My wife, Sally Wright, and I recently travelled by SmartCar to Fairbanks to attend the Arctic Energy Summit. It was a meeting on energy related to the Arctic and it informs the Arctic Council.
The very first morning of the summit, upon hearing the news of Shell pulling out of oil exploration in the Arctic, the chair of the conference called on the attendees to have a moment of silence to “reflect on the complexities of living in the Arctic.”
It will be no surprise to anyone that we were silently overjoyed that the Arctic Ocean will be saved from polluting oil exploration for the foreseeable future. We know, however, that there were others who took the news very hard. Such are the challenges we face in the Circumpolar North.
The conference was very informative on issues that are facing the Arctic with the push for extracting more polluting fossil fuel to feed our economies and our need to stop runaway climate change. Next April, Fairbanks will host the Alaska Rural Energy Conference, and we’d like to see more Yukoners join us to learn about the energy challenges and solutions in Alaska.
As we drove home from Alaska, we ruminated about how wonderful it would be to drive an electric car back to Fairbanks. Over the day’s drive, we strategized about how to electrify the Alaska Highway and fuel its communities along the way with renewable energy.
For us to use that electric car, we would need an EV charging station in every highway lodge and community from the Yukon to Alaska. We want all of those communities to be able to produce renewable energy, store it, use it and sell it to us to recharge our car.
These communities will build resilience through energy-efficient homes and businesses. Energy storage systems will protect the community from rising fossil-fuel costs.
As these communities thrive and grow, the local grid can then be expanded to other renewable energy projects along the highway. Eventually most of these small communities will be able to connect to each other and start selling renewable electricity to each other’s markets. This new energy infrastructure can spread all over the world and we as Canadians can become leaders in building this new economy.
The inspiration we received from the Arctic Energy Summit is just one hopeful consequence of the un-muzzling of scientists. With the federal election near we want our fellow Canadians to understand that there are good solutions, and a vibrant economy awaiting us as we shrug off our addiction to fossil fuels.
Our brightest minds are working to solve these problems. Voters need to step up and help us achieve a better future for our children and vote for the person who shows diplomacy and will work across party lines to save our precious home, Earth.
There is no Planet B. Only together can we achieve a better future for our children.
Dr. JP Pinard, PhD, PEng.