the moment, content moderation is often siloed from product design and engineering, which means that social media companies are permanently focused on investigating and redressing complaints instead of building mechanisms that “increase friction” for users and make it harder for gendered hate speech and disinformation to spread in the first place. Moreover, decisions around risk are often taken by predominantly male, white senior staffers: this type of homogeneity frequently leads to gender and race blindness in product development and rollout. Across all of these domains, experts call for greater transparency and collaboration with outside expertise, including researchers working on humane technology and ethical design.

Step Up Government Action

Given tech companies’ limited action to date, democratic governments also have a responsibility to do more. Rather than asking social media companies to become the final arbiters of online speech, they should advance broader regulatory frameworks that require platforms to become more transparent about their moderation practices and algorithmic decisionmaking, as well as ensure compliance through independent monitoring and accountability mechanisms. Governments also have an important role to play in supporting civil society advocacy, research, and public education on gendered and racialized patterns of online abuse, including against political figures.

The first wave of legislation aimed at mitigating abuse, harassment, and hate speech on social media platforms focused primarily on criminalizing and removing different types of harmful online content. Some efforts have targeted individual perpetrators. For example, in the UK, legal guidelines issued in 2016 and in 2018 enable the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute internet trolls who create derogatory hashtags, engage in virtual mobbing (inciting people to harass others), or circulate doctored images. In 2019, Mexico passed a new law that specifically targets gendered online abuse: it punishes, with up to nine years in prison, those who create or disseminate intimate images or videos of women or attack women on social networks. The law also includes the concept of “digital violence” in the Mexican penal code.

Such legal reforms are important steps, particularly if they are paired with targeted resources and training for law enforcement. Female politicians often report that law enforcement officials do not take their experiences with online threats and abuse seriously enough; legal reforms and prosecution guidelines can help change this pattern. However, efforts to go after individual perpetrators are insufficient to tackle the current scale of misogynistic online harassment and abuse targeting women politicians and women and girls more generally: even if applicable legal frameworks exist, thresholds for prosecution are often set very high and not all victims want to press charges. Moreover, anonymous perpetrators can be difficult to trace, and the caseload easily exceeds current policing capacity. In the UK, for example, fewer than 1 percent of cases taken up by the police unit charged with tackling online hate crimes have resulted in charges.

Other countries have passed laws that make social media companies responsible for the removal of illegal material. For example, in 2017, Germany introduced a new law that requires platforms to remove hate speech or illegal content within twenty-four hours or risk millions of dollars in fines. However, this approach has raised strong concerns among human rights activists, who argue that this measure shifts the responsibility to social media companies to determine what constitutes legal speech without providing adequate mechanisms for judicial oversight or judicial remedy. In June 2020, the French constitutional court struck down a similar law due to concerns about overreach and censorship. French feminist and antiracist organizations had previously criticized the measure, noting that it could restrict the speech of those advocating against hate and extremism online and that victims would benefit more from sustained investments in existing legal remedies.

In light of these challenges, many researchers and advocates have started . One example of this approach is the UK’s 2019 Online Harms White Paper, which “proposes establishing in law a new duty of care towards users” to deal proactively with possible risks that platform users might encounter, under the oversight of an independent regulator. The proposed regulatory framework—which is set to result in a new UK law in early 2021—would “outline the systems, procedures, technologies and investment, including in staffing, training and support of human moderators, that companies need to adopt to help demonstrate that they have fulfilled their duty of care to their users.” It would also set strict standards for transparency and require companies to ensure that their algorithms do not amplify extreme and unreliable material for the sake of user engagement. The EU’s Digital Services Act, currently in development, is another opportunity to advance a regulatory approach focused on harm prevention. The act should demand greater transparency from social media platforms about content moderation practices and algorithmic systems, as well as require better risk assessment practices. It also should incentivize companies to move away from a business model that values user engagement above everything else.

