Tuesday, July 23, 2024

BIG Exclusives

Is ‘Big Oil’ holding up the energy transition?

Major oil companies (“Big Oil”) are unpopular in many affluent nations, where many see them as opponents to an imagined rapid transition to low-emissions energy sources. Condemnations are easy to find: Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, called for immediate global action toward net-zero emissions, which “must start with the polluted heart of the climate crisis: the fossil fuel industry.” He also said “Yet for every dollar spends on oil and gas drilling and exploration, only four cents went...

Jury duty – defendant plastics

Plastics have been found guilty in the court of public opinion. We are reminded daily that plastics are the bane of humanity, and that something must be done. We demand action at the voting booth, and we vote with our wallets when we make purchasing decisions. Politicians have acted with bag bans, and companies have created new products to replace evil plastic. It is a time to rejoice, as justice has been done. Or has...

Can climate be litigated?

As public discourse about climate change and climate crisis escalate to the point that the Secretary General of the United Nations talks about “global boiling”, we hear more and more about lawsuits launched against organizations accused of creating or failing to stop greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). As the story usually goes, by promoting GHGs, these agents have exacerbated climate change, damaged the environment, and the physical/mental health of plaintiffs so extremely that legal remedies...

Use of scenarios in our energy future is a double-edged sword

Back at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, life was relatively simple. Most people lived a short and frugal life, fully occupied with the tasks of securing food and shelter to support a family. If you survived childhood, you became a farmer or a blacksmith, or a home-maker based largely on your gender and the circumstances under which you were raised. No need for a lot of thinking or planning about future alternatives for...

Are you prejudiced against plastics?

There is a general sentiment against plastic materials, but is it rational, and is it justified? Most important, is it helping the environment? How can we know whether the reasons we claim to be against plastics represent our real motives, driven by evidence or an irrational dislike of this new, synthetic material based on emotions? Here are some questions designed to differentiate between the two. Are you against plastics because we are “drowning in them”? Plastics actually...

Hydrogen: the ultimate path to net zero, or a whole lot of wishful thinking

Many people see hydrogen as a foundation of the zero-emissions energy sources envisioned for later this century. Hydrogen burns to create energy, producing only water vapour as a combustion product. So – no carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas produced by burning oil and gas, which so many worry about causing climate change. Actually, water vapour is a greenhouse gas, too, but there is so much of it in the atmosphere already that burning hydrogen would...

Canadian energy modelling flawed and futile

The Canada Energy Regulator (CER) recently published Canada’s Energy Future 2023, Energy Supply and Demand Projections to 2050 which “explores how possible energy futures might unfold for Canadians over the long term.” The CER is a respected organization, and the report does a very good job of explaining the work that was done and the various outcomes that were generated. I enjoyed reading it (no, really) because its genesis, methodologies, and results are so...

Where is oil demand really heading?

Nearly every day, we see media stories about the limited lifespan of the oil and gas industry, primarily, it seems, from people in high-income countries focused on reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Organizations such as Carbon Tracker suggest that “companies have not sufficiently factored in the possibility that future demand could be significantly reduced by technological advances and changing policy.” As a result, they project that oil industry investors will be left holding “stranded assets”...

Trash talk: are microplastics truly the horror story we are being told?

Those of you who subscribed to BIG Media Ltd. in the news platform’s inaugural year of 2021 might remember a piece I wrote about the power of critical thinking. I examined the idea of a “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (Taking a critical look at the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’) – an area in the Pacific Ocean reportedly the size of a small country, and so densely packed with floating garbage that it presents a...

Understanding machine learning

Machine learning (also called artificial intelligence or artificial neural networks) was originally designed to help better understand how the brain works. For example, how does the brain recognize images? Have a look at the image above, and describe what you see. At the most basic level, it shows a vase sitting on a table next to a wall, and containing flowers (specifically, sunflowers). At the next level, many of you will have recognized it as...