Contributed by Estella Petersen
The federal government’s ‘Just Transition’ policy specifically targets oil and gas workers at a time when global demand for both commodities is growing. As an oil and gas worker and Indigenous female, I have a few thoughts about this.
Some have speculated that changing the name of Ottawa’s ‘Just Transition’ policy would appease some, but at the end of the day it is just wording.
Instead, how about we just transition to more realistic policies that recognize the significant benefits oil and gas have for Canadians and Indigenous Peoples, and make a change for the better?
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Positive Change is Good
Canadians are constantly bombarded with partial and sometimes misleading information about the oil and gas sector. Often you’ll see social media posts portraying Canadian oil and gas as “Dirty Oil” or “Tar Sands,” even though the reality of most production in Canada is the opposite.
But put the noise aside, and Canadians should be very proud of the high ethical and environmental practices that oil and gas companies adhere to.
For example, the energy sector is doing everything it can to be on track for substantial emission reductions by 2030 on the path toward net zero by 2050. Carbon capture and storage, wind and solar, biofuels and liquefied natural gas are just a few of the ways these energy companies are continuing to have a positive impact on emission reductions worldwide.
Personally, I find the concept of clean energy very exciting. But I am also pragmatic about global energy systems and how they work. I understand that oil and gas aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
Oil & Gas Demand is Growing
Despite all the momentum of renewables, global oil and gas demand continues to grow today past record levels – and it is projected to do so for many decades yet.
Canada is a highly responsible producer of oil and gas with some of the most stringent environmental regulatory practices in the world. We are world leaders, and countries know that, which is why we’ve had countries like Germany and Japan come to us asking for increased natural gas exports.
However, when turned away, they have no choice but to look elsewhere for energy such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the U.S. to name a few examples.
It is incredible that in a world with growing oil and gas demand, Canada continues to look the other way when our allies ask for energy. Don’t we know that if this oil and gas aren’t produced by Canada, it will simply come from elsewhere abroad – likely from a less responsible, less environmentally friendly producer?
Benefits of Oil & Gas
Clean technologies such as wind, solar, hydro, nuclear and other emerging types such as hydrogen and geothermal are undoubtedly useful in lowering emissions. But to think that if we cede oil and gas market share to other less environmentally responsible producer nations and will somehow lower global emissions in the process is naïve.
Canadians have lost their jobs, businesses, and hope in the past few years. Our economy is struggling, inflation is high, and so are unemployment rates. Isn’t it well known that natural resource projects are a major boon to the economies of nations around the world – even during ‘bust’ or down cycles of activity?
Most Indigenous Peoples and Canadians understand the prosperity that oil and gas create in Canada. Government revenues generated by the sector pay for hospitals, schools, infrastructure and so much more.
Additionally, the relationship between Indigenous communities and energy companies is growing stronger as First Nations are now, in many instances, being offered an ownership stake in new projects, and their input is respected and supported. Several Indigenous communities in Canada have uplifted themselves out of poverty through own-source revenues generated by oil and gas.
Why aren’t we talking about the positives that oil and gas have on Canadian and Indigenous families, their economies and also government revenues?
We Need to Be Energy-Pragmatic
The theory of ‘Just Transition’ seems like a good concept for the world by lowering global carbon emissions. However, unfairly targeting the oil and gas sector without acknowledging the significant benefits of the industry is just wrong.
Oil and gas both remain critical elements of modern-day society. Whether it be in nitrogen-based fertilizers that feed roughly half the planet, in plastics used for consumer products, or jet fuel used to fly us all over the globe, we must be realistic about how long any transformation of global energy systems will take given our heavy reliance on fossil fuels.
Canada would do best to acknowledge the benefits of oil and gas, and tread carefully moving forward in their ‘Just Transition’ policy, which, given current global energy demand patterns, would simply cede our global market share to less responsible producers abroad.
About the Author
Estella Petersen is a heavy machinery operator in the oil sands out of Fort McMurray. Estella is from the Cowessess Reserve and is passionate about Canada and supporting Canadian natural resources.
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