Histories on the Edge: "Shifting Energy Carriers in Canada: An International Comparison, 1870-2000"
Canada, as with other industrializing countries in Europe and North America, went through a change in the sources of energy over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Beginning with heavy reliance on firewood Canada moved to coal and then oil and then to natural gas with a considerable contribution from electricity. Comparing the pattern of shifts from one energy carrier to another with what happened in eight European countries indicates how Canada is similar to them in the dating and extent of changes. The process of going over to fossil from bio-fuels associated with industrialization was not uniform among all countries. The comparison isolates the uniqueness of Canada, for example, in the long-term heavy reliance on firewood and the role of a net energy exporter rather than importer, the shift in Canada coming in the middle years of the twentieth century. While geography certainly mattered to shifts in energy carriers as did resource endowments, political decisions and events external to the countries played a role in what people used and, therefore, ultimately on the environmental impact of demographic and economic growth.
This talk is the seventh session of the UBC History Department's Colloquium Series 2017 - 2018: Histories on the Edge.
About the Presenter
Dr. Richard Unger is a Professor in History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.