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REPORTING · 2nd November 2013
Walter McFarlane
The Kitimat Economic Development Society (KEDA) put on a presentation entitled Let’s Talk Energy on Saturday, October 26th. The evening began with a trade fair featuring a handful of the sponsors of the event. At 7:00, the guests began to trickle into the theater for the main performance, a speech delivered by Peter Tertzakian on the Evolution of Energy.

“Sources of energy and its various uses have evolved over time and will continue to evolve. How we deal with that evolution and how it will influence our daily lives, and impede our standards of living is what leads to this evening’s event,” said Ron Burnett, President of KEDA.

Tertzakian himself was introduced by Country Western Artist, Aaron Prichett. He explained how Tertzakian has studied, invested and worked in many different types of energy for over 31 years. He has sold two best sellers: ‘1000 Barrels a Second’ and ‘The End of Energy Obesity’ which point out the unnecessary use of energy while recommending practical solutions.

He teaches his class around the world and works as the Chief Economist at ARC Financial which is Canada’s leading energy investor. Tertzakian stated he was here to try and bring the people of the community and the people from the companies together to generate a collaborative spirit in the community.

“I want to tell you some stories about Energy. And through those stories you will hear some of my convictions and beliefs about how I think things should be and should go. But ultimately, really, why am I here, I’m here to really open your minds about the energy context in this country, where we come from, where we are today and where we’re going,” said Tertzakian.

He let everyone know that no one was paying him to be here. He was here on his own dime and time because he believes what he is about to say and he is here because he was asked to speak by Lynn Stevenson.

He stated the Northwest is covered with issues. Issues of Environment, locations being on Native Land, Politics, Safety, Jobs, Economy and many more complex issues. He showed a picture of a community and showed how energy was at work within the community, from electrical lights, vehicles and even home heating.

“Energy is pervasive in our society and we still take it for granted,” said Tertzakian. “So when we think about sustainable communities, we think about balance. Where it is we take our energy from, how we use it and how we use it for our prosperity and our benefit.”

Tertzakian’s slide presentation explained how, in Canada’s past, the source of energy for a town was the centre of the community, and how its maintenance kept the communities together until challenges came a long and the community had to change with the world or die out.

He explained how towns die out by not becoming competitive. “I can tell you it’s a big bad world out there, there is a lot of competition, and there’s a lot of people who want to eat our lunch whether it’s any community in Canada,” said Tertzakian.

Tertzakian changed subjects to how Alexander McKenzie was one of the first white men to discover the Bituminous sands during one of his trips exploring Canada and he learned how it could be used for water proofing.

His next topic went to Nova Scotia where unsustainable environmental practices led to there not being enough trees to burn for wood. They moved to stoves which conserve wood, such as coal stoves. Now, there are biomass gasification units which use wood pellets.

Tertzakian explained this is considered to be green energy. However, to get wood pellets, one needs to use a chainsaw, a diesel truck and natural gas to prepare the wood. He told the crowd the world is complex and easy solutions are a bad idea.

Changing subjects yet again, Tertzakian moved onto the evolution of the candle and how gas lanterns led to improvements to how candles were made because gas lanterns were cleaner burning than candles. Comparing the evolution of the candle to the harvesting of whale oil for energy, he stated it was not policy which put whalers out of business, but innovation. The innovation of refining of kerosene into oil which Tertzakian proclaimed saved the whales.

“Sometimes you have to acknowledge the fact that you don’t like what you hear, you have to acknowledge it is the truth,” said Tertzakian.

He talked about how oil was harvested using wooden rigs and burning coal to drive the drill into the ground and how fracking has existed for 140 years. Oil wells were fracked by dropping nitroglycerin into a hole, which destroyed the water table. However, this has changed.

“These processes are highly regulated over 100 years and much, much deeper and we don’t do this sort of nonsense anymore,” said Tertzakian. He stated no one was talking about this until just a few years ago.

“I’m not denying there are issues. I’m not denying we can do better and should do better, but let’s put this into perspective. We tend to hear about these things that get us all worked up as though they are new, and they are not. And, by the way, yesterday’s practices are not today’s practices. Yesterday’s regulations are not today’s regulations,” said Tertzakian.

He explained how innovations led to the pipeline and the ability to move massive amounts of fuels across country. Then he reflected on an article published in 1955 in the United States which looked at Canada’s resources and talked about how they were available for developers.

However, Tertzakian explained this was the beginning of a deal. “We will come and help pay for the development of the infrastructure and in return, you give us the oil and gas. That was the deal, and we took that deal,” said Tertzakian. “A large part of this was to create a North American community, a secure community, a neighbourly community, a co-existence.”

He explained there was a time when the US energy supply was hindered and Canada was able to fill the need through this deal. Asking if people understood what it is like to live without electricity, he suggested Earth Day’s one hour without lights should be mandatory, with no gas, no power and be in the coldest month of the year.

“Talk is cheap, it’s easy to say, ban that process, no more pipelines. It’s easy to say that stuff, let’s do it for a day. Let’s do it for a day. Who’s in? I’m in. I’ll do it. Let’s see what happens. You don’t know how dependant we are on these resources,” said Tertzakian.

He stated the United States no longer needs our energy and could buy it at a discount, or we could sell our excess energy to someone who could pay more for it on the other side of the world.

He moved into political wrangling.