Of course, governments can take action beyond passing and enforcing platform regulations. They can promote digital citizenship education in school curricula to ensure that teenagers and young adults develop the skills to recognize and report inappropriate online conduct and to communicate respectfully online. In Europe, as part of negotiations around the Digital Services Act, activists are demanding that governments dedicate part of the Digital Services Tax to fund broader efforts to tackle online abuse, including additional research on patterns of gendered and racialized online harassment. In the United States, Biden’s proposal to set up a national task force—bringing together federal and state agencies, advocates, law enforcement, and tech companies—to tackle online harassment and abuse and understand its connection to violence against women and extremism represents a welcome and important step toward developing longer-term solutions. Equally welcome are his proposals to allocate new funding for law enforcement trainings on online harassments and threats and to support legislation that establishes a civil and criminal cause of action for unauthorized disclosure of intimate images.

Who Is Responsible

The problem of gendered and racialized harassment and abuse targeting women political leaders extends far beyond the online realm: traditional media outlets, political parties, and civil society all have crucial roles to play in committing to and modeling a more respectful and humane political discourse.

However, social media companies have the primary responsibility to prevent the amplification of online abuse and disinformation—a responsibility that they are currently failing to meet. As the coronavirus pandemic has further accelerated the global shift to online campaigning and mobilization, there is now an even greater need for governments to hold these companies accountable for addressing all forms of hate speech, harassment, and disinformation on their platforms. Both Biden’s proposed national task force and the EU’s Digital Services Act represent key opportunities for developing new regulatory approaches mandating greater transparency and accountability in content moderation, algorithmic decisionmaking, and risk assessment.

These reform efforts need to include a gender lens. As Boldrini emphasizes, “It is extremely important to speak out against sexism and misogyny in our societies, particularly in light of the global movement against women’s rights inspired by the far right. The time has come to start a new feminist revolution to defend the rights we already have—as well as to acquire new rights.” Ensuring that all women political leaders and activists can engage in democratic processes online without fear of harassment, threats, and abuse will be a central piece of this struggle.3

Notes

1 Authors’ interview with Laura Boldrini, written communication, November 1, 2020.

2 Authors’ interview with Chloe Colliver, video call, October 28, 2020.

3 Authors’ interview with Laura Boldrini, written communication, November 1, 2020.

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Pores, Pipes And Politics: The Keys To Blue Hydrogen In Western Canada – Energy and Natural Resources – Canada – Mondaq News Alerts

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Introduction

Hydrogen holds significant promise as an alternative low-carbon
energy source in a range of applications and sectors. Hydrogen is
light, versatile, storable, transportable, and energy dense. At BLG
we advise on the applications of hydrogen in high value sectors
such as transportation, energy and utilities, technology,
agribusiness and infrastructure. We also recognize that the
hydrogen economy will develop uniquely in each industry sector and
geographic region, with available feedstocks, energy inputs,
existing infrastructure and geology influencing each industry and
regional approach.

Blue hydrogen – hydrogen produced from natural gas,
coupled with a carbon capture and storage (CCS) system – has
an advantage in Western Canada, which boasts abundant natural gas
reserves, close and symbiotic industry clusters, existing pipeline
infrastructure, and ideal sequestration geology. Provinces such as
Alberta also have favourable legislative regimes, sophisticated
regulators, and experienced and innovative industry participants to
support the emerging hydrogen economy. With government support,
there will be extensive opportunities for new investment in
hydrogen midstream infrastructure as the blue hydrogen economy
emerges in Western Canada.

What you need to know:

  • Western Canada’s regional
    advantages favour blue hydrogen production
  • Alberta has the natural geology,
    transferable experience and legislative framework to support CCS
    for blue hydrogen
  • Existing hydrogen production and
    transportation infrastructure in Western Canada, along with
    blending opportunities, establishes a foundation for further
    dedicated hydrogen development, but government support and
    political will remain crucial.

Regional advantages

The federal government1 and several provincial
governments2 have recently released hydrogen strategies
analyzing the advantages and opportunities of transitioning toward
a less carbon-intensive economy using hydrogen (see
BLG’s comments in our Hydrogen series
).

