There are many arguments against oil and gas. Many people focus on environmental concerns. Sustainability has many different aspects beyond the traditional green one. It refers to social and economic sustainability as well.
Growing up in Calgary I have seen how the oil economy works. It has paid for my life including the keyboard I type these words into. It has also been a hard field for my parents to work in. When my dad gives advice to young geologists he tells them that they should expect to be laid off periodically. Right now a lot of oil and gas workers are unemployed. None of them have a hope of finding a new job anytime soon.
Oil is a boom and bust industry. Prices are volatile and determined by foreign markets we have no control over. There is enormous wealth to be had but there are also hard times. You can feel the pulse of this city hurting with round after round of layoffs. Upper middle class professionals suddenly unemployed with expensive lifestyles to maintain.
It’s an industry that is incredibly unstable and that is the opposite of sustainability. I’d rather live in a place where wages were lower and growth slower but things were steady and predictable.
Nobody knows what is going to happen in the future with oil and gas but many suspect that the era of easy money is over. Alberta and the people who work in oil and gas need to think about what this future looks like. For many of them it will mean retraining and shifting industries. In the AutoCADD class I’m taking four out of fifteen are in the oil patch and either looking to gain skills or pivot to a new field.
An article in the Calgary Herald details how trades people are looking to get into the renewables industry as oil patch jobs dwindle.
There’s demand for workers, he said, although they’ll likely earn less than they would in the oil industry.
He expects investment in new technology funded by Alberta’s carbon levy, and plans to phase out coal-fired power plants, will create thousands of jobs in the next 15 years.
“The work we receive every year does grow quite a bit. I foresee that with these policies coming out … it will be difficult to keep up,” Benson said.