“We have First Nations Traditional Lands Issues. I get it, we’ve got some issues we need to sort out. We’ve got people who don’t want anything to do with pipelines, environmental stewardship and causes, ok. It’s not only oil, it’s all sorts of gas. You may think I’m actually opposed to this stuff. I’m not. I actually support it, wholly. Why? Because I’ve traveled the world. I have traveled the world and know what it is to have this extreme privilege of freedom of speech, to be able to stand up to a cause and that’s fine by me,” said Tertzakian.

However, he gets twisted off when people develop negative energy over energy. He explained Canadian Practices are not as bad as people think. He showed several slides of postcards which show heavy smoke, pollution and whaling.

“We have some of the most strict, regulatory standards in the world. All the way from the way we supply ourselves, to the way we consume. Why are we beating ourselves up?” said Tertzakian.

He showed a picture from two years ago in China and an article from Monday, October 21st which talked about pollution in Beijing closing schools. He stated this is extreme and they should apply the resource extraction regulations from British Columbia to the rest of the world.

Tertzakian told the crowd the Canadian regulations are extreme, they are extremely innovative and extremely responsible and he wanted to know why people of Canada are ashamed of it. He wanted Canada to offer their regulations, technology, clean gas and clean oil to the rest of the world.

He told everyone that the wells of today are 50 times more efficient than they were five years ago. Canadian processes are getting better because of fierce competition and Canada is leading policy. Safety is strong. Pipelines are buried.

“Why is it we feel like we have to shut down the most innovative place on the planet which can offer so much benefit to other parts of the planet that, for God’s sake, these emissions are probably drifting over from the other side of the world to our own coast over here,” said Tertzakian.

He stated wind farms require many turbines to create as much power as a gas plant, and people from BC and Ontario do not want them. “They say: ‘not in my back yard, I don’t want that, I don’t want windmills, I don’t want anything.’ Well, ok. How do the lights go on?” asked Terzakian.
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Tertzakian explained there are 7 billion people in the world and Canada needs to think about what we can do for them. He explained there are 14 projects in Canada, 27 in the United States and asked if we are willing to compete with them in a competitive world.

“It is about jobs. People say it’s not all about jobs but if you do not have a job, you have no self-esteem,” said Tertzakian.

He stated jobs are getting to be rare in Europe. Changing subjects again, he told the story of being interviewed for a magazine in Europe. When the interview was done, the writer looked out at the majestic Rockies and told Tertzakian: ‘You guys have everything here.’

“We’ve got everything here. We’re really a privileged place to have all of these natural resources the world wants; have the lifestyle we have. I think we get voted, consistently in the top five of something, certainly in the top ten. The UN Standard of Living measures Vancouver constantly gets rated three or higher. Sometimes, its number one,” said Tertzakian.

However, he expressed being at the top means there is only one way to go, if one is not careful. He said there are lots of issues in Kitimat but solving them requires balance.

He finally, reached his conclusion with Mackenzie’s explorations. Mackenzie was a fur trader attempting to diversify markets for his company in an attempt to access the Asian Markets. The LNG and the oil will be crossing the route which Mackenzie explored.

Tertzakian expressed there are plenty of parallels between what Mackenzie did and the development in Kitimat. Tertzakian added the first time he told that story, he was reminded by a First Nation’s Elder that Mackenzie would not have made it without the help of the First Nations People.

“Where is our sense of collaboration? Where is our sense of working together? Where is our sense of Entrepreneurship, determination, to get to some goal post? Where is that spirit of Mr. Mackenzie? We have this spirit now of ‘it’s all about me, what’s in it for me’? Can we find this spirit once again and be proud of what we do whether it’s furs or things and get better at things? I hope so, because it’s not about ‘what’s in it for me’, it’s about what’s in it for my community, whether that community is Kitimat, whether that community is a country, whether that community is the world. We can make a huge difference,” concluded Tertzakian.

He took some time to answer some questions. Questions dealt with the future of Kitimat, the environment, the economy and First Nations. Tertzakian answered all the questions, but noted the future of Kitimat is for the community to guide together rather than be reactive to the groups which are coming to us.

One person asked him how long it would be until Canada runs out of Natural Gas. “You’ll probably get hit by an asteroid first, before you run out of Natural Gas. Obviously, there is so much Natural Gas in the Earth’s crust,” said Tertzakian. He said at the moment, there is a lot of gas in North America which is at low cost. He said it should last for many decades.

Throughout the question and answer period, Tertzakian reiterated his message that competition drives the world economy and people and towns are left behind. He stated the different sides need to engage in intelligent discussion concerning alternatives to set policy. In addition, he added Canada needs more Entrepreneurs but they are overwhelmed by forces dragging them down.

When he finished answering questions, he was presented with a photo of the Kitimat Valley by Burnett. Then, Pritchett came up on stage to perform.
Awfully quiet here...Anybody else disagree?
Comment by Bill Vollrath on 16th November 2013
It looked to me like "Let's Talk Energy" was an event that was supposed to convince us that we NEED big oil and gas exports to survive in the global community. Peter had $$ in eyes over oil and gas. Basically, he was there to tell us we'd better let the oil and gas companies do their thing (and don't worry...they're really good at what they do) or risk an economic crash. Well, I think the economy is going to crash anyways. And I disagree with Peter that we need these industries. I don't think we NEED to export oil and/or gas to have a healthy economy in Canada. And if we have to crack the earth's crust to release gas, then we should just leave the gas in the earth! And the fresh water needed to get the gas? Well, that's just ridiculous. What are we doing? In 100 years from now when our great and great, great-grandchildren will be living here, the gas will be all used up, the earth will be fractured and their drinking water will have to be imported because all the fresh water will be contaminated. That's a fine legacy to leave, eh? I hope somebody puts a stop to the madness...soon!