Exploiting Canada's energy resources in an environmentally sustainable manner is one of the most important public policy debates of 2012 and beyond.

Welcome to our special issue on sustainable energy. Exploiting and transporting Canada’s energy resources in an environmentally sustainable manner promises to be one of the most important public policy debates of 2012 and beyond. So does the question of diversifying our energy market beyond the United States, which now receives 99 percent of our oil and gas exports. There’s only one way to new Asian markets, and that’s across the Pacific.

To begin the conversation, we have a Q&A with Environment Minister Peter Kent, his first long-form interview since the Durban Conference. Kent reaffirms Canada’s Copenhagen commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. He sees a “post-Kyoto climate regime” as one of the achievables on the horizon. And in our Verbatim, Alberta Premier Alison Redford serves notice, in a remarkable Toronto speech, that her province is back at the leadership table of the Canadian federation. “We rise together or we fall together,” she declared.

Contributing Writer Velma McColl weighs in on the need for a balanced approach to harnessing Canada’s energy. As she writes: “Some people want leaders to design future systems of energy and ignore the imperatives of climate change; others want to design future energy systems by stopping production of fossil fuels in Canada, ignoring the economics. Neither of these two paths will lead Canada to an energy future that enhances either our competitiveness or our sustainability.” She also maps the long road from Kyoto to Durban, and sees progress as incremental.

At the “Equinox Summit: Energy 2030,” organized by the Waterloo Global Science Initiative and hosted by the Perimeter Institute last June, 40 leading thinkers came together and saw the world of energy as it might look in 2030. Wilson da Silva, editor of COSMOS, a leading Australian science magazine, presents the consensus of the summit, a Policy Options exclusive.

Then, Robin Sears looks at the politics of energy, taking the Keystone XL project as a case in point. “To every eco-activist’s bellow that ‘tar sands kill’, there is matching nonsense by propagandists on the other side, making the nonsensical claim that ‘my bitumen has greater ethical virtue than yours!’“

The University of Calgary’s Don Barry also looks at the Keystone XL project, which, he says, is falling victim to presidential and interest group politics in the US. He writes that “it remains to be seen whether the federal and provincial governments will learn the lessons of the Keystone pipeline experience.”

Kevin Lynch and Kathy Sendall address the need for Canada to adopt a national energy strategy. In addition to huge new investments, they write, “there will be the need for enormous energy transportation infrastructure to reach and serve the new global energy consumers.”

From the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, John Manley writes that Canada “needs to begin with a renewed commitment to energy conservation.” This piece offers important details of energy consumption, by sector, in Canada.

From the Energy Policy Institute of Canada, David Emerson considers how to “reverse the curse” of natural energy resources, including boom and bust cycles, and Dutch disease.

Photo: Shutterstock