Each Canadian region is likely to develop a distinct approach
based on its available feedstocks (natural gas, electricity and
water), energy inputs (natural gas, coal, nuclear or hydro-based
electricity), existing infrastructure (pipelines, electric
transmission) and geology. As the Federal Hydrogen Strategy
recognized, “provincial regulations and policies, resource
availability, geography and climate, infrastructure, and technology
maturity will shape the timing and scale for hydrogen deployment
across Canada.”3

Western blue

In Western Canada, the natural advantage favours blue
hydrogen.

While hydrogen can be produced from a variety of
feedstocks,4 currently the primary source of global
hydrogen production is from natural gas, accounting for
approximately 75 per cent of the annual global dedicated hydrogen
production of approximately 70 millions tonnes
(Mt).5

Canada ranks in the top 10 of global hydrogen producers and
produces about 3 Mt of hydrogen annually (about 8,200 tonnes of
hydrogen per day 6), mainly for industrial
use7 – constituting approximately four per cent of
the global total. Most hydrogen is currently produced in Western
Canada (76 per cent).

Industrial hydrogen is mainly produced from Steam Methane
Reforming, where methane from natural gas is heated with steam and
a catalyst to produce a mixture of carbon monoxide and
hydrogen8.

Steam Methane Reforming is the most cost-efficient means of
producing hydrogen.9 It does, however, generate carbon
emissions. To assist in achieving Canada’s commitments to
reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions by 30 per cent below 2005
levels by 2030,10 and the federal government’s
target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, Steam Methane
Reforming production must be coupled with a CCS system. It is
estimated that life-cycle emissions from hydrogen produced from
natural gas with 90 per cent+ CCS ranges from 2 to 3 CO2e/kg
Hydrogen,11 compared to approximately 9 to 10.7 CO2e/kg
Hydrogen without CCS12.

CCS

a) Natural advantages

Having recognized the necessity of a CCS scheme to support blue
hydrogen production, the location, feasibility and costs of carbon
storage must be considered. Depleted oil and gas reservoirs and
saline formations comprised of porous reservoir rocks saturated
with brackish water or brine can be used for CO2
storage.13 The geology of the Western Canadian
Sedimentary Basin is the ideal location for this, and the
geological characteristics of most depleted oil and gas reservoirs
are well known and documented.

It has been estimated that for blue hydrogen to be the energy
carrier for 27 per cent of Canada’s primary energy demand in
2050, the CCS requirement would be approximately 203 Mt C02 per
year14 (although it is recognized that this is a
theoretical upper bound since such hydrogen production would
consume the equivalent of 72 per cent of Canada’s current
natural gas production). While there are a number of variables
involved, it has been estimated that the practical CO2 storage
potential in all discovered oil and gas reservoirs in Western
Canada ranges from 5 to 10 Gt CO2.,15 and theoretically
as much as 4,000 Gt CO2 in deep saline formations,16
suggesting that the Western Canadian carbon storage capacity is
more than sufficient to accommodate this theoretical upper bound of
blue hydrogen production.

The challenge, however, will be to identify technically suitable
and sufficiently depleted candidate reservoirs so that C02 storage
can be staged with efficient oil and gas reservoir management and
exploitation,17 in locations that are proximate to
hydrogen production sites, and that are not adversely competing or
overlapping with other storage schemes. The candidate sites must
also be “economically viable, technically feasible, safe,
environmentally and socially sustainable and acceptable to the
community.18” This C02 storage potential is the
primary natural advantage for the production of blue hydrogen in
Western Canada.19

b) Related experience

The development of the blue hydrogen economy in Western Canada
will also be facilitated by its experience in similar projects.
Many of the lessons and experiences from existing enhanced oil and
gas recovery schemes and acid gas projects, and comparable
operations such as natural gas storage, confirm that C02 can be
safely injected and stored at appropriate locations. In addition,
technology already used in the oil and gas industry in Western
Canada (such as well drilling technology, liquid waste injection
technology, computer simulation of storage reservoir dynamics and
monitoring methods) can be adapted for long term CCS
programmes.20

