Energy: Why we need it? Where do we get it?

April 5, 2016

060801_trafficjams_hmed_1phmediumReading all the articles against fossil fuels and for renewable energy sources has been both fascinating and frustrating. As a retiree who worked in the petroleum sector both for industry and government regulators for over 35 years I have my opinions. Note that when I refer to “energy” I’m referring to all sources of energy not just oil and gas and coal (fossil fuels).

First I urge all people and organizations involved and interested in energy and its impact on the environment and the human race to get educated. Obtain your information from a variety of sources not just the media. Use government, industry and scientific sources to read up on the subject. Next look at where you and your family use energy and products derived from petroleum in your daily life. Ask intelligent questions and make sure you get answers. The entire realm is getting far too emotional and needs more realism injected.

Facts to remember,

  • Society requires energy to maintain our lifestyle.
  • Energy in all forms is needed to ensure the health, welfare and survival of the human species.
  • Energy is needed by humans to feed us, heat us, maintain health and allow us to transport goods, services and people from place to place.

The key question is how to obtain this energy in a way that is economical and yet environmentally friendly. Energy sources must also be sustainable to ensure society continues to progress.

Renewable sources of energy are important, but it will take time to develop them so they are reliable and cost efficient. Crude oil and natural gas will continue to be extremely important for a long time to come, however, much can be done and is being done to produce and utilize these in a more efficient and environmentally sustainable manner. Reducing the carbon footprint is good business for petroleum producers.

Revenues obtained from fossil fuel production will enable us to investigate and perfect the use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and geothermal. It will not be cheap at least initially to convert and move toward more dependence on other sources of energy. On the plus side this will be exciting and many economic opportunities will be available over the coming years related to the more intensive use of renewables.

One point that seems to escape activists is that government and industry are buying into the need to become more efficient and reduce that carbon footprint, but the other side of the coin involves the consumers of the energy. Individuals, industrial operations and governments who use the energy have to do their part to reduce energy use, and most of all to use energy more efficiently. Both sides must work together. Energy producers are in the business of supplying energy because there is a demand and a need for it.

Where we as a society need and use energy must be clearly identified and prioritized. Once this is done it will ensure we don’t leave ourselves short of what we need. It will allow us to concentrate our efforts to reduce the carbon footprint where it is most effective, obviously in those areas where it is consumed in the greatest amounts at the present time.

Myths that need to be dispelled,

  • Energy producers don’t care about the environment. False. Real people work for these companies and let me assure you they do care deeply. All human operations and activities impact safety and the environment in some way. The goal is to mitigate and minimize these impacts.
  • Energy producers don’t care about spills and other threats to the environment from their operations. False. They do care for several reasons, it is very expensive to have a spill and it is terrible to the operators reputation. Reputation is a huge financial asset to a good operator. Environmental protection and the safety of the companies employees, contractors and the general public is priority one.
  • Regulatory approvals for energy development such as pipelines are just rubber stamped by governments. False. In fact the opposite is true. Laws and regulations governing energy development in Canada are the toughest in the world. I know because I worked for both sides over my career. I was with the Regulator and educated and enforced these rules and regulations. I also worked for energy operators in obtaining these approvals and in ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements for all our operations. Regulatory, safety and environmental compliance is the number one priority for both energy operators and the regulators in this country.

So the next time your commute to work, drive your vehicle, buy groceries, purchase goods for you home or your leisure activities think about the energy required to produce those goods and services, and to transport them to the store near you.


G-7 Pledge: No carbon by the year 2100.

June 13, 2015

white-semi-truckThe G-7 or Group of 7 major industrialized nations at their summit this week pledged to reduce the carbon footprint in their economies, and further to completely remove all carbon by the year 2100 or 85 years from now. The G-7 includes Canada, the United States, European countries like Germany, France and the UK, and Asian powerhouse Japan. Eighty-five years sounds like a long time, but think for a moment what no carbon would mean to our society and our lifestyle expectations.

It means no carbon fuels such as gasoline, diesel or jet fuel allowed. Planes, trains and automobiles will no longer exist in our world unless they were powered by non-carbon fuels. That means no coal, no natural gas and no crude oil in any form. They’re all are carbon-based.

Hydrogen, nuclear, solar or wind power are the potential alternatives. Visualize cars and trucks adorned with sails moving on our highways much like the sailors of old. Perhaps solar panels will be much smaller and more efficient by then and drivers will have vehicles constructed of solar panels top to bottom. When the wind dies we’ll be stranded, becalmed like sailors of old, or if it’s cloudy or when night falls drivers will be unable to go further that day.

Electric cars are also an option but remember the power to charge them is generated now by fossil fuels (carbon). Proliferation of electric powered cars means more power to be generated.

Nuclear power is non-carbon but we’d have to develop compact nuclear reactors to power our vehicles. Would we really want millions of nuclear cores traveling down our highways and byways at high speed. Accidents might result in nuclear explosions or at best meltdowns and radioactive releases to the atmosphere on a routine basis. Massive amounts of nuclear waste would be generated as a byproduct.

