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The PEGG welcomes letters as an avenue for members to express opinions and concerns on issues or topics of interest to the professions. Share your experiences with other members. Just mail: (1500 Scotia One, 10060 Jasper Avenue NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 4A2,) e-mail: (glee@apegga.org), or fax 780-425-1722 your letters to the editor, signed with your name and address.

We can't publish all letters received and can't run letters concerning specific registration or discipline matters before any APEGGA regulatory body.Do try to keep your letters to 300 words or less.

Remember, The PEGG reserves the right to edit for length, legality, coherence and taste. Letters represent the opinions and not necessarily the expertise of their writers. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of APEGGA.


On Deriding Engineers

I was riding in a 15-passenger shuttle van when we stopped for about six older men. Some had to jump in the back, which meant they had to open both rear side doors.

The back one opens suicide style and quite far, probably past 90 degrees. The person who was supposed to close it didn't, so the passenger in the second bench seat tried. But he couldn't reach it very easily and was having problems.

The first thing that he mutters in frustration is, “Must have been an engineer who designed this.”

Of course an engineer designed it! If an engineer didn't design it, who would?

People without an engineering background do not realize all the aspects that go into a design and are usually quick to criticize. Cost, simplicity, space, size and other constraints limit engineering design, yet when something doesn't work perfectly, it is easy to blame the engineer.

The guy trying to close the door doesn't even consider that the door was never meant to be closed by someone in his seat, especially not by someone with his limited agility.

Engineers have been getting a bad reputation for years. It begins, I suspect, in trade schools, where some teachers tell students that engineering designs are not practical and that technicians should ignore engineers' suggestions. I don't know what spurs this attack on the engineering community but it needs to stop.

Lots of technical trades people have ideas and solutions to problems. If there wasn't such a gap between them and us, maybe we could come up with some great designs by working together.

Engineers are stereotyped as people who make impractical designs for the everyday person. This obviously isn't true, but people don't remember anything you do right. When you do something wrong, no one forgets.

Some connection needs to be made to the teachers of technical trades. APEGGA should arrange guest lectures at the technical colleges. Engineers can share what engineers do, how engineers can help trades people, and how trades people can help engineers.

Let's address the problem at the source and start closing this unproductive gap.

Robert Baillargeon, E.I.T.
Fort McMurray

No Downside To Reducing GHGs
Re: Climate change submissions.

It is a surprise to me that some members continue to challenge the adequacy of the immense databank that says that Earth's temperature is rising.

Glacier and ocean sediment oxygen isotope studies show that we are near the peaks of the naturally occurring, 100,000-year temperature cycle and that of the 45,000-year inter-glacial temperature cycle. Satellite and other data show that we are currently are in a rapidly rising temperature phase, which is roundly claimed to be anthropogenic in origin.

Yes, the astronomical community feels that it can assign more of the temperature rise to natural causes than the meteorological community accepts. And yeah, we are probably 22,000 years away from the next ice age.

Atmospheric analyses document the existence of gases such as chlorofluorocarbons that are clearly anthropogenic — humankind does have the capability to alter the atmosphere. These same analyses show unprecedented levels of carbon dioxide and methane.

Is there a need to continue to argue about how much greenhouse gas is of natural origin and how much is of human origin? What really is the downside of embarking on a program of non-draconian measures to reduce greenhouse gases for those measures that have the concomitant effect of reducing consumption of non-renewable resources?

APEGGA members could draw up a prioritized list of cost-effective programs for federal government support, such as, perhaps, replacing all city buses' drive systems with hybrid, diesel-electric systems or converting buses' diesel engines to methane engines.

Industry has been leading the way on energy conservation and reduction of emissions but is getting little credit for it. It is time for concrete action from governments. Let's help the feds.

Let's spend our money on viable projects rather than squandering it on off-shore Kyoto energy credits, and let's have the engineering community display heads-up leadership.

R. F. (Dick) Wilson, P.Geoph.
Life Member

The Upside of Prudence

Re: Putting Out a Nonexistent Fire, Konstantin Ashkinadze, P.Eng., Readers' Forum, The PEGG, January 2005.

Mr. Ashkinadze seems unaware that humans have been conducting an uncontrolled experiment on Earth's atmosphere since at least the Industrial Revolution. As with many experiments, we can't be certain what the results will be.

One definition of “precaution” is “prudent foresight.” How is this incompatible with good professional practice?

An environmentalist is a person concerned with or advocating for environmental causes. These concerns may or may not be grounded in reality.

But an environmental scientist is a person, such as a geologist or an atmospheric physicist, who studies various aspects of the physical environment. Their findings are as grounded in reality as those of any other scientist.

Here's what credible environmental scientists are saying.

“Increasing evidence points to a large human impact on global climate over the past decades through emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols and through widespread changes in land cover.”

-U.S. National Research Council Climate Research Committee, in Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding the Concept and Addressing Uncertainties, NRC 2005, visit www.nap.edu.

