"Supporter Spotlight" features Canadians with a passion for Canada's Natural Resource sector. Our spotlight this month is Deidra Garyk. Deidra is a Canadian energy advocate and talks to us about the importance of Canadian energy for our communities, economy and environment.
1 - Canada Action: Deidra, thank you so much for taking the time today. You've worked in the Oil & Gas sector for the past 15 years and are an active energy advocate. Your pieces are published in publications such as EnergyNow, and you are a public speaker on public policy issues that affect the energy sector. How did you become an advocate?
Deidra: Completely by accident to be honest! It was Labour Day of 2018 and the Federal Court of Appeals had just put another halt on the Trans Mountain Pipeline. I felt devastated for all of the people who had a meaningful job, had a sense of purpose, and thought that they were going to go to work to provide for their families - and all the sudden, due to activism and misunderstandings, the Federal Court of Appeals halted the pipeline.
So I did the only thing I knew how to do: I wrote a letter to Justin Trudeau and I expressed my frustration. I decided to go public with it and the letter went viral. I had never been a content creator prior and did not have much of a social media presence, but for whatever reason the open letter got over 10,000 views on my LinkedIn page, which prior to that had virtually no engagement. Then it got picked up by Energy Now who asked if they could publish it.
The letter did really well with them and they asked if I'd be interested in being a regular contributor because they really felt that there was a lack of women's voices in the space and I have to say that I agree. I think that there is still a lack of women's voices in the space and so that's why I continue on.
2 - Canada Action: You mention on your website that you "don’t work on a drilling rig, don’t work in the oil sands, and are not a male executive sitting around a boardroom table”. You also mention that “I don’t fit those stereotypes. I am a female who works in an office tower in downtown Calgary. And I’m proud of the work I do.” What are some of the misconceptions and myths about Oil & Gas workers and the oil & gas industry, and what is it like to be a woman working in a male dominated industry?
Deidra: This is a great question because I think there are a lot of misconceptions about who an oil & gas worker is. The top one is that we're basically just out to destroy the environment, which is completely not accurate especially for those of us who live in Calgary. The mountains are an hour away and a lot of us spend our weekends in the mountains and we really value the natural environment, so that would be misconception number one. Then I just think the vilification of the hard-working men in particular, but the hard-working men and women out in the field that they're uneducated and kind of brutish. The very vilification of the working class, especially male working class of the oil & gas industry. It's just such a misconception.
The reason I advocate and continue to advocate so passionately for the industry is because of the amazing people that I work with every single day. A lot of those are men, and they're fantastic people and I will stand up for them every single day.
3 - Canada Action: Europe is currently undergoing an energy crisis. Just this year, they went into the winter season with low stocks of natural gas, which is used for heating homes and generating electricity. Shrinking domestic energy production in places like the Netherlands, weak breezes that failed to spin wind turbines as much as hoped, maintenance trouble at French nuclear plants and an increase of LNG imports from countries like Japan and China have merged into an energy shortage few saw coming. What do you say to people who say that there is no future in oil & gas and we should shut it all down?
Deidra: I think the reality speaks for itself. I am not opposed to renewables, I am not opposed to other alternative sources of energy like hydrogen, geothermal or nuclear. I think the need for energy is increasing every year as more and more countries develop and we lift more and more people out of poverty. They deserve to have the same standard of living as the western world, Canada, the US and Europe.
So why are we trying to limit their progress? I think that this is an “and” conversation. We can have oil & gas AND all the other forms of energy. It's not an “or” conversation. It can’t be an or conversation because we can see very clearly that wind and solar alone, (and existing Hydro even though I recognize that Hydro is not always considered a renewable form of energy) - those three forms of energy are not sufficient. People will die if that is the path we go down.
Energy security is incredibly fundamental for our modern way of life. If they want a fourth industrial revolution with enhanced internet usage etc, then we are going to need a lot more energy and we cannot be limiting any supplies and have to be realistic about it.
Canada's Federal government has given millions of dollars for wind and solar projects in the Arctic to displace diesel for heating and electricity means. Can you imagine, installing solar panels in the Arctic and thinking that that is going to be sufficient for energy use in the middle of winter? It's mind-boggling! And groups that are actively campaigning for government funding and policy changes to implement more wind and solar in the Arctic go up to these Arctic communities in the middle of summer and they try to demonstrate that these are going to be good energy sources and they're just being deceitful.
So we need it at all. There is absolutely space for solar panels when you don't have easy access to the grid. The oil & gas industry has been using solar on their remote locations for years because it just makes sense to do that. There is a place for it and that's the conversation that we need to have. But it needs to be realistic and we need to speak in the present and it has to be honest.
4 - Canada Action: Canada is lucky in that we have an abundance of energy sources. Oil & gas, hydroelectricity, coal, nuclear power, renewables… We have all the elements essential to ensure energy security and self-sufficiency. In a world where all eyes are on climate change and climate agreements, what does the future of energy look like and what can it mean for Canada as a global player?