Hydrogen is a non-carbon fuel. Best of all it can be sourced from water an abundant resource. Water is H2O, two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. Separation is an expensive process today, but could become cheap if there was a demand. The biggest disadvantage to hydrogen is his extreme explosiveness. It is downright dangerous to handle.

boeing-787-dreamliner_100416655_mAirplanes will be drastically smaller and slower powered by solar or wind power. Traveling around the world will take a vast amount of time. Tourism will become localized. Trips to faraway places will be a thing of the past.

Unless a viable non-carbon alternative fuel is discovered between now and 2100, society will be forced to live a slower pace and stick closer to home. The goods we enjoy today that come to us over long distances will no longer be available. As an example fresh fruit and vegetables in the winter will be a thing of the past.

Society will be markedly low-tech. Our high tech society will cease to exist. Carbon based chemicals are a necessary part of our computers and high tech toys and tools. Replacements don’t presently exist for those chemicals derived from carbon.

I’m not a scientist or an inventor, but I have a hard time imagining where the cheap, abundant alternative to carbon-based fuels and chemicals will come from. I’m not saying a complete phase out of carbon-based fuels and chemicals can’t be accomplished, but it’ll take a complete reinvention of our society and its expectations.


Extreme speed + extreme stupidity

July 16, 2013
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No problem with speeding in these days.

Speeding at extreme speeds, more than 30 km/h over the limit, has become a serious problem in the Province of Alberta. These individuals not only put their own lives at risk, but those of others. A couple of examples will serve to illustrate this stupidity.

In the first example police stopped a black Mercedes SUV (sport utility vehicle) for speeding. Nothing unusual about that you say. Well in this case they ticketed the individual for driving more than 50 km/h (30 mph) over the posted speed limit. They clocked the SUV at 152 km/h (94 mph) in a 100 km/h (60 mph) zone.

The road in question is paved, but runs through a farming area with lots of intersections. At the time of the infraction police cited poor weather conditions, heavy fog and light rain with snow on the road.

Taking all this into account it seems to me this driver was being extremely foolish. Being foolish with their own life would be bad enough, but in this case even more so. Riding in the vehicle at the time was a father, his wife, with three children of theirs, and another child. The children were between the ages of four and 11. The driver was the father.

Next we have a man ticketed for driving his car at 180 km/h (112 mph) in a 100 km/h (60 mph) zone. Again it was on a paved secondary highway, but with lots of intersections and hills. In this case no one else was in the vehicle except the male driver. His excuse? He had just washed his car and was drying it off. Needless to say police weren’t sympathic. For this he received a $800 fine and a 45-day driving suspension.

What will it take to pound some sense into the brains of these drivers? Right now the penalty for driving more than 50 km/h (30 mph) over the posted limit is a heavy fine, driving suspension and demerit points. The ticketed drivers also must appear in court before a judge. They are not allowed to plead and mail the fine in as with an ordinary speeding ticket. Hopefully, it won’t take a horrific accident with multiple innocent lives loss before action is taken.


Nightmares of the Road

June 16, 2009
Christine - Stephen King's Nightmare

Christine - Stephen King's Nightmare

Ten Drivers to Avoid

The summer driving season is upon us. Just in time for our road adventures here’s my list of your worst nightmares roaming the highways and byways.

1. Cell Phone Talkers.
Drivers talking on cell phones oblivious to their surroundings.

2. No Turn Signals.
Those who never signal turns or lane changes. Seems those driving the most expensive cars are the worst. I was sure BMW and Cadillac installed signals on their vehicles. 

3. Tailgaters.
Yes those drivers who try to save gas by slipstreaming you. Either that or they want a tow.

 4. Lane changers.
Those who constantly change lanes trying to get ahead. Especially bad on three lane or more high speed interstates or expressways.

 5. Red light runners.
Death personified. If you’re in the front row when the light turns green make sure you look both ways, one of these idiots is sure to be just accelerating through the intersection; after all doesn’t red mean speed up.

6. Turtles.
Those who drive ridiculously slow, thirty in a 50 mph zone for example, and always on a two-lane road where passing is impossible. Worse than speeders.

 7. Horn Blowers.
You know, the one behind you laying on the horn when you’re stopped to let a pedestrian cross, or one of the more memorable ones who was blasting the horn when I was stopped by a policeman at an unlighted intersection letting traffic cross.

8. Rearview Mirror.
Drivers who never look in the rearview mirror. They believe no one else is on the road.

 9. Speeders.
Those who simply must pass everyone on the road no matter how fast they’re going. The oddity here is that they are the drivers who never get stopped.

 10. Ignoramuses.
These are the ones who never yield the right of way; never let you in a line of merging cars, and God forbid, are never considerate.

Drive decent and just try to ignore these persons, maybe they’ll go away.


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