Skip to content

Oilsands workers for renewable energy

If you’re a little confused by this article’s title, you’re probably not alone. Thumbs up if you like it; thumbs down if you think I’m off my rocker.

If you’re a little confused by this article’s title, you’re probably not alone. Thumbs up if you like it; thumbs down if you think I’m off my rocker. And for those of the latter persuasion, get ready to eat your hats!

Why? Because this notion of “Oilsands Workers for Renewable Energy” is a real thing. It’s the tagline for a relatively new organization called Iron + Earth, led by oilsands workers who see the opportunity in relying on more than just one energy source for their livelihoods. This organization is committed to building Canada’s diversified energy future. How great is that?

To accomplish this, the first step we need to take is to create a workforce trained in renewable technologies. If there is one complaint about renewable energy that I’ve heard time and again, it’s about the lack of trained contractors who know how to deal with this stuff.

The good news is that thanks to Iron + Earth those days may be over. Their aim is to help catalyze growth in the renewable energy industry, and incorporate renewable energy projects into the work scope of their variety of trades. Pinch me! Am I dreaming?

Could this really be the dawn of the day for all my renewable energy dreams to come true? I’m thinking, yes, it is. Shout it from the country’s soon-to-be solar rooftops: Hurrah!

Now that the federal government has presented its new budget with money allocated to fighting climate change and infrastructure projects, it’s finally reasonable to consider the implications of shovel-worthy work projects fulfilled by an army of well-trained green energy workers.

Imagine bridges, roads and power plants being rebuilt using green technologies and practices. Imagine schools, hospitals, and government offices being retrofitted with innovative technologies to power and heat buildings in efficient and climate-friendly ways. Imagine every house, every condo, every apartment with a solar panel, or better yet, a solar array. And, while we’re at it, why not install some water, power and heat-saving devices, too, making our transition to renewable energy sources just that much greener?

Considering all the trades that oilsands workers practice, the possibilities are endless! Boilermakers, plumbers, welders, machine operators, electricians, pipe fitters, ironworkers, and labourers, there’s work for everyone in a new, green economy.

That’s exactly how it should be. After all, workers already skilled in a trade likely only need a minimal amount of additional training to help our country make a great green leap into the future. With the help of government funding, retraining programs could be set up across our fair nation. They could be led by those colleges and technical institutes already offering this type of curriculum, and could be taught by those with foresight enough to have already graduated from such a program or with work experience in the renewable energy sector.

But, hey, let’s not forget about the burden of rent and groceries while retraining. Daily living costs need attention, too. Perhaps Employment Insurance could be extended to those participating in retraining. Perhaps banks and landlords could synchronize their financial commitments, together waiving or reducing mortgage and rent payments until Canada’s transition to a renewable economy was well underway.

Perhaps federally funded infrastructure and climate-change fighting projects could incorporate a job placement aspect, so our newly green-trained workers would have a way to earn income as soon as possible.

These are the sorts of things that keep economies floating, but it takes all of us – government, industry, and workers – all pulling together to make it possible. Iron + Earth gives us a grassroots look at how things are, and how things could be. Why would we opt for the former when the latter offers so much more hope and prosperity?

Say, why not embrace this concept for all tradespeople wanting to make the switch to renewable technologies and who also find themselves out of work due to the indirect fallout from low oil prices? Let’s use what’s left of our non-renewable energy sources wisely in support of a transition to our only choice in the long run: sustainable green energy.

Kudos to Iron + Earth for their foresight, their understanding, and their go-get-‘em attitude! Standing with oilsands workers calling for training in renewable energy — now that’s in our best interest.

For more in your best interest, follow Sheelagh on Twitter @sheesays.