Murray Lyons

Editor’s note: As Pipeline Online strives to be the voice of Saskatchewan’s energy sector, that includes voices from a wide variety of people in the industry. So far, in addition to Brian Zinchuk’s writing, we have Brian Crossman from service rigs, David Yager from the executive perspective, Steve Halabura from geology, Quick Dick McDick adds some humour and Brad Wall gives the political perspective. There’s also Tracy Klotz and Kurt Price who come from heavy oil in Lloydminster. In the future we expect to hear from someone from the drilling perspective, another geologist, the Petroleum Technology Research Centre and Saskatchewan Research Council. Hopefully there will be even more to come. 

Today we’d like to welcome one more to the mix – Murray Lyons. He retired from Cameco after eight years working in communications, following a long newspaper career in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. He brings a perspective from the nuclear side, which is significant as Saskatchewan is strongly considering small modular reactors in the future. Lyons, like our other writers, brings a wealth of common sense. Lastly, Lyons is the man responsible for bringing me into the news business, giving me my first reporting job as a freelance columnist and then freelance reporter with the Yorkton This Week, almost 30 years ago.

 

Oh those kids today. They love to start their social media posts with “I was zero years old when …”

So here goes nothing.

I was zero years old in 1956 when natural gas came to Portage la Prairie, Man. where I was born and raised on hot porridge and nature’s clean wonder fuel.

Thereafter, only once in 65 years did we have baseboard electric, which is neither wonderful nor clean, even in the Manitoba context of “clean” hydropower for electrical energy.

As for baseboard heating, I hated it. As new parents in the 1980s, the windows of our Brandon bi-level ran with moisture and then froze up. The risk of mould growing on the drywall was everywhere.

Let’s not get into what black mould can do for your lungs and the bronchial tubes of your kids.

A T. Eaton Co. 1956, zero-efficiency natural gas furnace would balance the moisture levels in your house and ameliorate moisture issues, even in a poorly insulated 1960s house.

Back in time, my 12-year-old self would love watching the pilot light flare and then hear the wooooosh when the burners cut in. It made the basement bedroom light up.

Scary and blue, and healthy, too.

It was certainly better than burning coal or fuel oil, used in oil furnaces.

Or propane!

As newlyweds, my bride and I succumbed to the lure of joining the Harrowsmith (magazine) rural acreage holder, circa 1982. Our air-leaky mobile home furnace, which used to burn natural gas in the city, glumly accepted propane.

Pricey, pricey, pricey. And it was no fun looking out the front window at the fill tank.

So 65 years after the TransCanada Pipeline brought prosperity, clean winter living and instant heat barbecuing to millions of Canadian homes, natural gas is suddenly the enemy of all that is good in Canada.

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Just check out CBC digital. Maybe not.

This is puzzling as natural gas was once supported by politicians of left, right and centre. In Saskatchewan, never mind that CCFer Tommy Douglas and later premiers of Saskatchewan like Progressive Conservatives Grant Devine and Brad Wall (OK, poli sci students, I know what Wall’s brand might have been) built a huge network of gas-fired homes, farms and businesses which get gas from a Crown corporation under the SaskEnergy brand.

A subsidiary called TransGas moves this methane wonder fuel all around the province. It operates the salt caverns where gas is stored and the commodity price is averaged out for the good of us all, to paraphrase Gordon Lightfoot’s Canadian Railroad Trilogy.

And natural gas is now the leading energy source for SaskPower as it slowly phases out burning low-grade lignite at Estevan’s Boundary Dam and Shand Power stations, and Coronach’s Poplar River Power Stations. The Queen Elizabeth Power Station in Saskatoon’s combined cycle turbines equals Poplar River in daily output with half the carbon emissions.

And in Manitoba, a few decades back, Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro bought all private natural gas distribution companies under PC premier Gary Filmon, a move not overly criticized when the ubiquitous Mr. Wall did a Manitoba Hydro value-for-money audit of this mammoth Manitoba crown corporation. (He delivered it to fellow Portager and then premier Brian Pallister, but I digress.)

So to get to my point: If my mother had a fully renovated, 750-square-foot bungalow today with 2021 insulation values, combined with today’s natural gas prices from Manitoba Hydro and a 95 per cent efficient furnace with a little vapour pipe spewing vapour to the back yard, she would pay virtually nothing for home heating.

Meanwhile, Manitoba Hydro this past summer slapped down a proposal from city councillor Jason Schreyer that the next Winnipeg new neighbourhood be all electric heat.

No way, said Manitoba Hydro. Such a subdivision, even if it ran on groundwater-based heat pumps instead of baseboards, would not be as efficient as today’s natural gas furnaces and appliances.

You would think the son of a former Manitoba premier would know how to Google, but maybe his knowledge of energy systems and thermodynamics are zero.

(And that’s not “zero years old.”)

 

Murray Lyons worked as a reporter and editor for weekly and daily newspapers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba from 1975 through to 2008, then spent eight years in the Saskatchewan uranium industry as a corporate communicator.

  • 0029 Latus Viro updated Latus phone
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  • 0027 TED_NA Helium 2021_30
  • 0028 SIMSA_Energy_Forum_2022
  • 0025 Kendalls
  • 0026 Buffalo Potash Quinton Salt
  • 0023 LC Trucking tractor picker hiring mix
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0019 Jerry Mainil Ltd hiring dugout
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0014 Buffalo Potash What if PO
  • 0015 Latus Viro PO Ad 01
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0004 Royal Helium PO Ad 02
  • 9001
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