Abstract

The author discusses the experiences of alberta environment in integrating the public interest with resource developments. The hypothesis 15 put forth that public interest matters are at the same stage now as environmental matters were a decade ago. It is concluded that corporate policy must recognize that the concept of resource development is changing and that industry must expand its horizons of responsibility. Institutional changes within industry and government will. Have to be brought about to al.low public involvement in the planning phase, during the decision making phase and also during the implementation phase. These changes are imperative in order that diverse interests and competing land uses can be optim ized for the benefit of society.

Introduction

An ancient chinese curse, 50 we are informed by the sage lin pao is: "may you live in interesting times. Is whether we are cursed or not is debatable but certainly our times are interesting. The essence of this interest is, it seems to me. Change, for example, our perspectives on energy use and energy development are changing almost as rapidly as we change our clothes. One week, if we are to believe our friends in the media, particularly the "learned" editorial writers in our newspapers, we find that our national llfe is seriously threatened by energy shortages – shortages which could very well result in fundamental changes in our dail.y lives.

The next week, if we believe these prophets, we discover that we are facing an energy surplus. The prophets of doom are banished from the editorial pages only to reappear when there is a revolution in iran, or some high official in a foreign government remote from our continent announces that oil production will be cut back.

Well Mr. Chairman, let me assure you and the audience that I am not about to inject myself into this debate. You have many speakers far more expert than I to address the issues of shortage or surplus. Although I doubt that even from these "experts" you would find any degree of unanimity which could help guide the uncertain, such as myself. No, mr.chairman, I mention the profound differences of perspective on the issue of energy supply only to point out that in proposing policy to deal with the situation, l30th groups – the prophets of shortage and the pundits of surplus – start from a radically different view of what the wc'rld actually is. As a natural consequence they propose vastly different policies to take us where they believe the world should be. Yet the amazing thing, mr. Chairman, is that both groups with great sincerity and dedication purport to represent policies which are in the "public interest".

It is to this area of diffei'iing world views and its relationship to the "public interest" that I wish to address my remarks today.

The concept of public interest flays a central role in discussions of public policy, yet there is little agreement as to what we mean when we use the term.

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