Precaution and ActionRe: 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
University of Alberta