Saturday, February 21, 2009

Canada: the Saudi Arabia of wind

BLUEFUELENERGY.COM: On February 19, with President Barack Obama in Canada on his first foreign trip since assuming the presidency, Terry Tamminen , advisor to the president’s transition team and a long-time environmental advisor to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, was interviewed by CBC radio’s Anna-Maria Tremonti on The Current . The focus of the conversation was how the president’s new energy policies might impact Canada. Canada is by far the largest supplier of oil to the US, and a considerable amount of Canada’s oil exports to its southern neighbor is “dirty oil” from Alberta’s oil sands projects. Given the president’s ambitions to wean the US from its addiction to oil and convert the nation to clean energy, Tremonti asked whether Canada will continue to be a major supplier of energy to the world’s largest energy consumer. Tamminen’s answers were insightful.

According to Tamminen, Canada will indeed continue to be the largest source of energy for the US, and in the short- and medium term, demand for Canadian oil will remain strong because of the incredible number of gasoline and diesel vehicles on US roads. These vehicles will not be replaced overnight. Further, as the US starts using less oil, the first sources that the US will drift away from will be those in the Middle East, which are hugely expensive to secure. Although gasoline and diesel are not now expensive at the pumps, the US government is spending obscene amounts of money to maintain a strong presence in the region and keep the shipping lanes free. When military expenditures required to keep the oil flowing from the Middle East are factored into its cost, oil is not so cheap.

As the US moves away from oil, demand for clean energy will burgeon. And as Tamminen notes, there will be no silver bullet—only silver buckshot. The energy will come in many forms and the competition will be intense. As Tamminen sees it, Canada has the potential to become a huge exporter of renewable energy to the US—to become the Saudi Arabia of wind. This is an alluring concept, but two things need to happen for Canada to fully capitalize on its renewables. First, the grid must be greatly expanded and made more “intelligent”; and second, other mediums for transmitting renewable energy from remote regions where high-voltage transmission lines are either too expensive or politically problematic to build must be incorporated into the picture. Given that Blue Fuel/DME can be produced economically and efficiently in Canada with renewables, can carry electrical energy long distances safely and economically using existing infrastructure (pipelines, trains, ships, and trucks) and can burn ultra-clean in diesel engines with only minor modification to the fuel system, logic suggests that a large niche in the US market should develop for this emerging fuel. Time will tell. Blue Fuel needs strong advocates to establish a foothold in the marketplace. Perhaps someone like Terry Tamminen, who has promoted California’s Hydrogen Highway and is an advisor to two of the most progressive and powerful politicians in the US, could be the “difference maker” for Blue Fuel/DME. We await his return call . . .

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