We believe the key to a better future is listening to and understanding the perspectives of others.
This week, we asked Cody Battershill, founder of Calgaryism and Canada Action, to share his thoughts on the future of the energy industry and getting involved in the energy debate. We thank Cody for taking the time to answer our questions.
The views, opinions and positions expressed are those of the author and don't necessarily reflect those of Suncor.
What motivated you to get involved in the energy debate?
Back in 2010, I was walking along Robson Street in Vancouver – a very busy walking strip in the city’s centre – and noticed a Lush cosmetics store had posted in its window some highly visible campaign posters to stop oil sands development. That really piqued my interest, and so I looked into the issue.
What I found was that the campaign was built on a lot of misinformation and fear, and definitely not a lot of fact. It really motivated me to get involved.
I realized it was absolutely crucial that Alberta and all of Canada had to make a much better attempt to engage in a more informed conversation about resource development, about how important it is to our society, about how we’re doing it well today and improving our practices for the future.
What would you say to others about getting involved in energy conversations?
From my perspective, it’s really about better information, and working at improving the public level of understanding of what is occurring in the oil sands and in the energy sector across Canada.
Look at what happened recently with the European Union’s move to back off from an earlier plan to label oil from Alberta’s oil sands as dirtier than other oil, and to make it harder to import. The earlier, ill-informed labeling move was one-sided, and supported by activists with an anti-oil sands agenda. Better information is winning the day on that score.
Take the fact that Canada’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions amount to 1.58 per cent of the world’s GHG emissions, and the oil sands amount to just 0.15 per cent. When placed in the global context, that’s a crucial fact. The GHG emissions of China (more than 26 per cent of global GHG emissions) or the US (more than 17 per cent) are considerably higher than ours.
Does that mean we can shirk our responsibility to improve practices in the oil sands? Of course not – and companies like Suncor are improving those practices constantly.
But there’s a great opportunity to talk about issues like proportion and context. As another example, let’s remind people that Alberta was the first province to develop legislation regulating industrial GHG emissions. This included mandatory reporting and emission reductions along with a funding mechanism for new innovative technologies through the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation. Let’s talk about it in public.
What more can oil sands companies do to advance the debate?
It’s so important that industry continues to work at engaging individual employees so they can become brand and industry ambassadors. That means empowering your people to get out and tell their friends and neighbors what they do and why they do it. Employees should feel free and safe to talk about the pride they have in their practices, the innovation they’re responsible for implementing, the stories of personal commitment and so on.
Consider the following: this is an industry built by engineers, lawyers, entrepreneurs, geologists and many others. Yet sometimes it really seems like we’re being out-organized by groups of passionate people with incomplete information who have chosen our country as their symbolic battle. We have to think about this as you would a political campaign – organize, engage, work together and break down barriers.
The fact is we already have a huge number of supporters in the oil sands region and across Canada – enough supporters out there to rebalance the conversation happening across every media platform. We just need to engage them and turn them into a visible wave of support. And that starts with collaborating, learning and joining volunteer organizations like Canada Action.
If you want to get involved, join us. We all have a few minutes a week to advocate for an informed discussion.