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.

Advertisements

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
Image

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.


The Highway Post Office Service: On the Buses

February 19, 2008

2c1g_3_virginia21.jpg 

Above: Souvenir cover from first Highway route. 

February 10, 1941 the first Highway Post Office service began between Washington, D.C. and Harrisonburg, Virginia. Special buses were used for this service. They were configured to allow clerks to sort the mail in transit. There was a Railway Post Office service, but rail travel was rapidly declining so the Highway service was started to replace that service.

fdr_hwypofirstltr.jpg

Above: President Roosevelt mailing the first letter (National Postal Museum)

The expansion of the service was delayed by World War II. In 1946 a second route was created. The buses became a common site on American highways during the 1950s and 1960s. Each route served about 25 post offices.

1941bus.jpg

Above: 1941 White Post Office bus (National Postal Museum) 

In the 1970s the Post Office Department reorganized and began taking mail to regional sorting plants where it was processed using high-speed machinery. As a result the buses were phased out. The last run took place June 30, 1974. The service had been in existence for 33 years.

Further Reading:

www.sossi.org/articles/highway.htm

www.postalmuseum.si.edu


Airmail Speeds the Mail, snail mail that is!

September 24, 2007

Last night I was working on an exhibit that I have entered in an airmail philatelic exhibition coming up in October.  I thought I would try to explain the fascination with the collection of airmail material to non-collectors.

First of all a definition.  Simply put “Airmail” or “Air Mail” is mail that is carried to its destination by aircraft.  Obviously this is faster than by truck or train.  It was one of the great innovations of mail delivery which was made possible by the invention of the airplane.

Until recently airmail was a premium service of the post office and the user paid more for it.  Special airmail postage stamps were issued to indicated payment for this service. These stamps were only allowed to be used on airmail, not for other mail.  Later on that changed.

The first regular airmail flights in the U.S. began between New York City and Washington, D.C. in 1918. The planes were operated by Army pilots.  Later the government contracted the routes out to private contractors.  Some famous aviators who carried mail were Charles Lindbergh, Wiley Post and Amelia Earhart.

Early commercial airline routes were really paid for by the carriage of mail.  There were not enough passengers to pay for the airlines expenses.  Even today mail is a lucrative cargo for airlines.  Passengers do take precedence today though.  If weight is an issue the first thing off the plane is not passengers or their baggage, but mail bags. 

Today in Canada and the United States airmail has been abolished as a separate service. All first class (lettermail) mail is delivered by the speediest method of  transportation.  International letters are charged a premium for airmail service, but it is still technically not an airmail service. Both countries charge substantially more for international lettermail than domestic lettermail.

Collectors have always been fascinated with mail and aviation.  So much so that specialist societies exist dedicated to the pursuit of airmail stamps and covers (envelopes).  One such society is the American Air Mail Society.  For the first time ever the American Philatelic Society (APS) is hosting an exhibition that is entirely airmail related.  It is called Aerophilately 2007 and has been given “World Series of Philately” status.  This means that it has national level judging and standards. The grand award winner is entitled to compete against the award winners of all the other WSP shows.  It is being held October 19-21, 2007 at the APS headquarters in Bellefonte, PA.  Coincidently, Bellefonte was one of the mail refueling stations along the first trans-continental airmail route in the United States. 

My exhibit is entered in this exhibition and I am very proud to have mine displayed alongside some of the greatest airmail collections of our time.

 

Above: Early airmail pilot “Wild Bill” Hopson.

Here are some facts about early airmail:

– messages were carried prior to airplanes by homing pigeons.

– first mail to be carried by an air vehicle was January 7, 1785 on a balloon flight from England to France.

– first official airmail delivery in the U.S. took place August 17, 1859 via balloon from Lafayette, Indiana to New York City. Weather forced him to land and the mail was carried by train to its final destination.

– first official airmail flight was February 18, 1911 in India.  6,500 letters were carried a distance of 13 km (7.8 miles).

– first international airmail delivery flown by Theodoro Fels from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Montevideo, Uruguay on September 2, 1917.

– Scheduled airmail flights begin between New York City and Washington. DC May 15, 1918

-first airmail flight in Canada was June 24, 1918 from Montreal to Toronto.

– first woman to fly airmail: Katherine Stinson from Calgary to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on July 9, 1918.

– regularly scheduled transcontinental U.S airmail flights begin in 1924.