Deidra: In terms of Canada's role on the world stage with energy supply, I think that we have to again be very realistic about what it is that we have to offer. We cannot impede the ability for Canada to get all of its natural resources to other markets. Everybody deserves the opportunities that we have in Canada and our governments have to stop implementing legislation that is not going to solve any of the problems. It’s not going to solve the environmental or climate problems.
We can be a solution. We are innovating in the oil & gas industry and that's what our government needs to keep promoting, particularly at the Federal level because we can be a leader in supplying the innovative technology that can be used in different parts of the world so that people not only have access to reliable and affordable energy, but so that they can access and clean up any of their energy sources that they use right now.
5 - Canada Action: A key topic in Canada right now is just transition which is supposed to ensure that communities most impacted by climate policy are not left behind. What are some of the challenges we face as we move into a just transition and how can we ensure that quality jobs remain available for resource workers in the communities impacted?
Deidra: Climate activist groups are very good at collecting language and using language that sounds really fair. But I think we all have to be honest and there's no way it's a just transition when it’s being forced and coerced. There's something to be said for transitions that sort of happen naturally like advancements in energy technologies that get adopted because they just make sense economically and environmentally. That would be a just transition. But when you have the government's agenda, often influenced by activists, then that’s not a just transition.
So understanding the intent behind the goals of transition is really critical. We have to be honest about it and we also have to push back on our governments who are really the most influential. And so I think we have to really look at it from all perspectives.
There is obviously the worker impact as well. Where are you going to send all these workers? People deserve to have a job that they have pride in and that gives them a sense of purpose, a place to be and a sense of community and that's what oil & gas does. And what is being proposed by the climate activists is not just at all. It's not fair and it's not right and it's not going to amount to what they say it will.
Workers were promised a number of jobs that just never came to fruition. They were over-promised and under-delivered and it's time that we stop believing them on face value.
6 - Canada Action: Several Canadian oil & gas companies have pledged to achieve net zero by 2050. What are your thoughts around Canada’s plan to achieve net zero and remain a supplier of choice?
Deidra: This is a difficult one! I applaud all the companies that are moving forward to implement technology that is going to transition us to a net zero economy. However, I have my skepticism about how easily this is going to go in terms of how easily can we actually employ the technology.
Is it going to work as promised? Is it going to cost what we expect? And then on the other side of it in terms of government setting net zero targets, are they going to be honest and good faith players or are they going to move the goalposts? And by that I mean are they going to say that nuclear can’t be part of it? No - you cannot use carbon capture utilization and storage technology. No - this particular source of energy is not clean etc.
So I think this is great, I really have a lot of passion for a clean environment, but I do have some hesitation about how this is all going to go down.
7 - Canada Action: Why do you think all Canadians should care about Canadian natural resource development? Is there any kind of message that you want to tell Canadians reading this?
Deidra: The message I would give to all Canadians is that energy issues affect all of us whether we recognize it or not. We take our energy security, abundance supply and affordability for granted. But the more regulations that come into place or may try to curtail production, the more it gets expensive because it costs more to produce it and it minimizes the supply.
So if you want to continue to have access to affordable, reliable, secure energy sources, then we all need to care about Canadian energy. We should want our energy coming from Canada. We are supporting the country. We are still one country and we should have one goal of working together for the betterment of the country. So energy security is part of that.
The geopolitics of energy has been a long-standing drama around the globe and Canada can be a leader in supplying our own energy sources as well as supplying energy sources to the world.
8 - Canada Action: What advice do you have for someone who would like to become an advocate and wants to do more and doesn’t know how to go about? What are your tips?
Deidra: I would say go to my website! (She laughs). I think first and foremost you can be an advocate simply by talking to people that you know. You don't have to necessarily become public.You can advocate just by sharing your positive messages and information you know about energy with family and friends and countering misinformation. It’s also great to reach out to different groups.
Another really great way to get involved in supporting the oil & gas industry, energy and natural resources is to get involved in politics as well. Be at the table. Be part of influencing the direction that our policies and legislation go. Talk to your politicians of all levels. Make sure that they understand the importance of this so that climate activist voices are not the only voices heard. Talk to the media at any opportunity.
I think we have to be available to counter any of the information otherwise if one side is always heard then our side is never considered. We have to keep talking to people honestly and credibly and that just comes from having the courage and the willingness to stand up and speak positively about the industry.
9 - Canada Action: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Deidra: I would just like to add something with regards to encouraging more women to speak up. There are a number of women who support the industry and I'd love to get them speaking their opinion a lot more. Their voices and perspectives are important and I’d like to hear more about the women who support energy and natural resources in general. Women have something to say and we need to be part of the conversation too!
10 - Canada Action: Deidra, it’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for your time today.
Deidra: Thank you!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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