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Energy Development & Society

14 Sep

Energy Development has shaped society. The notion that energy development shapes society can easily be attested to growing up in a place like Alberta. Even as I write this for my Global Energy Development and Society class, I can’t help but think to the buildings around my campus. The Petro-Canada building houses the Nexen Theater, and subsequently, the very room in which I attend my weekly classes after work. It’s no surprise to find that my school, NAIT, is a polytechnic institution which receives heavy funding from the oil and gas industry.

Evidence of the industry’s affect on the city is easy to see if you know what to look for. Refineries and upgraders populate the eastern edges of the city and up into the industrial heartland, mobile crane booms soar up over the flat stretches of land between the city and the international airport, assembling industrial ‘mod’s’ that piece together like Lego when they arrive on site at their destination. Even beyond the oil sands of Alberta, Edmonton serves as the gateway to the north, with bustling airports and logistics’ companies sending people and equipment up to the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and the Yukon. These three territories alone make up 39% of the total area of Canada, a land mass larger than that of India (Natural Resources Canada, 2005). Yet despite its small population, the region houses a resource rich environment, from oil and iron to gold and diamonds, it’s an industry that dominates the workforce of the local population.

When posed with the question; ‘should society shape energy development?’, instead of energy development shaping society, it seems like the clear answer should be yes. Our society should have energy development that not only compliments and provides for the needs of people, but ideally does so as cleanly and efficiently as possible. This can be deemed as minor adaptations and improvements to existing technologies, or fundamental shifts in the way we currently harness energy.

Fundamental shifts cause problems in that if they are not universally accepted by all parties involved; the balance of the movement is lost, providing unfair advantages and opportunities for some, and detrimental setbacks for others. This can best be identified with the Kyoto Protocol, which has essentially failed since its inception in 1997, leaving many nations and environmental groups looking towards post-Kyoto. The Kyoto Protocol was revolutionary at the time of its inception, you had a series of industrialized nations agreeing to reduce emissions and set environmental standards. It seemed as though this initiative would change the way the global community looked at development and the environment. However the treaty itself was never actually globally accepted and “mandates were not imposed on developing countries like Brazil, China, India and South Africa” (Austen, 2011). As a result, nations like the United States would not ratify the treaty, as they foresaw unfair economic restrictions on their economy compared to other heavy polluting nations such as China, which disregarded the treaty for similar reasons.

Since those initial talks in 1997, China has since overcome the United States as the world’s largest carbon dioxide emitter, and now produces more carbon dioxide than the United States and India combined (U.S Department of Energy, 2012). Canada too, since initially supporting the protocol has since left the treaty this past December (Austen, 2011).

The complications of energy development and our society are reflected across all levels of economic development.  These same issues resonate in the economies of national scale as well. Strict environmental restrictions may be supported by the majority of Canadians, but would surely face pushback from provinces such as Alberta in which “energy development is the key driver of the economy” (Government of Alberta, 2009). So crucial to the Alberta economy is oil and gas, that a University of Calgary study suggested that the size of the economy “without the impact of oil and gas, would be less than half its current size” (Government of Alberta, 2009). Suddenly I reflect to my current employment, the facilities I use at NAIT, and where Alberta would be without the resources everyone seems to love to hate, but would find difficult to live without.

Even if we know the answer to whether society should shape energy development, is it actually possible; ‘can society shape energy development?’.  A recent report by Shell Canada indicated that after Alberta enacted stricter air and water pollution limits this year, their projected expansion plans including the Jackpine mine,  would infact “exceed some of those limits” (The Globe and Mail, 2012). It’s clear that the Alberta government is trying to shape the way energy is developed in the province, but the effectiveness, and the implications have yet to be seen. Simon Dyer, policy director at the Pembina Institute has indicated that regulators “will need to start turning down projects to stay under the limits” (The Globe and Mail, 2012). Where will that leave Albertans, and Canadians as a whole? This is a country which relies on the resource industry for “20 percent of the economy” (The Canadian Press, 2012).  What sacrifices will have to be made? Will the rest of the global community be willing to make the same sacrifices? What is the timeline for such changes in energy development? These are all questions which we must ask.

Finding the balance between our energy needs and our society is a difficult task, but nonetheless I believe that real change is possible. While we may have developed a society reliant on certain types of energy, it is possible to diversify. I believe that change must occur, but at an acceptable pace so as not to devastate the livelihoods of so many. Finally, I believe that real change in energy development will come from those same economies, companies, and organizations that are already involved in the current energy field. For just as Alberta hosts an energy based economy; it is also a place of ingenuity and innovation. Next to those refineries is the largest and one of the most advanced waste handling facilities in North America, which boasts a one of a kind “waste to biofuels facility” (Farquharson, 2011). A preserved river valley boasts the largest urban parkland on the continent, and institutions such as NAIT and the University of Alberta are leaders in energy technological advancement.  Logical, and efficient solutions are already being brought to the table, and this is an indication that society is choosing to shape energy development.

