Iron & Earth Promotes the Unification of Oil and Gas with Renewable Energies
Iron & Earth challenges the notion that oil and gas workers are against renewable energy.
Canada’s extreme job losses in the oil and gas sector of 2015 sparked the rise of a non-profit social enterprise that took Canada’s economic state into their own able hands—Iron & Earth is comprised of 400 members and counting. Iron & Earth has a solution in the works for two of our country’s largest problems; the organization aims to address climate change in a way that will create jobs for the existing skilled oil and gas tradespeople.
Iron & Earth began in the lunchroom out in Alberta’s oilsands. Facing financial cutbacks, workers of the oilsands asked each other a few questions: Why does Canada lack economic diversity? Why aren’t we racing towards the renewable revolution that is taking hold across the globe?
Adam Cormier, a co-founder and member of the board of directors at Iron & Earth, shared the group’s goals to overcome widespread outdated beliefs associated with fossil fuels, and their goals to match Canada’s changing economy. “There is an upcoming boom of solar jobs in Alberta,” Cormier predicted. “We are trying to make sure that the workers who are currently out of work have the skills needed to jump on these jobs in the future.”
Preparation involves awareness programs, retraining programs, outreach programs, and a general redefining and re-application of specific trades. “I’m a Red Seal electrician,” Cormier said. “I’ve worked in the oilsands of Alberta, and I’ve worked in mining in Newfoundland and Labrador. Even though I am an oil and gas worker, I am still concerned about climate change.”
Iron & Earth challenges the notion that oil and gas workers are against renewable energy:
“People think that you have to choose between oil and gas and renewables. What we are trying to say is that we can grow both of those economies,” Cormier said. The economic diversity that would result from an investment in renewable energy would benefit not only the oil and gas workers currently without jobs, but Canada as a whole.
Clearly, we still need fossil fuels. Clearly, renewable energy sources benefit both the environment and the economy. Iron & Earth proposes a shift towards a stronger reliance on renewable energy, including the retraining and placement of skilled oil and gas tradespeople.
The spread of specific skills would result in a simultaneous growth of both industries. “We can do both,” Cormier said. “They aren’t mutually exclusive.”
Iron & Earth currently has two campaigns underway. The first campaign plans to retrain 1,000 oilsands tradespeople to work in solar energy beginning in summer 2016. This campaign gives oil workers legitimate certification to be hired in solar energy. “We want the opportunity to work with these renewable technologies,” Cormier said.
Iron & Earth is based on the idea that we can unite the oil industry we heavily rely on with the increasing demand for renewable energy. The second campaign—the Worker’s Climate Plan—addresses this demand. The federal government is performing consultations to discuss Canada’s climate change plan. “We are putting together a document that represents the worker’s point of view, especially those workers that are most affected by the shift away from fossil fuels,” Cormier said. “We are all oil and gas workers.” (Learn more at www.workersclimateplan.ca)
Iron & Earth is planning its next push: “In the future, we want to look at each trade in Canada—look at the skill sets of each trade—and match those skills with renewable energy technology,” Cormier said. Members meet regularly across the country to discuss their options. “In the future, we hope to directly connect employers with tradespeople,” he said.
Gaining awareness poses the biggest challenge. Canadians outside of the energy sectors can help Iron & Earth gain the momentum it needs to deploy its campaigns. Sign the pledge on their website (www.ironandearth.org) to support the lives and livelihoods affected by the shift away from fossil fuels and towards renewables. “We are not against oil and gas, and we are not against the oilsands,” Cormier stressed. “Most of our members still work in the oilsands. We are for renewable energy. We are for economic diversification that an investment in renewable energy would bring.”
Cormier has big ideas for the organization’s country-wide growth as he drives its outreach into the eastern provinces of Canada. Iron & Earth’s solution is simple: “We are oil and gas workers, but we want to become renewable energy workers.”