A few days ago I wrote an op/ed for the Edmonton Journal. You can read it here:
After writing it I felt I left a few things out. I’ve decided to revamp it a little and post the full version. Please read and share.
In solidarity, Mike Hudema.
Dear Future Alberta Premier:
I’m writing to you as a fellow Albertan who loves this province but is worried about its future. My message to you is simple: it’s time to go renewable.
Last week, despite the Federal green light it is now quite apparent that I have a better chance at walking on Mars than Enbridge does in building Northern Gateway. Between the B.C. government’s ‘5-conditions’ not being met, a slew of First Nation lawsuits already launched, a possible referendum in the works, and over 20,000 people committed to doing whatever it takes to stop the tar sands pipeline, Northern Gateway’s demise is already being written.
The other major tar sands pipelines face similar hurdles and none of them are even close to a done deal.
A denial of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline looks to be in the works after the U.S. midterms. Opposition to Kinder Morgan’s tar sands pipeline to southern B.C. is heating up as First Nations are joined in opposition to the project by the mayors of Burnaby and Vancouver. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, opposition to the proposed Energy East pipeline is also growing, particularly in Quebec where they would need to lay the new pipe.
In addition to the rising pipeline opposition the other bad sign for Alberta’s carbon empire is that the world is starting to come to terms with the realities of the growing climate crisis and the urgent need to address it. More and more countries are making moves to reduce their emissions and cut their fossil fuel use. Just recently carbon giants China and the US have made small steps to do the same. The pressure to address the climate crisis isn’t going to subside, but instead, like the frequency and intensity of the super storms climate change causes, is set only to increase.
The UN climate chief (and IEA backed) pronouncement that, ‘¾ of all fossil fuel reserves need to remain in the ground’ in order to stabilize the climate means the tar sands picture in Alberta doesn’t look so rosy. Addressing climate change means the market for high-carbon fuels like the tar sands will dry up and leave many tar sands projects stranded.
Alberta needs a plan B.
Rather than putting all of our eggs in the boom-and-bust basket of tar sands expansion, Alberta could capitalize on its tremendous potential to get us off the roller coaster, out of the carbon doghouse and become a national leader in renewables.
Alberta is one of the sunniest provinces in the entire country (second only to Saskatchewan). Solar energy has dramatically dropped in price in the past few years, making it cost-competitive with traditional power in many parts of the world. China installed as much solar capacity last year as the entire Alberta electricity system, Germany employs over 250,000 people in its renewable sector, and the global possibilities for a solar boom look even brighter.
Alberta has a chance to seize the momentum and ride the solar wave. Solar can save home and business owners money on their energy bills, it can help reduce costs for farmers and in some cases, can provide them with a much-needed guaranteed income, and it can help Alberta lower its booming emissions as well.
Tapping into the power of the sun also creates jobs and jobs that you don’t have to leave your community to work in. In California, there are now more workers employed in the solar industry in than there are actors. In Texas, there are more solar workers than ranchers. It’s time that Alberta caught up and embraced its tremendous potential.
Wind is also big. We all know how windy the south of Alberta is, but there’s huge potential throughout the province. Alberta used to lead Canada in wind energy development and has the potential to reclaim that lead once again. Despite numerous hurdles, wind already supplies 5% of Alberta’s electricity, but has the potential to do a lot more. Wind is one of the lowest cost risks for new electricity supply and it could be another sector that would help diversify our economy, reduce our emissions and put people to work.
A robust retrofitting program could be some of the quickest and biggest wins for Alberta creating anywhere between 10,000 and 22,000 jobs. Employing people to retrofit leaky buildings and homes is an easy way to reduce emissions and save home and business owners money. Who wouldn’t like a little extra cash in their pocket? A good retrofitting program could reduce emissions equivalent to taking more than 150,000 cars off the road.
According to Natural Resources Canada, Alberta also has some of the best geothermal energy potential in Canada. Tapping into the energy of the intense heat that exists deep underground requires expertise in drilling, of which there is no shortage in our province.
The possibilities for Alberta’s renewable energy growth really are endless. From high-speed rail, to supporting solar energy, there is much we could be doing with our wealth that the government isn’t. Opinion polls consistently show that Albertans want action on the climate, and they prefer investments in renewables to fossil fuels.
The public support is there, the need for action has never been greater and the opportunity is huge. The only thing we are missing future Premier is you.
Rather than denying the problem, blocking progress, wouldn’t it be easier just to lead the green charge?
People throughout Alberta are already moving and realizing the benefits. We’d love it if you came and joined us.
A fellow Albertan.