Premier Jason Kenney said Friday that he sees a future where Alberta continues to be a key global supplier of oil and gas, and that his government has no plans to speak with U.S. politicians who advocate for economies to transition away from fossil fuels.
The premier’s comments were made at a news conference after a reporter asked whether, given the staggering recent drop in oil prices amid the coronavirus pandemic that last week saw prices even move into the negatives, Alberta would consider having its new representative in Washington speak to Green New Deal advocates.
“That kind of question, in the middle of an economic crisis, from a Calgary-based media outlet — really frankly throws me for a loop,” Kenney said to the reporter.
“When you talk about the Green New Deal, listen, our focus is on getting people back to work in Alberta, not pie-in-the-sky ideological schemes,” he said. “We are actually not trying to amplify but fight back against the political agenda of the green left that has been trying to landlock Alberta energy.
“So we’re not going to try to co-operate with the folks that are trying to shut down Canada’s single-largest subsector.”
The Green New Deal is an ambitious plan to address climate change laid out by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts in the U.S.
It calls for the U.S. to move away from fossil fuels and invest in clean energy industries. The resolution was defeated in the U.S. Senate last year.
The premier’s comments came during a Friday press conference where he announced $1 billion in federal funding will be invested into boosting oil well rehabilitation and cleanup across the province, in hopes it will stimulate the province’s energy sector and create more jobs despite the coronavirus pandemic-induced downturn.
He also said he was appointing former Edmonton-area MP James Rajotte to engage with U.S. lawmakers on Alberta’s energy economy and to help pursue a North American energy strategy.
Kenney’s response to the Green New Deal question generated a significant response on social media. #GreenNewDealAB was trending on Twitter Friday evening.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about the Green New Deal.
The environmental advocacy group Climate Justice Edmonton posted a statement on its social media accounts Friday that was critical of Kenney’s response to the idea of meeting with Green New Deal advocates.
“With oil prices cratering, the most responsible thing the premier could do in this crisis would be to chart a new course through the interconnected crises of climate change, mass inequality and oil volatility,” the post reads.
“It was also unfortunate to hear the premier express that it’s somehow un-Albertan to ask about a plan for energy transition.”
The statement also notes that the most recently tabled provincial budget forecasted oil prices to stay around $58 dollars a barrel.
Kenney said the province is already focused on producing cleaner energy.
“Alberta has our technology, innovation and emissions reduction program which invests in technology to reduce the environmental impact and carbon intensity of our energy production,” he said.
“Here’s the reality: Canada’s oil and gas sector employs directly and indirectly half-a-million Canadians, has paid $380 billion to governments over the past 18 years, is by far our largest export industry, and Canada has the third-largest proven and probable oil reserves on Earth, we are the fourth-largest producer and one of the largest natural gas producers.
“Even in the most bearish scenario for oil consumption produced by the International Energy Agency, they see at least 70 million barrels per day of oil consumption in 2040.”
Kenney said that when the world needs that energy, he wants it to come “from a stable, environmentally-responsible, market-based democracy with the world’s highest human rights, labour and environmental standards — that would be Alberta.”
“So no, we’re not going to work with… the small minority in Congress that wants to pursue the ideological fantasy of shutting down the modern industrial economy.”
—With files from Sean Boynton