For every complicated problem there is a solution that is simple, easy to understand, and… wrong! On April 11th we once again heard that there is a simple and easy to understand solution for our society’s energy needs. Just get off hydrocarbons.
These people never learned, as grown ups do, that you can’t have your cake and eat it too, that when you pick up one end of the stick you pick up the other or that when you say no to economic development you say yes to austerity.
What I want to know is what hydrocarbons they mean when they say get off hydrocarbons.
Do they mean the plastics in artificial heart replacements, intravenous drips and most implements used in modern medicine? Not to mention cell phones, computers and water bottles?
Do they mean the hydrocarbons transformed in to the high tech clothing we now use for skiing, hiking, cycling, mountain climbing, and yoga?
Do they mean the hydrocarbons used to make fertilizer that feeds billions around the world. (many forget that hydrocarbons are after all natural, organic and biodegradable molecules well suited to the making of fertilizer).
Do they mean the hydrocarbons used in paints, cleaners, solvents, lubricants and waxes? Or perhaps the ones used to pave all our roads?
They might reply they only mean to get off the ones used in combustion. But then why don’t they say that so I wouldn’t think they are against medicine, electronics, clothing, food, cleaners and roads.
Instead I would think they are against gourmet dining in Montreal and Quebec’s finest restaurants. As we all know the best chefs insist on a natural gas stove not because it’s cheaper but because it’s the best quality ‘instant on – instant off’ heat.
Possibly they are against the hydrocarbons burned in industrial processes that also need the best quality heat sources. Like the ones used to make aluminum, iron ore pellets, steel and paper.
Or are they against the hydrocarbons used to make electricity and heat homes for people who live in remote locations like the Magdalene Islands and northern Quebec?
They don’t seem to like globalization so they could be against the hydrocarbons used in ships that transport our exports and our imports? Perhaps just the ones burned in cruise ships on our vacations? What about airplanes?
Or is it really they just want us to use electric cars from electricity made by wind mills and solar panels.
Though even in this they don’t get it quite right. For the wind is renewable but wind mills are not. They must be built again every fifteen years or so andyou can’t build a wind mill with a wind mill. So we imagine they don’t mean to ‘get off hydrocarbons’ in the cement, steel and plastics used to make a wind mill.
We could posit that once thought through what our ‘get off hydrocarbons’ friends really mean, is we should try to rebalance our energy diet. Use a little less of the higher emissions hydrocarbons and a little more renewables for example.
Where does that leave me as a President of and oil and gas company who can easily agree society should try to be more efficient and reduce our emissions? However, I have no idea what oil or what gas goes in to plastic, fertilizer, a finely cooked duck, Lulu Lemon clothes or someone’s car. So which well should I drill and which should I not?
I just don’t know as a producer how or where my oil and gas is used. So all I can do is work to minimize impacts of drilling and production in addition to being more efficient and more knowledgeable as a consumer in the way I use hydrocarbons.
At the same time, I can also be very thankful for the hydrocarbons that go in to modern medicine, fleece underwear, affordable food, and sorry but also my bbq and wake boarding boat.