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Energy mix of Western Canada 1951-1960 : a geographic study of competitive factors Young, James Walton

Abstract

There is a growing need for geographic studies of energy to focus on consumption patterns rather than on energy production. Studies focused on production have tended to treat each energy source individually, yet technological developments are increasingly bringing energy sources into competition with one another. Excluding those energy demands which are specific to one energy source, markets for heat and power are supplied by a mixture of energy sources which are competing to retain or enlarge their respective shares of the market. A detailed energy consumption estimate for each of the four Western Provinces shows considerable variation of the energy mix in both space and time. Examination of the energy mix of each province in relation to the distribution of energy production and to hypothetical transport costs suggests that location is the primary factor in accounting for areal variations of the energy mix. Variation in time appears to be accounted for by changes in the location of markets arising from the construction of oil and gas pipelines from Alberta to the other provinces. Nevertheless, it is recognised that each provincial market exhibits several unique characteristics. The hypothesis posed in this study is that location is the primary factor determining the areal pattern of the energy mix, but that the mix is modified by inter-provincial differences of market structure, areal concentration of the Intra-provincial market, and historical legacies (i.e. inertia). These three factors, together with the location factor, are universal in that they apply to all provinces and all energy sources. This hypothesis provides a framework for an examination in turn of each major energy source, fuel wood, coal, petroleum, natural gas, and electricity. For each energy source the areal patterns and trends of provincial sales are sub-divided into two or three market sectors (domestic, industrial, and railway locomotive), and sales are related to the supply patterns of the energy source in particular, and also to the other three universal factors and factors specific to the energy source concerned. By proceeding from the more passive to the more active competing energy sources the competitive pattern is established and evaluation of the four universal factors can be made. The location of markets in relation to energy supplies is the primary factor accounting for variations in the energy mix at the inter-provincial level. The energy mix of the locomotive sector has an unique areal pattern, but this is the result of an energy supply pattern which differs from that of other market sectors. However, the energy mix at any point in time is modified by the legacy of previous consumption patterns because there is a delay before consumers change from one energy source to another. This historical legacy factor is the key modifier of the energy mix and was particularly prominent in the areal pattern of the I960 mix because large quantities of gas only became available outside Alberta after 1956. Nevertheless, the historical legacy factor is secondary to the location factor, because firstly competition of the energy sources is directed towards bringing the mix into equilibrium with the location factor, and secondly the delay in making gas available in all the major energy consuming centres outside Alberta is rooted in location. The distances from Alberta's gas fields to other provincial markets necessitated large throughput pipelines, and these pipelines could only be built when markets external to Western Canada were realised. Finally, this study suggests further research into the possibility of an energy region being nodal and research into the cartographic delimitation of the competitive frontiers of the various energy sources.

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