Sorry to nag, but about that geothermal power thing…

Well, I’m at it again, sounding like a broken record, maybe, but it’s a song I have to play. My latest Clean Break column asks why Canada, and particularly Alberta, is still paying no attention to the potential of its geothermal resources while, south of the border, stimulus money is seeing geothermal power projects sprouting up and thousands of jobs being created. No, I’m not saying that geothermal power plants are going to replace the oil patch, but there’s no reason why the skills and technologies in the oil patch can’t lead to a boom in geothermal development in Alberta, and help the province wean off coal in the process.

It’s interesting, I didn’t include this in my column, but when I asked Alison Thompson, chair of the Canadian Geothermal Association and vice-president of Magma Energy, why the major oil and gas companies are avoiding geothermal power, she answered in two words: “Skills shortage.” Because there is no government policy supporting geothermal in Canada, no roadmap, no awareness within the bureaucracy of its potential, and no price on carbon that would force companies to look at alternatives, there’s also no desire to take skilled workers from the oil patch — such as reservoir engineers — and throw them onto a geothermal project. Thompson, who used to work at both Nexen and Suncor and co-led a two-year oil industry research effort called GeoPowering in the Oil Sands, said the oil companies know geothermal is a proven technology. They just need the right nudge. “At a certain point somebody needs to rise above the excuses and just do it.”

Which brings me back to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s ridiculous comment about how passage of the Climate Change Accountability Act would have hurt the economy and killed jobs. Geothermal power is a prime example of where skills in Alberta are transportable to a different sector that can help the province achieve emission reductions. There is so much potential for collaboration between the oil patch and geothermal developers yet so little interest in going down that path. It’s simply mindboggling.

11 thoughts on “Sorry to nag, but about that geothermal power thing…”

  1. Tyler: It seems that there is a certain driving force behind Mr. Harper’s lack of interest in the “less conventional” energy solutions. The “millions” of job losses to which Mr. Harper refers is just hooey, and very short term thinking.

    Carbon is killing us and we seem to be stuck in conventional thinking. We need leadership that leads, not leadership that follows.

  2. As most people who understand the technicalities, as opposed to bloggers (who we all know by definition are genuis’) know that geoThermal potential is JUST that. Potential. You ask about Alberta?
    You’ve obviously not been there, but I ask… what about Ontario? Why it there no geothermal in Toronto(NIMBY) aside.
    Where is the MONEY to develop this resource to come from, likely me, the taxpayer. Why is there not more geothermal in Europe? Quebec? or anywhere else on the planet? I can answer this, but can you?
    BECAUSE it cannot meet the scale of consumption, but you’re sitting on your fat ass in you heated office, playing mr morality god.
    Don’t like Alberta Energy, don’t use our oil or gas, but you’re a hypcritical blogger, whose shit does not stink. Sorry to break it to you, your shit does stink, and you haven’t a CLUE what you’re writing about, pretty pathetic, our planet needs to be saved by the anti-everything cult. You’re worse that the Islamic fundamentalists, at least they are prepared to die for what they believe, as opposed to defining hypocracy and ignorance.

  3. Wow, my anonymous friend, take a pill.

    You’ve just demonstrated a whole lot of arrogance and ignorance. Look at heat maps — Alberta, B.C. and Yukon are obvious choices to do this because you are geographically located where the low-hanging fruit is, on the Pacific Ring of fire. Look it up — Google for its image. Type in “Pacific Ring of Fire” and look at the map. You see western Canada, there? Well, that’s the only place pretty much along that ring that has refused to develop its geothermal resource.

    Where does the money come from? It comes from oil money — it’s an investment, and a damn good investment. The problem is policy and a lack of information. The government hasn’t invested in getting the mapping done that reduces initial development risk and greases the pig — you name it, the same money the federal government handed over to Alberta in the early days to get the “tar” sands going. So quickly Alberta forgets about the many years the tar sands was a money-losing, tax-sucking proposition.

    You talk about Toronto and NIMBY and by throwing those supposedly emotional trigger words out there show how clued out you actually are. There is a lot of investment in geothermal in Europe — Italy, Germany, markets that have the resources. Quebec, no, because it doesn’t have this resource. I know your twisted viewpoint, a hostility, isn’t reflective of the majority of Albertans. And yes, I’ve been out there — several times. Half of my family lives in Edmonton.

    Do me a favour, have the guts to stand from outside your anonymous cloak so you can put your own igorance on the record. Otherwise, you’re just a mouthy coward with nothing constructive to offer and no willingness to learn.

