Replacing oil exploration with developing renewable sources
By Bruce Lantz
These days it seems the ‘cancel culture’ is running amok in Canada. We should be very concerned.
Remember the days when we took pride in our country and its economic accomplishments? We recognized farming, forestry, the oil and gas industry and more as economic pillars that provided jobs, business profits and, indeed, the money needed to keep this country going.
Those days are gone now, replaced by an attitude that suggests there is only one right way to succeed in a black-or-white world where certain things – industries, even people – are either all good or all bad. And if you’re not in the right category then the combined might of societal scorn and government restrictions will make you unwelcome, an outlier.
Consider some years back when a certain segment of society determined that our use of paper was killing our forests and the associated jobs. So, a campaign was launched, and government fell in line, banning the use of paper bags, among other things. So, shoppers and others shifted to using plastic, to save those forests. But now the deep thinkers have determined that plastic is ruining the environment so . . . paper bags are back in our stores.
It’s a phenomenon not restricted to North America. Back in 1971, in the Turkmenistan region once part of the Soviet Union, excavation began in the desert creating a hole 70 metres wide and 20 metres deep, only to have the drilling rig plunge into a natural gas cavern. As noxious methane gas leaked into the air geologists decided to set the crater on fire, estimating that the gas within would only burn for a few weeks. More than 50 years later it’s still burning and “The Gates of Hell” has become, of all things, a top tourist attraction with the nation’s president using it as a backdrop for photo opps. But now government has changed its mind, determining the site and its flames are no longer welcome, citing concerns for the health of people nearby and lost business opportunities, so scientists have been ordered to find a way to extinguish the flames. Why? Perhaps because Turkmenistan sits on the fourth-largest natural gas reserve in the world and the country’s economy is largely dependent on gas exports.
How quickly the winds of change can blow.
Now we repeatedly hear of the evils of oil, the emissions from which, if we listened only to certain political leaders, will soon destroy the world. Thus, the withdrawal of support for an industry which only a few years ago was a source of pride and jobs. It has been replaced with political catchphrases like “clean economy”, “economic reconciliation”, “a just transition” and “net-zero economy”, relegating one of our foundational industries to the bleachers.
One of the latest moves by Ottawa to devalue the oil and gas sector is the recent announcement of plans to reconfigure the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board into the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore ENERGY Board, replacing oil exploration with developing renewable sources such as offshore wind energy and hydrogen production, storage and distribution. A similar agreement has been reached with the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and, we can assume, may be in the works for British Columbia. Bye-bye offshore oil.
And for what? Trendy electric vehicles? Some regions are jumping on that bandwagon, even proposing to ban new internal combustion engines (ICE) by 2030. Auto giant General Motors says it will phase out petrol vehicles by 2035. That sounds good to some, but it has massive drawbacks.
The International Energy Agency says an electric vehicle (EV) requires six times the mineral inputs of a comparable ICE. EV batteries are very heavy and are made with some exotic, expensive, toxic and flammable materials – nickel, lithium, cobalt, copper and rare earth metals (neodymium and dysprosium). The mining of these materials, their use in manufacturing and their ultimate disposal all present significant environmental challenges: 90% of the ICE lead-acid batteries are recycled while only 5% of the EV lithium-ion batteries are 68% of the world’s cobalt, a significant part of a battery, comes from the Congo where mines have no pollution controls and employ children who die from handling this toxic material. Lithium mining results in water loss, ground destabilization, biodiversity loss, increased salinity of rivers, contaminated soil and toxic waste. Plus, just producing an EV can create carbon emissions 38% higher than in producing an ICE vehicle.
California is building the world’s largest battery near San Francisco, intending to power it from solar panels and windmills. They claim this is the ultimate in being ‘green’ but it’s actually an environmental disaster. The main problem with solar arrays is the chemicals needed to process silicate into the silicon used in the panels: hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, trichloroethane and acetone. In addition, they also need gallium, arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride, which also are highly toxic. Silicon dust is a hazard to workers and the panels cannot be recycled.
Windmills are the ultimate in embedded costs and environmental destruction. Each weigh 1,688 tons (the equivalent of 23 houses) and contains 1,300 tons of concrete, 295 tons of steel, 48 tons of iron, 24 tons of fiberglass, and the hard-to-extract rare earths neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium. Each blade weighs 81,000 pounds and will last 15-20 years, at which time it must be replaced. Used blades cannot be recycled.
We tend to overlook some of oil’s positive traits as a power source. The power for an internal combustion engine, oil, is found abundantly around the world. In 2019, the four top oil-producing nations were the United States, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Canada. In contrast, the power for EVs is dependent on a mixture of diverse commodities from a handful of Third World countries. Despite the environmental hysteria about oil drilling, the surface area disturbed is relatively small since the oil is extracted from under the ground. In contrast, many of the materials prominent in the clean energy revolution are obtained through open-pit horizontal mining, which is extremely damaging to the environment.
There are pros and cons to all forms of energy. To date, all we have heard are the benefits of clean energy and little positive about other forms of energy production, such as oil and gas. Instead of relegating one to the trash heap and focusing all our energy (and money) on the other, why not acknowledge both have their benefits and let both proceed without government interference until a clear winner emerges?
There’s room for both on the world stage.