We’re a welcoming nation. Canadians – and perhaps especially Albertans – are hospitable, friendly and generous. You can pretty much bank on that.
So, here’s a nod and a friendly greeting to TV comedian-turned-science reporter Bill Nye, who’s about to set off an another visit to Canada as he educates TV audiences about climate.
And while I’m extending my welcome to the “Science Guy,” let me add I’m also very keen to encourage Nye to turn his wonder and enthusiasm toward the amazing progress Canada’s energy sector has made in the past few years.
We’ve chalked up advancements in reducing CO2 emissions per barrel, developed made-in-Canada technology to soften our energy footprint, and worked toward agreements that would help lift Indigenous communities out of poverty.
Still, Nye seems to think Canada should be left untouched by such things as industry, as the US continues to grow its production and expand its pipeline network. “(Fort McMurray) doesn’t look like Canada – y’know? We from the US think Canada is this pristine wilderness, this wonderful celebration of the natural world ecosystem. But Fort McMurray doesn’t even look as good as the surface of the moon,” Nye said in a televised interview last year.
Where to start? Here are a few points for the anti-pipeline activist and “Science Guy” to ponder:
In this era of rising global demand for oil, if Nye were to compare the top 10 oil exporting nations he’d find Canada has the most stringent environmental regulations and the highest standards for transparency, equality and worker safety.
Challenged with a lack of pipeline capacity, Canada has spent more than $118 billion on foreign oil since 2012; about 80 percent of it has come from countries without carbon pricing and with inferior rankings to ours on the Sustainable Development Index. Just 10.5 percent of the world’s oil production is subject to carbon pricing and, of that, Canada represents almost half.
If Nye researched it, he’d also find the oil and gas industry in Canada is the biggest investor nationally on environmental protection, and that some of Canada’s most successful clean tech projects (including solar, wind, geothermal and carbon capture) were supported by oil and gas players – think Enbridge, Suncor and CNRL.
In fact, Nye might be interested to know the town of Pincher Creek, in the Southwest of our province, is known as the ‘Wind Capital of Canada’, blessed by warm Chinook winds that compress and collect energy as those winds race down the eastern slopes.
That’s 292 megawatts of energy in the Pincher Creek area alone, and another 580 megawatts planned for a total forecasted output of 872.63 megawatts of clean energy in that one region.
We expect Nye plans on educating us, as he has during past visits, about the importance of renewables. But he should understand renewables are part of the proud record of Canada’s oil and gas sector, and continue to hold promise as part of the solution to climate-friendly power generation here.
But renewables account for only five percent of global energy consumption. For reliable, plentiful base-load power, not all energy is created equal.
It’s not clear which other global suppliers of energy Nye intends to visit. We’ve found no mention of his tour stopping in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Venezuela. But these would be reasonable locations to learn how our work here genuinely measures up.
Our record stands in stark contrast to the rhetoric many Albertans have heard from Nye, about how “few places in the world are more infuriating than the tar sands oil region of Alberta, Canada.”
And his soft, friendly interviews with folks like Greenpeace’s Mike Hudema are an indication Nye may not be open to mainstream data. Here’s a comment Nye elicited from Hudema during a recent interview:
“(Companies officials) have read the reports that have said that the majority of fossil fuels need to remain in the ground in order for us even to have a chance,” Hudema told Nye in a recent National Gographic TV interview, “and in the meantime they’re continuing to expand, they’re continuing to exploit and they’re continuing to devestate the area.”
Did Hudema also manage to trot out his old chestnut about how Fort McMurray is like an ‘apocalyptic movie,’ or a ‘moonscape’? Of course he did.
Here’s my bottom line. We think Nye should set aside his bias and learn about the steps we’re taking toward sustainability. But we doubt he’ll do that.
Still, Bill, this is Alberta, and you’re welcome to visit!
Cody Battershill is a Calgary realtor and founder / spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer built organization that supports Canadian energy development and the environmental, social and economic benefits that come with it. www.CanadaAction.ca