The National Energy Strategy in Canada

Canada's provinces are going backwards

Last month was the announcement of the national energy strategy supported by all Canadian provinces Premiers. Knowing that the vast majority of people did't listen or watch the entire announcement, it is worthwhile to have a quick look. Nowhere did we hear about moving on to new energy sources, not in a firm statement anyways. Not only we did not hear about a future of gradually reducing the amount of oil production to swift towards renewable energy but we heard the same repetitive lines from the past few years; that the energy industry (oil and gas) is creating jobs, allows every level of government to collect taxes and increase their bank account. Noticeably, they all seem to forget that today the renewable energy sector is creating more jobs than the oil and gas in Canada (23 700 jobs in renewable versus 22 340 jobs in the oil and gas). Additionally, it would allow Canada and each province to get close to their emission targets. 

During the announcement one of the journalists asked what was the GHG emission reduction target for this strategy? The answer was quite shocking. "They is no target related to this strategy. The targets are in another documents which have been signed previously" says M. Couillard Quebec's PM. The targets are in another agreement that has nothing to do with the energy strategy. WHAT! So let me ask you this, if you implement a strategy within a business and you have not set any targets to that particular strategy, how likely will you know if the strategy is effective without any KPIs (Key Performance Indicator)?

Pushing for pipelines as the safest transportation method, Mr Couillard had the nerves to mention that rail was a much more hazardous than pipelines referring to the Lac-Mégantic incident two years ago. It's been about two years since we started hearing about the oil versus rail debate. The real debate isn't about the transportation method, it's about the content. We have almost doubled the amount of train carts carrying oil in Canada since 2011 as the existing pipelines are at capacity. 

As not everyone has the time to read through the 40 pages document, I decided to skip a bike ride with friends and gave it a read to hopefully help many others who could not make the time for the reading. At first glance, it is obvious that the Premiers want to make some efforts toward a sustainable future. While reading through the pages you quickly realize that their sustainable plan is to find a better way to extract the oil and gas that mother earth has buried underground million years ago. The document is highly focused on the energy transportation aspects rather than a slow transition by investing in newer technology striving to become a leader in renewables to follow leading countries. 

Why would we push this hard on extracting the tar sand at the expense of Canadian's health, neglecting our emission targets, the ecosystem and our breath taking landscape forever for employment? Who are really going to be benefiting from this and who will be suffering? Canada is not even getting the best share of the deal as the bitumen is not processed in Canada. We are only exporting crude oil and leave  over half the profit on the table along the way. The jobs that the energy industry usually create are the jobs that nobody is happily doing. They are chasing a paycheque and are willing to give up their long time health a the profit of private companies and shareholders who will sell anytime for a profit. 

The Positive

Not to diminish all the work that they have done. There are a few key positive points in this document. To begin with, we have not seen such interprovincial cooperation (including all provinces) in quite sometimes. There are many time where sustainability and social responsibility is mentioned which seems good to at least see that it becomes a discussion. There are good numbers and fact about the growing renewable energy in the country. As per the document, we are ranked 7th in wind energy producer worldwide with just above 9600 MW which is great. However, when compared to our southern neighbours who are generating over 65 000 MW of energy output from windmills our number seems fairly slim. It is over six times the amount that Canada is producing. It is great to see that there is progress but is it really enough to keep competing? China on the other hand are generating over 114 000 KW annually. They are investing in the future technology that will no longer ruin their cities and air quality as it is the biggest challenge for the Chinese government. How will that affect the oil and gas importation from Canada? 

The Alternative

Our economic system is so dependent on the energy price that it affects our overall economy especially on importations as everything now cost Canadian companies an extra 25% on U.S. products. How dangerous is it for a country to highly depend on only on resource? It would be the same as if your financial advisor was suggesting you not to diversify your wallet. If you have a high risk tolerance, by all means, however when you have to manage a country, you cannot play with the same risk level.  

What we need to do is not to stop the oil and gas industry tomorrow as it would totally be ludicrous. The alternative is quite simple but harder to implement. Keep the existing tar sand mine active, stop new tar sand mine approval, redirect the investments towards renewable energy that will create and provide   a sustainable future for the next generation. Shortermism needs to stop.  From now on, no more projects to be approved to expend the industry redirecting  million and billion of dollars in investment into viable renewable energy projects. From electric car incentive (which currently exists), to home battery pack, to home/commercial solar panel incentive to feed the grid (previously offered in Ontario), to offshore wind farms, to investing in R&D for new technologies. Cutting trees to build a solar power plant would employ the exact same employees as the oil & gas industry does today. We need loggers, welders, project managers, environmental consultants, machinery operators, electricians and so on. But then the land isn't destroy, it will be producing electricity until the panels need to be replaced (30 to 50 years). By doing this we leave a real legacy to our children and grand children, not a destroyed planet to deal with. 

Now call me an activist simply because I care more about the future of our economy, of our children and of our resources than profits