05 January 2012
This article was published in the Hill Times on December 5, 2011 by Senator David Angus and Senator Grant Mitchell.
The Keystone XL pipeline decision splashed across major newspaper andtwitter feeds illustrates an increased appetite by the public to engagewith energy issues. As heated debate swirls among pundits,environmental groups and energy stakeholders, it can be difficult forCanadians and policy makers alike to evaluate competing claims andinterests. So where does Canada go from here?
There are complex challenges facing us today and we need tocollaborate widely to transform rhetoric into viable long termsolutions. Future generations of Canadians are counting on us to getthis right.
For our part, as members of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy,Environment and Natural Resources’ we identified that there is an urgentneed for a national energy discussion and we launched a comprehensivestudy on Canada’s energy future over two and a half years ago. Our studyprovides a discussion venue for energy sector experts, governmentpolicy makers, aboriginal and industry leaders, environmentalorganizations and concerned citizens. Our study is enriched by thecollaboration of over 200 witnesses from across the country.
Our hearings highlighted a fragmented energy conversation in thiscountry. Individuals and organizations are passionately involved in theenergy future debate, but many of these discussions are occurring insilos. Without bringing together environmental and economic interests,without recognizing a strong national discussion can only take placewith increased energy literacy, we are not fully capitalizing on thehome-grown ideas, innovations and efforts needed for Canada to prosper.
Not enough Canadians celebrate Canada as a major energy producer andexporter. As a nation our quality of life is shaped by our abundantnatural resources and our ingenuity to develop them responsibly.Addressing our climate change challenge requires enhanced energyliteracy among all Canadians. Collectively, we need to betterunderstand how the lights go on in our homes and our individual impactson the environment. Informed energy citizens of today are the energyheroes of tomorrow. Our clean energy future will involve tradeoffs anddifficult policy making decisions. Informed energy citizens will supportand encourage smart energy choices.
Just this past week, we completed public hearings in part of Canada’senergy heartland, Alberta and British Columbia. A variety of witnessesprovided a wide spectrum of opinions and viewpoints. Here is a summaryof highlighted challenges and opportunities we heard.
Canada needs to gain access to new energy markets in order to get acompetitive price for our products and to diversify away from reliancesolely on the US market. Delay can mean being locked out fromopportunities to meet Asian energy demand. Massive deployment of newenergy infrastructure is needed. We heard, however, repeated concernsabout the capacity of the regulatory process to approve major newprojects in a timely way. The pace and duplication in the regulatoryprocess must be addressed while we continue to demand the highestenvironmental standards and while respecting our Constitutionalcommitment to First Nations peoples.
Innovation across all energy sources and production processes must bedramatically ramped up. Witnesses stressed that technologicaldeployment and innovation is key to both addressing climate changechallenges and sustainably supplying growing global energy demand. Onewitness stressed, that funding everything produces mediocre results, not game-changing technologies.
Industry abhors a regulatory vacuum. We have heard consistent callsfrom industry for greater certainty regarding emission reductionregulations. After our hearings in the West, we are left with no doubtthat the federal government has set itself very ambitious emissionreduction targets. Industry, however, is missing the necessary signalsit needs about the policies to meet these target that are essential tolong term planning and investment decisions. Many witnesses called formarket based policy instruments to allow industry the maximumflexibility in their compliance, and at the most efficient cost.
The committee was impressed with the Horn River Basin Producers groupapproach to aboriginal community engagement. This group brings togetherstakeholders and producers to address in a collaborative way concernslike aboriginal employment and job training opportunities. This model isbeing studied by other producers and even being exported to othercountries.
We toured Westport Innovations, a Vancouver based company that leadsthe industry in developing liquid natural gas technologies for mediumand heavy vehicle fleets. This company has partnered with RobertTransport, a Quebec transport company deploying LNG engines in theirtrucking fleet. This is an example of the pan-Canadian collaborationthat will drive our energy future. On another site visit the NaturalResource Canada’s CanmetENERGY Research Centre in Devon Alberta,Committee members were shown leading edge technology by passionateresearchers who were committed to excellence in oil sands production andprocessing.
After completing public hearings in all ten provinces we are in thehomestretch of our study. We hope our report, due June 2012, based onthe testimony we have heard will serve as a resource for all Canadian asthey collaborate on a Canadian Energy Strategy.
Senator David Angus serves as Chair and Senator Grant Mitchellserves as Vice-Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, theEnvironment and Natural Resources. The Committee is holding publichearings in Saskatchewan and Manitoba December 6th -9th, 2011. Find out more about the Committee’s study at www.canadianenergyfuture.ca or follow us on twitter @sceenr_says.