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Week of 26 Dec 2016: Energy/Perception/ Environment Blend

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Back at the first energy crisis, October 1973, the focus was on where we would obtain energy in the future. This continued up through the Carter Administration, when the Department of Energy (DOE) was created (August 1977) with one of its main purposes being to find new sources of energy, particularly energy that could be used in transport.

To understand the mood in those days, let's delve a bit into the speech President Carter made upon the occasion of announcing the Federal Load Guarantees for the Great Plains Coal Gasification plant to be built in North Dakota. These remarks were made by the President on July 18, 1980, less than three years after the founding of the DOE.

"...The Canadian Government has just announced that they have approved the construction of the first leg of the 4,800-mile natural gas pipeline from Prudhoe Bay down to the heartland of America. We are very pleased with this...And by 1985 it will be completed and will provide about 2 1/2 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, equivalent to about 400,000 barrels of imported oil that we won't have to buy....

"...I would like to announce this morning and deliver to these assembled leaders the approval by the Federal Government of a $250 million loan guarantee for the construction of this coal-to-natural gas conversion plant to be built in North Dakota....
"...This plant will be the first commercial coal-to-gas plant ever built in our Nation...

"...It's with a great deal of pleasure that I deliver to Mr. Seder [a private energy industry representative on the dais] this conditional commitment to guarantee the $250 million in loans from which a great deal more money can be derived from private sources for the construction of this remarkable plant. We'll be observing its progress with great interest and anticipation, and the entire Nation will be benefited by this project...."


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Compare this to President Obama (reminder, of the same party as President Carter) taking action, along with Canada, on 20 Dec 16 to prohibit energy exploration in the Arctic and much of the Atlantic Coast of the United States. The White House issued a statement which said in part: "These actions, and Canada's parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth...They reflect the scientific assessment that, even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region's harsh conditions is limited..."

The time between President Carter's speech and President Obama's actions? A mere 13,305 days (36 years, 5 months and 3 days)--a blip in history.

Did you notice any comments about the environment in President Carter's speech? Did you notice any comments about energy security in President Obama's actions? The answer is "no" in both cases.

We have moved from a perception of the imminent danger of running out of energy to the perception that we must forget energy security, we have an imminent danger of destroying the environment.

And, of course, the switch did not come at the extremis of these two points--it began occurring much earlier and was in effect many years ago.


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This makes our jobs much tougher today than they ever have been. We must assure our companies a secure energy supply while meeting the demands of today's environmental expectations--two objectives often at odds. Today it is called "being green"--terminology not yet developed in President Carter's day.

So, as we leave energy month behind for this year, be aware that whether you are the CEO, Mill Manger, Energy Czar or a Project Engineer, your job today is more demanding than ever as we deal with energy, the environment and public perception.

We'll give you a break on the quiz this week.

For safety this week, as we have reminded you all month, energy sources are dangerous. One which receives little attention but can do much damage is compressed air. It literally is a bomb waiting to go off.

Be safe and we will talk next week. And...Merry Christmas!


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