We All Want Accessible Energy and Clean Water and Air

Nick Wilson,
Alberta Oil Magazine
September 1, 2016

I don’t want to get sucked into the sterile debate over the definition of “clean energy.” Anyone who’s seen a mechanical bird loader on a wind farm scooping up blade-maimed corpses by the hundreds knows that there’s no such thing as squeaky clean. And is an open-cast lithium mine any prettier than a bitumen tailings pond? All energy has a footprint. And all power and fuels are part of the global energy mix.

The other conversation I find pointless is the claim that renewable energy is the enemy of oil, and only exists due to liberal-left government meddling in the market. If renewables didn’t work, were too expensive or were responsible for canning oil workers, Enbridge and TransCanada wouldn’t be Canada’s leading producers of wind power, Suncor wouldn’t be building solar farms in Alberta and Chevron wouldn’t invest in geothermal energy across the globe.

What environmentalists and oil proponents have in common—and yes, even the loudest voices on both sides do share beliefs—is the desire for clean water and clean air.

This is what oilfield operators do; continually lower emissions and the amount of water and land used. They do it to save money and lighten their footprint. Cutting costs and cutting emissions has become a mantra since the price of oil tanked, the cost of carbon rose and the royalties regime rewarded reducing production costs—creating a powerful triple whammy. Being both one of the world’s most expensive producers and the global media’s ground zero for climate change is not a space anyone wants to be in when crude prices and oil-to-tidewater hopes are low. So our oil and service firms have done what they do best: innovate.

Dan Wicklum, CEO of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, sees a carbon neutral barrel of oil as not only desirable but “inevitable.” The Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors, led by Mark Scholz, has launched the “Oil Respect” campaign to focus on the hard-working guys and gals of the patch, who drink the same water and breathe the same air as do green protesters, and often live in the communities whose environments they are all too often accused of polluting.

Cody Battershill was so outraged by oil sands opponents’ disinformation that he founded Canada Action to push back. This NGO is fiercely proud of all Canadian natural resources—wind, sun, land, water and oil—and our world-class track record in developing them responsibly. Canada boasts one of the world’s greenest oil refineries, cutting edge carbon capture technology, solar systems designed for Alberta’s harsh climate, methane-grabbing innovations and leading environmental drilling technology.

This oil sands edition offers a voice to the many people working in one of Canada’s greatest natural resource sectors. What we hear and see in their words, work and wisdom is something that quietly oozes from the northern sands—pride and respect.

Story: Alberta Oil Magazine