Contesting Energy Discourses through Action Research (CEDAR) is a five-year project studying energy transitions in Canada with a focus on New Brunswick.

Canadians are experiencing a climate crisis: more high temperatures, wildfires, droughts, flooding and other extreme weather events. Climate change caused by humans is linked to burning fossil fuels. Climate scientists are urging us to stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure and rapidly reduce our fossil fuel use. However our society is largely powered by fossil fuels. How will we make these transitions?

The media – corporate, independent, alternative and social media – feature competing discourses about energy transitions.

In the media across the country, the dominant energy transition discourses – voiced primarily by by government and industry reps – promote economic growth fueled by fossil fuels or biomass paired with carbon capture and sequestration technologies, using fossil energy such as fracked gas as a “transition fuel” to low-carbon energy in the distant future, and developing experimental nuclear reactor designs.

New Brunswick is an ideal location to study these dominant discourses. Saint John is home to the largest oil refinery in Canada and gasoline is the province’s top export. The provincial government promotes shale gas fracking despite widespread opposition by rural and Indigenous communities. The province wants to operate a coal-fired energy plant beyond the 2030 federal coal phase-out deadline. The public utility NB Power is relying on speculative nuclear reactor designs while undermining the potential for renewable energy to meet New Brunswick’s electricity needs.

At the other end of the spectrum, counter discourses challenge the hype and promote energy conservation, reductions in aggregate energy use, decentralized and community-based renewable energy generation, autonomy and control over energy access, and ending social and environmental injustices related to energy production and consumption.

CEDAR is studying how these contesting discourses for energy transitions are framed in the media, the networks of actors, organizations and institutions promoting the dominant discourses, and how action research can produce and publish counter discourses in the media and contribute to a more democratic media environment.