Digging deep into the fossil fuel industry

By Costa Maragos Posted: November 12, 2015 3:00 p.m.

(l-r) Dr. Simon Enoch, Dr. Emily Eaton and Dr. Andrew Stevens are part of a team of 28 academic researchers from 12 universities.
(l-r) Dr. Simon Enoch, Dr. Emily Eaton and Dr. Andrew Stevens are part of a team of 28 academic researchers from 12 universities. Photo courtesy of Trevor Hopkin - U of R Photography.

The fossil fuel industry in Western Canada is coming under the microscope in a multi-million dollar research project that includes researchers from the University of Regina.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council has awarded a 6-year, $2.5 million partnership grant hosted by the University of Victoria, and jointly led by UVic, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ Saskatchewan and BC Offices, and the Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta.

The project titled, “Mapping the Power of the Carbon-Extractive Corporate Resource Sector,” brings together various groups and individuals that will study the oil, gas and coal industries in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan team includes Dr. Emily Eaton, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies; Dr. Andrew Stevens, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Business Administration; Dr, Angela Carter from the University of Waterloo and Dr. Simon Enoch, Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research at the U of R.  

“The decisions we make today about what to do with our remaining oil and gas resources will have consequences for generations to come,” says Dr. Enoch, who is the Director of the Saskatchewan office of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) in Regina.

“Our research will bring to light how the fossil fuel industries are organized from extraction to consumption and uncover how and where industry exercises its influence,” says Dr. Eaton.

The research teams will focus on areas that will include a mapping of how the carbon-extractive industry is organized and the sector’s influence on public debates and policy making.

Case studies will be explored of contentious “flashpoints” – such as the expansion or development of new mines, pipelines or export facilities as well as development of an open source, publically-accessible corporate database.

“For my part, I’m interested in what the oil boom means for workers, and for our province’s labour market overall,” says Dr. Stevens. “Migration of Canadian and foreign workers to Saskatchewan has been fueled by these developments, so it’s important to understand how this might change the character of unions, workplaces, and local communities. This type of research can’t be done without an interdisciplinary team of scholars, so I’m excited to be part of a national project set to tackle these complex questions.”

The interdisciplinary team includes 28 academic researchers from 12 universities and a diverse mix of partners and advisors from environmental, Aboriginal, labour and social justice communities.

“Our research will help Canadians gain a clearer picture of who’s-who in this increasingly important sector of Canada’s economy” says Shannon Daub, who co-directs the partnership on behalf of the CCPA’s BC Office.

“We’ve seen a rapid acceleration of fossil fuel extraction in recent years,” says Dr. Bill Carroll, Professor of Sociology at UVic and Co-Director of the partnership. “Yet our knowledge of the companies involved and how they influence decision-making about our publically-owned carbon resources is remarkably sparse.”

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council is a Federal Government agency that promotes and supports post secondary-research and training in the humanities and social sciences.

Dr. Eaton and Dr. Enoch along with Dr. Sean Tucker, associate professor in the Faculty of Business Administration, will present a series of public lectures at the U of R titled;

"How safe is oil extraction, transportation and refinement in Saskatchewan"

Please click the dates for more information. The lectures take place November 18, November 25 and December 2.

All of the sessions are at Room 514 of the Education Building from 1 pm to 2:30 pm.