Alberta in the 21st Century (PART 2 of many)

THE NEWS CYCLE makes it self-evident things ain’t looking too good for Alberta’s future.

And should the pandemic red alert be lowered anytime soon, don’t expect a return to ‘normal’ for the provincial economy (let alone how we go about our business).

We’re going to have make a fresh start, whether we want to or not.

And since we opened the ‘virtual’ town hall, we’ve received several great ideas that invite serious consideration:

We should have excellent geothermal maps from the 400,000+ bore holes scattered across Alberta. With endless shallow heat supply, abundant sunshine and expertise in greenhouse food operations Alberta could grow a very significant industry that’s shock proofed from the various externalities that globalization distributes so effectively. I’d much rather eat lettuce from Raymond, AB then something sourced from who knows where and repackaged in Surrey.

Len Eddy, Edmonton

There’s an opportunity for Alberta in the PPE business, in particular, N95 masks are made from polypropylene [which relies on natural gas for feedstock] and IPL’s Heartland petrochemical complex is designed to create just that product. PPE could be a big winner in the context of diversifying AB’s economy by manufacturing the PPE in AB, or in the context of building Canada’s economy by utilizing the abandoned auto sector manufacturing infrastructure in ON. Politically, tying it to ON could be the big winner and could create a national strategy around creating and maintain a national best-before stockpile of PPE equipment. The continuous need to replace outdated PPE is every company’s fantasy product.”

Lenn Jaskula, Calgary

Clip2Comic 7

Len & Lenn—that’s a high five! Yes, let’s revive the bromance between the premiers of Ontario & Alberta. Just think how our natural gas & petrochemical business complements Ontario’s manufacturing expertise (a new spin on old exports to America comes to mind).


It’s been heartening to read constructive Edmonton-Calgary exchanges on social media: 

David Foy [Calgary]: Focus on finding the next scarcity we could be supplying by trading on what we already know best and do best. My guess is it’s not animation studios, AI, or movies, none of which we can do better than others are already doing, and none of which are scarce. Perhaps it could be something like complex new energy generation and distribution systems. Let’s be the innovators who make fuel cells for electric vehicles a practical, safe, and cheap alternative to batteries, and then supply the hydrogen for those fuel cells through existing distribution networks that we learn now to modify (not as easy as it sounds).Not to mention capitalizing on our amazing agricultural innovators.


Idris Fashan [Edmonton]: David Foy We have existing engineering stock for carbon creation, management, storage, manufacture, etc. There are millions of products and optimizations (and industries) available to us. We just need to start shifting away from bitumen as solely an energy product. We could shift or own the carbon fibre industry as a region if we wanted. It’s an expensive commodity without a dominant player… that’s one option not unlike the many examples you offered. We actually do a lot of tech better than most. We have awesome innovators here in tech. The key is having leadership that doesn’t pick winners and losers.


Tell us about your wish list—don’t be shy and make the ‘ask’—what you and your community needs to move the dial in Alberta. We’ll do what we can to support & advance your ideas. Please comment below or drop us a line.

This column is the consensus opinion of the writers Donna Kennedy-Glans & Don Hill. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to BEYOND POLARITY — scroll down on your phone or tablet, or look to the right in the panel beside this post. Enter your email to FOLLOW, a wheel spins, hamsters get fed.


9 thoughts on “Alberta in the 21st Century (PART 2 of many)

  1. Great article Donna. It’s past time for fresh thinking and a Can Do spirit. Recent events have also shown that we need to question everything regarding Alberta benefits and traditional economic assumptions. .ie. foreign ownership , foreign labour and industry concentration in the meat packing industry leave us vulnerable when viruses strike . The profits from this great Alberta industry are slim to non for our producers but are appropriated mainly to huge conglomerates. Let’s encourage home grown competitors .

