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Alberta

Where Iron and Earth Meet – Oil & Gas Workers for Renewable Energy

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Iron and Earth is a Canadian non-profit organization led by oilsands workers who advocate for a balanced approach towards a green energy transition. The organization was founded in 2015 during the economic crisis that led to the termination of thousands of oil and gas workers nationwide. It began as a collective of boots-on-the-ground employees who had experienced the hard times brought on by the boom-bust nature of the oil and gas industry, and wanted to be a part of the movement to diversify and build resilience in Canada.

According to the Iron and Earth mission statement, Where Iron and Earth Meet, “There’s a place for the oilsands, and there’s a place for renewable energy. The intention is not to shut down the oilsands, but to see they are managed more sustainably while developing our renewable energy resources more ambitiously.” 

Dialogues surrounding sustainability and diversification often place renewable energy alternatives at odds with the oil and gas industry, with little room for productive discussion. Iron and Earth provides a platform for oilsands workers, business owners, non-profits, politicians and consumers to meet at the same table and collaborate effectively to build a more sustainable future for all Canadians. Rather than contribute to divisive narratives that position oil and gas and renewable energy as mutually exclusive industries, Iron and Earth advocates for a balanced approach towards diversification, sustainability and a renewable transition.

“Iron and Earth is proof of the dichotomy of people working in the oil and gas industry who care about the environment very, very much,” says Bruce Wilson, board member for Iron and Earth. “There is a diverse array of political affiliations and backgrounds within the organization, from individuals presently working in oil and gas to those who have recently transitioned, to those who have never worked in the industry at all.” Wilson joined Iron and Earth in 2018 after more than 30 years in the oil and gas industry, including 17 years with Shell International. 

By focusing on industry overlaps, Iron and Earth highlights the ways in which fossil fuels and renewable energy can be beneficial, reinforcing sectors that can produce positive outcomes for the Canadian workforce and the global climate crisis. “Fortunately for many of the workers who are affected by the ongoing boom and bust cycles of the oilsands, many renewable energy jobs require the same skills and tradespeople that are currently working in the Canadian oil and gas industry” (1).

Iron and Earth streamlines the transfer of skills between industries by offering a number of programs and resources to support workers seeking to transition away from fossil fuels into renewable energy.  This includes offering training, classroom education, and hands-on experience to broaden the understanding of industry overlaps that will aid oil and gas workers in finding their fit in clean technology.

These processes and resources operate with respect to the reality that transitions away from oil and gas into renewables can be a daunting and difficult process for many. Former Canadian oil and gas worker and current Iron and Earth spokesperson, Nick Kendrick, came to Iron and Earth in 2018 after reaching a fork in the road in his own career path. After 5 years in oil and gas, Kendrick was faced with the employment insecurity many workers in the Canadian oil and gas industry are familiar with. “When I started in oil and gas, prices were booming,” he says, “but by the time I got up north, the industry was struggling. People were getting laid off, and I realized it might be time to make a move.” 

Kendrick made the decision to return to school at the University of Calgary, where he pursued a Master’s Degree in Sustainable Energy. It was there he connected with Iron and Earth for his capstone project, where he facilitated the drafting of a strategic path forward for the organization. This included mapping out geographic locations that offered the most opportunity to deliver impactful training workshops and support upcoming renewable energy projects, as well as encourage Indigenous participation.
“Leaving oil and gas for renewables is a very scary thing, especially in Alberta,” says Kendrick, “I admire how Iron and Earth’s approach is not to completely abandon the oilsands. They’ve been very foundational for Canada, but they’re not sustainable. It’s time to help each other progress onto something new.”

In September 2020, Iron and Earth unveiled their Prosperous Transition Plan, framing the future for Canada’s green transition. The Prosperous Transition Plan boldly calls on the Trudeau Government to invest $110 billion over the next decade into a green recovery for Canada. The plan highlights four focal points of the Canadian economy: workforce, business, infrastructure and environment. With an emphasis on repurposing oil and gas infrastructure and getting people back to work, Iron and Earth’s Prosperous Transition Plan focuses on recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, decarbonizing the economy and addressing inequality to ensure a prosperous future. 

With more than 1000 active members across Canada from a variety of industrial trades, Iron and Earth is continually expanding and advocating for ethical, legitimate solutions to facilitate Canada’s transition to renewable energy. “These are not utopian suggestions,” says Wilson, “they are pragmatic solutions that require purposeful, ambitious action from the government … Change and thrive is the business model for the future.”

To learn more about Iron and Earth’s mission and Prosperous Transition Plan, visit https://www.ironandearth.org

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

Alberta

Political scientists say Kenney must rethink pugilistic approach on oil, environment

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EDMONTON — Political analysts say Premier Jason Kenney must rethink his traditional “fight back” approach and start building bridges to reconcile environmental concerns with oil and gas development.

