So Alberta’s once vaunted and feared War Room is dead. Or rather, shuffled into Premier Smith’s inter-governmental affairs department, where it will disappear. Whatever.

In wittily rebranding itself as the Canadian Energy Centre, the War Room lost the “War” before the first skirmish. With that single manoeuvre, the War Room showed it had neither the stomach for a real fight, nor any sense of its own purpose and identity. Or maybe it knew itself better than any of us could have guessed.

In its purest form, the War Room became another Alberta pipeline converting taxpayer capital into new cars and vacation homes for a happy few lucky enough to collect its paycheques. Its obituary should be the easiest dunk in the world.

But what if we looked at this a different way? What Canada really deserves is a first-rate body (we could call it the Canadian Energy Centre) to engage Canadians about, well, energy. Sadly, a mouthpiece funded by an Alberta government openly hostile to climate science and advocacy is the worst platform for this conversation.

Two core truths about energy will dominate this country’s future, and we as a nation seem largely oblivious to both of them.

The first is that, love it or hate it, Canada is an energy superpower. Alberta is right about the central importance of its oil and gas sector to our economy. If we lost our #1 export, we would be in a very bad place — and very quickly.

Canada Exports, Imports, and Trade Partners. Source: The Observatory of Economic Complexity

That part of Alberta’s message is true, irrespective of anyone’s opinion about climate change.

The second core truth is that the entire world has embarked on a clear path to transition to net zero carbon emissions. Whether or not the world meets our agreed 2030 emission-reduction goals, this downward trajectory has inescapable implications for Canada and our fossil fuel industry. What has happened to coal is coming for us.

Oil and gas are Canada's top export, but as the world embraces the so-called #cleantech revolution, our per capita GDP is already shrinking. The loss of our primary export without some plan to replace it would be an unparalleled calamity. #canpoli

The big surprise is that change didn’t come from climate activists shutting down Canadian projects, but from a completely unexpected source.

Almost 20 years ago, the Chinese government projected renewable energy would govern the future, and set about to both accelerate and profit from the transition we’re seeing today. In every sector, from solar and wind energy to ultra-high voltage grid construction, EV and battery production and the critical mineral supply chain, China is the unparalleled global leader.

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Source: RMI

The future is renewable electrification and due to spectacular cost savings, it’s coming faster than anyone’s wildest dreams. Ten years ago — even five — no one foresaw that renewable energy would out-compete fossil fuel energy. But that’s happening now, and accelerating.

No matter what policy governments enact, there’s no stopping the clean tech revolution.

That no one is preparing for this is governing malpractice. Our per capita GDP is already shrinking. The loss of our primary export without some plan to replace it would be an unparalleled calamity.

Growing our economy now, today, as a bulwark against this eventuality should be an urgent public priority, but where is our national and provincial leadership? Alberta’s approach has been denial, discrediting of climate science, and disrupting renewable energy projects that could put Alberta on the clean tech map with Texas.

Despite climate action being a cornerstone of the Trudeau government, we’ve heard precious little about preparing for a future where oil and gas have faded. Poilievre’s agenda of axing the carbon tax is but a tantrum in a grownup world.

Everywhere we turn, there’s only political gamesmanship and short-term thinking.

So as the War Room folds its tent, rather than toast its demise, Canadians should take this moment to demand energy leadership and a real plan for our future.

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Except the federal government has been investing heavily in EV battery plants. It will take a couple of years for the plants to be built, outfitted, trained up, and operational but they should certainly help boost our GDP.
I have not seen economic data projecting no oil and gas exports vs. new green technologies, if it exists please share.
Lastly, GDP and "growth" seem to be gods that we might have to adjust our thinking on, as painful as that may seem. Survival and doing the right thing should come before them.

