Oil giant Suncor doubles renewables investment

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Canadian oil giant Suncor Energy will put C$500 million into renewable energy projects over the next five years, double what it has invested in the sector over the past seven years. "Our focus for the future will be similar to the past, with an emphasis on wind power and bio fuels," says CEO Rick George. Suncor, with headquarters in Calgary, is a partner in four Canadian wind power projects with a combined capacity of 147 MW and operates the country's largest ethanol production facility. The company's renewable energy investments, says George, serve a number of purposes. "In the short-term, they improve consumer choices and act as a partial offset for greenhouse gas emissions in other parts of our operations -- something that will become increasingly important as we move further into a carbon-constrained economy. But the investments also make good business sense," he says. "While current rates of return are small compared to our core resource, it wasn't so long ago that people questioned the economics of the oil sands. Despite the sceptics, the financial success we have now achieved with our oil sands business allows us to play a leadership role in developing an emerging energy industry." Suncor is the world's second largest producer of oil sands crude, and in January its board approved plans to spend C$20.6 billion to increase overall production from 200,000 barrels of oil per day to 550,000 barrels by 2012. The oil sands have come under increasing scrutiny for their environmental impacts, particularly the emissions produced during the extraction and refining process. Public concern about the environment, George says, is neither a passing fad nor a diversion from the company's core business. "If the 21st century is to be coloured green then we all need to pick up our paintbrushes and get to work."

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