Calgary based award winning journalist, Andrew Nikiforuk has been writing about the oil and gas industry for nearly 20 years and cares deeply about accuracy, government accountability, and cumulative impacts. He has won seven National Magazine Awards for his journalism since 1989 and top honours for investigative writing from the Association of Canadian Journalists. he has published several books focused on the politics of oil. The dramatic, Alberta-based Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig’s War Against Big Oil, won the Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction in 2002.
In 2009, he became the first Canadian to win the prestigious Rachel Carson Environment Book Award from the U.S.-based Society of Environmental Journalists for his study of the oil sands in Northern Alberta, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent.
The following year, he became the first writer in residence at The Tyee in 2010. Among the important pieces of investigative journalism were series on a pipeline engineer whistleblower, Fracking Shale Gas: Myths and Realities, and about the challenges of transitioning from fossil fuel dependence: The Big Shift.
He recently offered a five hour Tyee Master Class in investigative journlalism in Vancouver under the topic: Analyzing the Energy Sector Without Being Taken Captive.
Any citizen alarmed by the growing power of hydrocarbon lobbies in Canada will find this course an illuminating exploration on the real power dynamics challenging democratic interests in B.C. as well as the nation as a whole,” he explains in the class description. The course will explore and explain the government’s fixation on fossil fuel revenues; the captive nature of energy regulators and the quality and quantity of shale gas resources in the north,” writes Andrew from his home in Calgary. “We will end with an open discussion on policy options for subsidized shale gas development in the future.”
In his latest book, Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude, Nikiforuk makes the argument that the way we use and abuse cheap oil is equivalent to the practice of slaveholding. And like slave holders, we have morally and ethically compromised ourselves in our pursuit of an opulent lifestyle. What is needed, he says, is a new global abolitionist movement.
The text framed as full disclosure on his website explains his interest in the politics of oil:
As a freelance writer and independent author I often engage in a variety of writing and speaking contracts. I have written public policy documents for the Program on Water Issues at the Munk Centre as well as two fully referenced reports for Greenpeace on bitumen and Arctic oil development. The World Wildlife Fund contracted myself and journalist, Ed Struzik, for a national tour on oil and climate change issues in 2010.
A variety of universities, civil and community groups including Friends of Salmon, the Pembina Institute and the National Farmer’s Union have paid for public talks. I have also worked under contract with Tides Canada to research and deliver public information to improve the environmental footprint of Canadian oil and gas development.
Since 2008 I have advocated for a national debate about the pace and scale of tar sands development. And since 2010 I have endorsed a conservative and Norwegian-like solution to Alberta’s chaotic bitumen development.
It was first articulated by former Premier Peter Lougheed and includes the following principles: Slow Down. Behave Like An Owner. Collect Our Fair Share. Save For the Rainy Day. Approve One Project At a Time. Clean Up the Mess. Add Value To the Resource. To Lougheed’s original list, I would add a national carbon tax.
Rapid tar sands development combined with the ruinous impact of petro revenues on government coffers has seriously polluted Canada’s politics and undermined its economic and environmental security. It has transformed the country into another dismal petro state.
Energy of Slaves is up for a Wilfrid Eggleston Award for Nonfiction at the 2013 Alberta Book Awards, along with Calgary based author Marcello Di Cintio for Walls: Travels Along the Barricades and Edmonton based author Brian Evans for Pursuing China: Memoir of a Beaver Liaison Officer. See more about Andrew Nikiforuk on his website.