Energy for a Better World
Steve Williams, President and CEO
Suncor Energy Inc.
Oil Council Annual Awards of Excellence Dinner
November 20, 2013
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Thank you and good evening.
It’s an honour to be here to celebrate excellence in our industry and wonderful to be back in London.
I’d like to express my appreciation to the Oil Council for providing this forum.
The World Assembly and Annual Awards of Excellence dinner are truly world-class events.
And what an interesting venue for tonight’s program.
Old Billingsgate has a long and colourful history in this city…one of London’s economic hubs for many centuries.
And think of how this open air fish market has evolved into the beautiful building we’re sitting in tonight. Its use has also evolved and this building is still creating economic wellbeing for London.
There’s an obvious parallel here in global energy development. And that’s what I’d like to talk about tonight.
How our industry has evolved and the pace of change is faster than ever before. And how we need to go further to responsibly deliver energy the world needs.
I believe we’re up to the task, to go beyond the bottom line to the triple bottom line. To create:
- Economic prosperity
- A healthy environment, and
- Social well-being.
The Role of Energy in Our Lives
I’ve been in this business for over 35 years.
And, like many of you, I’ve seen a lot of change.
Just consider these recent developments:
- By 2020, tight oil is expected to be the single largest source of supply in North America. This impacts Canada’s role in the global energy picture
- While we are finding new sources of oil, many of them are technically challenging and require new ways of doing things
- Concerns about climate change continue to build. And the changing climate creates new business challenges for all of us.
In fact, I’m quite optimistic.
And that’s because the world will need energy, especially oil, for the foreseeable future.
Energy has been a part of our lives throughout history. Wood provided warmth and the means to cook.
Electricity provided light and heating.
Oil and gas provided us with mobility and new products.
Today, we enjoy the benefits of iPads, cell phones, X-rays, inter-continental flights, and even ventures into space.
The big question is: Can we bring energy to the world in a way that preserves the environment and creates value for global citizens?
My answer is yes. Oil will continue to be a part of the energy mix. But we need to do things differently.
The World Is Changing
The world is changing in ways we could never imagine.
Technology is helping to connect people and shrink distances. Societal awareness and understanding of issues – both local and global – have brought with them heightened expectations. And of course our population continues to grow.
Whether a company produces oil, makes toys or manufactures computer parts, stakeholders are increasingly looking for the same things:
- Care for the environment
- Treating people with fairness and dignity
- Doing the right thing
- Creating value for communities.
Meeting these expectations may seem daunting. Especially in the context of a population expected to grow to nine billion people.
That challenge looms large because we’re seeing increased energy consumption as people aspire to have more, including an increased quality of life and increased access to health care, education, consumer goods and mobility.
To meet this demand, we will need all sources of energy – oil, coal, natural gas, wind, solar, geo-thermal, biofuels – and we will need to work together to deliver it safely, reliably, efficiently, responsibly.
We will need to collaborate and rethink how we are producing and delivering this energy to meet increased expectations, reduce our impacts on the planet and provide a sustainable, long-term, competitively priced supply.
Canada has a distinct role to play in the world’s energy future.
When you think of our country, it’s important that you think of us beyond snow and ice, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, hockey, Celine Dione and the maple leaf.
Think of us in terms of:
- The world’s third-largest oil reserves
- An abundance of natural gas
- Substantial hydro resources
- A growing renewables sector
- Canadian ingenuity to bring all of this potential to market, and
- A strong, world-class regulatory system.
This regulatory system provides government oversight of our operations. It ensures our industry is safe, environmentally responsible and thinking about future generations.
Carbon is a big debate in the province of Alberta. We need to manage it, but also make sure we’re in step with other countries. We must not harm Canada’s global competitiveness.
We’re looking for technical solutions that must be supported by progressive policy and government is working with us.
Our goal is for greenhouse gases from our product to be on par with, or lower than, other sources of oil.
Alberta was one of the first jurisdictions in the world to implement a carbon levy. Those dollars go into special fund created to advance technology to lower our industry’s carbon footprint.
That is innovation enabled by good public policy.
If we are going to realize the full value of Canadian energy resources, we need to be strong across the board:
- Strong performance
- Strong input from environmental organizations
- Strong working relationships with our Aboriginal people, and
- Strong public policy that encourages the right kind of development.
If we’re going to get this right, we can’t push people away from the table. And at that table there can’t be winners and losers.
The oil sands industry is young, with enormous opportunity to pioneer, innovate and renew. There’s no resource opportunity in the world like it.
My company, Suncor, pioneered the industry in the late 1960s. We’ve gone through a lot of change. We’re evolving quickly and in recent years, have been joined by global players, including BP, Shell, Total, Statoil, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Japan Canada Oil Sands…the list goes on.