References

Natural Resources Canada. (2005, February 1). Land and freshwater area, by province and territory. In Statistics Canada. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/phys01-eng.htm

Farquharson, V. (2011, November 12). Why Toronto should be more like Edmonton. In National Post. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/11/12/why-toronto-should-be-more-like-edmonton/

Government of Alberta. (2009, September). Energy Economics. In Energy Alberta. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from http://www.energy.alberta.ca/Org/pdfs/Energy_Economic.pdf

The Globe and Mail. (2012, September 11). Shell warns about Alberta’s emission rules. In Industry News. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/energy-and-resources/shell-warns-about-albertas-emission-rules/article4537725/

The Canadian Press. (2012, September 4). Natural Resources Drive 20 percent of Economy. In CBC News. Retrieved September 11, 2012, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/09/04/pol-cp-natural-resources-economy.html

U.S Department of Energy. (2012). World carbon dioxide emissions by region. In U.S Energy

              Information Administration. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from

              http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/aeo/tablebrowser/#release=IEO2011&subject=0-IEO2011&table=10-

              IEO2011®ion=0-0&cases=Reference-0504a_1630

Austen, I. (2011, December 12). Canada Announces Exit from Kyoto Climate Treaty. In The New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2012, from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/13/science/earth/canada-leaving-kyoto-protocol-on-climate-change.html

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Canadian National Parks: Something To Be Proud Of

7 Nov

It was 100 years ago that the National Parks system was created in Canada. The first of its kind in the world, the National Park system has grown to encompass more than 42 National Parks, 4 National Marine Conservation Areas, one National Landmark, and 167 National Historic Sites. Managed by Parks Canada, these areas have been set aside by Canadians to protect them from development, and to preserve the natural landscapes and wildlife of the country. With that I find it fitting to include a gallery of photos of some of the countries national parks, you can see the photos below.

 

Starting with the first national park in 1885, Banff National Park was merely a stepping stone into the network of terrestrial and marine areas in the park system today. By 1911 the Dominion Parks Branch was created, the beginning of our current system, and by 1930 the National Parks Act was put into legislation protecting all National Parks. These parks play a familiar role in the lives of many Canadians, from canoe trips on great rivers, camping in thick boreal forests, to skiing and snowboarding one of the world’s most spectacular mountain ranges. The expansiveness and the privilege of the natural beauty can often be overlooked, however it is important to value what so many other places on earth do not have, a natural beauty that attracts visitors from all over the world to see.

2011 is the anniversary of this century old system and the Royal Canadian Mint is commemorating the milestone with special coins that you might just come across in circulation and a pretty cool commercial as well. So the next time your find yourself in one of Canada’s Parks, take a minute to appreciate not only the wilderness around you, but the effort involved to create such an icon of sustainability in our great country.

Photos courtesy of National Geographic, you can view the gallery on their website here.

You can also visit the Royal Canadian Mint website here.

Introducing: The Sheepdogs

2 Nov

For such a small population, Canada does put forth a lot of musical talent into the world. The Sheepdogs are no exception. Pushed into the spotlight by the “Do You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star?” contest put on by the Rolling Stones Magazine, this Saskatoon band is starting to get their name heard. With the band struggling for exposure since their inception in the Canadian prairies, the news of winning the contest couldn’t have been sweeter news to their ears.

And with a sound reminiscent from the 1960’s and 70’s that could easily fool you into thinking you accidentally flipped to the classic rock station, its nice to hear the blend of modern and classic rock in their music. Catching a glimpse of the band members will further make you wonder what decade this really is as well, yep, that’s a lot of hair. You can check out more from the Rolling Stones Magazine here.

While you may recognize the track “I Don’t Know”, I urge you to explore some of their other tracks that are just as good. So with that said, add them to your playlist, click around YouTube, and enjoy the music that is The Sheepdogs.

Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

6 Oct

On Wednesday October 5, 2011, the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, passed away. A visit to apple.com (I don’t do that too often) displays simply, Steve Jobs 1955-2011. By the time you will read this the media will be filled with stories and headlines about his death, but also about his life. And with good reason, while Steve Jobs was just a man, he was a man who changed the world.

It is no secret that I personally dislike apple products, and have periodically bashed them ever since the iPod came out. However while I may not of liked his products, the man and the company founded under Steve Jobs has played an important role in shaping our world.

One must give credit to Steve Jobs for keeping his vision of technology that can do more than just merely crunch numbers, for a technology that is not just functional, but technology that is fun. Steve Jobs brought products to the marketplace that billions of people use around the world. He was another example of American ingenuity, bringing value added technology to the world, and his name will most definitely be listed with the likes of Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford. He has kept competitors on their toes for decades, and will no doubt continue to do so even after he is gone. So while you may not have joined the apple craze, you must pay a little respect to a man who gave us so much. Thanks Steve Jobs.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. –Steve Jobs

The Look on Their Faces: Bin Laden Dead

3 May

Since the photos of Osama bin Laden dead have yet to be released, there is one photo that is quickly becoming one of the most popular. This photo shows Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden along with other staff as they watched live feed of the raid on the compound that housed the most wanted man in recent history.

On sunday, the man responsible for the worst terrorist attack in the United States which instantly took the lives of nearly 3000 people, was shot dead by navy seals in a compound in Pakistan. And as those events unfolded just outside of the capital city of Islamabad, the heads of the administration that have actively been hunting him watched intently. The look on Hillary’s face, and the seriousness of Obama indicating that this was a shocking, but major moment for not only the U.S, but the world.

This photo will surely prove to be one that captured a major historical event in the coming years. It will be a photo that makes magazine covers, newspaper front pages, and in books and media to come. But in the meantime until the death photos of Bin Laden surface, it will continue to be the most popular photo depicting the scenario that unfolded that night.