I have regularly indicated that the second policy issue that my leadership will focus on is environment. I chose it because, though I am a fiscal conservative and don’t believe it would be proper to borrow from the next generation thereby leaving them a debt, I believe it would be morally reprehensible to leave the next generation with an environmental debt that can never be simply paid off. That, however, does not mean we must trade the success of the economy or energy development for the environment. There is no mutual exclusivity in the areas of the economy, energy production, or the environment. In fact, a suffering of one directly impacts the success of the other two.
Developing energy sources means that we learn how to lessen our impact on the environment, diversify our sources, and improve technology. A reduction in investment in developing new, cleaner, diversified energy sources and technologies means that our economy over concentrates in traditional energy supplies and becomes prone to drastic global fluctuations that will only be amplified in the coming years. In other words, if you thought the last few boom and bust cycles were bad you haven’t seen anything yet, and we will deserve everything we get if we don’t invest in diversified energy, and revenue, sources. However, as the economy suffers, so too will the investments in developing new, cleaner, diversified energy sources, and then so to will the environment. Of course not ensuring a quality environment will give us all a negative reputation around the globe, which will lead to a slower economy, which will directly impact the resources available to invest in new, cleaner, diversified energy sources and technologies by Albertans. So, as you can see, the economy, the environment, and energy development are all completely tied together and mutually dependent.
It means that we must consider energy development, the environment, and the economy woven together into one fabric. It means that we must not pit one segment against the other, but realize their interdependence exists, and a healthy symbiosis is the key to a prosperous Alberta. In many ways we have already begun to realize that as a government and taken initiatives to improve the situation of all three. Carbon capture and storage is designed to protect the environment by taking carbon out of production exhaust and use it for enhanced oil recovery. The province also charges $15 a tonne for emissions that exceed pre-established targets, and the proceeds go into a technology fund designed to support developing cleaner, more diversified energy and technology. Those are some very interesting initiatives.
I would assert that the government need not always be the leader in developing programs that ensure a balance. In fact, since this relationship between cleaner, more diversified energy sources and the environment also includes the economy as a third partner, it is critical that some of the solutions and investment come from industry and make sound business sense. You may not be aware but there are some incredible examples. I am not citing any of these in order to elicit support, but rather to illustrate a point. Good stories are coming out of the energy industry and we need to tell the world about them. Capturing and storing carbon underground is a good idea when done in a careful and commercial and sustainable way, but it is only one of the tools we can and should be using on carbon emissions.
Right now, with current technology, there are two companies right here in Alberta that are capturing high-carbon gases rich in natural gas liquids and converting these into saleable, value-added products. In doing so they are reducing the CO2 output of one upgrader, which alone means approximately 300,000 few tonnes of CO2 are emitted every year. If the same process was added to every upgrader in Alberta we would see reductions of one million tonnes of carbon every year. This came about because of a strong economy that supported the economic reduction of CO2 without one dollar of taxpayer money. The process produces valuable natural gas liquids that are the feedstock for the petrochemical industry, which will allow them to grow and allow the opportunity here in Alberta to create more manufacturing jobs since the feedstock for the plastic industry is right here in Alberta. We should be celebrating that. We should be telling the world. We should have partnered with some of these companies, and spent the Alberta ‘rebranding’ money, on telling the stories about what great things we are doing here at home.
The solutions to our current and future challenges will require a close working relationship between government and industry to ensure the economy, the environment, and our energy sources are developed responsibly, and with the thought of ensuring success for the next generation. Our kids deserve our dedication to find the answers, to do so with as little expense to the environment as possible, to use economic solutions where possible, and to tell the world that we are doing more, we are doing better, and we are the global leaders on balance the three E’s.