In Alberta, the Shell-operated Quest CCS facility has
successfully demonstrated the capture and storage of 5 Mt of C02
over the past five years,21 and the Alberta Carbon Trunk
Line, with the capacity to transport 14.6 Mt per year, is
demonstrating the successful transportation of captured C02 over a
240-kilometre pipeline. In Saskatchewan, the Weyburn and Midale C02
enhanced oil recovery projects, and the Aquistore transportation
and storage projects provide opportunities to test, monitor and
improve CCS schemes.

c) Existing legislative and regulatory regime

Alberta has already articulated a CCS legislative and regulatory
framework which governs pore ownership, injection and long term
stewardship, in addition to establishing detailed regulations for
well construction, operation and abandonment for injection wells
that will be applicable to C02 sequestration operations. This
framework further supports and de-risks the development of the blue
hydrogen economy.

According to the Mines and Minerals Act, 22
(the MMA) the pore space below the surface of all land in Alberta,
other than land owned by the federal Crown, has been declared to be
the property of the Crown in right of Alberta,23 and the
rights for use of the pore space are administered by Alberta
Energy.

Indeed, the Carbon Sequestration Tenure Regulation24
(the CS Tenure Regulation), specifically contemplates a storage
domain for C02 sequestration consisting of pore space contained in,
occupied by, or formerly occupied by, minerals or water within an
underground formation deeper than 1,000 metres below the surface of
the land (at which depth, depending on temperature, the C02 will be
in a dense fluid state).

The CS Tenure Regulation contemplates the grant of evaluation
permits to allow a person to test deep subsurface reservoirs and
evaluate the geological or geophysical properties to determine its
suitability for sequestration of captured C02. The MMA also
contemplates the Minister entering into ‘carbon sequestration
leases,’ granting a person the right to inject captured C02
into a subsurface reservoir for sequestration.25 The
carbon sequestration lease may grant the right to drill wells,
conduct evaluation and testing, and inject captured C02 into the
deep subsurface reservoirs for a 15-year term which term may be
renewed, subject to appropriate monitoring, measurement and
verification plans and closure plans.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of the MMA for the economic
prospects of blue hydrogen in Alberta, however, is section 121,
which provides that the Crown will assume long-term liability for
projects involving the sequestration of captured C02, once
abandonment obligations have been satisfied and a closure
certificate has been granted. The effect is that the Crown becomes
the owner of the injected C02, assumes the obligations as
owner/licensee of the wells and facilities,26 as the
“person responsible” for the injected C0227,
as the operator of the lands28 and as the user of the
surface rights, and also releases the lessee from obligations to
indemnify the Crown in relation to the use or drilling of the
injection well29.

The Crown also indemnifies the lessee from damages in a tort
action brought by a third party if attributable to the lessee’s
exercise of rights under an agreement in relation to the injection
of captured C0230. The MMA also establishes a
post-closure Stewardship Fund, into which CCS operators must pay
fees in accordance with the regulations,31 which can be
used for monitoring the injected C02, fulfilling any liability
obligations assumed by the Crown and paying for suspension,
abandonment and reclamation or remediation costs for orphan
facilities. These regulatory and statutory assurances should
improve the long term risk mitigation and storage costs associated
with CCS, thus facilitating blue hydrogen production.

Hydrogen pipelines

Addressing the CCS problem is only one part of supporting the
blue hydrogen economy. The next challenge is providing for the
transportation, compression or liquefaction, storage and
distribution infrastructure for the produced hydrogen. Gaseous
hydrogen is commonly delivered in compressed tube trailers or
cryogenic liquid tankers by truck, rail or barge. However,
transportation by dedicated hydrogen pipelines offers a low cost,
safe option for delivering large volumes of
hydrogen.32

There are a number of technical challenges involved in large
volume hydrogen transportation by pipeline, including the potential
for hydrogen to embrittle the steel and welds in transmission
pipelines,33 aggravating leak and permeation issues, and
the need to improve reliable hydrogen compression to accomplish the
necessary compression ratio.34 These can be addressed by
regulation or by tariff.

