What B.C. needs is more energy


What B.C. needs is more energy

Written by: Lori Ackerman, The Vancouver Sun September 24, 2013 Continue reading

It’s often difficult for the public to assess any large energy project like Northern Gateway or the LNG initiatives without a reasonable level of what many call “energy literacy.”

Energy literacy, of course, describes a person’s understanding of the role energy plays in our lives, how that energy is generated and transported, and touches on the ways the energy industry continues to evolve and improve over time. We need energy literacy to achieve long-term, affordable energy solutions. As the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources notes, “Every citizen must be part of the solution and start by becoming more energy literate.”

In our region we work in natural gas, coal, wind, solar, geothermal and hydro and yes, we also have a deep understanding of pipelines and pipeline safety. Generally, this region is relatively energy literate.

But if energy literacy is to yield sound decision-making, then the public at large deserves a primer on energy innovation, and on energy more broadly.

The oil and gas industry, from production right through to distribution, has made enormous strides toward ever-newer technologies and better methods — from planning through construction, monitoring and maintenance.

One of the great aspects of being involved in my community is knowing our entrepreneurs and innovators. These are the people that get up each day and ask themselves: “How can I make my work more efficient, effective and leave a lighter footprint?” That intellectual property is creating wealth.

I am passionate about this approach because I was raised by an innovator and I see it as an antidote to simply saying ‘no’ to industrial development, including large energy projects like the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline or the LNG projects. Saying ‘no’ can temporarily preserve the way things are, but inevitably saying ‘no’ can also mean tough decisions need to be made and some of the services we rely on to create quality of life may face closure.

Sure, saying ‘no’ is always an option, but it can’t be a community’s only option.

To be honest, I’d much rather challenge the oil and gas industry to continue with innovation, than to say ‘no.’ My experience has been that when you challenge this industry to do something better, it’s amazing how the industry comes up with proposals to meet that challenge. Their regard for safety can only be described as remarkable. As a mom of some of these workers, you can only imagine how I appreciate this. As a leader in the community, the sector’s outreach to ensure social license is unlike any other industry.

That’s why we’re holding the Fort St. John Energy Conference from Oct. 1 to 3 (bcenergyconference.ca).

We can change the conversation, and raise the level of energy literacy across the province. We view this as a very important initiative for moving our region and our province forward.

But oil and gas aren’t our only natural assets in northeastern B.C., and nor is energy. Among other things, the Fort St. John region is also the northernmost agricultural region in the country and we have a vibrant forestry industry as well. So when we talk about the four pillars of our community plan, we take a wide-ranging view of what it is we want to achieve in future, including economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, social inclusion and cultural vitality.

For us, being proactive means consulting with our community, engaging as many citizens and businesses as we can, and preparing our community for growth and change within the framework of the four pillars.

To be honest, residents from this area of the province well understand how to work toward lower CO2 emissions, and how to build and maintain safe energy infrastructure, including pipelines. We do this every day.

We want to share that experience with those outside our region. The Energy Conference in October is one way for us to help re-focus the discussion and to bring more British Columbians into the conversation to raise the knowledge level on energy issues. After all, it’s a conversation that needs changing.

Northerners recognize the world is moving ever closer to a knowledge economy. We also know we’re a small population spread out across a very large country, and natural resources are highly valued worldwide. If we’re going to continue with our resource-based economy, then let’s ensure we proceed in an effective and efficient manner that leaves a lighter footprint — that approach is knowledge that can then be exported as well.

We need to be a proactive part of creating policy that drives all industries in a more sustainable direction.

Lori Ackerman is mayor of Fort St. John and a director of both the Peace River Regional District and the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

Graham: Canadians need to improve their energy literacy

energy literacy

By Bruce Graham, Calgary Herald April 24, 2013

At its core, Canada is an export nation. And our largest export is oil and gas. Continue reading

As Canadians, we’re lucky to have the third largest oil reserves in the world — 97 per cent of them located in the oilsands in northern Alberta.

We’ve gained the skills to exploit these reserves in an environmentally friendly manner and to export them primarily via pipelines using innovative technology and tough environmental regulation.

During the next 25 years, the oilsands are expected to contribute more than $2.1 trillion to the Canadian economy — about $84 billion a year. That’s money that goes to all parts of Canada and creates jobs and industry.

Over that same period, the oilsands are expected to contribute about $311 billion in federal taxes to help pay for Canada’s health, education and social programs.

And new oilsands investments are predicted to grow Canada’s oilsands-related jobs from 75,000 in 2010 to 905,000 in 2035 — creating 126,000 jobs in provinces other than Alberta.

The energy sector remains the largest employer of aboriginal people in the country, and in 2010, purchased about $1.3 billion in goods and services from aboriginal-owned businesses.

So why, given the enormous importance of this industry, does the energy sector need to apologize or suggest we can do better? Sure we can do better — we are still in the early stages of developing this resource.

Let’s stop apologizing.

Indeed, this country has some of the toughest environmental and human rights laws and regulations on the books. Oilsands greenhouse gas emissions account for 1/1,000th of the world’s carbon emissions, and through the ingenuity of Canadians, those emissions per barrel have been declining. Since 1990, carbon emissions intensity from the oilsands has been reduced by 26 per cent.

In Canada, we are developing world-leading carbon capture and storage projects. In fact, a Calgary-based company is among the finalists in the Virgin Earth Challenge for carbon negative technology — further reinforcing our technical expertise and commitment to the environment.

Alberta’s oilsands and Canada’s extensive pipeline network are highly regulated and closely monitored.

New proposed pipelines, like the Northern Gateway, will be among the most advanced, safest pipelines in the world, and will include sophisticated computerized monitoring systems, aerial patrols, routine inspections and detailed education outreach to local landowners and communities.

Unfortunately, many Canadians simply don’t understand how important the oilsands — and the pipeline networks that transport this oil — are to the future strength of the nation.

A recent study by the University of Calgary on energy literacy demonstrates how much work needs to be done to educate Canadians on energy issues.

As the university’s Jean-Sebastien Rioux notes, “Canada is in danger of having a general population that is divorced from the process of wealth creation via the responsible development of our plentiful natural resources — both renewable and non-renewable — which accounts directly for over 15 per cent of our gross domestic product, and about 20 per cent if we include the indirect contribution to our GDP through the purchase of goods and services such as construction, machinery, professional services and transportation.”

We need to vastly improve energy literacy in this country so that we can have intelligent debates about energy policy.

We must begin to realize the importance of diversifying our energy market beyond the United States. Canada loses $50 million a day, or $17 billion a year, because our only customer, the United States, receives a discount on the international market price.

If Canadian oil could reach tidewater via pipelines to the West Coast, like Northern Gateway, we could eliminate this discount, meaning more money in provincial and federal coffers — and more jobs across the country. Similarly, moving product east via TransCanada’s converted gas pipeline to Quebec and New Brunswick provides opportunities to get to tidewater.

The risks of building and operating pipelines are manageable; it can be done in a safe and environmentally sound manner.

The real risk is a public that’s been and continues to be misinformed on energy matters.

The focus must now be on better educating Canadians on our natural resource and energy abundance — and on the transportation networks that get these resources to market.

No less than the future prosperity of this country depends on it.

Bruce Graham is president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development.

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