“Greenhouse warming and other human alterations of the earth system may increase the possibility of large, abrupt, and unwelcome regional or global climactic events.

“...The only thing we can be sure of is that there will be climactic surprises.”

-U.S. National Research Council Committee, Abrupt Climate Change, Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises, NRC 2002, visit www.nap.edu.

Prudence dictates that we try to take reasonable precautions to minimize the number of these surprises.

I would not disagree with Mr. Ashkinadze's assertion that over the past century the temperature of the globe has risen only 1 F. But, as they say, past results are no guarantee of future performance.

If the assertion that alternative energy technologies are “still at or only a little beyond the conception stage” is true, a cynic might suggest this speaks to the lack of competence of the engineering profession to handle such issues.

I would be much more cautious in my judgment. Vested interests and fossilized ways of thinking share much of the blame. Oil, natural gas and coal are finite resources.

Does Mr. Ashkinadze propose that we wait until the last barrel of oil and the last m.c.f. of gas are burned to develop alternatives? Call me crazy (or just overly precautious), but I'd like to see some precautionary steps taken now so that we and our children don't end up in the dark.

Edward Litvin, P.Geol.

Redefining Engineering

I'd like to address a possible inadequacy in the EGGP Act and its definition of engineering, which is centered on the words “the professional application of the principles of (Sciences)…(see 1(q)(B))”.

This phrase is obviously equivocal in relation to the word “application” and therefore a source of confusion and problems. It means that the scope of engineering includes the use of scientific principles alone (induction) and/or the application of science (deduction).

It is quite obviously difficult to defend and enforce this act as written, because scientists are in fact correctly able to practice science without the oversight of APEGGA. The EGGP Act does not define engineering in a distinctive way.

There is a clear distinction, however, between science and engineering. Science is purely the practice of induction: empiricism. Engineers alone can engage in the practice of deduction in the context of the EGGP Act. In a way, engineering is the opposite of science.

Note that this definition does not exclude engineers from practicing science. It does, however, clearly stipulate that engineers alone would be licensed to make deductions related to science when the public interest is at stake — as they should be.

Given enough money, anyone can design a beam of experimentation, and load that beam to failure a large number of times. Based on a sufficient number of experimental trials, i.e. induction alone, virtually anyone familiar with statistics can predict when that beam will fail under the exact loading regime exhibited during testing.

We would correctly call such a forecaster a statistician or scientist. However, if the beam's geometry or loading conditions and regime were changed, then without further empiricism the statistician would not be able to make a proper prediction. Only an engineer using deductive principles could properly determine when the beam will fail.

I would encourage APEGGA to stand back and look at the definition of engineering to see if it can be modified slightly to help ensure that APEGGA can continue to meet its responsibilities and obligations to society. A simple but clarifying change to the EGGP Act would seem to largely address current concerns, and I propose that such a change to 1(q)(i)(B) of the act would be to this: “…deductive principles, and the application of mathematics…”

Cameron A. Sterling, P.Eng.

Send Those Electrical Ideas East

Re: Senior Engineers Give Poor Marks to Deregulation, Doing Business, The PEGG, January 2005.

Now that Keith Provost, P.Eng., and Don Peterson, P.Eng., have prepared their report on electrical deregulation in Alberta, please send them to Ontario. Here, it seems that the electrical power situation, and near- and long term-prospects for an intelligently managed system, are even more dire than in Alberta.

Malcolm Whittall, P.Eng.

Messages Differ On Accreditation

A young new immigrant, an engineer, recently sought my advice about entering the workforce in Edmonton. He was clutching his credentials and had the expectant air of a person who had been told that he would be welcomed with open arms by the engineering community.

I asked him the reason for his optimism, and he replied that the Canadian High Commission had told him that engineers were in great demand in Alberta, and the CCPE had reviewed his degree and had advised the High Commission that his degree was acceptable for Canada.

He had been given immigration on the basis of these facts, and having quit his job, gathered up all his earthly belongings, and brought along his wife and young child, was here to lend his shoulder to the grindstone of progress in sunny Alberta.

I volunteered to show him the offices of APEGGA, the portal through which he had to enter the world of professional engineers. And it was then that I found out, to my amazement, that although APEGGA is a member of CCPE, it does not recognize its opinion vis-à-vis the accreditation of qualifications. The young man learned that APEGGA would have to check his qualifications, and that this could take quite a few weeks, depending on how fast his university sent the required information.

The young man was in shock, as was I, who, as a long-time member of APEGGA, thought that CCPE was the collective voice of all provincial associations.

Young foreign engineers, along with our embassies and High Commissions, are being done a great disservice by being provided faulty information. It reminds one of a particular army that was told it would be welcomed with flowers in Baghdad.

The good thing is that this misinformation does not result in body bags. The bad thing is that it results in disgruntled cab drivers.

Vinod K. Bhardwaj, P.Eng.