There are also economic, regulatory and scale issues. Dedicated
hydrogen pipelines require significant capital investments,
supported by long-term user contracts, and a supportive regulatory
environment, to ensure responsible linear project development and
to promote safe construction, operation and abandonment. It may
also be necessary for public investment into the early stages of
greenfield pipeline construction or brownfield pipeline conversion
projects to ensure the development of a backbone hydrogen
transportation system which provides sufficient scale to be
economically viable and which is openly accessible.

Hydrogen can also be transported in existing natural gas
pipelines by blending it with the natural gas (between 5 and 20 per
cent hydrogen by volume35). This can provide a lower
carbon gas product to consumers, or, in conjunction with downstream
separation and purification technologies, a means of delivering
pure hydrogen to market. Pilot blending projects are ongoing in
B.C., Alberta36 and Ontario. However, because of the
limits on blending and the continuing need for natural gas
pipelines, it is expected that a combination of blending and
dedicated hydrogen pipelines will be required to support the
development of the full Western Canadian hydrogen economy.

Takeaways

There is considerable excitement about the role of hydrogen in
reducing energy carbon intensity. Each region in Canada may develop
its own strategy based on its natural advantages.

In Western Canada, the production of blue hydrogen is supported
by an advantageous CCS environment, including the natural
geological potential of depleted oil and gas reservoirs and saline
formations, transferable technology and experience, and a well
articulated legislative and regulatory framework. Existing
pipelines which transport C02, hydrogen and blended hydrogen will
further support a blue hydrogen economy, although additional public
support may be required to ensure sufficient scale.

Footnotes

1 “Hydrogen Strategy for Canada: Seizing the
Opportunities for Hydrogen”, Dec. 16, 2020, (the Federal Hydrogen Strategy).

2 British Columbia ; Alberta; Ontario and Ontario Low-Carbon.

3 Federal Hydrogen Strategy page 74.

4 Including water, electricity, fossil fuels, and
biomass.

5 IEA “the Future of Hydrogen: Seizing
today’s opportunities, June 2019”
(the IEA
Report).

6 Layzell DB; Young C; Lof J; Leary J; Sit, S. 2020.
Towards Net-Zero Energy Systems in Canada: a Key role for Hydrogen.
Transition Accelerator Reports: Vol. 2, Issue
3
(the Transition Accelerator Report).

7 Such as fuel refining and nitrogen fertilizer
production.

8 It is also possible to produce hydrogen using auto
thermal reforming (ATR), which combines SMR with partial oxidation
in a single reactor, coupled with CCS to produce blue
hydrogen.

9 While there is much interest in “green”
hydrogen, which produces hydrogen using renewable energy to
electrolyse water, green energy does not have the production
capacity or cost advantages of blue hydrogen in the near term. For
example, the Transition Accelerator Report estimates that blue
hydrogen can be produced for approximately $1.52/kg to $3.32/kg
compared to approximately $2.24/kg to $5.36/kg for green hydrogen.
Thus, blue hydrogen will retain an advantage until the scale and
costs of green hydrogen permit it to take on a larger role. (See
Transition Accelerator Report, page 44).

10 Canada committed to reducing GHG emissions by 30 per
cent below 2005 levels by 2030 as part of the Paris Agreement with
a 2030 target of 511 Mt.

11 See Transition Accelerator Report, page 9.

12 See Transition Accelerator Report, page
31.

13 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2005: IPCC
Special Report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage. Prepared by
Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
[Metz, B., O. Davidson, H. C. de Coninck, M. Loos, and L. A. Meyer
(eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and
New York, NY, USA, 442 pp (the IPCC Report) – Chapter 5
“Underground geological storage”.

