30 January 2008

Canadian Oil Boom--A Difference in Values

It is possible to take oil wealth and do something good with it. Take Alberta's ongoing oil boom, which is beginning to rival China's business boom. Alberta is actually accomplishing long-lasting sustainable good from its temporary (probably decades-long) oil boom.

Brian Wang looks at a recent scientific creation from the University of Alberta:
Canadian scientists have succeeded in building the least expensive portable device for rapid genetic testing ever made. The cost of carrying out a single genetic test currently varies from hundreds to thousands of pounds, and the wait for results can take weeks. Now a group led by Christopher Backhouse, University of Alberta, Edmonton, have developed a reusable microchip-based system that costs just 500 (pounds) to build, is small enough to be portable, and can be used for point-of-care medical testing.

To keep costs down, 'instead of using the very expensive confocal optics systems currently used in these types of devices we used a consumer-grade digital camera', Backhouse explained.

The device can be adapted for used in many different genetic tests. 'By making small changes to the system you could test for a person's predisposition to cancer, carry out pharmacogenetic tests for adverse drug reactions or even test for pathogens in a water supply,' said Backhouse.(source)

The device is now much smaller than size of a shoe-box (USB stick size) with the optics and supporting electronics filling the space around the microchip.____NextBigFuture

One must ask oneself the question: which oil-rich countries are putting their newfound wealth into advancing knowledge for the future, and which are spending it on Las Vegas style glitz, and stashing it away in the Swiss bank accounts of royalty and dictators? It is a question of values.

Canada has different values than the oil-rich countries of the Persian Gulf. So far, Alberta has taken a different approach to the use of oil wealth than the royalty-saturated kingdoms and emirates of the middle east. Alberta's approach is even different from that of socialist leaning Norway, whose scientific output is only somewhat above that of the Arab world.

So far, Canada has managed to avoid most of the "oil curse" of windfall wealth. The oil curse is the natural laziness of a culture that does not have to work for a living. The decadence of unearned wealth.

For the Canadian provinces of Alberta--and now Saskatchewan--the oil boom is just beginning. For now, the main limiting factor is the significant manpower shortage, which is being felt in the oil and gas industry worldwide. Peak manpower, not peak oil.

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