Canada is an energy nation. Our past and our future are intertwined with the development of our energy resources. From the oil sands of Northern Alberta, to natural gas deposits off Nova Scotia's coast, to the hydropower of Quebec and uranium in Saskatchewan, our country has unparalleled potential to deliver energy to our citizens and to the world.
One of the reasons I ran for the Senate was to advance a national dialogue on our energy future. Canada urgently needs a shared vision that describes how our energy production and use will evolve in the future. I believe that it is only through a common understanding of our energy challenges and opportunities that Alberta and Canada can ensure our future prosperity.
Affordable and reliable energy is the basis of our modern standard of living. We can all agree that energy amenities - making coffee in the morning, driving our children to school, or reading in bed at night – make our lives better. And thanks to population growth and rising incomes in developing countries, these amenities are becoming available to hundreds of millions of people around the world for the first time. Indeed, global energy demand is expected to rise by at least 30 per cent over the next 20 years.
Canada has a role to play in meeting this global demand, as well as continuing to ensure our own energy security. The benefits cannot be underestimated and roll across the country in the form of more jobs and government revenue. Already, the energy sector employs over 500,000 Canadians and generates about 25 per cent of our country's export revenues - $113 billion in 2013.
There is a direct connection between being able to sell our energy at the highest price possible throughout the world and maintaining the advanced standard of living that Canadians have come to enjoy and expect. READ MORE
Discounted prices for Alberta's energy resources in U.S. markets – where production has grown dramatically in recent years and demand is flat or falling – mean significant lost revenues for energy companies, Albertans and Canadians. CIBC has estimated that Canada could miss out on more than $50 billion over the next three years due to constrained market access.
More than 90% of growth in global energy demand is expected to come from non-OECD countries in the coming decades. China and India will account for more than half of the total. Developing the infrastructure needed to link Canada's energy resources with these growing markets can benefit every Canadian, and I believe that expanding market access is the single most urgent and important economic challenge facing Alberta and Canada today.
Wherever opportunity is found, communities flourish. For many Aboriginal communities across Canada, energy development represents a tremendous opportunity for employment and revenue. READ MORE
All strong relationships are built on a foundation of trust. When it comes to Aboriginal involvement in energy development, the status quo is too often characterized by political uncertainty, economic losses, and social stress. To become a true global leader in environmentally and socially sustainable energy development, Canada must address the current trust gap between Aboriginal Canadians, governments, and the energy industry. We must move beyond the legal duty to consult to meaningful and early involvement of impacted Aboriginal communities in the energy development process.
Success is possible. In Quebec, an agreement between the Cree Nation and the provincial government provides for the sharing of revenues derived from mining, hydroelectric development and forestry carried out on the traditional lands of the Cree People.
Developing a more trusting foundational relationship among Aboriginal Canadians, governments and energy companies will result in more responsible development and a more competitive energy industry.
Albertans and Canadians recognize that although fossil fuels will play an important role in meeting our energy needs for the foreseeable future, we must push for better environmental performance, improved energy efficiency, and shift our consumption toward renewable sources of energy. READ MORE
Albertans and Canadians should view this challenge as an opportunity to further develop our world-class environmental and clean energy technology industries and market our products to the world.
Alberta is already a global leader in terms of regulating energy development and reducing environmental impacts through innovation. In 2008, Alberta became the first jurisdiction in North America to introduce mandatory greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for all large emitters. As part of that requirement, we put a price on carbon, developed a regulated offset market, and created a technology fund that has received $380 million and leveraged it into more than $1.57 billion in clean energy projects.
In the private sector, the leading oil sands producers have launched Canada's Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, a partnership to improve environmental performance through collaborative action. This model is unique in the world and at the forefront of driving innovation. To date, member companies have shared 446 distinct technologies that cost over $700 million to develop.
There's no question there's more to be done. There always is. But we have embraced this challenge as an opportunity for economic diversification and competitive advantage. That's the Alberta way.
It is essential that educators, governments, environmental organizations, think tanks and industry work together to improve Canadians' understanding of how energy is produced and consumed, and how that affects our economy, society and environment. This dialogue has to be based on the facts, with the goal of creating energy-literate citizens. READ MORE
Understanding Canada's energy systems is the essential starting point. How is crude oil extracted, shipped by pipeline to a refinery, and then turned into gasoline to power our car to take us to the cottage? How does a water reservoir become electricity that moves by transmission lines to power the light bulb that lets us read at night? Once we know how energy works, we can begin to understand the current energy production and consumption mix in the transportation, residential, commercial and industrial sectors. We can also better evaluate our energy options for the future, and the costs and benefits associated with each.
I believe it is fundamentally important that we create opportunities in Alberta and in Canada to discuss energy in an objective and reasoned way. Improving energy literacy is the necessary first step to addressing our current energy challenges and taking advantage of our energy opportunities.
Throughout my career as an energy lawyer, I was a proponent for responsible energy development and an advocate for diversifying Canada's energy markets. Most notably, I served as founding president of the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the development of a Canadian energy framework.
I am currently a member of the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. This committee does important work to advance an informed energy agenda in Canada, including studies of complex policy challenges and the review of energy-related legislation.
I also encourage you to read my blog, found at www.dougblack.ca/news. I regularly update my website with new and important information on energy issues.