14 Transition Accelerator Report, page 10.

15 IPCC Report Chapter 5 “Underground geological
storage” page 222.

16 IPCC Report Chapter 5 “Underground geological
storage” page 223.

17 IPCC Report Chapter 5 “Underground geological
storage” page 221. “There is uncertainty about when oil
and gas fields will be depleted and become available for C02
storage. The depletion of oil and gas fields is most affected by
economic rather than technical considerations, particularly oil and
gas prices.” Note also that s.39(1.1) of the Oil and Gas
Conservation Act
RSA 200, c.O-6 provides that the Regulator
shall not grant a C02 disposal scheme approval unless it is
satisfied that the injection of the captured C02 will not interfere
with (a) the recovery or conservation of oil or gas, or (b) an
existing use of the underground formation for the storage of oil or
gas.

18 IPCC Report Chapter 5 “Underground geological
storage”.

19 The Federal Hydrogen Strategy notes that “The
production of hydrogen from natural gas via steam methane forming
with CCUS will be constrained by the availability and accessibility
of carbon storage geology. Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan have both
large natural gas reserves and CO2 storage potential making them
favourable for this production pathway.” P. 25.

20 IPCC Report p. 197

21 Quest CCS facility captures and stores five
million tonnes.

22 RSA 2000, c M-17.

23 Section 15.1(1) of the Mines and Minerals Act
RSA 2000, c M-17 declares that: (1) “no grant from the Crown
of any land, … or mines or minerals in any land in Alberta, has
operated or will operate as a conveyance of the title to the pore
space contained in, occupied by or formerly occupied by minerals or
water below the surface of that land; (2) “the pore space
below the surface of all land in Alberta is vested in and …
remains the property of the Crown in right of Alberta,”
whether or not the MMA or an agreement issued under the MMA grants
rights in respect of a subsurface reservoir (for example, storage
rights) or minerals occupying a subsurface reservoir (for example,
mineral rights), whether or not “minerals or water is
produced, recovered or extracted from a subsurface reservoir”;
and (3) Crown title to pore space “is deemed to be an
exception contained in the original grant from the Crown for the
purposes of section 61(1) of the Land Titles
Act
.

24 Alta Reg 68/2011.

25 S. 116 MMA.

26 Under the Oil and Gas Conservation Act. RSA
2000, c O-6.

27 Under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement
Act
RSA 2000, c E-12.

28 Under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement
Act
(ibid).

29 Section 56(2)(a) of the MMA.

30 Section 121(2).

31 Section 122 of the MMA.

32 The Air Products 50 kilometre hydrogen pipeline from
its 150 mmcf/d hydrogen facility in the Industrial Heartland of
Alberta is an example.

33 “Blending Hydrogen into Natural Gas Pipeline
Networks: a Review of Key Issues.” M.w. Melaina; O. Antionia;
and M. Penev. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, March 2013.
Page viii.

34 U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy

35 It is noted that the maximum hydrogen blend varies
widely depending on industrial facilities, end user appliances,
pipeline types and ages, and natural gas composition and is subject
to numerous safety and material integrity issues.

36 See for example the Atco Gas and Pipelines Fort
Saskatchewan hydrogen blending project
.

Originally Published by Borden Ladner, January 2021


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For Trudeau, there's no political reason to fight for Keystone XL – CBC.ca

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After U.S. President Joe Biden moved recently to revoke permits for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline project, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “disappointed.”

That was a fairly tepid reaction to losing an infrastructure project billed as a job-generator and an essential prop for a struggling Canadian energy sector.

But Trudeau doesn’t really have an incentive to take on the Biden administration over Keystone because — economic and environmental arguments for and against the project notwithstanding — there simply isn’t much of a political case for fighting for it any longer.

Like Trudeau, most Canadians just want to move on.

A survey by the Angus Reid Institute published on Tuesday found that 59 per cent of Canadians would “accept Biden’s decision on Keystone XL and focus on other Canada-U.S. priorities” if they were in the prime minister’s shoes. Only 41 per cent said they would instead “press for the authorization of Keystone XL above other Canada-U.S. priorities”.

That doesn’t mean Canadians are indifferent, however.