It will rise for perhaps a decade then collapse. Profit taking is a sign of a sunset industry, get the money to shareholders before there isn't any and let the taxpayers ponyup the cleanup costs for wells and the billions for oil sands

I am increasingly convinced that is the actual plan. The foreign-owned oil industry will leave Canada before it will ever pay for the magic bullet of CCS that it promotes, or clean up the mess it will leave behind, mainly in Alberta. And you can bet real money that Alberta will attempt to goad the feds to pay for it all using the "historical contribution" fossil fuels made toward the national economy, as flawed as that line of reasoning is mainly because it ignores the benefits of being a member of a confederation.

Norway will laugh uproariously behind closed doors at Canada's descent as it funds its own transition through smart planning and better management of its resources.

I didn’t find value in framing this opinion in pejorative terms of the Alberta “war room”, but the primary point about the nature of our economy is spot on.

Tout d’abord, for anyone not current on the composition of our economy, I’d suggest taking (literally) 5 minutes to look at a few sources: (select the icon to the right of the globe graphic – looks like a square, greyed-out photo collage – and tap/click on the USA on the map) (the Netherlands has exports valued about 60% higher than Canada’s)

Second, I’d recommend reading a little (20 minutes, plus a trip to the library) about the history of economic development and “Free Trade”. I’d suggest economist Ha-Joon Chang’s book “23 Things They Don’t The Tell You About Capitalism”. Specifically, Thing (chapter) 7: “Free-market policies rarely make poor countries rich”. The importance of this is reinforced by noting that, in today’s summary email, CNO also listed an article regarding Investor-State Dispute Settlement, which mechanisms is often an integral part of trade agreements.

Third, a little introspection regarding the economic relationship between Canada and our friends (I’m not using that term cynically) to the south. Thinking in terms of economic development of truly value-added industry, how do we compare? Why is Canada apparently STILL content to remain, largely, “hewers of wood and drawers of water (and miners of gold)”? Such introspection should, I think, go back decades to consider (rehash) possible reasons for certain historical events, such as the Avro Arrow saga. Staying in the aerospace context, one can think about the resiliency of the Canadian industry given what happened to Bombardier in the wake of its development of its C Series (now Airbus A220). Where is our non-fossil energy sector? Why the hell aren’t we world leaders, given the importance of non-fossil energy production, not mention energy demand reduction strategies, to the future of humanity?

We may wish to reconsider our relationship with Europe – they being so far ahead of us vis-à-vis non-fossil energy policy and action – and think of ourselves as a post-Brexit UK (without the trauma), on the outside, looking in, and find ways to engage with/ participate in that market.

I am left to believe that our main political parties are too connected to status quo --- read dinosaur -- corporate players, because none have shown much (any?) imagination regarding economic development.

Finally, of course, is the entire problem of the economic foundation of current civilization – the basis for everything said above -- which is to consume everything around us until we have nothing left to sustain the biosphere, as we know it. Climate change is but one symptom; it is not a root cause.

Planetary Boundaries:

Ecological Overshoot:

Correction : "for anyone not current on the composition of our economy".

What I meant to say is "exports", not the economy as a whole. The links I provided, regarding the economy, address exports.

@ Ken Panton. Excellent commentary and very informative links, as usual Ken. Thank you. I will check them out.

"Alberta is right about the central importance of its oil and gas sector to our economy."

Worth noting: From 2016-22 Canada's energy sector directly contributed 9.4% on average to GDP.
Including oil & gas, nuclear, hydro, coal, and renewables.
Petroleum accounted for 4.2%. Crude oil represents a fraction of that. The oilsands sector represents a fraction of that.
Subtract (astronomical) externalized environmental, climate change, and health costs.
Subtract lost jobs in other industries, wildfire costs, towns wiped off the map, billions of sea animals dead in a week (2021 heat wave).
Subtract subsidies, visible and invisible.
AB's oil & gas industry has barely started to fund its clean-up liabilities: north of $260 billion. How much of that bill will our "golden goose" industry foist upon taxpayers?

The fossil-fuel industry is killing us.

Thanks for addressing GDP. Yes, it's just one simplistic measure but it does outline trends and performance.

