The truth about our fundingAn open letter from the Pembina Institute to Canadians

Blog - Jan. 16, 2012 - By Ed Whittingham

Dear friends,

As you may have noticed, the Harper government and the “Ethical Oil Inc” front group have been working to discredit groups like the Pembina Institute and our work on energy issues by claiming that we are a “foreign-funded,” “radical” organization advocating against the best interests of Canadians.

Allow us to set the record straight.

The truth about our funding

From year-to-year, on the order of one tenth of our revenue originates from “foreign” sources that share our sustainable energy goals. That puts us in the same boat as hundreds of other Canadian non-profit groups and companies who also work to shape Canadian public policy.

The other 90 per cent of our revenue comes from Canadian governments, companies, foundations and individuals interested in the innovative thinking we bring to sustainable energy challenges. We are proud of our ability to attract such diverse sources of revenue, and doing so ensures that we are independent and financially stable — as any Canadian company strives to be. It’s just good business.

As Canadians we have built for ourselves an open and globalized society, and energy is one of our most globalized resources. If we are going to move to a sustainable energy system around the world, one that ensures we prevent the worst scenarios of climate change, then we need to mobilize ideas and resources from around the world toward solving the most pressing energy challenges.

To call some “foreign” funding good (i.e. for oilsands companies) and some bad (i.e. for environmental groups) takes us in the wrong direction.

But we digress. The truth about our funding is that we need more of it — a lot more — to meet the growing demand for our work on helping Canada transition to sustainable energy.

We’re standing up for Canada — will you join us?

The Pembina Institute was founded 25 years ago by local landowners in Drayton Valley, Alberta, in response to the infamous Lodgepole sour gas blowout. The well blew for 68 days, two blowout specialists lost their lives, and on a bad day the rotten-egg odour of the hydrogen sulfide in the gas could be smelled as far away as Winnipeg, Manitoba. The interventions of the landowners in the industrial accident hearing that followed helped create environmental and safety regulations that changed the way natural gas was developed in Alberta.

Although we are now a national organization, we haven’t forgotten our rural Alberta roots. We understand the good and bad sides of oil and gas: the significant role that hydrocarbons currently play in creating jobs and economic prosperity, along with the risks to people and the environment when hydrocarbons are developed irresponsibly.

Today, even if developed responsibly, we see a long-term economic risk to relying on hydrocarbons. And we’re not alone.

New Alberta Premier Alison Redford said in her leadership platform that "hydrocarbons will not remain the world’s fuel of choice forever and Alberta must be prepared for the spread of alternative sources." Meanwhile a 2010 blue ribbon panel report from the Premier's Council for Economic Strategy argues that Albertans must plan for the eventuality that oilsands production will almost certainly be displaced at some point in the future by lower-cost and/or lower-emission alternatives.

With this kind of shift in prairie wind, now is the time to push for the transition to low-carbon, low-impact energy production.

At the Pembina Institute, we are not motivated by four-year political cycles or quarterly earnings reports, but by how we can aid this transition. We are motivated by helping to create a Canadian economy that will remain strong and competitive 20, 30 and 40 years from now by leading the way in new sectors such as clean energy and clean tech. We are motivated by the prospect of a clean energy industry that employs more people than a polluting energy industry.

And it doesn’t stop there. We want Canadians to be safe from the disastrous health and safety impacts of unfettered, weakly regulated, and weakly monitored oilsands development. And — as radical as this may sound — we want to preserve and protect our world-famous Canadian wilderness by ensuring that we do everything we can to minimize the impacts to our wilderness, fresh water and air quality from all forms of energy development.

After 40 years of developing the oilsands, Alberta still does not have regulated maximum limits on total environmental impact. Until such limits are put in place and enforced, no one can claim we are responsibly developing this resource.

We’d like to get back to work now.

While the attacks on our credibility are likely to continue, they aim to divert our energy and resources away from the work that we are committed to doing.

It’s time to turn our full attention back to the business of building a better Canada. There is much work to be done in 2012 and we would like your help.

If you are tired of pettiness and misinformation campaigns passing for debate, and you would rather see our leaders and your fellow Canadians equipped to discuss, debate and make decisions about critical energy issues based on facts and reason, not ideology and spin, then we need your help.

By subscribing to receive updates about the work that we’re doing, and inviting people in your network to do the same, you’ll be helping to ensure the debate is grounded in high-calibre research and focussed on pragmatic, sustainable solutions for Canada’s energy future.


Ed Whittingham, Executive Director
The Pembina Institute

P.S. As always, we need all the financial support we can get. Please donate to the Pembina Institute. And yes, the contributions of like-minded citizens of the world are welcome!

Ed Whittingham
Ed Whittingham

Ed Whittingham was the Executive Director of the Pembina Institute until 2017.


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