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.

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Big bad corporations? Wait not so fast.

October 3, 2015

Business logo pic-PublicDomainHow many of you are employed by a big corporation? Millions of Canadians and Americans are employees of corporations. This means the salary you earn feeds your family and pays your taxes among other things. The taxes the corporations and you the individual pay to governments goes toward education, health services, infrastructure and other essential services.

The taxes collected by local, provincial (or State) and Federal governments comes from individuals and corporations. These monies pay for health care, education, infrastructure and many other services most of us take for granted. Government in and of itself has no income except taxes.

This is the reason I can’t understand why big corporations are always being bad mouthed. They’re the first to be blamed when things aren’t going well, not governments, but corporations. There is no doubt corporations aren’t perfect. Under the law they are basically like individuals, well individuals aren’t perfect. There are good and bad in all things.

Corporations are accused of:
– Being unregulated and therefore running wild.
– Being a drain on society.
– Not being good citizens.
– Being polluters.
– Having no empathy.
– Being uncaring of the world they operate in.
– Making excessive profits.

Facts About Corporations society often fails to recognize:,
– They are in fact over-regulated in most cases.
– Taxed to the maximum.
– Employ millions of people.
– Give millions of dollars to charities.
– Support the arts.
– Support cities and towns wherever they operate.
– Work with governments and others to reduce their footprint.
– Actively work to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions and have been for many years     now.
– Their operations comply with and in most cases exceed government environmental and safety regulations.
– A large percentage of their profits are re-invested in research and development and expansion which benefits society and employees.
– Are governed and held accountable by shareholders, governments, and society for their behavior.

Corporations deserve a little more respect. Before you condemn them make sure you have the facts. Sure they aren’t perfect, but they are a key part of our sustainable society.


Why We Still Need Fossil Fuel

October 19, 2014
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Car show with consumers eagerly inspecting new models. photo by Steve B. Davis

Energy and Fossil Fuels

First let me make it clear to the reader I’ve been employed in the petroleum industry for over 35 years. Like most people I consume energy to support my lifestyle. That energy for the most part is derived from fossil fuels. We all drive a vehicle, heat our home, and sometimes take airline flights all of which require the use of fossil fuels. Most items I purchase have packaging of some kind. These are derived from petroleum which like coal is a fossil fuel. When we refer to the use of fossil fuels we’re talking about a lot more than gas for your car and natural gas for your home. Society consumes a myriad of products derived from fossil fuels, many of which most of us are unaware of. In summary, our present lifestyle requires the use of energy.

Environment and Energy

Most of us will agree environmental protection is an essential part of enriching our lifestyle. My children and I love hiking, biking, camping and being outdoors. Golf is a personal passion I enjoy outdoors. The point is we all have an impact on our planet just by living. The health of our planet is affected by our lifestyle choices. Our goal should be to minimize that impact.

Lifestyle and Energy

At the present time the lifestyle we enjoy is supported in the main by fossil fuels. Over the long term sustaining this lifestyle will require humans to investigate the use of alternative and cleaner energy sources. However, we will still require reliable and affordable energy sources. Society must reduce the waste of existing resources, use energy efficiently, and make a sustainable, minimal-impact lifestyle the priority.

Impacts of Energy Use

Planet Earth is our home. We need to reevaluate our impacts on a regular basis. It’s imperative to educate ourselves in the sources and uses of all forms of energy. It’s important to be aware of where energy comes from, how it’s used, and the impacts. It’s prudent and wise to seek better ways to do things in our own lives and in society in general.

Continuous improvement for the human race is a necessity if we want to survive and not face extinction. Dinosaurs inhabited the planet for over 100 million-years, humans have only been alive for a few million-years. Throughout history creatures of all shapes and sizes have inhabited Earth. Many became extinct for various reasons. Extinction is forever. Will the human race become extinct? Solving our energy problems is one step towards ensuring our ultimate survival as a species.

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Wind farm in central Montana. Photo by Steve B. Davis

Energy Challenge

Here’s a challenge for the reader. Examine your own life. Make a list of all the things in your home and lifestyle originating from fossil fuels. To assist you I’ve listed the fossil fuels and some of the products and uses derived from them below. Once you’ve created your list ask yourself how many you could eliminate, and if any substitutes exist at the present time. I’m confident this exercise will make you think.

Crude Oil/Bitumen (Heavy Oil) from conventional reservoirs, shale and oil sands

  • gasoline for automobiles, trucks and motorcycles, lawnmowers
  • diesel fuel for trucks, trains, buses, farm tractors, ships, power generation and some automobiles
  • heating oil for houses and industrial facilities
  • jet fuel for airliners, military planes and private planes
  • plastics – automobile parts, house siding, roofing and insulation, toys, electronics, packaging
  • chemicals – fertilizers, cosmetics, food additives

Natural Gas

  • fuel for home heating, industrial heating, some buses and automobiles
  • propane – fuel for some vehicles, heating, BBQs
  • ethane and other components for chemical and plastic industries
  • power generation plants

Coal

  • power generation plants
  • steel making industry

I hope you’ve learned something from this short article. Constructive comments and questions are welcomed, just click on comments below.

 

 


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