Fossil energy alone may have attained a ~34% portion of our national exports, but has never contributed much more than 8% to the national GDP even in its best years. At worst, Alberta's carbon sector fell back to less than 4% of the nation's GDP (~6% from all producers) after world oil prices collapsed in 2014, and in previous world recessions. Alberta's economy was rocked and unseemly begging and pleading was interspersed with blaming, all directed toward the federal government. Meanwhile, right next door in BC, which has a more diverse economy, the economic performance indices didn't even twitch or waver. The contrast was fascinating.

One could be forgiven for thinking that the provincial and federal mandarins and bureaucrats should have figured out long ago how the 91-94% of the national economy can help cushion the pain of the transition to clean energy and economic diversification. Ditto the 2/3rds of the export volume to incrementally expand (or accommodate the shrinkage) of the 1/3rd that is becoming ever more tenuous with every electron that knocks carbon molecules off their perch.

Leadership! Demand it? From whom! Trudeau tries and gets crucified by the gaslighting of Conservatives. The Rabbit Hole will get us our Leadership is useless

A very informative piece, Sandy. Kudos.

I believe the federal government needs to seize the reins and become a direct equity partner, preferably the majority or sole owner of renewable electricity infrastructure. It must go on a national building campaign and use its full legal jurisdictional powers to develop a national HVDC smart grid to distribute clean power from participating producers to all three coasts and even export it across the US border. Today, Europe is building international transmission networks using undersea cables traveling thousands of kilometres. The X-Link project between Morocco solar farms and UK consumers is currently underway. Alberta has wonderful renewable opportunities, but so do most provinces, and a minimum 55% federal share of large wind, solar and geothermal projects and 100% of a national clean energy transmission network will, in theory, protect said projects from provincial interference.

Mining and exporting thermal coal should have been banned a decade ago. Metallurgical coal should have a wind down period imposed on them by the feds, who supposedly have control over emissions, but also over export permits. That's only the first of several steps that need to be followed up with a new industrial strategy that creates new jobs and that brings steel making back to Canada, powered by emission-free electricity (electrolysis shows great promise along with the expansion of existing electric arc furnace technology). Green steel and cement are exportable.

Canada and Ontario, despite their climate weakness and blasphemy, have shown leadership in batteries, which in turn are evolving so quickly that abundant sodium may soon displace 2/3rd of the industry's lithium content, where problematic cobalt and nickel are nonexistent, where commonplace metals take their place at a more affordable price and where recycling can eventually enable a fully closed loop supply system to be planned that requires very few inputs of freshly mined metals. EV sodium hybrid batteries need to shift into grid storage at larger scales, an arguably more important sector than transportation with respect to the electrification of the economy.

Electrified passenger rail has a very big role to play in Canada, starting with the lowly neighbourhood tram and working up to higher capacities of surface LRT, grade-separated rapid transit, relatively high speed regional intercity rail, then eventually a national high speed rail network (except in mountainous terrain). This neatly dovetails with the various aspects of sustainable urbanism and upgraded building codes all offer a major leadership role for federal participation.

The promotion of soil conservation (an underrated carbon sink) and regenerative agriculture and forestry would greatly benefit from better federal funding.

Compared to the tinkering so far, the scope of a multifaceted national climate project should be vast and long lasting.

Excellent comments, and very true. While China leads and Europe and the US play catchup, Canada, Alberta and Saskatchewan languish in a previous world, beating the drum for fossil fuels. A losing proposition and who pays? Workers and our society! We need forward thinkers, leaders and who have we got? SMITH in Alberta, Moe in Saskatchewan and federally Poilievre! Real winners!
For transition info try ENERGI TALKS podcast or view his website. I discovered it in 2020. Also when I retired to Alberta in 2014, strictly to be close to grandchildren, I could see the Alberta oil industry was unstainable, and with increasing pollution what to do. And worldwide anyone can see the changes. And the falling cost of renewable energy has been the pump primer, led of course by China.