By James Stevenson
Three months ago, Bruce Carson announced he was stepping down as senior advisor to the prime minister, moving to Alberta and taking on the job as the first executive director of the Canada School of Energy and the Environment. A collaboration between Alberta’s three main universities, the CSEE involves more than 260 researchers and nearly 7,000 students. The school will examine a wide variety of issues facing energy, the environment and the economy, ranging from improved production and management of Canada’s vast traditional fuel resources to the continuing development of new energy sources.
It’s just one of those opportunities that doesn’t come along very often. I’ve spent the last two-and-a-half years after we formed the government working on policy in both the environment and energy. It’s a great chance to work in a field that’s absolutely crucial to Canada, if not the broader global community. And I’ll get to spend some time close to the mountains and teach in the School of Policy Studies as well. It just seemed like such a great thing to be able to do and hopefully, at some point, the school can make a difference in how Canada attains its goal of becoming a clean energy super-power.
The day-to-day, hour-to-hour pressure won’t be the same. On the other hand, starting the school off from scratch is probably as much of a challenge or more so than what we faced in 2006 when we formed the government. Getting the school to the point where it becomes a centre of excellence in Canada and North America for energy and the environment is a tremendous challenge, so there’ll be a lot of similarities.
The primary goal is to become the go-to place in Canada and North America for research in both the development of clean energy and the protection of the environment. If you want to know how to do it, you log on to the Canada school website because that’s where that knowledge will be stored.
I think the first challenge is to take an inventory of what’s being done now, both at Alberta’s three universities and across Canada in research in environment and the development of clean energy. There doesn’t seem to me to be any repository or catalogue of the work that’s being done. The second thing is to meet with energy producers to see where they believe research could be done to help them produce cleaner energy. What I’ve found from my time in Ottawa is that there are a lot of silos out there where people simply don’t talk to each other. I think one of the things the school can do is bring groups together to share information. The third part is to also work with provincial and federal governments to bring along their policies in the production of cleaner energy and producing a cleaner environment.
Yes, I think it’s really critical. I think we have an opportunity in Alberta to really show the way. One of the things that really upsets me is the slag on the oilsands that it’s the production of dirty oil. I know the companies that are involved have done an awful lot to protect the environment. There’s a lot more to be done, but it’s important to note that much has already been done. And I think that being an energy producing province, it’s incumbent upon the universities—the scientists and researchers—to take a leading role to help industry produce the cleanest possible energy.
I think it’s to get everybody talking to each other. To break down the silos that exist between the universities, industry and government. I know the universities ask the energy producers and government for money to do research in various areas, but it always seems to be done with very little recognition over what the guy sitting in the next-door office is doing. We need to bring everyone together so we’re all pulling in the same direction.