Paul Stothart is vice president, economic affairs of the Mining Association of Canada. He is responsible for advancing the industry’s interests regarding federal tax, trade, investment, transport and energy issues.
Few subjects are receiving as much attention in the daily media as that of our societal need to move towards a clean energy economy. This theme was fundamental to the platforms of all the Canadian federal parties in the recent election — each featuring an array of programs supporting this transition. In the United States, the platform of President-elect Obama talks extensively of hybrid vehicles, electricity from renewable sources, low carbon standards and the ultimate objective of eliminating oil imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within a decade. Republicans in Washington talk of nuclear power, carbon capture and sequestration and battery development, among other initiatives.
Beyond the political and media coverage, it is evident that few subjects offer comparable transformative potential as changes to the world’s energy infrastructure. Developed economies have been driven for two centuries by the industrial combustion of fossil fuel — indeed there has long existed a direct macro-economic correlation of living standards with per-capita energy consumption. Societies that have been able to efficiently generate and transport energy from fossil sources have become far wealthier than those that cannot. To shift away from this dependency, even in a gradual manner, requires major changes in our underlying financial, fiscal and technological practices.
The market potential for new products and technologies associated with such a shift is staggering.