Sustainable development issues and strategies for Alberta's oil industry

Roger Harris, Anshuman Khare

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This paper discusses the sustainable development issues for the Alberta oil industry and suggests strategies for its long-term survival. While oil and gas are finite resources, Alberta's massive non-conventional reserves are a virtual assurance that it can meet all the fossil fuel demands for Canada and its export market in the foreseeable future. This makes it a sustainable resource in practical terms. Despite its large economic contribution, this industry will face many challenges to remain viable over the next 50 years. Large investments will be required and it must improve its public consultation process and environmental record if it is to become sustainable. In recent years, stakeholder pressure, tougher regulations and better enforcement has made the industry more environmentally friendly, but its track record suggests that continued regulation will still be required. There is a growing realisation that sustainable development can no longer remain a low priority for those organisations with aspirations for long-term survival, and this makes it a bone fide strategic issue. Concern over environmental protection has become a critical issue for the industry, and must be addressed in terms of the natural regenerative capacity of the environment, and the legitimate need for an economically viable sector. As such, sustainable development inextricably links environmental protection with economics and stakeholder interests. In the longer term, competition from less polluting alternate fuels is likely to intensify and this will force contraction of the industry and a loss of market share. This smaller, more competitive environment of the future will likely favour those companies that can best integrate growth with a low cost strategy and environmental protection. As such, size is likely to be important insofar that it usually correlates with financial resources and the ability to achieve economies of scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)571-583
Number of pages13
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep. 2002


  • Alberta
  • Oil industry
  • Sustainable development


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