– In 1927 regular international airmail flights begin.

– Trans-Pacific airmail begins in 1935.

– In 1939, Canada implements regular trans-Canada and trans-Atlantic airmail.

So remember when you mail that letter that today it flies to overseas destinations in hours.  Before air transport it went by train or ship and took days or weeks to arrive. Of course now it is possible to send an e-mail letter to someone anywhere in the world and it will arrive in seconds.  The only thing about an e-mail is that it doesn’t have a colorful airmail stamp on it that I can collect.


How I Started Collecting Postal History

July 23, 2007

transportbrazil.jpg 

I have been collecting since age 8 years (50 years now). For most of that time I was a “general” collector, I was however, always attracted to the stamps of the United States and especially the airmail issues. In 2003 I finally decided that I wanted to become a specialist for a couple of reasons. One I wanted to learn a lot more about the stamps I collected, and second I wanted to focus my budget on obtaining the stamps I was really interested in. At that time I didn’t even collect covers, but only stamps. A stamp collector friend suggested that I should look into covers if I really wanted to be able to research and learn more about them.

A little skeptical at first, I started looking very closely at the exhibits at the shows and noticed that more and more of them were of covers and that those covers told a story that I was attracted to. I was a Second World War history buff This interest came from the fact that my father and a couple of his brothers had served in the Royal Canadian Air Force during the war.

It was at the Edmonton Spring National Stamp Show in April 2004 that I came across the cover that got me addicted to postal history and in particular to the United States Transport Airmail Issue of 1941-44 (Scott C25 – C31). I was looking through a dealer’s box of U.S. covers when I saw this cover that I just knew I had to have. It looked so very interesting being a registered airmail cover to an exotic destination, Brazil. Not only that, but it was dated October 9, 1944 and was censored. A Second World War cover.

Immediately I wanted to know more about the censorship of mail, the rates and how the cover was carried to Brazil during the war. The handwritten notation “Written in German Language” totally fascinated me. Could this be a letter from a spy or to a war criminal? All these fantastic thoughts went through my mind. Not only that, but it had a stamp with the plane on it. This also attracted my attention because it was a U.S. airmail stamp that I had seen before, but never postally used on cover. Also I just like planes. So how could I resist. I had to have this cover. I bought it even though I did not collect them.

On the three hour drive from Edmonton back to my home in Calgary, my minding was swirling with thoughts of this cover. I just had to learn more about it.

When I got home I immediately started researching using the Scott catalogue and the internet. I found in the Scott Specialized catalogue that the 30c Transport stamp on the cover was issued in 1941 and was part of a series issued during that year. At this time I knew nothing about rates. On the internet I found the book I needed. This was “The Transports” by GH Davis. I immediately ordered it from the United States Stamp Society and waited for it to arrive.

This particular cover it turns out is not a rarity or not even that uncommon because mail to South American was never interrupted during the war. I did find out that the valid airmail rate to Brazil at the time was 40c with the foreign registry fee being 15c. The postage on the cover totaled 55c. Therefore this cover had proper postage paid in the correct rate period. Turns out that the censorship regulations required that letters written in foreign languages had to have that noted on the outside front of the envelope so that the censors could make arrangements for a translator to be available to read the letter. Further research showed that South American countries, and in particular Brazil, had many German immigrants during the first part of the twentieth century, so it was not at all unusual for this letter to be written in German. That was a bit of a let down, I was expecting or hoping espionage might be related to my cover.

A couple of weeks later the book arrived. I read it from cover to cover, and back again. Totally fascinating. Here was all the rate information I needed and detailed data on each of the denominations of the Transport airmail issue. Away I went to eBay and other on-line auction sites and started searching “Transport” as a key word. Bingo! Lots of covers for not too much outlay of cash. Managing to pick up many covers over the next few months I started researching the covers as I got them for rates, routes and any history behind them. I especially enjoyed the APO covers and trying to find out about the various military units and the history behind them.

Here I am four years later and I am still hooked. Since starting in 2003, I have built my exhibit of “Usages of the U.S. Transport Issue 1941-44” that has evolved from being awarded a Silver (at two frames) at its first showing, to a Vermeil (at five frames) at its most recent showing in late 2005. Most of all though I have combined a couple of my interests, philately and WW II military history. The result is that I am just having way too much fun!!


%d bloggers like this: