Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Petroleum Production and Building a Future

I had intended my next post, this one, to be more information on the Cariboo Road and how its construction sped up further development of British Columbia and I will do that soon. However, another subject has raised its head and demands a statement from everyone who believes in development of both homo sapiens and where they live.
For several years now I’ve been listening to reports that paint the petroleum production industry as being evil or at the least a “bad boy.” Since there is no evidence to support this attitude, only words from those looking to increase their own importance I have tended to be only saddened or sometimes disgusted by such rhetoric. However, listening to a CBC interview with an NDP person (perhaps he was in Bella Bella?) I found myself getting extremely angry.
There seems to be a belief in some circles that global warming has been accepted by all.
It hasn’t been!
I believe that perhaps 40% of Canadians have accepted the apocalyptic idea that is being presented. Another 30% do not believe there is ANY global warming but do believe it is all a scam to increase the importance of undeserving people and a method of extracting more money from over taxed citizens. The remaining 30%, including myself, believe that there may be some truth to a problem with our atmosphere created by those on the planet but it has been blown way out of proportion.
Do we need to make changes in our methods of creating power and production? I believe so and we have been doing a great job of that with the improvements in alternative power for automobiles and in the efficiency of solar panels. I believe we should have tens of thousands more wind farms and tide power generation and we will.
However, to transport goods across this extensive land mass we call North America we WILL be using petroleum products for the next 30 years and in a somewhat reduced capacity for the next 30 years after that. It can not be avoided.
We have nothing that is both more economical and cleaner burning than natural gas. Why have we not already started piping it to customers and loading facilities? It is the best if not at this point the ONLY solution for world improvement.
Yes, the prices of crude oil have been too high. However that is the product of world demand and stock markets and even 100 million electric cars will have little effect on that price.
If you have billions of dollars to work the various stock market prices of crude oil perhaps you can bring the price of a barrel of crude down to under $40. However, that won’t have more than a few cents effect on the price of a liter of gasoline. It will also put some production companies out of business.
Besides, those with billions usually want more billions and thus reducing the price of crude is counter-productive for them.
Is it better to support that high price by buying crude from the middle east (which we do) or would it be better to supply Canada (and North America) with our own oil, which we can do for decades to come?
Crude is dirty? Compared to what? True, the refinement of crude creates more air quality questions than the development of natural gas but it is far cleaner, both for production and use than is coal. The production of an automobile creates more environmental problems than does the extraction, refinement and use of the gas that car will burn during the next 5 years.
We don’t want oil tankers on the west coast? Who doesn’t? I sure do and I believe there are 10 million Canadians who, if they had TRUE information would also want them. Besides, those tankers are out there right now; they are just delivering to us instead of buying from us.
It is time to start BUILDING this country instead of doing our best to destroy it.
Dave McGowan

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Cariboo Wagon Road

With the small gold discovery on the west coast of Moresby Island in 1850 the man who was the Chief Factor for the Hudson’s Bay Company, James Douglas knew that preparations should be made for a serious invasion of “non-British.” By the time that invasion actually took place, in 1858 he had made some preparations and had been the HBC governor of their Colony of Vancouver Island for seven years. When the British government took over the colony they appointed Douglas the first Governor of the Crown Colony of Vancouver Island.
With information from earlier gold rushes (California, Australia and South Africa) Douglas implemented control measures for security and artfully disguised taxes to fund infrastructure. Those expecting to register a gold claim were required to report to Victoria to acquire a mining license for five pounds or ten dollars. Then in 1857 he learned that American miners where already working the Thompson River. In the early weeks of 1858 Douglas had Captain James Prevost of the Boundary Commission station his gunboat in the mouth of the Fraser to issue and collect such licenses. Earlier in ’57 he had sent for policemen and magistrates to maintain security and implement import duties.
As a result of his pre-planning funding for the rapid expansion of facilities was not long in being implemented although it never did catch up to actual expenditures. Those who wished to convert their gold to cash or take gold out of the colony where required to pay a royalty. Gold Commissioners in every area of gold discovery kept records of finds, claims and their owners, production and conversion. When drovers began bringing livestock into the colonies (originally Vancouver Island and British Columbia and later amalgamated into one colony) there was a charge of a dollar a head. The law was written in such a way that ten years later, after Douglas had returned to Scotland, those taking livestock out of the colony to the US or Alberta also had to pay a dollar a head.
The point is there was some money in the government coffers.
The first year, 1858, 25,000 miners worked the banks and bars of the Fraser. Because the gold was so fine (a few large nuggets were found but it was mostly dust), because security was so strict (enforced by Royal Marines and Royal Engineers that year) many miners decided to try their luck in Colorado or Montana. The Fraser Valley War which cost the lives of at least 28 miners and several natives was also not helpful in attracting return visits.
Those who did return wanted to go inland looking for the more course gold or the “mother lode.” Due to the terrain and the lack of horses or mules this exploration was accomplished by walking and carrying a pack. If the colony was going to grow and find the gold that was surely there a road must be built. If the merchants (and by 1859 there where many) in Victoria and the new town of New Westminster expected to sell their wares they needed to get them to the customer and thus a road was required. If settlement was to be established, which was the long term goal of the British Colonial Office, road construction must begin.
The first civil engineer for the colony was Walter Moberly. He suggested a route that was eventually used but Governor Douglas insisted the lower portions should make use of existing waterways.

