Lethbridge Herald, The (Newspaper) - February 11, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta
4 THE LETHBRIDQE HERALD Monday, February 11, 1974 Sound economics needed Wednesday is the deadline for filing briefs to be presented to the city council for its public meeting February 18 on the fate of the city power plant. The- formality of filing a brief in order to present a statement at the hearing should not be considered an obstacle to those Lethbridge residents who may have questions to ask about the plant and the proposed sale to Calgary Power. Questions will be allowed from the floor, according to the mayor. Although the meeting is not likely to draw a large audience, it should. There are many aspects of the consultants' study that need clarification. The case for selling the plant is not as clear as it would seem from the brief resumes being handed out at city hall. The question of whether the city should maintain its own generating plant or buy all its power from Calgary Power is not really an idealogical one, although it is sometimes assumed to be. It should be kept in mind that a privately-owned utility is not the essence of private enterprise. It is, instead, in situations such as this, a sheltered monopoly whose rates are fixed by a public board, fixed high enough and no higher to ensure it just enough profit to stay in business and maintain both supply and service. So those who simply want to rally around private enterprise should select another rallying point. The question does have political undertones. It is said that the sale of the plant to Calgary Power is inevitable because the 1969 agreement with that company put the city in a disadvantageous position with regard to generation of power. If this is true, it is necessary to ask whether those who took part in reaching that agreement were aware at the time that this would be the inevitable consequence. If they were, were they not under some obligation to the voters to let them know the true nature of the agreement? If they were not reallv aware of the ultimate consequences of the 1969 contract, are they really aware of the ultimate consequences of the present proposal? Clearly any decision on whether to sell the power plant depends on the price to be obtained. Many people are wondering whether is enough. It is to be hoped that these points, and others which will undoubtedly be brought up at the hearing, will receive clarification. When decisions are made the basis of economics, care should be taken that it is sound economics. ERIC NICOL Rub-a-dub-dub, two in a tub Wistful, I guess, is the way to describe how Canadians feel about the British gas industry ad that urges couples to save fuel by sharing a bath The advertisement shows a man and a woman in a tub and is captioned: "Put a bit of romance into your bath by sharing the water." British Conservative MPs have described the ad as vulgar. The Canadian is more apt to see it as something out of Walt Disney's Fantasyland. The North American tub just isn't built for this kind of conservation measure. The British tub and particularly the kind of hulk found in parts of the Scottish Highlands can accommodate two persons without capsizing. There may even- be room enough for them to put a bit of romance into their bath. In the standard Canadian tub there is barely room enough to put in one's rubber duck. Trying to add a bit of romance as well, or instead, can result in physical complications that include the faucet up one's nose. The Playboy calendar celebrates the advent of February with a photo of Ms. Bonnie Large reclining starkers in a tub whose size is as skimpy as its suds. The British Gas Board would, I think, have to concede that sharing her bath would faze any but the most enterprising plumber. In contrast, the old-fashioned cast-iron tub that is one of the glories of the stately homes of England is spacious enough to permit aquatic sports, such as going off the deep end. One reason why the British swim team did not do well in the Commonwealth Games at Christchurch is that young Britons have no real incentive to go'to an Olympic-size pool when they can enjoy the free style in their own bathroom. In most of Britain's homes the only part of the bathroom that is heated is the towel rack. It not only demands pluck to take a-bath alone, with no clothes on, it may even be foolhardy. Many a North American tourist in Britain has been found frozen, one leg over the edge of the tub, the victim of inexperience in springing from the bath water to the bath towel It is therefore quite sensible of the Gas Board to encourage Britons to save fuel by tubbing two by two. In time of crisis the British have this remarkable ability to pull together, to reach down and find the plug. Whether it is Dunkirk or North Sea gas, they do not hesitate to leap into craft that are barely seaworthy. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more. Somehow the'British always manage to muddle through. This time they may, find it a bit of a giggle to puddle their muddle, but only a hidebound Conservative would protest that an ad for mixed bathing was in bad taste. Where were the critics when small children were exposed to the questionable antics of three men in a tub? Rub-a-dubs, all three of them, as I recall the nursery rhyme. A scene of orgy if ever there was one, and without the redeeming grace of saving fuel. Heterosexual ablutions are relatively wholesome. Times have changed since the Victorian, when a maiden felt morally bound to bathe in her shift for fear of scandalizing Heaven. Progress is a deceptive word, but it does seem to apply to society's having found a pleasant solution to scrubbing inaccessible areas of one's back. So long as one of the lubbers is trained in mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, by Jove, there'll always be an England. Kiss me, Hardy. Well done, Mrs. Miniver. And up the Buffs! Bright response DOUR We were discussing our plans to attend the "Countdown Party" kicking off the year long preparation for the 1975 Winter Games. crtflooo 00 "What would we do if we won the draw and were presented with the I asked. "We'd have to build a fence." said Keith. v O v "Remind me to send the boys out to