Big Business And Renewable Energy

I am an environmentalist.

The reason for writing this article is to counter many of the unrealistic views that I have been reading concerning renewable energy. My goal is simply to offer a different perspective on a subject that we are all so passionate about. Oil is, and will continue to be, the dominant player in the energy industry, perhaps for decades. Renewable energy will one day become the main form of energy, just not in our lifetime.

The world’s dependency on oil is as strong as ever, and it will continue to be this way for decades. A bold statement? Yes. A statement that has a high degree of probability? Absolutely. Most people who consider themselves environmentalists do not realize just how significant the oil sands, located in northern Alberta, Canada, truly are. The reserve life index, a measure that tracks just how long oil will be around, has been extended – significantly. People in the business community realize this and those who specialize in natural resources know best. Don Coxe, an analyst with Bank of Montreal Capital Markets, has been trumpeting the oil sands for years, and continues to do so. He predicted the sky-rocketing price of oil sands stocks before most investors even knew what an oil sand was. He is well respected. I’ve listened to his audio broadcasts for years, and more often than not he is correct. He believes, as do I, that the oil sands story is still relatively young.

Most environmentalists don’t seem to understand that the higher the price of oil gets the more incentive oil companies have to extract it from the ground. When the price of a barrel of oil hit $60 the oil sands stocks soared, and they will continue to stay high as these companies realize profits that once seemed unimaginable. Suncor, a multi-billion dollar oil sands company, is spending hundreds of millions of dollars extracting oil from the sands. These are highly educated people who know that there will be serious demand for their resource for many, many years. They wouldn’t think about investing so heavily in oil if they didn’t believe they would profit handsomely, and long-term at that. The oil sands story is just getting underway, as sad as most of us will admit, but it is fact. The market is strong for oil, and it will remain strong for decades. The Canadian government, once a strong supporter of the Kyoto Protocol, now have loosened their position on this precedent setting agreement. Why? It would have negatively effected the oil industry. It’s as simple as that.

Even China has put its foot into the oil sands. To me, the most intriguing part of China’s investment, and their overall involvement in the oil sands, is that they see the longterm value of it, and the potential to meet the demands that 2 billion people have. The massive influx of rural Chinese into cities has created a need for energy that the world has never seen before. The time has come where the country housing the largest population on earth is demanding energy. The University of Alberta reported this past June that China National Petroleum Corp. has been granted a certificate to develop oil sands fields in Alberta. It was also reported that the company (CNPC) expected to have a daily output of 220,000 barrels per day. This is obviously a long-term investment, and can only be a bad thing for the environment on so many levels, but my point is that renewable energy is not as far along as most of us would believe.

It is sad but it is the truth, and although we do have to admit to this, we do not have to accept this. Renewable energy is the future, and it will be the only way we create energy one day, but lets see things how they presently are. Renewable energy is just starting to be developed on a large scale and it will be decades before it the only form of energy. And yes, you have to start somewhere. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to advance the cause, all I’m saying is that we need to be a little more realistic when it comes to our views on energy. Recently there has been quite a bit of press about how China is investing in renewable energy, and to that I give a thumbs up, but let’s not forget about the oil sands.

Laws must be enacted so that energy companies become accountable. Maybe if forced to do so Suncor will produce 20% of its energy from wind, or maybe not. My intention is not to diminish the importance of renewable energy. The earth is sick and we need to do everything we can to heal it. We must continue to advance technologically, and we have been moving forward with so many new and exciting alternative forms of energy. The world is on the right track, and we will succeed, but it may take a little longer than most people think.