The poll found that 52 per cent of Canadians think Biden’s decision is a bad thing for this country, while just 30 per cent  think it’s a good thing. While there were some regional divides on the issue, pluralities in every part of the country said losing Keystone is bad for Canada.

So Trudeau’s response might have been an accurate reflection of how most Canadians are reacting to the news — with grudging acceptance.

Canadians also might be taking a dim view of the federal government’s chances of convincing the U.S. president to abandon a campaign promise — one that Biden thought was important enough to get out of the way on his first day in the Oval Office.

Biden has his own supporters to think about. So does Trudeau.

Keystone a big issue where Liberals have little support

Among those who voted for the Liberals in the 2019 federal election, 77 per cent of those polled by the Angus Reid Institute said they believed it would best for Ottawa to focus on priorities other than Keystone with Biden. The share of NDP and Green voters polled who felt the same way was even higher — at 81 and 87 per cent, respectively.

Those NDP and Green supporters happen to be the voters the Liberals need on their side to secure a majority government in the next election.

Regionally, the survey shows how the Liberals have little to gain by bringing up Keystone XL again. Only in Alberta and Saskatchewan did a majority of those polled by the Angus Reid Institute say they believe that the defence of Keystone XL should be placed above other priorities.

U.S. President Joe Biden signed his first executive orders in the Oval Office of the White House on Jan. 20, 2021, including the order revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. (AP)

The Liberals don’t hold any seats in either province. They also don’t have great prospects to change that situation any time soon. The party fell 13 seats short of a majority government in the last election — and not one of the 13 seats the Liberals came closest to winning was located in either Alberta or Saskatchewan.

Those near-miss seats were in Ontario (seven), Quebec (three), British Columbia (two) and Nova Scotia (one) — all provinces where a majority of voters expressed a willingness to let Keystone go.

In fact, the seat the Liberals came closest to winning in Alberta or Saskatchewan last time — Edmonton Centre — would rank just 30th on their list of target ridings based on voting margins in 2019.

It may sound cynical, but when an entire region of the country is no longer politically competitive for a particular party, that party no longer has a strong incentive to compete for those votes.

Canadians want the U.S. relationship to work

And there’s little for Trudeau to gain in picking a fight with Biden.

In the days after the U.S. vote, the Angus Reid Institute found that 61 per cent of Canadians expected Biden’s victory to have a positive impact on U.S.-Canada relations. Just 12 per cent expected the impact to be negative.

More recently, an Abacus Data survey conducted between Jan. 15 and 18 found that 49 per cent of Canadians held a positive impression of Biden and just 16 per cent had a negative one. By comparison, 80 per cent of Canadians polled have a negative impression of Donald Trump, and just nine per cent have a positive view of the ex-president.

Polls indicate Canadians were relieved to see Biden defeat Trump in the November presidential election. The former U.S. president was deeply unpopular in this country and most Canadians are unlikely to perceive the actions taken by the Biden administration as negatively as they viewed the decisions made by Trump — even the ones that could have a bad impact on Canada’s interests.

Preaching to the choir

So this is a relatively easy political choice for the Liberals. The Conservatives are in a trickier position.

According to the Angus Reid Institute poll, 79 per cent of Conservative voters think Keystone XL should be given priority over other issues. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has criticized the Liberals’ “total failure” on Keystone XL. He has not, however, gone as far as Alberta Premier Jason Kenney by calling for retaliatory sanctions.

It’s the duty of the Official Opposition to oppose — but going hard against the Liberals over Keystone is unlikely to appeal to many people outside the Conservative base.

The Conservatives already have 47 of 48 seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan. They need that last seat (Edmonton–Strathcona, occupied by a New Democrat) a lot less than they need to win dozens of new seats across Ontario, B.C. and Atlantic Canada.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole used his first two questions in the first question period of 2021 on the cancellation of the Keystone XL project. (Justin Tang / Canadian Press)

It makes sense for Kenney to go on the offensive against the federal government over Keystone XL, of course. He’s doing what most of his constituents would do in his shoes, according to the Angus Reid Institute poll.