  4. Tyler, the Geothermal area sounds like something worth investing into and developing. It could be great for Alberta so I’m all in favour of the R & D and monies to get it going.

  5. Tyler,

    It’s unfortunate you have to respond to ignorant commenters on your blog, but you do a damn fine job of it. Eloquence, patience and calling them out. Seems Iceland and Japan are two prominent places that have a clue about the usefulness of geothermal (visited one, lived in the other) and for K24’s info, those two places have unleashed the potential. Renewable is doable, my friend.

    And for K24’s info as well, where did Silicon Valley emerge from? Government money to develop the microchip. Surprise! Now it’s a hot bed of economic activity and technical innovation in the US. They seeded a world-beating industry. That’s a good thing. Canada can be a leader in clean tech innovation if we’d just have some vision and can-do spirit. Also it’d be nice to work with energy that doesn’t poison our Aboriginal populations and kill our ducks. Just sayin’. Do some research before posting knee-jerk reactive comments.


  6. Hi k24:

    My answer for why there is not more geothermal energy being utilized is that conventional fossil fuel based fuels are still generally more economical. Will that always be so, probably not, so maybe it makes sense to develop the people and technology to exploit this resource. You indicated you have an answer too, I am interested to hear it.


    steve lapp

  7. I have a question for ROBERT W.
    Compare the number of birds killed in the Oil Sands vs. the birds killed by Wind Turbines. Which energy source kills more birds? It’s not even close. (But that doesn’t excuse the Oil Sands producers and no birds should be lost. The industry is working on this and should be held to account.)

    I have another question for ROBERT W.
    Who is posioning Aboriginal Populations? Perhaps you have the nerve to actually state a person or persons or identify a Company. Prove this statement with fact. Talk about knee-jerk reactions. Come on, tell us who? Name names smart guy. (Just sayin’). How about sayin’ facts.

    Btw, Geothermal seems to have great promise so lets invest in research as well as getting a commercial-sized plant up and running.

  8. Hey Robert W.,

    If you read the report, it is inconclusive. Is there really a problem? Is it coming from the Oil Sands? The article does not prove either or attempt to do so. Read the details of the report/article.

    The article states that there were 47 people wth cancer vs. the statistically expected 39 with cancer from 1995 to 2006.

    In no way does this article prove your statement, that somebody or company is , “poisoning our Aboriginal populations”. In fact it says that while the number of people with cancer are higher than expected, we should not be alarmed and more study is required.

    You should name names. What companies are doing this? You know so much; name the companies responsible and state what they are doing.

    From the article you referenced:

    The study said that while the incidence of cancer was higher than expected in the village of about 1,400, only two of the six cases of the rare cancer cholangiocarcinoma reported by the community’s doctor were confirmed, while three were other types of cancer, and one was not cancer at all.

    However, the study found 47 individuals in the community had 51 different cancers over the 1995 to 2006 study period, more that the 39 cases health officials had expected to find.

    “The overall findings show no cause for alarm,” said Dr. Tony Fields, a vice-president at Alberta Health Services. “But they do, however, point to the need for some more investigation.”

    The village is about 260 kilometers (160 miles) north of Fort McMurray, where a number of projects have been established to mine the oil sands, as part of the process that converts the tar-like bitumen stripped from the sand into synthetic crude oil.

    Lake Athabasca is fed by the Athabasca River, which flows through the project region, and earlier studies have found unsafe levels of arsenic, mercury and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon in the lake’s fish, as well as in sediments, water and wildlife.

    While oil sands producers use large amounts of water to produce the crude, contaminated wastes are kept on-site and are not released into the river.

    Fields said the higher than expected number of cancer cases in Fort Chipewyan could be due to chance, increased detection, or lifestyle and environmental risks. He said more monitoring of the community is needed to see if the higher number of cancers is a trend.

    “We should keep a close eye on this population,” Fields said. “We should look and see what the next five to 10 years bring.”

  9. Talking about oil sands and cancer rates… Anyone heard of the published report by a Dr. Kevin Timoney entitled “A study of water and sediment quality as related to public health issues.” Facinating read really… so facinating that the Alberta Health Services Board removed the document from their website and chased the innocent doctor out of Alberta.

    I actually acquired a copy before they removed it and it is damning. It talks alot about the connection between oil sands and exceptionally high cancer rates… rates of excretion of tailings ponds into the Athabasca…etc etc

    I would be more than happy to provide you with a copy Tyler if you are brave enough to post it on your website.

    Merry Christmas Steve…heart to heart… my personal present to you big guy.

    As for geothermal… keep truck’n Ty…we’ll get it someday

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