Canadian Manufacturing

New minister says natural resources must evolve to include renewables, biofuels

Environment advocates argued hard that the only way to keep global warming from becoming catastrophic is a full-scale phase out of the use of fossil fuels.

November 16, 2021  The Canadian Press

In a country intent on helping to slow global warming without destroying its economy, Canada’s latest natural resources minister says his department can no longer be thought of mainly as the ministry for fossil fuels.

But Jonathan Wilkinson also says the Liberals are not singling out the oil and gas sector to do an unfair amount of heavy lifting in the fight against climate change because all industries that contribute to the problem have to be part of the solution.

Wilkinson is three weeks removed from the cabinet shuffle that made him the fourth natural resources minister in the last six years. Now after helming the environment department tasked with combating climate change, he’s in charge of the department that regulates and promotes many of the products that cause it.

But when the 56-year-old former cleantech CEO took over Natural Resources Canada, some saw it as a signal the department is going to evolve to prioritize clean technology in a way it hasn’t yet done.

Advertisement

“I would agree with that,” Wilkinson said, in an interview with The Canadian Press, about his priorities for the new job.

“I do think that the way in which we define natural resources going forward actually has to include renewable energy, it has to include hydrogen, it has to include biofuels. I absolutely think that the old sort of way of conceptualizing the department, which is just about oil and gas and mining, is not the way that we think about it going forward.”

The push-pull between the fossil fuel sectors that the world, and Canada, have relied on for decades, and the science that blames the burning of fossil fuels for the increasingly warmer planet and associated climate destruction, was on full display in the last two weeks at the United Nations COP26 climate talks in Scotland.

Environment advocates argued hard that the only way to keep global warming from becoming catastrophic is a full-scale phase out of the use of fossil fuels. The creation of a Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance, an initiative to phase out fossil fuels entirely, was among the most talked-about initiatives to come out of COP26.

Carbon capture technology overall is also not a massive, long-term solution to allow the continued burning of fossil fuels for energy, said Wilkinson, because the geological formations needed to store the gases don’t exist everywhere.

His priorities for the first months of his new job are to work with oil and gas provinces to develop the cap on oil and gas production emissions the Liberals promised in the recent election.