Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Begin by not wasting energy

First they cancel a program the Liberals created and then they bring in a similar one and claim it as their own. But according to the CBC the less affluent and poor are left out in the cold.

The Conservative government has unveiled a plan to spend $300 million over four years to encourage homeowners, businesses and industry to use energy more efficiently.

"It's time to recognize that the largest untapped source of energy is the energy we waste," said Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn.

Has he found that out only now?

Ecologists and a variety of politicians, e.g. Guy Joron, Energy Minister of Quebec in his White Book published 30 years ago, have been saying this ought to be the starting point of any sane energy policy for a long, long time.

Listen to some of the differences between the cancelled program and the one Canada's New Government brought in. (In passing, thankfully they have given up calling themselves the "new government" after one year in power. It was about time.)

Video from CBC News

Monday, January 22, 2007

A wolf disguised as sheep?

Bourque quoted the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association on Jan 22, 2007:

Telecaster Canada, the group that regulates television ad content on behalf of Canadian broadcasters, has blocked a television ad reminding Canadians about Prime Minister Harper¹s campaign commitment to require 5% renewable content in fuel and promoting the benefits of ethanol and biodiesel, which was set to air today. The advertisement in question contained a brief clip from the last election campaign of Stephen Harper speaking to a group of farmers outside Chatham, Ontario on December 21, 2005. Telecaster is requiring the CRFA to get approval from the Prime Minister to use his image in the ad, despite the clip being taken from a public event during an election campaign. "The Telecaster decision oversteps its authority, muzzles freedom of speech and limits public debate on important issues," said Kory Teneycke, Executive Director of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association [CRFA]. "Public commitments made by politicians during political campaigns have historically been treated as matters of public record, not as copyrighted material owned by the politician in question."
About the censorship Stephen Taylor, who headlines his blog with Stephen Taylor - Conservative Party of Canada Pundit had this to say:
"You might be thinking that opinion has never really been subject to censorship in Canada unless it crosses the line of hateful speech, decency or the promotion of unlawful activity. Of course, the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association is doing nothing of the sort in these spots."

“This is a radical move on the part of Telecaster, and has important implications on public debate in Canada. No politician should be put in the position of having to give permission to use a commitment made during an election campaign,” concluded Teneycke, Executive Director of the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association.

It also shows the sheep's clothing of a man who denied the existence of gloabal warming not long ago: Stephen Harper.

An attack on free speech should be resisted by all Canadians. But we should be wary of the recent "greening of the Conservatives". I think it's a charade.

I also have misgivings about using food as fuel for transportation in a world where nearly six million children die of hunger each year. Moreover, even in the rich countries there are negative implications: The price of margarine and cooking oil will rise the more vegetable oil is diverted towards car engines.

Watch this BBC report

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Small steps in the right direction

The Conservatives announced a program to boost renewable energy at a cost of $ 1.5 billion over ten years. The surplus in the last fiscal year alone was over $ 13 billion. That shows just how serious (or not) Harper is about fighting global warming.

Paul Dewar, NDP Environment critic said: "Its a small baby step."


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Solar energy in Canada

Solar heated house built in the 1970s by Jack Nicholson in the Eastern Townships, south of Montreal.

Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn said he wants to study ways in which to build solar heated homes and communities. Where has he been in the last two or three decades? The technology exists and has been applied all over the globe, including Canada.

There's no need to study it any further. Just give it the same subsidies our government provides for the oil industry to help implement it. Better yet, eliminate the subsidies to the dirtiest projects in the land - the oil sands - and give twice as much to solar.

Then relax and see Canada's water and space heating covered to a great degree by solar energy.

Don't let the Conservatives throw sand in your eyes

Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, Lunn, who shares responsibility for the climate change file with John Baird, said he favours nuclear energy to extract petroleum from the oilsands in Alberta because "nuclear energy is emission free. There's no greenhouse gases." In an interview with Nancy Wilson of CBC (CBC Jan 17, 2007) he proposed reprocessing nuclear waste to extract all remaining energy (i.e. to use plutonium to power nuclear plants).
"So waste is no longer an issue. ...Nuclear energy is absolutely pollutant free, no greenhouse gases, a very clean form of energy. If you believe in climate change, you have to support it".
Absolutely not!

Either Gary Lunn is lying or he doesn't know what he's talking about.

To begin with, he should know that it is the whole fuel cycle from uranium mining to disposal of radioactive waste that should be considered. Looking at it this way, nuclear energy is absolutely NOT pollutant free, NOT free of greenhouse gases and NOT a very clean form of energy.

Uranium has to be mined. To be extracted from the rock it has to be transported to a factory. The production of fuel rods for reactors takes energy and so does the transport to nuclear plants. To safeguard spent fuel also takes energy. To say that "nuclear energy is absolutely pollutant free with no greenhouse gases being produced and is a very clean form of energy" can only be explained by being ignorant or being a liar.

Furthermore, there is a link to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, which has already increased the number of nuclear weapons powers. In 1974 India exploded its first atomic bomb using plutonium from a research reactor (not a CANDU) received as a gift from Canada. Also, depeleted uranium from Canadian sources will be killing Iraqis for decades to come.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Will John Baird adopt policies to fight climate change?