inspect that track." Energy conference offers more danger than hope By Carl Rowan, syndicated commentator WASHINGTON President Nixon has asked Henry Kissinger to work another miracle this week when leaders of the major oil consuming nations meet here in the state department. But this peripatetic 'secretary of state, who has scored such triumphs in Peking, Moscow and assorted capitals in the Middle East, may find that even he cannot transform this conference into more than a cosmetic pretense at unity on the part of the world's rich nations. In their desperation, key officials of Japan and the great oil users of Western Europe have already gone forth to make their deals with the Arab oil producers. The United States is over an energy crisis barrel that other industrialized nations don't want to share. Most of them -don't want to become tied to Israel, or to anti Arab policies, in such a way as to jeopardize their economies. So Kissinger will score a sort of diplomatic coup just to get all the people who are supposed to show up into the same conference room. "Unrestricted bilateral competition could be was the Jan. 10 warning from Kissinger to those countries that were scrambling to make their private peace with the Arab oil states. Off in the ugly background were American voices saying that a united front on the part of the great nations could force a rollback of crude oil prices, and if necessary produce a military move to take precious oil which the Arabs have been holding back for "blackmail" purposes. It's already obvious that the Japanese aren't buying any such stupid gamble at gunboat colonialism. Japan imports 90 per cent of her oil. Suppose the Soviet Union used force to stop Western forces from taking over Arab oil fields? Japan would collapse. And the West Europeans? They import half their oil. They cannot indulge in the luxury of foolish talk that one hears in Washington about "Project that absurd promise that by 1980 we'll be self sufficient in energy and most everything else and be able to thumb our noses at the rest of the world. The Europeans are not coming to Washington to burn any Middle East oil rigs behind them. The Japanese will still be honeymooning. Saudi Arabia's petroleum minister, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, only recently left Tokyo after consummating an oil arrangement he described as "a very happy marriage which will have no divorce." The Europeans have shown no greater inclination to submerge national self interest and rush to show solidarity with Nixon Kissinger Shultz Simon Co. French Foreign Minister Michel Jobert left a string of Mirage jets, cannons, and plant drawings all over the Persian Gulf area as he made a recent swing .in which he promised arms and industrial development for oil. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Anthony Barber sacrificed his way up to the ski slopes of St. Moritz, Switzerland, to find the Shah of Iran and convince him to sign a special oil deal. Perhaps the shrewd Mr. Kissinger can unite the industrial nations around the unanimous indignation over skyrocketing oil prices. But after indignation, what? Especially from countries that have a desperate need to buy just as the poor nations have been indignant for generations, but have succumbed to their desperate need to sell their raw materials, even at cheap prices. I consider it a colossal mistake that today's conference includes only the U.S., certain powers of Western Europe, Japan and Canada. Venezuela, Nigeria, Indonesia and the Arab oil countries ought all be there. As equals. As of now, it looks as if the disgruntled, economically wounded fat cats of the world are just trying to figure out how to shaft the "uppity" oil countries from the other side of the tracks. Perhaps we can be glad that some of the countries have already made private deals. They probably will impose the restraint that will prevent this conference from becoming one of the most stupidly useless of all time. Past experience indicates oil shortage temporary "A" hs. Kdiloi Kcxirw LONDON In the middle of an oil shortage far more severe than anything being experienced in the United States, Londoners last week were startled to read the prediction that the world's big problem with oil a few years from now will not be a shortage but a surplus. This forecast appeared as an editorial analysis in The Economist, a highly respected and authoritative journal not generally known for wild guesswork about the future. The editors point out that, historically speaking, shortages in a highly- developed industrial -society result in crash programs for increasing productive capacity. Since 1945, there have been at least 15 instances in which critical shortages led within a decade to overproduction. In 1946, for example, agricultural experts predicted a wide range of food shortages. Governments became alarmed. Emergency programs were instituted. Money incentives were offered. The result was that within a few years farmers everywhere were trying to unload millions of pounds of surplus butter and other agricultural products. in 1951, danger signals were hoisted about a "permanent" shortage of sulfur, so vital for industrial production. This led to emergency measures. Within a few years, sulfur was in such abundant supply that no one knew what to do with it. In 1957, the American people were thunderstruck by the first Soviet Sputnik. The cry went up that it would take years for the United States to close the "missile gap." American schools were severely criticized for having given inadequate attention to science. The U.S. government poured billions of dollars into a crash program. Within six years, the United States was ready to send rockets to the moon. Our schools turned out scientists in profusion, many of whom are now unemployed or in jobs that make inadequate use of their talents. Any school that wants a science teacher today has its pick of an endless list. The Economist gives these reasons for predicting that the present oil shortage will lead to a world energy glut before the end of the A. No industry has responded more quickly or fully to financial incentives than the petroleum industry. In the past few years, however, these incentives