Energy, Mines and Resources

Government's role in oil and gas development

Energy: making informed decisions

By Colleen Mitchell, President of Atlantica Centre for Energy

One thing we have learned across Canada, regardless of region, is there are no easy answers in our quest for energy: in how we source it, distribute it, and use it. The trick is to balance a very complex system of costs: costs to our pocket books, and costs to our natural environment.

We have learned that energy and our lives are interconnected.

The trick is to balance a lifestyle that we want to continue, such as air and marine travel, warm homes, road and rail transportation, and all the goods that come from a carbon based economy, with a desire to minimize the impact of this lifestyle on our natural environment.

We also acknowledge that innovation to new forms of energy takes time. While we may desire a life free of carbon emissions, it will be decades before air travel, as an example, will be carbon-free, if ever. 

Air, marine, rail and truck-transport deliver our goods to markets around the world, and in turn bring imports to our doors. Today we rely on fossil fuels as the predominant energy source for this network. As 81% of carbon emissions are generated at the combustions stage, there is a strong incentive to transform this energy from carbon to non-emitting. How we do so over the coming decades will help to reduce our impact on our natural environment.

In the meantime, we need to focus on inventing technologies and forms of energy that may not exist today, or that are currently commercially unsustainable. We also have to work together to support this innovation. By meeting in the middle, i.e. acknowledging we all want the same end goal, and working co-operatively, we may just get there.

Animosity within communities is not conducive to moving forward, and is not helping our transition. The “we vs them” mentality divides communities. To move forward and solve our energy challenges, we have to identify our commonalities and shared goals, then work on time frames and actions that will, in a sound policy framework, move us forward together in logical next steps within a realistic time-frame.

By stalling responsible resource development, we are also stalling our path towards a sustainable energy future and allowing other nations to determine our economic and energy future. We need to look at what advances are being made elsewhere, what are their lessons learned, and cherry pick the best applications for our own communities. We are unable to do it all, nor all at once. What we can do is look, listen, learn and then create a framework that will be best suited to our collective needs.

Some individuals and groups will not buy in, that is to be expected. There is no one solution that will satisfy everyone. We have learned across Canada that there are opponents to oil, gas, wind, tidal, solar, bio-gas, hydro-electric, and nuclear energy. Whatever path we choose will not satisfy everyone. It is important to respect the process that thoughtful consideration was given, community input was heard, and a sound policy framework resulted.

In so doing, we can take small, qualified steps to responsibly developing our resources, for our future.

Colleen Mitchell’s career has spanned the energy, transportation and infrastructure sectors. She is the President of Atlantica Centre for Energy, a role that allows her to foster the exchange of information and dialogue to further energy opportunities. She currently teaches energy-sector related courses at the University of New Brunswick.


Learn more about Yukon's regulatory framework for oil and gas development:

Questions or comments? Contact us: 

Oil and Gas Resources
Phone: 867.393.7042
Toll-free: 1.800.661.0408 ext. 7042