Energy Perspectives

Energy is Everywhere

Michael Cleland is the Nexen Executive-in-Residence at the Canada West Foundation. The Canada West Foundation is the only think-tank with an exclusive focus on policies that shape the quality of life in Western Canada. Mike is also the co-chair of the volunteer Energy National Advisory Committee of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation.

One of the core themes of Let’s Talk Energy is that “energy is everywhere”. In one sense this is obvious. It is everywhere in the universe. But it is also everywhere in our daily lives even though we rarely notice it. And it is everywhere in public policy where I have spent  my professional life.    

In the early 80’s, as co-project managers of the Halifax-Dartmouth Regional Development Plan review, my colleague and I found the effects of the 1970’s oil crises and concerns about energy security of sufficient importance that we built energy planning into our work plan. The crisis subsequently faded from view.  But then offshore energy resources became central to economic policy in Nova Scotia and it shaped the economic future of both that province and Newfoundland -- and does to this day. 

When I worked at the Department of Finance in Ottawa, I focused on northern development issues.  Jurisdiction over energy resources became central to the division of powers between the federal government and the territories.  The 1980’s were an era marked by many economic reforms – tax reform, deregulation and the privatization of crown corporations – and energy played a prominent role in all of these. In the Canada/US Free trade Agreement, energy proved to be one of the most controversial issues in a debate that has profoundly shaped Canada to this day. And although energy had by 1989 largely disappeared from the international security agenda, it came back in force in 1990 when the invasion of Kuwait led to another “oil crisis” and Canada was engaged with our international partners in managing the issue. 

Then the 1990’s brought the challenge of climate change to centre stage. Energy matters a lot to  many environmental issues, but in the case of climate change, the two are essentially two sides of the same coin. 

In the last few years energy has re-emerged as a priority for people concerned with community planning and development, as it was for me in Halifax-Dartmouth, because it turns out that many of our smartest energy management options are found at the local level. 

Through all this, I have seen first hand that if you work on issues related to the economy, the environment, or the way we shape our communities, energy will indeed be everywhere.

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