1947 by hedongchenchen

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									                         1947: Energy Boom

                                 History is full of patterns. Britain
                                 declared war on Germany in 1914.
                                 Britain defeated Germany in 1918.
                                 World War One ended. Workers
                                 demanded higher wages. There was
                                 an economic slump. Britain declared
                                 war on Germany in 1939. Britain
defeated Germany in 1945. World War Two ended. Workers
demanded higher wages. Everyone expects an economic slump.
History repeats itself…or does it? Canada is not experiencing an
economic recession at all. This post-war prosperity surprises
everyone. Why is the economy growing when everyone expects it to
shrink?
  Canadian industry grew up during World War Two. German
submarines prowling the North Atlantic cut us off from our usual
supplies in Europe. We had a shortage of American dollars and
couldn’t buy as much stuff from the United States. We had to become
more self-reliant and work smarter. Canadian industry became more
innovative and daring than ever before. C. D. Howe, the government
minister in charge of wartime production, gave Canadian businesses
encouragement and cash inducements. The government sponsored
industrial research and development. Our steel-making capacity
expanded by 50%. Canada started making aircraft, diesel engines,
synthetic rubber, plastics and electronic equipment, none of which we
had made before.
  To sustain this economic growth into the future, we need an energy
boom and we’re getting it big time. Before the war we didn’t have an
abundance of fuel and power. Our main coal deposits lay in the
Atlantic provinces and Alberta, far from the nation’s industrial
heartland in Ontario and Quebec. Hydro-electric power can only take
you so far. Canada is a cold country and electric heat is expensive.
We are exploiting more of our natural gas resources, but many
people in southern Ontario still depend on coal, imported from the
United States, to heat their homes. That’s about to change.
  On February 13, Alberta’s Minister of Mines and other provincial
politicians stood out in the cold with a crowd of 800 other people next
to a tall oil derrick near Leduc. Vern Hunter had drilled 133 wells in
central Alberta for Imperial Oil, all of them dry. The drilling at Leduc
had gone on for three months and the hole was nearly a mile deep.
But then all the hard work paid off. The man they’d nicknamed “Dry
Hole” Hunter has changed the history of Alberta. Edmonton homes
can now be heated with oil. Now there’s talk of a pipeline. It will be a
long and expensive business, but this country thrives on big
challenges. Just remember who built the world’s longest trans-
national railroad. A pipeline from Alberta to Ontario won’t defeat us.
  But what’s my connection to the energy boom you may ask. My
nickname is Mr Uranium. I was born in 1890 near Pembroke, Ontario.
Before World War One I worked in the silver fields at Cobalt and
enjoyed modest success at the time of the Porcupine and Kirkland
Lake gold rushes. With my brother Charles, I moved to Manitoba and
formed a gold mining company called Eldorado Gold Mines. We had
modest financial success and expanded to Great Bear Lake and
started a new mine. But in the Northwest Territories we didn’t mine
just gold; we mined pitchblende. In Port Hope, Ontario, we refined the
pitchblende into the world’s highest grade radium, better even than
the stuff produced in Belgium. Radium has a lot of applications in
medicine, but we had stockpiled so much of it by 1939 that the
refinery was temporarily shut down.
   Just before the start of World War Two, scientists discovered the
principle of nuclear fission and Canada, with the world’s only known
source of uranium outside Africa, was suddenly vital to atomic
researchers. The Americans offered me lucrative contracts for all the
high-grade uranium I could refine. The Canadian government
reopened my Eldorado Mine and hired Dene Indians to haul 45-
kilogram sacks of the dusty mineral to barges on the Mackenzie River
for the long trip south. What I didn’t know was the horribly destructive
use the American military would make of my rocks. Like Alberich in
the Ring of the Niebelungen, the Americans have renounced love to
turn uranium into a ring to give them mastery over the world. I hate it
that my name has become associated with the destruction of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nuclear power should be a constructive
force, not a destructive one. I am very proud of the nuclear reactors
that have been started at Chalk River, near Ottawa. In time I believe
Canadians will accept that nuclear power can be useful as part of an
energy boom based on natural gas, oil and uranium, three energy
sources which we have in abundance. But I worry nuclear energy will
forever be associated with the destruction of the human race.

                                                          Gilbert LaBine

								
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