Many thanks for fossil fuels

I would like to take this opportunity to urge each and every one of us to look past the “bountiful harvest” for just a moment.

“A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed . . . to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October.” — Proclamation from the Canadian Parliament on January 31, 1957

I would like to take this opportunity to urge each and every one of us to look past the “bountiful harvest” for just a moment.

Turkey dinners and pumpkin pies and the presence of loving friends and relatives are great, but we really should widen our perspective a bit.

We really need to give thanks for the incredible gift (or accident of nature) which has enabled humanity to exploit the various fossil fuels which lie under our feet.

We can’t begin to imagine what life was like 160 years ago, before we started sucking oil out of the ground. We can read history books, but we can’t really recreate the year to year drudgery that the average person had to endure. Even most people in today’s Third World have access to fossil fuel- based fertilizers and diesel-powered irrigation and harvesting tools that would have been unthinkable when Fort Normandeau was just a glint in some fur trader’s eye.

So imagine, if you will, what it might be like without this incredible bounty. I already do it quite a bit, actually. When I’m travelling down 32nd Street with the aid of an internal combustion engine, I often ponder the historical accident that allowed me to be born at such a time in history.

I’m also astounded at the fact that a tiny cupful of precious liquid is able to propel a 1,000-kg vehicle for five km.

We simply don’t have any other energy source that is as dense and as easy to refine and transport as petroleum.

If that same cup was full of lithium ion batteries, it would only be able to propel the car 50 metres.

A barrel of oil has six billion joules of energy in it. That’s equivalent to 25,000 hours of human labour. Crunch a few numbers and pretend that you’re lord/lady of the manor.

That barrel of oil will then work out to having a staff of 12 full time servants working for an entire year. Multiply that by the 20 barrels of oil that each Canadian uses every year, and you’ll see that each of us has an awful lot of help maintaining the lifestyle that we’ve become used to.

Well, that’s a lot to be thankful for, but I would be remiss if I didn’t note that few silver linings come without clouds.

Not only is that oil getting harder and harder to find; it is also getting much, much harder to coax out of the ground.

And the resulting CO2 is slowly altering the planet for the worse (notwithstanding the annoying blather from a tiny minority of scientific illiterates).

And in those oil rich countries where democracy is only a word in dictionary, the oil industry is actually killing people.

It was not without reason that Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, one of the founders of OPEC, called it the “devil’s excrement”. So, let’s enjoy our pumpkin pie.

But let us also take a few moments to ponder how we got here. And then let us take a few more moments to ponder exactly where we’re going.

Evan Bedford is a local environmentalist. Direct comments, questions and suggestions to

Just Posted

BREAKING: Delburne man found not guilty in connection with 2016 fatal rollover

Daniel Wayne Newsham had been on trial for manslaughter

Loan officer accused of $1 million fraud to plead guilty

Accused allegedly forged customer names to get loans while working at Sylvan Lake bank

Red Deer to get new plan to end homelessness as problem persists

Despite some successes there’s ‘a long way to go,’ says manager

‘A stronger Alberta:’ Ottawa announces $1.6B for Canada’s oil and gas sector

Ottawa is spending $1.6 billion to help struggling energy companies stay afloat,… Continue reading

Canada ranks 16th on World Economic Forum’s annual gender gap list

TORONTO — Canada has landed the 16th spot in the World Economic… Continue reading

Chabot scores overtime winner to lift Senators over Predators 4-3

OTTAWA — Thomas Chabot saw an opening and he took it. And… Continue reading

Canadian Marielle Thompson earns World Cup ski cross bronze in season opener

AROSA, Switzerland — Canada’s Marielle Thompson captured bronze at the opening World… Continue reading

Canada doesn’t make Oscars short list for best foreign language film

LOS ANGELES — Canada is no longer in the running for best… Continue reading

Warrant issued for arrest of ‘Schwimmer lookalike’ suspect

LONDON — A British judge has issued an arrest warrant for an… Continue reading

Moneywise: Canadian workers unhappy with pay, want pension plans

Many working Canadians are feeling underpaid and are so worried about their… Continue reading

Brazil police say faith healer has turned himself in

RIO DE JANEIRO — A celebrity faith healer accused of sexually abusing… Continue reading

B.C. hockey coach creates ‘gear library’ to remove cost barrier of sport

VANCOUVER — Nicola Froese says she has always loved playing sports, but… Continue reading

Canada’s Kim McRae finishes seventh at luge World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Canada’s Kim McRae finished in seventh place at… Continue reading

Most Read