Episode 3 with Richard L. George ‒ Oil Sands Development and Its Critics

Richard L. George is the former CEO of Suncor Energy. He was named “Outstanding CEO of the Year” in 1999 after leading a remarkable business turnaround at Suncor. In 2007, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for his leadership in the development of Canada’s natural resources sector, for his efforts to provide economic opportunities to Aboriginal communities and for his commitment to sustainable development.


Energy development is vitally important, but the industry needs to do a much better job of getting out and telling its story, says Rick George in this engaging interview. In particular, it has to highlight the real progress it has made on the environmental front in terms of reducing water use, emissions of all kinds, as well as the amount of energy required to produce a unit of energy.

Canada’s oil sands, for instance, are often the target of criticism from environmentalists and certain politicians. Yet as Mr. George points out, “The whole, entire Canadian oil sands industry produces less CO2 than does the state of Indiana producing electricity from coal—and of course, Indiana isn’t even in the top 5 users of coal in the United States.” The industry has also made huge gains in terms of land reclamation, with wildlife moving back into the replanted area. It may even move beyond the need for tailings ponds if technology keeps evolving the way it has in recent years.

Fracking is another area of concern to many, but the process is now in wide use in the United States thanks to advances in horizontal drilling technology, and without any major incidents. No one wants to see water reservoirs being contaminated, but as long as the proper precautions are taken, the process is proving quite safe.

“All forms of energy production have certain pluses and certain minuses,” argues the former Suncor CEO. “Even wind power. For all its proponents, there are lots of people who don’t want wind power in their backyards.” Furthermore, as he points out, when government promotion of things like wind power leads to high energy prices, it is the middle and working classes who bear the brunt of such regressive policies.

Links of interest: Richard L. George in the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame | Suncor

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