Walter Moberly in later life

So what do you do when the boss ignores your arguments?
For the first few years the route to the interior was north from the Fraser at Harrison Lake to Port Douglas.Off the river boat and take the trail along the east of the lake to “29 Mile House” where a river boat was supposed to take you to Port Pemberton. From there another road led to Port Anderson where another boat would ferry you to the east end of Lake Anderson and Lilooet.
As the colonies civil engineer had expected, this route proved to be a problem in many areas and particularly between 29 Mile House and Port Pemberton which is actually two lakes of different levels. Attempts to change the water levels didn’t work for very long.
In 1861 Walter Moberly formed a partnership with Charles Oppenheimer and T.B. Lewis, merchants with business in Lytton and Yale. This partnership controlled the financing and the distribution of contractors over various assigned sections. Construction began in 1862 and the road went into Williams Creek in 1864 using the north end of the old “Overland” trail from 1859. The following year (1865) the new section from Soda Creek to the present site of Quesnelle and east to Barkerville was completed. This was similar to today’s highway except the road turned south at Van Winkle (don’t bother looking for it, the town is long gone.) then east and north through Richfield into Barkerville. The section through Devil’s Canyon and into Wells from the North West wasn’t done until much later, I believe in the 1880s.
A BC Express ("The BX") stage on the Cariboo Road on a dry day

A wagon train on the Cariboo Road

A famous view, since it was a postcard of the Cariboo Road and a freight wagon 

Completion of the Cariboo Wagon Road created a big change for everyone in the colony. For the miner along Williams Creek a pair of rubber boots carried in on someone’s back would cost him $75.00 in 1864 and he might not get them until the following year. Most removed their boots and panned the ice cold streams in bare feet. A year later in 1865 there was freight arriving every week or two and those same rubber boots where priced at $25.00. By 1870 freight arrived almost every day and the boots were $9.00.
(Keep in mind that the relative worth of $9.00 is about $160.00 in today’s cash)
The merchants were all happy with the opening of the road. Those at the various gold fields could get items faster and cheaper. Those distributing from New Westminster or Hope could send more items faster and with less damage.
The government also achieved their primary goals and established new traditions. They had more people going into the interior taking more minerals and paying for the privilege. They had many more settlers established, the first building roadhouses to serve travelers, settlement being the long term goal. They also established a long standing tradition of not paying the full price as had been agreed in the initial contracts. According to Walter Moberly’s writings his partners broke even on their efforts to establish the road but he took the brunt of the over cost which took him eight years to pay.  Oppenheimer and Lewis might not have done so well had they not stayed the coarse and collected tolls once the road was open.
Wright's Ranch at 127 Mile House

Deep Creek 161 Mile House

As for gold production that is still going on in BC. There are several companies taking minerals of all description from BC Mountains. There is even a relatively new company, Barkerville Mining Ltd. that is trading at about .35¢.
Mr. & Mrs. John Bowron

John Bowron was one of the “Overlanders” who walked to the Cariboo from Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1862. His group traveled by rail, river boat and on foot to Fort Garry (Winnipeg) then walked west through Fort Edmonton, the Yellowhead Pass and by raft on the Fraser or Thompson. He prospected and panned several creeks in and around Barkerville and became the BC Gold Commissioner for the area in the early 1870s. He estimated in 1895, supported by existing records that $19.5 million had been extracted from Williams Creek alone. The buying power of that in 2015 would be about $520 billion.
For a very comprehensive study of the Cariboo gold rushes look for “Barkerville and the Cariboo Goldfields” by Richard Thomas Wright.
For a novelized but extremely well researched coverage of the “Overlanders” check out Bill Gallaher’s “The Journey: The Overlanders’ Quest for Gold.”