The Green Medium is an Emerald Award-winning, youth-run blog that seeks to innovate how we discuss and inform ourselves on environmental concerns.

Misconception: “Without Oil and Gas, Alberta will have mass unemployment”

Misconception: “Without Oil and Gas, Alberta will have mass unemployment”

Misconception: “Without Oil and Gas, Alberta will have mass unemployment”

It’s evident that the oil and gas industry in Alberta is a major employer in the province. According to the Alberta Government, “approximately 133,053 people were employed in Alberta’s upstream energy sector [in 2014], which includes oil sands, conventional oil, gas and mining.” With these industries employing so many people in the province, a narrative has emerged that province would face mass unemployment without them. While it is undeniable that the oil and gas industries employ many in the province, renewable energy has the potential to also become a major employer in Alberta and to replace many of the fossil fuel jobs that will be lost due to the energy transition.

Renewable energy is driving significant job creation across the world. According to the Department of Energy’s U.S. Energy and Employment Report (for 2016), the solar industry workforce in the U.S. grew by 25% in 2016 to 374,000 workers and the wind industry workforce grew by 32% to 101,738. As renewable energy becomes more and more wide-spread, it is more than likely that Alberta will begin to see a renewable energy hiring boom as well if the province adopts renewable energy.

Meanwhile, the amount of Albertans employed in the fossil fuel industries is on the decline and will continue to be as the province undergoes an energy transition. Between 2006 and 2016, Alberta’s oil and gas extraction industry workforce decreased by 3.6%, due in part to the crash in global oil prices. However, with the production of cheaper, more accessible oil ramping up in the U.S. and O.P.E.C nations, Alberta’s oil, which is more difficult and expensive to extract, can’t compete. Accordingly, it is unlikely that many of the jobs in the Albertan oil industry lost over the past decade will return. Without new pipelines to get Albertan oil to market and with a growing push for renewable energy, it seems that the Albertan oil sands are becoming increasingly not viable. Accordingly, employment in the industry will only continue to decline.

As well, it is important to note that a growing number of energy sector workers in Alberta accept the need for an energy transition. In a survey conducted by Iron and Earth, a non-profit organization that supports oil sands workers transitioning to renewable energy, 69% of energy sector worker respondents agreed with the statement “Canada should make a 100% transition to renewable energy by 2050.” Furthermore, 90% of respondents agreed with the statement “Canada should retrain skilled workers to move into renewable energy.” With many fossil fuel workers already interested in transitioning to work in the renewable energy industry, the provincial and federal governments should work with them to meet their needs and to establish retraining programs.

Ultimately, the renewable energy industry has the potential to replace many of the jobs that have been and will be lost in the oil and gas sectors, especially with so many workers still out of work due to low oil prices. With the proper policies and retraining programs in place, the renewable energy industry in Alberta could step in and employ many of those out of work or who will become unemployed as the province undergoes its transition away from fossil fuels.

[Cover image taken from Pexels, a free photo stock website]

Myth: "The Albertan economy can't survive without Oil and Gas"

Myth: "The Albertan economy can't survive without Oil and Gas"

Myth: “Alberta doesn’t have any good sources of renewable energy”

Myth: “Alberta doesn’t have any good sources of renewable energy”