Injecting some Positive Energy in a divisive national debate

Sitting in a Yoga position
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Bill WhitelawMonica Gattinger, a University of Ottawa scholar, is doing more to do advance constructive energy conversations in Canada than just about anyone.

She’s the chair of Positive Energy, a three-year initiative to assess how Canadians think and talk about energy in all forms. Positive Energy is bringing together disparate and typically unaligned voices.

Her goal is to reframe our domestic energy narratives. She wants to know why, as an energy-producing nation, we’ve become increasingly poor at talking about energy issues.

We tend to worry a lot about energy efficiency but we’re incredibly inefficient in terms of talking about it.

Her latest paper, System Under Stress: Energy Decision-Making in Canada and the Need for Informed Reform, was co-authored with Michael Cleland, a senior fellow at the university. The paper examines key aspects of energy policy-making and regulation. The authors lay out some compelling logic and ask some tough questions.

The paper is refreshingly pragmatic in clearly identifying problems and suggesting reforms.

Neither Canada’s policy frameworks nor its various regulatory tools are robust enough to meet our energy demands. More often than not, they sag (and even collapse) under their burdens.

Gattinger examines how energy literacy complicates how we engage in energy matters.

My perspective is that too many people with too little knowledge are too deeply involved in energy discourses. They need more knowledge. Energy ignorance has jammed the gears of decision making, and sometimes the sector and the government are too indifferent to public ignorance. In turn, that ignorance creates a sense of entitlement for folks who oppose energy development – they too often leap into the breach without the knowledge that could shift their positions from the simply shrill to constructively rational.

Over the last few years, the petroleum sector’s rallying cry has been that evidence-based science will carry the day. But most folks forgot the rudiments of scientific inquiry when they left high school and scientific facts themselves are highly politicized. Ordinary folks are caught is a crossfire of duelling facts and opposing sides are often great at manipulating these facts.

Thinking that science will carry the day in this climate is naive at best.

The scales of knowledge are rarely in balance. Special interest groups and politicians, for example, often don’t acquaint themselves with the science or the facts, relying on the notion of social licence in any energy-related confrontation. And if these two groups, to which ordinary folks look for leadership, are less informed than they ought to be, what hope is there that average Canadians will step up to learn?

This perspective is perhaps just outside the constructive framework of Gattinger’s Positive Energy philosophy. But it’s a hard truth we ignore at our peril.

In the meantime, get acquainted with Positive Energy. Get behind its momentum. Support its positions and perspectives for more constructive energy dialogue.

It holds tremendous promise to rescue Canadians from the current quagmire of indifference and ignorance.

Bill Whitelaw is president and CEO at JuneWarren-Nickle’s Energy Group.

Bill is a Troy Media Thought Leader. Why aren’t you?

© Troy Media

positive energy national debate

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

By Bill Whitelaw

Bill Whitelaw is a director and advisor to many industry boards, including the Canadian Society for Evolving Energy, which he chairs. He speaks and comments frequently on the subjects of social licence, innovation and technology, and energy supply networks.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.