Let’s get on with it!

How about that proposed rail line between Fort McMurray and Fairbanks Alaska? There are a lot of ‘ifs’ in the scenario, but let’s say it gets built. The idea is to create a conduit for bitumen to world markets without having to go through problematic pipelines, or run up against sensitivities on the B.C. coast to tanker traffic.

Would it rescue the oil sands from the doldrums? It might help, but the inescapable factor there is – as always – the price of a barrel of oil. Investment isn’t going into such a high-cost source – especially when cheaper ones are available.

The bigs, by the way, are hedging their bets by investing in alternatives. It’s happened before. A lot of hard-working whalers lost their livelihood a century or two ago when alternatives to expensive and fast-depleting whale oil were found. And not a moment too soon.

Filthy coal ruled the world for a long time. Less filthy petroleum and natural gas replaced it, largely. The shift to even less dirty alternative is in process. It’s only a question of how long it takes and how tough the transition is going to be.

People get ready, as the old song goes. There’s a train a-comin.’ Maybe it will carry oil to Alaska, among other things. How about hydrogen? The government last week announced big intentions to grow this industry – part of a larger scheme to boost the natural gas economy of the province. Hydrogen can be produced from natural gas, and it burns clean, say the experts.

Well then, let’s get on with it. Let’s see the details. Are we talking about billions of government (I.e. taxpayers’) dollars to induce private industry to come to the table? Or what? If it’s such a great opportunity, why aren’t they doing it already? Natural gas is cheap. That’s why solar projects, such as the one the city of Medicine Hat invested so much in are being mothballed. Can’t compete with the stuff coming out of the ground. So let’s add value by making things out of it that are useful and in demand. Sounds good!

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