The UCP government in Alberta is in complete denial about how the future of energy use and fossil fuels in a world that is dealing with ever increasing effects of climate change.
And when governments begin to display unhealthy coping mechanisms, instead of dealing with the challenge as it is, citizens need to pick up that slack and continue to pressure for change.
The Bow Valley, in particular, will be challenged by the conflicting pressures that our communities already face – balancing protecting environmentally sensitive areas and the future needs of the tourism sector.
This week, the International Energy Association issued a prediction that future growth and oil demand will plateau thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet we have a provincial government that continues to insist that the worldwide energy market should be viewed through rose-coloured glasses. A government that will do anything to bring this sector back to life and its glory days, including cut supports for the most vulnerable people in this province.
Demand for oil may be expected to plateau, but demand for energy efficiency and ways to reduce carbon use are not. The world is backing away from coal power, but investments are increasing for solar and wind energy; while governments are investing in transit and shifting modes of travel.
The writing is on the wall – putting all our eggs into one energy basket puts Albertans at risk of being left behind in the global energy market and becoming the case study on what not to do to successfully manage the energy transition that is happening regardless of whether we want it to or not.
Some good news, however, is that the UCP government has announced it will support geothermal development by trying to attract investment into it.
Minister of Energy Sonya Savage said recently there is enormous potential for geothermal and this government will create the conditions for its success.
“The ability to diversify Alberta’s economy and build a geothermal sector is enabled by the vast geological and technical expertise of our energy industry,” Savage said. “To succeed and achieve this potential, we must provide a stable and predictable regulatory environment.”
We don’t just need to diversity the economy, we need as Albertans to be diversifying our energy sector in particular to help us transition toward a lower carbon future. Geothermal is part of that, but in addition to predictable regulations, we must insist upon the highest standards possible to ensure any new venture does not sacrifice the environment to succeed.
The challenges of geothermal have already played out in Canmore a decade ago. It took years of lobbying by Spring Creek Mountain Village developer Frank Kernick to make geothermal possible in this province. It was not easy, but any time someone in Alberta wants to do something that doesn’t involve burning fossil fuels, there has been an unwillingness to cooperate. We hope this focus on geothermal is a sign of things to come for diversifying our energy sector.
A recent initiative to establish a solar cooperative in Canmore is worth keeping an eye on as well. It shows how when we come together that many hands can make light work of any major undertaking.
The future is uncertain as a result of COVID-19. We need to understand what it means for our energy sector as a province and our tourism sector. International travel, the bread and butter of tourism-related gross domestic product, has all but disappeared. Will it return to what it was before the pandemic? Should it?
Our workforce is changing. Employers and employees are realizing the benefits of working from home. What does this mean for the economy? What does it mean for those who don’t have a choice and have to show up for work on the front lines?
These are questions we need to be asking ourselves to prepare for our future. These are the questions we need to answering when it comes to the future of tourism in the Bow Valley.