A new book by a Canadian petroleum chemist doesnt directly call Prince George out, but the author urged northern British Columbians to carefully consider its views on proposed pipelines through this region.
Sanjay Patel is a chemical engineer and a production manager for Suncore Energy Inc., one of the dominant companies working in the Alberta oilsands. In his new book The Future Of Oil he barrels into the issue of depleting fossil fuels and the need to both manage what we have now but foster alternative energy methods for the future.
It is a balanced book; it is an educational book, Patel said. I've been studying about energy in general and oil sands in particular for the last eight or 10 years. Most of the other books touching the subject are about history or technology or they take a side in the debate. I wanted people to gain some true knowledge about this industry. The main object is to educate people on the Canadian oilsands.
The first point he stresses is oil will still be in heavy production for decades. The known and anticipated oil reserves of the world have mathematically crested, but it will be a long descent into oblivion, increasing in price as it goes.
Punching oil prices even harder is the massive demand coming from China, India and eastern Asia in general, he said.
The world is best served by Canadian oil, he said, due to the social and environmental safeguards our country demands of its industries.
He is no slave to oil, however. Patel insists that liquid natural gas - plentiful in Canada, including untapped reserves in central B.C. - is a major alternative to crude oil. Even the nations fleets of vehicles could easily be converted to drive on LNG instead of oil, he said, but it will take a few decades of dedicated auto industry efforts to achieve this.
Coal can also be used to make vehicle fuel, also a plentiful commodity in northern B.C., but the extraction and refining processes for these other forms of potential fuel could be more environmentally harmful than oilsands fuels, under present scientific conditions, Patel said. Technology is advancing but it is not yet ready to tip the balance of oil engines for many years yet.
All the while, oil could be flowing from the oilsands into the fuel tanks of the world, keeping the social punishment of high consumer prices to a minimum. That, he said, is the real reason the Keystone Pipeline into the United States and the Northern Gateway pipeline to the Pacific are proposals well worth considering, as long as the construction is environmentally careful and the finished products are of the highest quality.
If Northern Gateway is not approved, there will be a lot of pressure for the Keystone project to go ahead. If both are not approved, the business side of the oilsands will become very difficult, very tough, he said, and that will hurt consumers everywhere in Canada because the global price of oil will lurch from those events.
There are options out there: rail transportation is being actively pursued by some of the juniors but it is a second tier solution, Patel said. It will become a first tier solution if the pipelines are not approved but pipelines are safer, looking at the history of incidents, and rail is expensive.
Patel is firstly a career scientist before becoming an industrial manager and a writer. He is inspired by the rapid growth in solar, wind, hydrogen, bioenergy and other sectors of the fuel field.
I do support the idea of increasing renewable energy technologies, and promoting that industry, but unfortunately the world's energy system is designed to run on fossil fuel petroleum and that will not change in the next few decades, he said.
Patel is the father of two children younger than 10. He wants them to have a robust future based on sustainable energy at cheap rates, he said, and those hopes lay in alternative fuel sources. The future of oil is indeed bleak, he said, but society would be imperiled if Canadians turned their backs prematurely on the present day realities of oil.