Enviro Minister, tar sands producers, and energy execs call for less regulation of industry
Minister Kent was joined on stage by a panel of oil sands producers and other energy executives, addressing innovation in the industry as well as innovative ways to streamline environmental reviews for new energy projects.
With so many international delegates in the audience, Kent was also sure to address Canada’s recent withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. Defending the widely criticized decision, he outlined the government’s hopes for a fairer, more inclusive global agreement that requires commitment from other big emitters like the United States and China.
“A cow is a cow, is a cow. And none are sacred,” he said.
Kent explained that the country’s domestic strategy involved reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020, using a “carefully-plotted” sector-by-sector approach. This approach starts by tackling the transportation sector, he explained, before moving on to address coal-fired electricity (with new electricity sector regulations set to take effect in the summer of 2015).
In a panel discussion following the speakers’ presentations—at which point Kent had already left the conference—an audience member challenged the government’s climate change strategy and its position on Kyoto. Statoil Canada CEO Lars Christian Bacher shared his perspective on the global agreement, noting the difficulty of signing on as a country, without commitment from international counterparts. Instead, he spoke of implementing internal emissions targets, so that industry can play a bigger role in domestic greenhouse gas reductions.
Jim Rogers, CEO of U.S.-based Duke Energy, added that technological development is essential to make emissions targets more achievable.
“At the end of the day, it will be low-cost technical solutions that will lead to a world agreement. So the technology will lead, and the policy will follow,” he said.
Panelists representing the oil sands also fielded questions from delegates wondering why there isn’t more of a systemic push towards developing more renewable energy and related technologies.
“There will always be a need for hydrocarbons. The iPad is based on hydrocarbons. A fleece sweater. We will always need hydrocarbons, as long as we’re having this society,” replied Bacher.
“Whether it will be as high a proportion of the energy mix in the future or not, I think it will be a substantially big part of the mix in the short and medium term. And then in the long term, I definitely hope that renewables will be a bigger part of that mix.”
Representing EnCana Natural Gas, president Eric Marsh suggested that while renewable technologies are coming along, there’s still a long way to go before they can really compete with fossil fuels in terms of energy investment.
“Many renewables are not quite ready for prime time, on a mass scale. And as they get more advanced, you can put more into the portfolio. But when you look at the economics of today, it’s difficult to have a really large percentage of renewables in your portfolio,” said Marsh.
Citing Duke Energy’s diverse portfolio that includes coal, hydro and natural gas, Rogers noted that shale gas—expected to last over 100 years—is going to be an important “transition fuel” in the shift towards low-carbon alternatives. However, he agreed that there needs to be a real effort to drive down emissions and increase efficiency.
Despite the speakers’ purported commitment to industry improvements, none of Thursday’s panelists were coming at the discussion from a renewable energy perspective.
One attendee expressed disappointment over this fact with a sobering tweet: “OK #globe2012, really, not including any renewable energy ppl on the energy dialog panel is huge fail. Huge.”