Big dreams for the gas plant can come true

By: By Sheelagh Matthews

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jun 04, 2014 01:48 pm

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Great things happen when citizens, corporations, and governments are motivated by a big dream, a lofty goal, a challenge to achieve something that’s never done before. I’m thinking a big, fresh dream may be all that we need to restore the Turner Valley Gas Plant to its glory days and beyond.

Do you remember when President Kennedy challenged his country to be the first to put a man on the Moon? It only took eight years of determination, money, effort, and brain power before NASA’s mission control was counting down Apollo 11 to lift-off. On July 20, 1969 history was made when astronaut Neil Armstrong reported that “The Eagle has landed.” Armstrong’s words are still used to this day to mean “mission accomplished.”

And what about Martin Luther King, Jr.? Didn’t he have a dream, and wasn’t it a wonderful one at that? His dream motivated people to stand up, in a civil and non-violent way, for what they knew to be decent and right. It took a lot of courage to march in support of ending segregation between blacks and whites in those days: participation pretty much meant facing brutality and imprisonment. But, people took to the streets anyways, and now Barack Obama is the U.S.A.’s first-ever president of African-American descent. What seemed impossible in the 1960s is now a reality. Talk about a happy ending!

Then there was Seabiscuit, an overlooked and undersized thoroughbred racehorse with stumpy legs. Also known as the “poor man’s horse,” Seabiscuit filled people’s hearts with hope during the troubled times of the Great Depression, proving that the little guy not only has a chance, but can be a high stakes winner, too. In his heyday, Seabiscuit got more newspaper coverage than either President Roosevelt or Adolph Hitler. That’s what I call headline news!

On May 14, 2014, both big shots and little guys celebrated 100 years of oil and gas in Alberta, thanks to the big discovery in Turner Valley. But, what are our big dreams for this slice of our nation’s energy industry history? What will it take to galvanize support around them? Who will step up to help us believe in them? Maybe what we really need is a bigger and better dream to transform this in-much-need-of-repair historic site into all it can be. Things like this have happened before.

For instance, did you know that Boeing believed in its dream of a 747 jumbo jet before it even had a prototype? The challenges for Boeing were many when it came to this aircraft. This aircraft manufacturer was building the world’s largest jet while the world’s largest factory was being built around it. A runway to accommodate the longer distance required by a 747 had to be built at the plant, as did a railway to supply the plant with component parts. In addition, airports all over the world had to construct or expand runways to usher in this brand new form of jet travel.

Australia’s landmark Sydney Opera House, with it’s signature gleaming white sails, challenged traditional views of construction and required new technologies and materials for it to become a reality. It all started in 1952 with an international design competition issued by the state government. As some of the technology needed to build the structure hadn’t been invented yet—like how to make curved tiles for the outer surfaces—it took until 1973 for the building to open. In case you’re wondering what the answer was to this problem, it had to do with thinking outside the box, or should I say triangle, and using what is known as spherical, instead of regular, geometry.

“Grand Challenges” with big money prizes are issued by the U.S. government, in partnership with the private sector, to help find solutions to big problems. In the wake of the Gulf oil spill, which used rather old and outdated technology for the clean up, a Grand Challenge was issued to come up with a better way to deal with oil spills in oceans. The result? Now we have a method that is three times more effective than we had before. It seems incentivized innovation works!

Big dreams can come true; we prove it again and again. Finding the courage and commitment to dream big for the Turner Valley Gas Plant—now that’s in our best interest.

For more in your best interest, follow Sheelagh on Twitter @sheesays.


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