The Current

Oilfields are economy of the past, expanding them would be like building a Blockbuster video, says lawyer

As Alberta Premier Jason Kenney still threatens to "turn off the taps" to B.C., in the battle to expand pipeline operations, one environmental lawyer says the premier's fixation on oil sands is misplaced, leaving Kenney trapped in the economy of the past.

Alberta premier Jason Kenney appeared before the Senate energy committee to argue against Bill C-69

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, next to Minister of Energy for Alberta Sonya Savage, prepares to appear at the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources to offer pushback against Bill C-69. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)
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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney's fixation on oil fields is a misplaced focus on the economy of yesterday, an environmental lawyer says.

"The idea of building this [Trans Mountain pipeline] expansion, which essentially locks in production and expansion of the oil sands for the next several decades, is the exact wrong direction we need to go," Eugene Kung, lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, told Anna Maria Tremonti on The Current.

"It'd be like building a Blockbuster Video franchise in 2012."

He argued that Alberta should instead invest its attention and efforts toward renewable energy and transitioning oil sands workers to new work.

In a campaign promise, Kenney assured Albertans he would "turn off the taps" — block oil and gas exports — to the West Coast in order to push B.C. away from blocking pipeline expansion projects. Kenney was sworn in Tuesday, but the taps remain "on."

"We will obviously keep our electoral commitment to proclaim Bill 12, just stay tuned," Kenney told reporters following the ceremony. "We simply want to demonstrate that our government is serious about defending the vital economic interests of Alberta."

The controversial Trans Mountain pipeline project is stalled until the federal government finished consulting with First Nations communities. (CBC)

B.C. Premier John Horgan has pushed back against Kenney's assertion, arguing that an expanded Trans Mountain pipeline is no guarantee of lower gas prices and the current spike in B.C. Lower Mainland fuel costs is not a result of blocked oil projects.

Construction on expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline is currently stalled as the federal government consults with First Nations communities about the project.

Thursday morning, Kenney appeared before the Senate energy committee to argue against Bill C-69, one he calls the "no more pipelines" bill, saying it violates Alberta's constitutional right to regulate its natural resources.

Kung argues that Kenney's efforts as premier should shift toward what's ahead for the province, rather than continuously going to bat for pipelines.

"We are in a moment now where we need to be thinking about the economy of the future, not the economy of the past," he explained.

Deborah Yedlin, freelance business commentator and partner with Longview Communications, worries the current tone around Alberta's pipeline efforts paints the province in a bad light.

"Alberta's been out there on its own making the case for why energy development is important," she said, arguing that the province's ongoing green energy efforts are unsung elsewhere.

"Those stories aren't told the way they need to be told across the country. They're not being told at boardroom tables or kitchen tables or soccer fields the way they're talked about here. And that's a failure."

Click 'listen' near the top of the page to hear the full conversation.

With files from CBC News. Produced by Idella Sturino and Sarah-Joyce Battersby.

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