Thursday, April 29, 2010

Canada 2020 Symposium on Greening the Oilsands Via Science & Technology

In the face of growing oppostion and noise about the Alberta oilsands, there are some rays of hope for adult converstion about responsible and sustainable oilsands development shining through. For example, today in Ottawa there is a Canada 2020 Symposium happening on “Greening” the Oil Sands: Canadian Science and Clean Tech Leads the Way.

This event deals with issues around greening the oilsands.  The context will be introduced by James Rajotte, the MP for Edmonton-Leduc and Chair of the House of Commons Finance Committee, Rich George the President and CEO of Suncor and the Honourable Sandra Pupatello, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade. Minister Pupatello is an eastener that get it about the opportunites and challenges of responsible and sustainable oilsands development. I recently heard her speak in Edmonton at the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association Oilsands Buyer/Seller Forum on the same topic.

My business partner Satya Das and author of “Green Oil” is on a panel that is moderated by former CBC political broadcaster Don Newman. The topic is “The Big Picture – Public Opinion, Politics and Policy.” The context of the panel is the acknowledgement tht theoilsands are a cornerstone of Canada’s future economic prosperity. The fact is the oilsands are seen mostly through an economic lens in Alberta and Saskatchewan but through an environmentl lens in the rest of Canada. Single lens approaches are insufficient and a more balanced local and national perspecitve about oilsands development must be achieved.

After Satya’s opening panel the next panel’s topic will be “How can science contribute to reducing the environmental impact of oilsands development.” Here is where the R&D expertise of the University of Alberta comes into play to develop strategies to meet this need. The U of A has built a powerhouse of research capacity of internatioally recognized experts working in public-private research partnershps to tackle this challenge. This panel is moderated by Dr. Suzanne Fortier, the President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and will contributions from Dr. David Lynch, the U of A Dean of Engineering and Dr. Murray Gray of the U of A Centre for Oilsands Innovation amongsts others.

The final panel has the advantages of the insights of my friend Bob Mitchell of Connco-Phillips and the Co-Chair of the Oilsands Leadership Initiative (OSLI). It is about “What Candian clean technologies are being deployed? Which are having the greatest impact?” Reducing the environmenal footprint of oilsands development through technologies it the core of this panel’s focus. What is working and how do we accelerate these technological innovations while reducing their implemenmtation costs is the challenge facing this panel.

This is a closed session but I am sure Satya, Bob and others will be commenting on the content and context of the symposium after today. I will do my best to bring you the sense and essense of the discussions and recommendations once I have spoken with them about the symposium.