  2. Geothermal – Check
    Hydrogen from Hydrocarbons with CCS or in-situ hydrogen production – Check
    Forest to Farm Fiber production in the form of Biochar – Check

    All Made in Alberta and coming to a community near you – do you think? 🙂

  3. Donna,

    1. For the Geothermal potential in Alberta… see

    2. For the Hydrogen economy of Alberta See: and

    3. For forest industry residuals, old growth forest biomass (wild fire fuel), and for purpose grown woody biomass used as a resilient fibre for soil productivity enhancement (biochar) see:

    4. For an example of a First Nations community interested in making biochar see:

    Do you think there is enough political interest in Alberta to start slowing down the use of Alberta’s hydrocarbon resources solely for burning it as a fuel and rather to begin using our resources for socially beneficial products that give people the dignity of employment and productivity at the same time as we are “healing the earth”?

    We have talented people living in this province and they are still here (thank God!)… because there is nowhere else to go right now. Now is the time for the visionaries… where are they?


    1. Rob, thanks for sharing this information on geothermal, hydrogen & biochar; trust YOU to have it at your finger tips! It’s inspiring to see how you have moved biochar production in Alberta. Congratulations. If anyone is interested in understanding more about biochar, Rob is your man.Is the scale up happening as you envisioned; what do you need from government & fellow Albertans? It’s a serious question to an Alberta innovator.

      In answer to your valid question about whether there is political interest in moving from burning hydrocarbons to making products, I honestly believe the public will is there. Rob, I say that based on what we’re hearing via this blog and what I heard as part of the Fair Deal Panel. Letting people in this province know more about what can work (your biochar dream) and how is critical right now.

      Again, our thanks Rob for your leadership.

  4. Here’s a contribution from Maggie Hanna, of Calgary:

    Maggie Hanna’s wish list 20/05/03:

    The current oil price crash due COVID 2 under demand for oil combined with the 8% Saudi and Russian over supply is just a shot across the bow.

    Oil cos see the writing on the wall for a permanently crashed oil price coming towards them from the future due to the 20% chronic market destruction from electric and hydrogen vehicles crashing the oil price more permanently.

    Alberta O&G cos. Wake up to the world Hydrogen Export market as a way to replace their profits. Currently Alberta makes ~$92B/y on HC exports… hypothetically if all those GJs we exported as Hydrogen, we would make ~$150B wholesale or ~$250B retail.

    But the H2 infrastructure roll out will be wickedly expensive up front. The Feds devise a cogent hydrogen strategy, joining the 18 countries in the world who already have one.

    The Feds put stimulus hydrogen infrastructure money into all Blue and Green Hydrogen producing provinces (BLUE= BC, AB SK and GREEN = QC,ON, MB) with conditions. They initiate the federal Hydrogen Mission.

    Alberta builds a LARGE H2 plant in the Industrial Heartland plus H2 capable pipelines etc. Alberta declares the Alberta Hydrogen Mission in collaboration with BC/SK/ Indigenous peoples.

    We build H2 pipelines to the Pacific LNG/LH2 plants and export to Japan, S Korea, China etc.

    As part of the Federal stimulus package a West/East Energy corridor from coast to coast is built so both Green and Blue H2 can sell into markets on both oceans….plus HVDC power lines in underground pipelines to protect them from the coming weather weirding extremities…. and fast data fiber…and hydrocarbon pipes for as long as the oil price supports them upon which time they will be turned into more hydrogen pipeline capacity. Each province to build their own section project managed Calgary engineers who are masters at executing really big projects.

    Win for economic prosperity/Win for jobs/Win for future energy resiliency/ Win for uniting the country/ Win for Environment… that’s 5 Wins.

  5. What are the chances that these projects will become a reality now given that they didn’t happen in the 1970s even we had a heritage fund to kick start them in the good times? Our problem is that most of our oil companies are heavily owned by American interests that opposed Lougheed’s attempt to get a bigger share of the oil profits such as Norway got for Norweigans?

    I do like these ideas though but the capitalists don’t want to take risks that will only be profitable several years from now. The are mainly interested in milking the cow for immediate profit. That leaves it to government to kickstart such programs, but our humming is broke and not interested.

    1. Well, David — as your attorney & agent — it depends on the songbook you’re singing from; the timbre of the tune, and whether it’s the old model of 433 temperament or 440 (which come to think of it is a bit wound up as it is with instruments as diverse as fiddling while things fiducial burn in the afterglow of a bygone era or error). Trust this clears up any confusion…

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