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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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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

More Great Car Ads

10 Apr

Automakers produce some of the most innovative and enjoyable advertisements in the industry. Whether its making us feel good about life, our car, or anything inbetween, these ads all portray a lifestyle. It’s that lifestyle you associate with, look up to, and want, not necessarily the car itself. It’s with that little trick that marketing agencies around the world target us. Our brains by default connect the shortest path to a destination, we think that maybe if we buy this car, we can have that lifestyle. Even if we know that is not the case, we like to think that owning that car could help propel us on the path to achieving our dreams. This is a very difficult urge to supress, but one must take advertisements with a grain of salt.  Either way, if you can maintain your ability to make good decisions, you should be able to enjoy the ads nonetheless. Below is a sample of some more favorites of mine.

Tsunami Aftermath Photos Rolling In

11 Mar

With aftershocks still rumbling off the coast of Japan. It is only now that more accurate information is coming in. With the earthquake occurring in the late afternoon Friday in Japan, it is still less than 24 hours since it all began. Much of the initial disaster relief was carried out long into the night in Japan, and now as morning arrives, photos and data are emerging. Here are the latest highlights:

-Casualties are surpassing the 1000 death mark.

-Evacuations continue around the The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which has crews struggling to cool down the reactor.

-Hawaii appears to be relatively unscathed by the tsunami.

-The first waves have already hit the west coast of North America, some damage is being reported in areas in Oregon and Northern California.

-Subway/Transit systems are down in Tokyo, stranding millions.

-Narita International and other Tokyo Airports remain closed.

-The U.S, China, United Nations, and European Union have already spoken up offering relief and support along with other countries.

-Twitter is reporting that up to 1000 tweets per minute were streaming from Tokyo alone.

-The earthquake was thousands of times larger than the earthquake in New Zealand recently.

-Early warning systems were activated minutes before the tremor, and before the tsunami hit Japan.

Powerful images are also surfacing. The following are courtesy of National Geographic, Time and CNN.

There is also growing galleries of images at Time MagazineNational GeographicCNN, and the BBC.

Infected Area: Monsters

8 Feb

On the discussion board today is a film I saw last night. The film I saw was Monsters. It’s safe to say that I had no previous knowledge or expectations about this film before I saw it. I had pretty much only heard of the name, and was told it was a low-budget film from a friend.

One thing I love about low-budget films is that the film makers don’t  possess the funds necessary to create large action sequences or incredible CG. This forces the filmmakers to focus on the story, the characters, their relationships, and ultimately be creative to draw in their audiences.

Monsters is no exception, the film follows Andrew; a photo journalist as he is forced to put aside his assignment and help the daughter of his boss Samantha get back to the United States from Central America. The catch is that 6 years ago, a space probe returning to earth with samples thought to prove the existence of alien life crashed into Central America. And ever since then, the ‘monsters’ have been multiplying, pushing the limits of the Mexican and American governments capability to contain them.

In order to return to America, the couple has to travel through ‘the infected zone’, an area off-limits to humans and is meant to contain the monsters. As they do so, they develop an interesting relationship, as Andrews cynical yet realistic point of view combines with Samantha’s soft-spoken gentle nature. The characters are easily likable, and you can’t help but hope they succeed in their journey to the border.

Scifi monster movie buffs might be disappointed with the very little actual monster contact. The best relation I can think of is that of Cloverfield, in which you saw very little of the monsters themselves. But the similarities stop at that, as Monsters is far superior in quality to that of Cloverfield.

So for a movie that was created with 2 people, filmed entirely on locations, and utilized local people as characters in the movie, this was a spectacular film. Check it out.

Electric and Compacts: They Are Here

1 Nov

So maybe you’ve noticed them on the streets already, or maybe your city has been plastered with billboards of them, there’s no denying, a new era of the automobile has arrived. Who ever believes that all North Americans drive hummers and other excessively large SUV’s is still living that 2002 generalisation. It was hardly true then, and its definitely not true now, its 2010! Let it go.

North American society is ready for the change, then again, it always was. Because after all, nobody wants to intentionally damage the environment, they just never had the opportunity for change. It is evident the worlds auto manufacturers have built it, and yes the people, they are coming.

It appears that things are fast changing, the streets are filled with the likes of Juke’s, Cubes, and Mini’s. And the CRZ’s, Leaf’s, Cruze’s, and Volt’s are on the way. It’s true, insanely small engine, hybrid, diesel, or full electric cars are fast replacing the fleets of models that ruled the streets before. And they’ve come with a variety of entertaining media campaigns!

The Art of Tilt-Shift

12 Oct

Tilt shift is a method of photography which can provide a new aspect to traditional photography that was previously imposibble. One of the most common effects that tilt-shift photography can accomplish, is the effect of miniatures. By altering the focus of an image you can present a very real subject with a miniature effect. This can be done either with the hardware itself, or through a method which is becoming more and more common today and that is done digitally in post production. I presented a video previously on the blog which had this effect, and it spurred me to elaborate more on the subject.

If you are unfamiliar with tilt-shift photography, the basic principle is that you can alter the plane of focus of the lens through phyiscally tilting or shifting a specially designed lens. Whichever method a photographer or artist chooses to create these effects, the results are truly amazing. And with that, I am including a couple of my favorite tilt-shift videos.