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Danielle Smith’s Dangerous Clean Energy Fantasies

The premier’s comments at a climate summit confirm her allegiance to Big Oil.

Susan Jane Wright 2 Nov 2023The Tyee

Susan Jane Wright was a lawyer and an executive in the energy sector before she became a writer. Follow her work at Susan on the Soapbox.

Perhaps Danielle Smith forgot where she was when she told the attendees at the Pembina Institute’s Alberta Climate Summit that clean electricity by 2035 was impossible and anyone who thought otherwise was a fantasist.

The summit attendees paid $400 to $600 for the one-day event, which brought together “thought leaders from industry, government, civil society groups, Indigenous governments and rural communities to hear success stories, identify opportunities and challenges, and explore solutions related to Alberta’s clean energy future.”

They came to explore solutions, not to be told by the premier they were out to lunch.

Premier Danielle Smith speaking at the Alberta Climate Summit in Calgary on Oct. 23.

Smith sounded even sillier when she explained why it was impossible.

My gosh, she’d have to build four hydroelectric dams the size of Churchill Falls or facilities capable of producing an equivalent amount of nuclear energy in 12 years. That was impossible, she turned to the audience, wouldn’t you agree?

Not surprisingly, they didn’t agree. Instead they reminded her about solar and wind power, you know, that stuff she’s put a moratorium on for seven months.

Ha, she said (or words to that effect). What do you know that my industry experts don’t know?

By this point she’d locked on to Derek Power, CEO of PowerNetworks, a company in the renewable energy sector.

Power said he had 17 years of experience in solar rooftop installation.

Double ha, she said (or words to that effect). What if there’s no sun or wind?

Batteries, Derek Power replied.

Triple ha, she said (or words to that effect). She then launched into a speech about the high cost of industrial-scale batteries, ending her spiel by saying she refused to indulge “fantasy thinking.”

Apparently, Smith would rather wait for expensive and yet-to-be-proven technologies like direct air capture (it can be used to make vodka!) that the Pathways Alliance will start to explore in 2041.

Later, Power said Smith was disrespectful of the energy experts in the room and dismissive of existing renewable and energy storage technologies while promoting “novel technologies.”

He’s right.

And that’s not all she’s dismissive about.

Smith said 2035 was impossible because she refused to consider anything other than Big Oil’s expensive and novel technologies, which won’t be ready to roll in 12 years.

So let’s talk about that.

Dave Kelly, the host of the summit, reminded Smith that saying something was “impossible” ran counter to the story Albertans tell themselves: that they’re “can-do” people, nothing is impossible.

He talked about Peter Lougheed’s decision to develop the oilsands in 12 years in the face of ferocious opposition from the conventional oil sector. It took more than 12 years, but Lougheed’s faith in Albertans’ “can-do” spirit resulted in the innovations we see in the sector today.

Kelly said we’re on the cusp of something remarkable; he asked Smith why she couldn’t harness Albertans’ “can-do” spirit and show Canada and the world what we can do to reduce emissions today.

Smith's reply was tragic. Nope, she said, it’s 2050, period.

The only path to reducing emissions that she’ll consider is Big Oil’s Pathways Alliance path. One that relies on yet-to-be-developed, novel and expensive technology that won’t be ready in time. She won’t even try to reach the 2035 target. It’s simply impossible.

Of course we can see what she’s doing.

By digging in her heels (and slapping a moratorium on solar and wind projects), Smith is giving Big Oil a free pass.

This is disrespectful and dismissive of not just the experts and academics who attended the climate summit.

It’s a kick in the teeth to all Albertans who would be willing to apply their drive and expertise (that famous “can-do” spirit) to making meaningful emissions reductions a reality.  [Tyee]

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