We’re talking with government, academics and innovators. We’re developing fresh approaches for responsible development including regional environmental monitoring programs, frameworks for regional land use and research programs at universities that tackle our tougher challenges.
As our sector has evolved, so too has the energy market place.
American energy demand is expected to continue. That demand, however, is expected to pale in comparison to growth in the developing world as China and India continue to rapidly grow.
Canada has an opportunity to meet the needs of all of these markets if we are able to diversify our customer base.
Unfortunately, we continue to face opposition as we attempt to build new pipelines to transport Canadian crude to tide water and send it to customers around the world.
People are concerned about greenhouse gas production, water use, tailings ponds, air emissions, local Aboriginal communities and land disturbance.
As we face these issues, we’re asking ourselves an important question:
Can the Canada we build today be a blueprint for tomorrow’s world?
I believe the answer is yes.
Tomorrow’s complex world requires cooperation and collaboration across many different stakeholders – government, industry, communities, environmental organizations and Aboriginal peoples. And I’m pleased to say it’s happening in Canada.
Tomorrow’s complex world demands new approaches. Industry must encourage government to take a long-term view and to develop policy that makes sense for business and citizens. This is happening in Canada.
Tomorrow’s complex world expects more from business. We must understand our role in society goes beyond creating shareholder value to creating shared value for all. That too, is happening in Canada.
And tomorrow’s complex world will demand increased transparency. We’re seeing that in Alberta, where we have a government-generated oil sands portal that gives stakeholders visibility to our environmental performance metrics.
We are doing a lot of the right things, and yet there’s more work to be done.
The Polarization Challenge
The conversations we’re having about energy have become deeply polarized, and more and more, it seems we’re focused on staking out positions. Sadly, many seem preoccupied with what they’re against:
- Transmission lines
- Flooding caused by hydro dam development
- Tar sands
- Fracking, and yes, even
- Bird and bat-killing wind turbines.
In the midst of trying to prove who’s right and who’s wrong, I’m concerned we may find ourselves in a worse place than where we started.
We need to stop focusing on what we’re against and start focusing on what we’re for – a healthy environment, economic prosperity and social wellbeing for today and tomorrow.
As we prepare for a global population that’s growing from 7 billion to 9 billion over the next 25 years, as we grapple with the complex problem of climate change and as we look to meet global energy needs, we need to work together.
We need to collaborate to create energy for a better world.
Collaboration, in its truest sense, is working together to achieve common goals.
Think of the sporting analogy. A football team has a common goal – to win the game by working together.
It would be a very different game if the players were focused on achieving their individual goals.
Collaboration isn’t easy. Each of us needs to check our personal agenda at the door, realize our way is not necessarily the best way and focus on what is going to contribute to the common good.
The oil sands industry has some experience with collaboration.
About a year and a half ago, we created Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance, or COSIA. Its mandate is to collaborate on environmental performance.
What excites me about COSIA is this:
- 13 companies which account for 90% of oil sands production
- 13 CEOs are committing to step-change performance improvements in tailings, water, land and GHG emissions
- 13 competitors who’ve shared over 560 technologies and about a billion dollars in environmental technology.
To our knowledge, COSIA is the largest collaborative effort of its kind, anywhere on the planet. And it’s happening in the Canadian oil sands.
We’ve learned we’re better off sitting at the same table to tackle the big issues, working together gets us further ahead, and creative solutions come from creative tension.
The bottom line is we’ve recognized the value of working together when it comes to industry challenges.
Together, we’re so much stronger.
We need to start doing this globally. We need to collaborate to raise the bar. We need to figure out how we’re collectively going to create the world we all want:
- Economic prosperity
- A healthy environment, and
- Social well-being.
The Path Forward
No industry is better positioned than ours is to create the world we all want. And no other industry touches lives in as many ways.
It is not enough to deliver just energy.
We are expected to deliver shared value from our businesses. To create opportunities, to innovate, to pioneer, to be trusted stewards for the world’s natural resources. It’s a huge responsibility.
We need to always ask:
Is there a better way to get things done?
Are there ways to do more with less?
Can we provide energy to more and more people while preserving the planet for our grandchildren?
My answer is yes.
And we’re here tonight to celebrate the accomplishments of others in our industry who are also saying yes to these important questions.
One of these individuals, Martin Lovegrove, is being recognized as the 2013 Lifetime Achievement winner.
Martin is a longtime friend of Suncor’s and we’re thrilled to see his accomplishments being highlighted. Our very best to you, Martin.
And also to the award finalists for your efforts this year, I extend my congratulations.
Enjoy your meal in this historic and inspiring venue and have a great evening.