“Attacks are not going to persuade anybody,” Lori Williams, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, said in an interview Thursday.

“You don’t set up a war room whose purpose from the get-go is to go after environmentalists. That’s a problem when you have an environmentalist in the White House.”

U.S. President Joe Biden, on his first day in office Wednesday, fulfilled a long-standing campaign promise to cancel the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline expansion.

The line would have taken more oil from Alberta through the United States to refineries and ports to help alleviate the current price discount on the province’s landlocked oil.

Biden had promised to cancel former president Donald Trump’s permit for the line on the grounds that product from Alberta’s oilsands does not mesh with broader goals to battle climate change.

Kenney called the decision an insult to Alberta and urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to deliver a breakthrough in talks or, if that fails, impose trade sanctions on the U.S.

Kenney’s comments also lauded Canada’s environmental record. Williams said those are valid arguments that Kenney needs to make a priority, married to policy initiatives as necessary, rather than throw them in as add-on talking points.

She suggested Kenney needs to pick a lane on the environment. Right now, she noted, he is promoting the federal climate plan as justification for Keystone while simultaneously challenging in court the plan’s consumer carbon tax.

Political scientist Jared Wesley said Kenney’s stance seems to be more about political damage control for a doomed project his government contributed $1.5 billion to last spring even though, at the time, it was a risky proposition.

“Kenney’s not the first premier to have one gear when it comes to intergovernmental relations,” said Wesley with the University of Alberta.

“The fight-back approach seems to be in (Kenney’s) political DNA. He doesn’t like being questioned and when his plans don’t turn out, the default position is to blame someone else.”

Kenney’s challenge is that bridge-building premiers run the risk of being perceived as weak, Wesley said, so Kenney may feel he needs to be bellicose and hard line given his popularity is being challenged on the far right.

Kenney beat the NDP in the 2019 election in part by promising to challenge what he said are shadowy global foes and environmentalists who seek to undermine Alberta’s oil industry. He set up a $30-million-a-year “war room” and struck a public inquiry into foreign funding of oil opponents. Both endeavours have been undermined by self-generated mistakes and controversies.

Kenney has blamed many of the province’s economic and oil woes on the Trudeau government’s policies. Yet the Liberal government in 2018 stepped in to buy the one pipeline that is proceeding – the Trans Mountain expansion from Alberta to the B.C. coast.

Wesley said Kenney blaming Trudeau has almost become a cliché and one that will hurt Alberta.

“The move (to blame Trudeau) has become so predictable that it’s laughable,” he said. “That’s not just among his opponents here in Alberta, but among people he’s supposed to be persuading nationally and internationally.”

Political scientist Duane Bratt, also of Mount Royal University, agrees.

“This is really setting the stage for the old playbook of ‘let’s blame Trudeau’ … and I’m not sure it’s going to work this time,” Bratt said.

“We’re seeing the collapse of the fight-back strategy in so many different realms. Not only has it not worked, it has cost Alberta taxpayers billions of dollars and a real hit to our reputation.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Loss of Keystone XL pipeline expected to hurt future oilpatch growth: experts

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CALGARY — An industry analyst says Western Canada’s oil producers will likely cope better in the short term with Joe Biden’s cancelling of the Keystone XL presidential permit this week than they did with the same move by ex-president Barack Obama in 2015.

But Phil Skolnick, a New York-based analyst for Eight Capital, agrees with other observers that the end of the pipeline will stifle new investment and production growth in the Canadian oilpatch for years to come.

Shortly after being inaugurated on Wednesday, U.S. President Biden, who was Obama’s vice-president, fulfilled a campaign promise and took away the pipeline permit that former president Donald Trump returned to builder TC Energy Corp. in 2019.

Skolnick says the difference between now and 2015 is that producers are looking forward to opening two other export pipelines — Line 3 and Trans Mountain — that together provide nearly one million barrels a day of export capacity.

Richard Masson, an executive fellow and energy expert at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, agrees the two remaining pipelines will provide enough capacity to allow oil production to grow into the second half of this decade.

But he says uncertainty about capacity beyond that point makes it impossible for producers to make decisions about new multibillion-dollar oilsands projects, which could take five years or more to plan and build.

Canadian Energy Pipeline Association CEO Chris Bloomer, meanwhile, says excess space in the oil transport system is vital going forward to provide optionality, energy security and stable pricing for producers.

Earlier Thursday, TC Energy Corp. said it planned to eliminate more than 1,000 construction jobs related to its decision to halt work on its Keystone XL pipeline expansion project. 

The company had previously warned that blocking the project would lead to thousands of job losses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:TRP)

The Canadian Press

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january, 2021

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