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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Albertans Want a More Comprehensive & Integrated Approach to Oil Sands Development

The narrative being promoted about the oil sands is not enough of the story to gain the public confidence.  Here is the news release from the Government of Alberta indicating the emphasis they will take to the other provincial Premier's in meetings in Winnipeg this week.   

This message is like water is to soup.  Essential but insufficient.  I say that as a result of a recent conjoint study on values associated with responsible and sustainable development by Albertans on their oil sands.

Albertans overwhelmingly (89%) recognize the importance of the oil sands in term of economic prosperity.  I expect people in other provinces, like Newfoundland especially, feel much the same way about the economic importance of the oil sands.  So talking up the oil sand contribution to Canada's GDP, the job creating and the secure source of North American continental energy supply is important it is not the entire message that Albertans (and others ?) want to hear.

According to our study Albertans also want to know what is happening around reclamation, wildlife habitat protection efforts and what is being done about ecological monitoring of oil sands development.  They are concerned about CO2 and greenhouse gases as well as water usage in oil sands development.  What is government and industry doing in these areas are just as vital to Albertans as the pure economic elements when they consider oil sands development.

The oil sands debate, such as it is, is polarized where government and industry seem to avoid talking about the stewardship duties of oil sands development and hard line environmentalists do the same by overlooking the economic and energy security aspects of this vital resource.  This is just not helpful in the long run for anyone, and the public confidence in particular.

I think the public is smarter than that and is longing for an adult conversation about the oil sands.  Question is how much more is the public losing confidence in government, industry and ENGOs to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on oil sands development?  Albertans clearly want their oil sands resources developed and to benefit from the wealth and opportunity they create.  Albertans are even more concerned these days that the development is being done with the highest levels of stewardship possible.  We want to benefit and be proud of how our oil sands are development.  Those are not mutually exclusive aspirations of the people of Alberta.