Letter to the Editor from Russ Babcock of Genelle.

MP Cannings off-base on carbon issue

Opinion: Never forget that all life on earth as we know it is carbon-based, so let’s not fool with it

Even though I’m a West Kootenay resident, Richard Cannings certainly does not represent me!

Cannings says that the drive away from hydrocarbons is for pure economic reasons (‘Grand transition’ to low carbon future underway, Trail Times, June 21).

Ask any person with a brain in Ontario if he/she sees it that way. Ontario is on the verge of bankruptcy with their ill-advised energy policy. Thank goodness, that population has awoken and thrown their provincial government out on their proverbial ear. Can they recover financially? Maybe, without the silly management.

And is there really a world-wide drive away from hydrocarbons? Certainly not by the majority! The demand for hydrocarbons has been and still is increasing each and every year by the equivalent of one to three million barrels of crude oil per day, every year for a very long time now with the exception of a year or two following the world financial crisis of 2008. This steady increase in hydrocarbon consumption includes China. It especially includes China.

Renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels? Ask the citizens of Ontario or just about anyone who no longer has their heads deep in the sand. Windmills and solar panels will never be as reliable or effective as hydrocarbons, since wind and solar energy are neither transportable nor storable, and they don’t always exist. At best, they might augment hydrocarbon energy (when the sun’s shining and the wind’s blowing) if capital, maintenance, and production costs can be brought into the same ballpark without subsidies from taxpayers, camouflaged or otherwise.

Cannings talks about “clean energy” vs “fossil fuels”, clearly implying that “fossil fuels” are dirty and we can not deal with them cleanly. He quotes someone else who says “there is no such thing as clean fossil fuels”. We have come a long way since our use of hydrocarbons (better description than fossil fuels) resulted in atmospheric releases of lead, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides, unburned fuel, soot, and other particulates.

The combustion of hydrocarbons does indeed produce carbon dioxide and water, but neither of these chemicals are harmful to any life forms and neither is a pollutant. In fact, both are as absolutely necessary to all life as are oxygen and sunlight. We cannot and nor can any life-form live without either of them.

I agree with one thing Cannings said and that is that converting and storing solar energy into liquid hydrogen does have merit and might be a good idea, but not because hydrocarbon energy is dirty, but rather the sun is for all practical purposes an un-ending supply of energy, and capturing and storing it as liquid hydrogen for later exploitation makes very good sense. He didn’t mention nuclear fusion energy which would be much safer than currently produced nuclear fission energy and it would be produced without radioactive waste products. We’re probably a few decades away from cracking this technology though.

Cannings speaks highly of electricity. But electricity is not a primary source of energy. It is a form of energy that is reliant upon other true sources of energy like rivers, coal, and natural gas, and impossible to store in very large quantities like hydrocarbons are.

But the generation of more electricity from rivers is limited for obvious reasons, leaving only hydrocarbons which are “available on demand” to produce electricity “available on demand”. The point is that electricity is not a replacement for hydrocarbons for an appreciable amount of growing future energy demands.

Instead of flailing away at Quixote windmills in skirmishes against imaginary foes, lets spend that political energy on truly making the world a better place (like real environmentalists used to do). Let’s get it out of our heads that carbon dioxide is an enemy of life. Carbon dioxide will never over-ride all the other and more influential contributors to climate variability but it will always be absolutely necessary for life on earth, and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are much closer to dangerously low levels than they are to dangerously high levels.

Let’s never forget that all life on earth as we know it is carbon-based, so let’s not fool with it. Mother Nature is in charge of the climate anyway. Certainly mankind is not.

Russ Babcock


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