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Notley promotes Alberta’s environmental agenda at energy conference

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley promoted her government’s environmental agenda at a leading energy conference Monday where top American executives extolled the promise of the rebounding shale oil fields.

Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley promoted her government's environmental agenda at a leading energy conference Monday where top American executives extolled the promise of the rebounding shale oil fields.

In a late afternoon session, Ms. Notley joined the head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and a top European environment official on the challenges of pursuing energy development while addressing the global issue of climate change.

"It's not an either/or proposition, and we reject categorically people's attempts to make it an either/or situation," she told the session at IHS Markit's CERAWeek conference, which draws government and industry officials from around the world.

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With the legislature back in session Monday, the Premier is facing increasing heat to reverse course on the government's environmental policies to meet the competitive challenges posed by a pro-business agenda favoured by U.S. President Donald Trump.

She argued it is important for the oil-sands industry in particular to plan on the basis of "a business cycle that is longer than the current political cycle in the U.S."

The Premier acknowledged her government proceeded with a carbon pricing plan and cap on oil-sands emissions at a time when the industry was already facing a deep slump in crude prices and layoffs across the sector.

However, she insisted the climate plan had already paid dividends in providing political support for the federal government's approval of two pipeline projects – Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain expansion and Enbridge Inc.'s rebuild of its main export line to the United States.

And she said it will position the industry to prosper as it recovers from its downturn and looks to new investments in longer-term projects.

"This allows us to pace the rate of investment in a way that will help Albertans more effectively in the long term," she said. "But I feel pretty confident the oil sand [sector] has the ability to remain a competitive, reliable progressive producer and supplier for many years to come."

Chief executives from U.S. companies such as ExxonMobil Corp. and Hess Corp. touted the tremendous investment opportunities in the shale oil plays including the Permian in west Texas and North Dakota's Bakken field.

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Hess chief executive John Hess said drilling costs have dropped by half since the 2014 crude price drop, driven in part by a similar decline in the number of days it takes to complete a well. Technological innovation will continue to drive down costs, he said.

However, Mr. Hess and other speakers noted that the growth in American shale oil production will not be enough to meet rising global demand and offset declines in current fields, and that investment will be required in "longer cycle" assets such as offshore fields and oil sands.

With the industry worried about protectionist threats from Republicans in Washington, Ms. Notley travelled to the U.S. capital last week and was scheduled to visit Texas Governor Greg Abbott in Austin on Tuesday.

"We'll be talking about the importance of maintaining a strong trading relationship between the U.S. and Canada, the importance of our energy trading opportunities, and about the jobs that those opportunities create on both sides of the border."

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About the Author
Global Energy Reporter

Shawn McCarthy is an Ottawa-based, national business correspondent for The Globe and Mail, covering a global energy beat. He writes on various aspects of the international energy industry, from oil and gas production and refining, to the development of new technologies, to the business implications of climate-change regulations. More

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