Kenney also needs a political boost. Polls have shown he is now one of the least popular premiers in the country. Since the end of last summer, polls have consistently shown his United Conservative Party either statistically tied with or trailing the opposition New Democrats. The NDP even out-fundraised the UCP last year.

O’Toole doesn’t need to worry about his Alberta flank. But he still used his opening question in the first House of Commons question period of 2021 to needle the government over Keystone XL — on the one-year anniversary of the first recorded case of COVID-19 in Canada, during a week when no vaccines were being shipped into the country.

According to a poll released by Nanos Research this week, 42 per cent of Canadians think the pandemic is the top issue facing the country. Just 12 per cent said it was jobs and the economy. Less than one per cent pointed to pipelines or energy issues.

After the trauma of the Trump presidency, most Canadians appear ready to go along to get along — especially when there are plenty of other things to worry about.

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Politics and insurance: An end of an era or a new chapter? – Insurance Business

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Meanwhile, other insurance companies have taken action by firing employees who were identified as participants in the storming of the US Capitol, or making statements condemning the actions of those involved.

In potentially the biggest move away from political activities seen during this time, global broker Aon said that it was ending its relationship with the Trump Organization, after a tumultuous series of events that began when it received a subpoena in 2019 from New York’s insurance regulator about dealings with Trump’s family business.

Read more: Aon ends relationship with Trump Organization

These moves seem to reflect a broader trend in the insurance industry, as insurers take stock of the global political stage and re-evaluate their priorities. This development has probably been a long time coming, considering that key issues impacting insurers, like the environment and the coronavirus pandemic, have become politically tinged as global leaders decide on different directions to take when it comes to climate change and the handling of the virus – approaches that sometimes exist in contrast to what insurers have identified as the right moves forward, given the clear risks associated with such perils.

Perhaps nowhere is this trend clearer than in insurers taking a clear stance on insuring projects that harm the environment. In recent weeks, the list of insurance companies revealing new climate policies and strategies have included Lloyd’s of London, which will be ending investment in thermal coal-fired power plants, thermal coal mines, oil sands, and new Arctic energy exploration activities as part of its sustainability targets; AXIS Capital, which will not provide insurance coverage or investment support to projects related to exploration, drilling, or the production of oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; Marsh & McLennan, which aims to be carbon-neutral this year by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its own operations and purchasing verifiable offsets; and Allianz, which revealed concrete interim targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its investment portfolio of policyholder funds – marking the first time that the global insurer has done so.

Read more: Allianz sets climate aim for investments

While taking a clear side in the climate change ‘debate’ may in itself seem political, the reality is that insurers are now aligning themselves with the majority of the scientific community on the significant risks that climate change-related risks pose to their insureds, which are reflected in insurers’ own risk models (though notably, some critics say that insurers should still be doing more).

As for the coronavirus pandemic, insurers have, over the past year, been at the forefront of risk management as global leaders have determined when and how to reopen their societies and economies. Amid all of the various lockdown discussions, insurers have been providing critical advice to insureds on how to reopen their doors safely, while also keeping the risks in reopening without proper controls in place top of mind, since doing so could put employees and patrons in the path of the virus. This advice has been coming out at a steady pace from the industry, and has sometimes existed in contrast to the more lax perspectives of politicians on how to handle the virus.

Read more: Reopening the restaurant sector – a legal perspective

Of course, the insurance industry has also maintained a key role in the political world that remains critical, seen through its influence in the discussions around the availability of flood insurance, for example, or its very necessary participation in the development of private-public partnerships to offer coverage to businesses in the wake of future catastrophes. However, these are often fact-based conversations where insurers bring their knowledge from the industry and contribute to bipartisan efforts to, again, reduce risks for individuals, businesses, and the industry itself over the long-term.

As the new year begins and the global political stage evolves, insurers would do well to avoid becoming embroiled in the shifting tides that often define politics, and instead, focus on the bigger picture by doing what they do best, which is providing valuable risk management and insurance support to insureds around the world.

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