With Canada’s widespread experience in natural resources regulation and
development and Israel’s eminence as an innovation hub, the two countries would
make ideal partners for collaborative advancement in both traditional and
renewable energy fields, a Canadian minister told The Jerusalem Post on
“We have a lot of experience in offshore drilling and
governmental [procedure], and we have a lot of experience in the extraction of
non-conventional oil,” Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said,
during an interview in Jerusalem on Monday afternoon.
“Israel is a hotbed
of innovation and technological activity. I think we can learn from each other.
I think there’s real potential to use our presence in the resource sector to
work with the Israeli government in a commercially advantageous way for both
countries,” he added, stressing Canada’s commitment to the existence of the
Oliver, of the Conservative party, was elected to the House
of Commons in 2011 and assumed his ministerial office on May 18 of that year,
representing the Eglinton- Lawrence District, a district northwest – and
including a portion – of Toronto. Prior to entering politics, Oliver was an
investment banker, and he earned an MBA from Harvard University and both
bachelors and law degrees from McGill University.
As of Monday evening,
Oliver had met with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon, the solar
company HelioFocus, representatives from defense electronics firm Elbit Systems,
researchers at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, oil shale
developers at Israel Energy Initiatives and Israel Renewable Energy Association
head Eitan Parness. He had also already visited Yad Vashem, and had dinner with
Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau on Monday night.
After meeting with
Oliver on Monday night, the two ministers agreed to enhance their cooperation on
energy security, environmental sustainability and economic development,
according to Landau’s office.
Officials from both countries will seek to
meet bilaterally more often, and as an initial step, Oliver and Landau may
engage in reciprocal visits to Canada and Israel in order to build up their
relationships in the energy sector, Landau’s office said.
Only about $1.4
billion in annual trade currently exists between Canada and Israel, a number
that Oliver told the Post he hoped would increase soon.
“Now that Israel
has discovered significant offshore gas and oil shale on land there are real
opportunities to work together,” he said.
Natural resources make up about
10 percent of the Canadian economy – and 60-70% of that tenth is from oil and
Canada has a 174 billion-barrel oil reserve predominantly in
oil sands, the largest in world, and recently hit number two in the world in
uranium production. The country is also number two or three in the world in
natural gas and hydroelectricity, according to Oliver.
although Canada continues to develop its expansive natural gas and oil reserves,
the government has also devoted a significant effort – and $10 billion [Canadian
dollars] – toward the advancement of clean and alternative energies, like wind,
biomass and solar, Oliver said.
“There’s potential here,” Oliver said.
“We want to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”
As part of the Stephen
Harper government’s overall 2012 Economic Action Plan, Oliver recently helped
spearhead a policy called Responsible Resource Development, which he presented
publicly at the 5th World Forum on Energy Regulation in Quebec City in
Responsible Resource Development is based on four main pillars – to
make project reviews more predictable and timely, reduce duplication of project
reviews, strengthen environmental protection and enhance consultations with
Aboriginal people, according to his office.
The policy would aim to
eliminate inefficiencies and place time limits on reviews, while maximizing
safety and environmental protection, by introducing weighty financial penalties
for violators of conditions set by reviews. The plan should become law before
July 1, Oliver told the Post.
A week before presenting the Responsible
Resource Development plan, Oliver had responded to a backlash from Canadian
environmental groups about ongoing fossil fuel development in Canada, saying:
“Extraordinary potential exists in every region of our country – natural gas in
British Columbia, oil and minerals on the Prairies, the Ring of Fire in Ontario,
Plan Nord in Quebec, hydro power and oil and gas in Atlantic Canada and mining
in Canada’s North.”
The natural resources sector, he had explained,
directly employs more than 750,000 Canadians, and is responsible for 10% of
Canada’s $1.5 trillion economy and 40% of exports.
Similar to the
contention around oil shale and natural gas in Israel, in Canada
environmentalists are strongly fighting against the ongoing development of oil
sands and natural gas reserves – what Oliver called “a huge debate.”
Tuesday morning in Israel, environmental activists led by the Green Course
movement gathered in front of the Knesset in protest of oil shale drilling by
Israel Energy Initiatives – one of the companies Oliver met with – in the
Adullam region. Gadi Kolker, one of the Green Course leaders, had charged that
the Energy and Water Ministry was giving the oil shale firm “special treatment”
and that there was a stark lack of regulations regarding oil
The way the Canadian government aims to appease both resource
developers and environmentalists is through fact-based discussion, followed up
by a strict regulatory system, in which an independent body performs analyses of
each project – “to determine that it’s safe for Canada, safe for Canadians,”
Oliver said. This will be even further regulated as soon as the Responsible
Resource Development policy passes in the Senate, he added.
not satisfy some of our environmental groups anyway, but what you hope is that
you can have a dialogue with people,” he said.
“There are some groups
that are unalterably against resource development,” Oliver added.
the oil sands reserves are expansive, they actually only encompass one
one-thousandth of arboreal forests in Canada, and only emit one one-thousandth
of global emissions, according to Oliver. All of the lands are rehabilitated
after extraction, he explained.
“An obligation is imposed on Canadian
companies,” Oliver said. Most crucial, he said, is the idea that an outside,
objective environmental review process takes place on any project before it is
allowed to begin.
While Oliver stressed that green growth and therefore
the continued development of renewable energies is essential, he noted that the
energy economy must still largely be based on traditional energy sources – on
fossil fuels – for the time being.
“You have to be rooted in the facts,”
One of these facts, he explained, is that according to the
International Energy Agency, energy demand will continue growing in the next two
and a half decades, and conventional energy sources will remain dominant during
“Alternative energy is not going to supplant conventional
sources of energy for the foreseeable future. That’s just reality,” Oliver said.
“That doesn’t mean that the governments shouldn’t assist in technology
improvements to make alternative energy more viable, including solar and maybe
wind and biomass.”
The Canadian government, for example has already
invested the $10 billion [Canadian dollars] in renewable energy and energy
efficiency development, as well as reducing Canada’s environmental footprint,
according to Oliver.
“You don’t build an economy based on dreams,” Oliver
said. “You have to have a vision, but it has to be rooted in
While his government will continue to be present in assisting
research and development sites, technology and early stage development, he
stressed that the government should not be “over the long-term supporting any
economic form of energy.”
“At the end of the day it’s either the consumer
or the taxpayer who foots the bill,” Oliver said. “It’s great to talk about
these areas and to see what we can do to make the breakthroughs necessary, but
it has a long way to go.”