have been drying up. Now that they are being restored and, indeed, dramatically increased, a lot more people and a lot more investment capital are going to get into the act. The sharp increase in the price of oil per barrel will accelerate petroleum exploration and development. B. Predictions concerning future world oil development are based on past methods for finding oil. New techniques, utilizing electronic sensors and computerized systems, may open up areas not now included in forecasts. C. Most predictions about the increase in energy needs don't take into account the development of new technology that will require less energy to accomplish the same purposes. The increased use of transistors and miniaturized integrated circuits will do away with millions of tons of machinery now being driven by conventional power. A large electronic church organ, for example, that now requires a ton of operating equipment will be able to make the same music with a miniaturized circuit no larger than a half dollar and weighing less than half a pound. The amount of energy saved by such devices has yet to be calculated. The Economist has made these long term forecasts without even taking into account the development and use of other forms of energy fission and fusion, natural heat from deep inside the earth, solar energy, fuel cell energy, pure hydrogen. Such alternate sources of energy are no longer theoretical. They are all capable of being translated into operating reality if enough money is spent on them. This does not mean that we're going to have all the gasoline we need by next month or even by next year. But the notion that we're in for an indeterminate period of energy shortage does not square with the experience of industrialized society. The English experts are betting that we will be up to our axles in oil within a few years. They sound persuasive. I'm not inclined to take them up on that bet. Poor nations are losers in competitive system Russell Raker. New York No shortage here The oil companies' present public relations problem probably flows from President Nixon's call for the nation to make sacrifices, which he issued when he proclaimed the energy crisis last fall. It was a natural call for the president to make. Calling for sacrifice is one of the things presidents traditionally do when things get tough and nobody has a good idea, and some evidence suggests that we like being summoned to sacrifice, even when the summoner hasn't anything particular in mind. The difficulty this time was that the oil companies and other large inanimate institutions which also make up the nation were not geared to make sacrifices. By their lights, which are entirely respectable in a country that esteems the competitive- market system, today's maker of sacrifices is tomorrow's business failure. Their ethic calls for maximizing profits. They obeyed it, and the energy crisis produced the most profitable year in over a decade for oil. The nasty public-relations slough in which the oil companies find themselves was probably inevitable once it became clear that they were not to join in the general making of sacrifices. It is possible to shed a small tear for the oil companies in this predicament. Oil companies do not exist to make sacrifices. An oil company in the act of making a sacrifice would be as ludicrous a spectacle as a mastodon studying Cicero. If we are to remain loyal to our faith in the competitive system, we cannot logically abuse them for exploiting a sweet situation to rich advantage. Logically, we should be bailing their sagacity. Instead, we have a soar public opinion eager to cleave to various conspiracy theories about the oil shortage. This is what happens when presidents start talking about sacrifice without thinking things through. The consequences are bound to be unhappy an over. In Washington, for example, the company that supplies natural gas pursued the presidential call for sacrifice by urging customers to set-back their thermostats. The customers did. Gas company receipts fell six per cent The gas company then asked for a six per cent rate hike. Customers were angered. They reasoned that they had done their share of the sacrificing and were now being asked to do the gas company's share to boot The utility regulators, who are not immune to this kind of emotional illogic, have denied the company's rate increase, and if consumers step up the pace of their sacrificing the gas company might conceivably go broke A new realism would be helpful here. It should begin with politicians abandoning these traditional calls for sacrifice. Candor should prevail. Presidents should tell us frankly 'ha in the free- market systen- of which we are so proud, supply means higher prices The way to meet these higher prices is to pass them on to the next fellow. In practice this is what the government has been doing all along with what it calls "pass throughs." Each man on the economic ladder passes his price boost to the next man down the line. When it gets down to the wage earner be passes it hack to his employer in the form of higher labor costs, if he has the muscle. If be hasn't well, that is what makes a competitive system. You can't win a competition without creating a loser. The theory is that the loser is not cat out for the competitive society and should seek more passive satisfactions things of the spirit nature walks or else be content to become a malcontent. As a nation, of course, we are so rich that we can pay most of the "pass throughs" charged for access to the shrinking supply of good things. Poorer nations cannot compete with us at paying through the nose. So when a shortage occurs we pass it through to impoverished peoples, and while we complain about the temporary pain of the "pass throughs" here at home, the real sacrifice is made by the wretched far away. The Lethbridge Herald SM 3 iwhbridge, Alberta IETH8BI0GE HERALD OO LTD Proprietors and Pushers Second Class Man Registration No 0012 CLEG MOWERS, Editor and DONH mums Managing Editor DONALD R DORAM General Manager BOY f MILES Advertising Manager DOUGLAS K WALKER Editorial Page Editor ROBERT M FENTON Circulation Manager KENNETH E 8ARNET7 Business Manager THE HERALD SERVES THE SOUTH"