Canada’s Report on Demonstrable Progress Under the Kyoto Protocol, p.8

Total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Canada in 2004, expressed as CO2 equivalent, were 758 Mt. This represents a 26.6% increase over the 1990 total of 599 Mt and 34.6% above Canada’s Kyoto target. [page 8]

Emissions rose further in the last two years and to adhere to our international obligations as signatory of the Kyoto Protocol a cut of about 40 percent is required within the next 4 to 6 years (2010-2012). Being realistic, this obviously cannot be achieved within Canada alone, which leaves the massive purchase of emission credits - which are not without problems - coupled with domestic measures. Emission credits are obtained by paying other countries to install clean sources of energy. The massive budget surpluses Canada has been running for years could provide the funds, at least partially.

Given that "Canadians use more energy than all of the 760 million inhabitants of Africa" cutting back on the use of fossil fuels without affecting the quality of life negatively is one option but don't hold your breath about oil sands projects actually being cut back even though the economy in northern Alberta is running in overdrive. The Mayor of Fort McMurray, former premier Peter Lougheed and even Preston Manning, among others, suggested slowing down the frantic pace. He talks about the notion of "green conservatism," that is, applying market principles to environmental questions. I don't believe anything will come out of appeals like that or Manning's approach. It is the market after all that leads to some costs ("externalities") not being reflected in prices.

Scroll down at the previous link and look at the per capita energy consumption of other industrialised countries.

Obviously these credits only make sense if actual GHG emissions are reduced by building wind generators for instance or by planting trees. (Otherwise they would just be another gambling venue.) However, projects planting trees in this context have not all gone well. Besides, an accurate way of measuring the offset emissions has not yet been devised. Trees return the carbon they store to the atmosphere when they die. Therefore planting trees is only a temporary measure. But there are other methods.

"Under the Liberals, Ottawa pledged $10 billion to meet Canada’s Kyoto target of reducing carbon emissions to six percent below the 1990 level by 2012. Anywhere from 35 to 75 percent of that reduction was expected to come from the purchase of carbon credits by industry and government."

There are a number of exchanges where credits are bought and sold. One example is the Chicago Climate Exchange where "continuous electronic trading of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission allowances and offsets began on December 12, 2003. CCX reduction commitments and trading apply for years 2003 through 2010." Here are examples this exchange lists as offset projects. In early January 2007 a ton of "CO2 equivalent" traded for US $ 4.- at that exchange. A number of interesting links can be found here.

The European Climate Exchange in partnership with the Montreal Exchange was a sister company of the Chicago Climate Exchange but is no longer a subsidiary of the Chicago Climate Exchange.

The European Union Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is the largest multi-national, greenhouse gas emissions trading scheme in the world.

Links to other exchanges are here.

A useful site to visit.

Some call the approach of emission trading obscene and ineffective. Kevin Smith, a researcher with Carbon Trade Watch, writes "Market-based mechanisms such as carbon trading are an elaborate shell-game of global creative accountancy that distracts us from the fact that there is no viable 'business as usual' scenario." He quotes Tom Burke, visiting professor at Imperial College London, who observed: "The reality is that applying cost-benefit analysis to questions such as [climate change] is junk economics... It is a vanity of economists to believe that all choices can be boiled down to calculations of monetary value."

Criticism from a Trostkyist source pointing out weaknesses and fallacious assumptions of this approach is here.

The David Suzuki Foundation appears to approve of it, at least as a partial solution.

"Purchasing high quality carbon offsets from projects such as wind farms also helps support the transition to a sustainable energy economy by providing an additional source of revenue to developers of renewable energy. While voluntary offset programs should not be seen as a substitute for comprehensive government regulations to reduce greenhouse gases (e.g. through implementation of the Kyoto Protocol), they are a step in the right direction, and an opportunity to demonstrate leadership on climate change. ... [As a matter of fact] the David Suzuki Foundation has implemented a carbon neutral program in its offices. ... [But] due to the many problems with tree planting projects, the David Suzuki Foundation only purchases offsets from energy efficiency and renewable energy projects."

Check out some of their cool links (pun intended :) ).

David Suzuki was interviewed on CTV's Question Period on Jan. 14, 2007. He said that Rona Ambrose - the former Environment Minister - got in touch with him and his foundation within days of her appointment. John Baird - who replaced Ambrose - "telephoned within a couple of hours of the announcement of his appointment, ... to say that he was committed to working with environment groups because climate change was a serious problem that, if anything, was being underestimated by scientists."

Suzuki said that Ambrose sounded very reasonable and interested in fighting climate change at the meeting but left researchers at the foundation flabbergasted afterwards with her comments. Baird apparently also sounded very reasonable but when put on the spot about how to achieve the reductions in GHG emissions this country agreed to, he became very vague and political. David Suzuki did not sound very hopeful that the Conservatives are really serious about our commitments pointing out among other things that only a few years ago Stephen Harper did not accept that warnings about global warming had a sound scientific basis. Two days before that interview Suzuki published this article making more or less the same arguments.

"Last year, I cleaned up government," Mr. Baird said. "This year, I'm going to clean up the environment." (Globe and Mail Jan 5th 2007) This sounds like boasting to me.

Only time will tell and this writer does not believe the Conservatives are really trying to put the measures in place that would get us at least partly towards the goal our government accepted within the framework of an international treaty. I also think the NDP walked into a trap the Conservatives set by supporting the Clean Air Act saying they wanted to improve it. For their sake, I hope I'm wrong.