Public Authorities and Energy

AuthorGarth Griffiths
Publication Date01 June 1961
Public Authorities and Energy
Co-ordinator of Columbia River
Development Activities and
Manager, Staff Services.
UDC 35.078.4 : 351.824.11 (71)
of Chicago, a new era opened when man
4K achieved the first self-sustaining chain re-
action and thereby initiated the controlled
release of nuclear energy ». Matter, yielding
its innermost energy, steadily, at man’s will.
With the 20th
From the day of the
century the human race
man in the cave to the
moved into t’he « Energy Age ». Much be-
d:ay of the monkey in the cone the material
comes possible, through controlled release of
progress of the human race has been keyed
energy, that was previously beyond man’s
to man’s ability to control and use
Complete elimination of society on
the energy resources around him.
earth : social progress beyond earlier wild
Before he learned to release energy through
dreams : travel to the stars : a Golden Age.
fire, primitive man huddled in his shelter at
Ours is the choice.
the mercy of the heavens which daily plunged
Advances in availability of
him into darkness and from time
energy have
to time spat
brought increases in demand : we have reach-
forth inhospitable weather. Control of fire
ed the state where a nation’s standard of
changed all that. Man could now dispel dark-
living can be measured by its per capita con-
ness and could warm his hands before the fire
sumption of kilowatthours. Nor is the end
which set up a clear distinction between the
in sight. Hundreds of millions of people still
human and the beast.
rely on straw and cow dung for their supply
Much time, many unrecorded centuries,
of energy : they will not forever be content
were to pass before man learned to extend his
to do so.
In the 20th -century we have come
control over energy from the generation of
to see
heat and light to the application of mechanic-
« .., nowhere on the horizon is there a
al energy to his physical chores.
saturation point for power. Its future
The Greeks had a word for it -
is limitless. It not only marches to ever
from -ergon*, or work - but unfortunately
greater quantitative output but it trans-
they had no prime movers. Man’s first con-
forms the entire economic structure as it
trolled use of nature’s energy appears with
igoes. »
the windmill in the 12th century. The 13th
(Stuart Chase, 1933)
century saw the first heat engine. Recipro-
cating motion was not changed into rotary
A’lmost overnight energy in usable form has
motion, on a practical basis, until the 18th
become the greatest material resource a com-
century and the first hydraulic turbine did
munity, a country, a nation or the world
not appear until late in the 19th century.
Things moved slowly in the energy field
There are two main classes of energy re-
from the drawn of man’s time until the 20th
sources : expendable and renewable- In the
century. Then they exploded. The heat en-
expendable class are the energy reserves laid
gine reached great heights of efficiency and
down eons ago by the sun -
the hydrocarbons
size : hydraulic prime movers moved into
coal, oil and gas. No matter how large
megawatt rather than kilowatt ratings and
the reserves, which are still expanding with
in 1942, under the stands at the University
exploration and technique development, these

resources must come to an end.
They are
exploration prejudice the principle of public
In spending them we spend
ownership and create if not proprietary
rights, at least a reasonable claim to partici-
pation for gain?
Daily, however, earth receives renewable
energy from the sun.
For our purposes this
It appears to be incumbent upon public
supply is inexhaustible. This is income ener-
authority to press forward the exploration of
gy. Man has developed means to use only a
energy resources, both to ensure that the
minute fraction of our daily energy in.come :
work gets done and to protect the ownership
his only practical technique is to convert the
rights of the public, present and future. Too
energy of falling water.
For this reason
often in the past has the public seen vast
streams and rivers are regarded as energy
tracts of resource-filled territory turned over,
resources and, more important., income energy
care blanche, to vested interests which may
resources, renewable in perpetuity.
or may not accept responsibility for explora-
tion and in
any event must be motivated by
or income energy resources are the
considerations other than
hope of a better material way of life.
They are best regarded as one overall re-
Public authority’s first function is to en-
The wisest use will involve integra-
sure that all energy reserves are explored to
tion of all energy resources and consideration
the full scope of current techniques and to
of the best application.
re-examine reserves as techniques improve.
Because of the fabulous value of energy
reserves, each generation of human life on
Inventory and Appraisal :
earth h,as an obligation to regard these reser-
ves as a trust : a trust to be held for and
Maintenance of the nation’s inventory of
developed for the people of the. earth. This
energy resources is clearly a duty of the public
introduces the concept of control in the in-
This is compatible with the
terests of the community as a whole -
« trust X concept. Those who hold assets in
scendence of boundaries of ownership or of
trust for the future do weld to know what the
politics in the best interests of the rightful
assets are.
owners, the people. Clearly, energy resources
Inventories of
are public business and the public authorities
energy resources are not
static. In the
carry the obligation of facing squarely, with-
younger countries particularly,
out equivocation, the multitudinous, diverse
exploration and the engineering examinations
and complex problems of careful husbandry.
following exploration quickly make resource
inventories obsolete. Hence inventories must
There is too much at stake, locally and glo-
be subject to a continuing process of up-
bally, to tolerate any pettiness or short-term
dating ~·.
thinking in the administration of energy. The
duties are onerous, significant and compelling.
Assume, however, that an. energy inventory
Effects are far-reaching; decisions taken are
has, despite regular examination, remained
often final and beyond correction. These res-
static for some period of time. An appraisal
ponsibilities must be accepted fearlessly and
will probably show that, despite static quan-
discharged in wisdom : those who take up the
tities, values have changed. Such changes are
burden must recognize the concept of trust
caused largely by technological advances : a
and must admin,ister wisely for the future.
new process of recovery puts a new price on
tar sands; a new mining process brings nar-
Against this background of explosive in-
row-seam coal into economic competition;
crease in demand, the revolutionary alchemy
development of an electrical network serving
of available energy, the needs of the genera-
an area alters the economic relationship be-
tions to come, thee dwindling reserves of cap-
tween hydraulic an.d nuclear
energy. Changes
energy, the public nature of energy re-
of this nature must be anticipated.
sources and the trust inherent in their custody
let us examine the role of the public author-
Part of the public authority’s task as to
inventory of energy resources is to maintain
the correct price-tags on the various classes of
Exploration :
To what extent should public authority rely
Planni~.g :
on commercial enterprise to carry out the nec-
essary exploration of a country’s energy re-
If the principle of regarding all energy re-
sources ? To what extent does commercial
sources as one overahl resource be accepted

then the public authority’s role as planner
good order and cause to act properly -. In
becomes extremely significant. And surely
this area it is usual for regulatory bodies to
that role must be accepted by public admin-
have wide powers of licensing and policing.
With all resources packaged into
The development of a resource may call for a
one, overall planning can effect significant
certificate of public convenience and necessity
By integration of area sources,
and the issuing authority must satisfy itself
timing of developments on a long-range
that what is proposed is indeed required by
basis, by co-ordination, elimination of dupe-
and in the best interests of the public.
cation and overlap and by careful direction of
utilization the
Regulatory bodies are established to
can, with adequate
tect the public from exorbitant rates,
time, data and research,
ensure the wisest
ticularly where basic monopolies are involved
and competition cannot function to regulate
« Direction of utilization is not intended
selling prices.
to imply a dictatorial attitude as to what
shall be done with
Regulation protects specific public interests;
energy, rather to suggest
that various forms of
example, the right of the public to use a
energy have varying
river for
applications; that «marketing» of
surplus is
may be protected by law.
In some instances the powers available to the
a part of the problem; that geographical areas
have different characteristics which

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