Precaution and Action

Re: Let's Spend on Real Pollution, A Canadian Hearing, and A Geological Engineer Looks at Climate Change, Readers’ Forum, The PEGG, October 2004.

Given that some (not all) credible scientists believe that global warming is occurring, and given that some (not all) credible scientists believe that human-produced greenhouse gases are at least part of the cause, and given that the deleterious effects of global warming, such as a sea level rise leading to coastal erosion, could cause billions of dollars of damage and the loss of thousands of lives, it is irresponsible to hide behind a curtain of plausible deniability, rather than act on the precautionary principle.

Much more study needs to be done (and I hope APEGGA members are doing some of it), but action should be taken immediately to reduce the release of greenhouse gases and other pollutants into the atmosphere. Conservation is the smartest and cheapest place to start.

Edward Litvin, P.Geol.


NATO Committee Seeks Expertise
I am Canada’s representative to NATO’s Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society, which comprises representatives from all 26 NATO countries. It meets twice a year to initiate and monitor practical environmental projects within the NATO region.

Russia has now joined this committee in what is called the NATO-Russia Council. Since last year there’s been a project underway to assist Russia with oil spills in cold marine environments. Norway is co-leader of the project.

I am sure that there is Canadian expertise in this field, stemming from Canada’s offshore work in the Beaufort Sea and offshore Newfoundland. I would very much like it if Canadian petroleum engineers had the opportunity to get to know about this work and show their interest by participating.

Please contact me at if you would like to know more.

Dr. Andrew D. Miall
Department of Geology
University of Toronto


Wear Your Designation
The Edmonton APEGGA Professional Member Induction Ceremony was held in September with 37 members inducted. The event is an opportunity to publicly recognize individuals who recently attained professional status as APEGGA members.

Family and friends attended, and by their presence honoured the inductees and added to the significance of the event. I had the honour to represent APEGGA Council and present inductees copies of the oath and APEGGA pins.

We should all reflect on who does or does not attend this event or milestone in their professional career. The majority of those who attended the Edmonton induction were graduates of universities from other countries. A very few graduates of Canadian universities participated.

This seems to be the pattern at most Edmonton and Calgary induction ceremonies. It begs the question, Why don’t graduates of Canadian universities come to be formally inducted?

Understandably, not everyone is available; however, attendance by a higher number of Canadian graduates should definitely be possible. The road to professional status requires reaching a number of milestones — namely, getting a university degree, participating in the Ritual of The Calling of an Engineer or Geoscientist, receiving the appropriate ring, and meeting requirements for licensure and the use of the professional designation.

To be inducted should also be considered one of the important events on the road to professional status. I believe that attending one’s Induction Ceremony is just another aspect of nurturing the professional feeling within us.

Engineers, and I believe also geoscientists, are afforded special status in Europe and the Far East. These professions are perceived highly there and are given a status equal to or greater than that given doctors, dentists and lawyers. Their societies recognize the demanding educational requirements one has to meet and they value the contribution these professionals make.

In these parts of the world it would be unthinkable not to recognize an individual's professional status in any public forum. Because of this, not only the individual is recognized but also the whole professional arena.

Each one of us can and should play a part in ensuring that the professional status of engineering and the geosciences is understood and recognized by all segments of society. The consistent use of a professional designation and reference to membership in APEGGA, whenever possible, would definitely help.

Chrys. Dmytruk, P.Eng.


‘Real’ Costs of Reliability
Re: Aura of Reliability, David Hill, P.Eng., Professor Emeritus, Readers’ Forum, The PEGG, October 2004.

I have been in the computing field for nearly 20 years. While I agree with Professor Hill’s general direction to “cease trying to attract an inappropriate aura of reliability … by using the terms ‘engineer’ and ‘engineering,’ ” I disagree with a direction that would separately designate “Registered Professional Software Developers.”

IEEE is offering and undergoing similar initiatives, which I also find diffuse the real issue. My experiences have shown that “deterministic laws and mathematical models” do exist and that, combined with rigorous and disciplined design, review, testing and validation, they can produce a properly “engineered” software product.

Software that is certifiable by the FAA (and similar bodies) to DO-178B and/or DO-254 specifications certainly stands up to the ideals I took away from my computer engineering (electrical engineering and computer science) education and experiences.

The real issue is entrepreneurial cost-effectiveness and a profit-oriented culture that does not hold protection of the public as paramount. I would offer and likely get agreement from Professor Hill that a “Reliable Software Engineered” product licence that replaced Windows would retail for at least $4,999.99 to return a similar profit to shareholders. This is in stark contrast to the seemingly bargain price of around $200 we all are willing to pay or absorb.

The sheer accessibility, convenience and approximation of reliability of this and many other software products has had a profound effect on our global view of software. It is amazing how willing we are to accept a reboot as a minor inconvenience. Unfortunately, the profitability of this practice has led to a lot of shoddy software development.

If society had employed strict legislative requirements to properly engineer software or computer hardware, we would not have a PC on every desk, and software would not be created and sold as it is today.

There is a real need to continue the education, advancement and protection of global society with the proper application of technology.

I strive to serve the public as well as my employer and shareholders, and this does enter me into ethical dilemmas. I often find I have to explain why reliable software costs more, and I accept this as a responsibility that comes with fulfilling my engineering pledge.

Barry G. Brown, P.Eng.


Wrong Wind Power Conclusion
Re: Wind Power is No Panacea, Dr. Fred Langford, P.Eng., Readers’ Forum, The PEGG, October 2004.

Dr. Langford makes no factual errors. However, there are several concepts he has overlooked, which make some of his points somewhat irrelevant.

Windmills cannot generate electricity all the time. However, to conclude that windmills should not be utilized is fundamentally flawed. Windmills are not solely electrical production machines; look deeper and we realize they are merely energy conversion devices.

One application of this is intermittent production of electricity when we hook a windmill to a generator. But there is no rule that says we have to hook this generator directly into the power grid and use the electricity immediately.

A windmill could easily be connected to a water electrolysis device to produce hydrogen, which could then be stored for use at a constant rate. This hydrogen could be used to power a large hydrogen fuel cell generator or possibly for many other purposes.

The beauty of thermodynamics is that there are many ways we can convert and store energy, and the beauty of being engineers is that we are able to choose the process that makes the most sense.

I don’t disagree that utilizing such technology now may be less economical than our tried-and-true method of burning things. But I think we have all become familiar with the phrase “new record high” as it pertains to oil prices on any particular day.

If current trends continue, hydrocarbon fuels will soon be the uneconomical choice and in that event, I think it would be prudent to have some knowledge and experience in the alternative energy sector.

Travis Hoose
Student Member
University of Alberta
Civil Engineering

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