List of corporate sponsors raises eyebrows at energy summit
A major summit of Canadian energy and mines ministers starting this weekend in Alberta has provoked skepticism over its list of corporate sponsors, almost exclusively from the oil and gas industry, that have offered up $180,000 for a barbecue, catering and signs for delegates at the event.
The funding consists of donations of either $30,000, $20,000 or $10,000 for gold, silver and bronze levels of sponsorship but the Alberta government said the industry stakeholders are not buying any preferential treatment at the conference in Kananaskis which is expected to examine plans for a national energy strategy.
"Sponsorship is one thing," said Jay O'Neill, the director of communications from Alberta Energy. "It's not (about) getting access on the agenda, (having a) speaking opportunity, or anything like that."
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an industry lobby group, is the only gold-level sponsor offering $30,000 for the conference, according to the event website. The silver-level sponsors include the Oil Sands Developers Group, Nexen, TransCanada and Cenovus Energy, while the bronze-level sponsors are Devon, the Canadian Electricity Association, Shell, Encana, Enbridge, the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association.
Environmental groups have expressed concerns that the meeting is being designed to favour unsustainable growth of fossil fuels without adequately addressing the consequences such as climate change, but O'Neill noted that delegates outside of industry are also participating in the discussion.
"We've done nothing different than what has been done in the past," he said. "I think what's getting lost here in this discussion that's coming up from these (environmental) groups is why the ministers are meeting in the first place and the discussion of the national energy framework and moving forward on that . . . and that's really what the focus is going to be on in the next couple of days."
While one environmental group compared the sponsorship to having tobacco companies fund a health conference, the O'Neill said the government approached a variety of stakeholders, including some from the renewable energy sector.
Scott Smith, vice president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, acknowledged that his organization was approached but opted to participate in the conference without offering any sponsorship.
He said one of the association's main priorities was urging ministers to consider new funding support for research to improve the wind industry's growth in Canada.
Meantime, John Bennett, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada said he's disappointed his own organization, an environmental advocacy group, was not approached to sponsor the event.
"We would have certainly given it serious consideration, especially if it were to deliver some kind of entree to the meeting — the kind that the oil companies seem to have purchased," said Bennett, a veteran environmental activist.
He explained that he has attended numerous conferences about climate change involving environment and energy ministers over the past 15 years, but did not always see the same enthusiastic response from the oil companies when it came to sponsoring discussions about reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
"But (at) a meeting trying to discuss how to ensure massive exports of oil and gas, suddenly they're willing to put a lot of money on the table."
Industry sponsorship of ministerial conference throws gasoline on a simmering fire Calgary Herald, July 20, 2011
Private funding for energy ministers meeting a 'corrupting influence' Calgary Herald, July 13, 2011
Corporate sponsorship for energy meeting slammed CBC News, July 13, 2011
No easy task for ministers to set national energy strategy in Kananaskis Canadian Press, July 15, 2011
Big Oil sponsors energy meeting News 660, July 13, 2011