Are the tar sands ecocide?

For six decades Canadians regarded the tar sands as a natural resource to be developed.  The site of the tar sands, located in Canada’s Northern boreal forest, was very sparsely populated, mainly by aboriginal peoples. Apart from sporadic mine sites, there was no other large economic activity carried on until tar sands development arrived in the early 60’s.

Initially no one recognized the risks that could result from the development of the tar sands.  Certainly the extraction of the bitumen from the tar sands would destroy trees and the landscape, but this destruction could later be remedied over time by restoration of the forest.  It was assumed that the toxic substances released by extraction and processing would be in minimal quantities, and so absorbed in the vast space until nature had rendered them harmless. If by chance health consequences did arise, the long-suffering aboriginal peoples would be unlikely to complain until the tar sands reached the status of national resource. The generation of CO2 emissions was not foreseen as a risk until the development was well underway.

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Yorklands Green Hub

Methane is a powerful GreenHouse Gas.  Methane emissions, such as the potential emissions from the Arctic waters, present a longer-term threat to our climate. There are other sources of methane that contribute to this threat, such as emissions from extraction of natural gas, and the recycling of organic waste.

Harvest Power is an American company that specializes in processes that generate electricity from organic waste.  A Harvest Power subsidiary in B.C. received a $4 million grant from the Federal Clean Energy Fund to develop a high efficiency system for producing renewable energy from food and yard waste. The proposal is to extract purified methane from waste that would otherwise be landfill.  This methane is then used to generate electricity.

This development is timely.  Unfortunately there are many municipal waste sites that still vent methane to the atmosphere.

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Tough Criticism of the Ontario Liberals!

A flurry of criticism over executive salaries paid by the Ontario Power Generation Corporation generated leading paragraphs in a recent Globe and Mail editorial. Yet, as the editorial pointed out, these payments were not the main reason why the Province’s electricity prices are now among the highest in North America, and going much higher.

The editorial correctly identifies the biggest contributor to the cost of electricity to consumers and businesses: the Ontario Green Energy Plan that requires increased investment in wind and solar generation of power.

Canadians have enjoyed cheap prices for their energy.  Our country is blessed by abundant sources of hydro power.  Our gas prices have always been considerably less than in Europe.  So Canadian electors have proved to be reluctant to accept the high costs attached to the transformation of the generation of electricity from fossil fuels to renewables.

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A small beginning and a big example!

CAROLA VYHNAK. Anthony and Mary Ketchum’ built a half-buried hillside home that relies on solar energy. It reflects their passion for leaving a greener footprint for the sake of their grandchildren’s future. ___________________________________________________________________ We owe a lot to Mary and Anthony Ketchum, the couple who with other grandparents were the inspiration of 4RG (For Our Grandchildren).  They …

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Canadian Government Press Releases = “Spin”

“An Environment Canada press release advises that Canada will provide garden hoses to fight forest fires.  The Minister of the Environment pointed out that this program will support Canadian jobs.”

No, you will not find this “Press Release” on the Environment Canada site.  Or any other Government of Canada site. The Press Release is a parody of the numerous press releases that are shovelled out every week by Government Media Relations.

Environment Canada or Natural Resources press releases all extol the wonderful efforts of the Harper Government, such as its encouragement of renewable energy, Canada’s reduction of GHG or the support of other countries fighting climate change.   Almost invariably there is a mention of a dollar figure that is impressive . . . . as long as you don’t compare it with the billions of dollars to repair damages resulting from Climate Change or the billions of dollars required to develop reliable alternative energy sources to fossil fuels.

Other frequent claims in Canadian Government press releases are:

  • the Harper government is balancing the reduction of GHG emissions with the need to support Canada’s economy, or
  • the program will produce jobs across Canada, or
  • the financing of the activity is another example of Canada’s role in the fight against climate change/or maintaining the environment.

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News Flash – The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first part of its Fifth Assessment Report today, Friday, September 27.  Earlier this summer we commented on the science that underlies this lengthy report. 

Climate Action Network Canada points out that the report shows with greater certainty than ever that climate change is real, caused by human activity and requires urgent action. The report shows that it is certain that the earth is getting warmer, precipitation pattern are changing sea levels are rising, sea ice and glaciers are melting and oceans are acidifying, with serious consequences for our communities, environments and economies.

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A Cash Shower

On May 3 last,  the Canadian Government (described in its Press Releases as the Harper Government) showered cash on certain Canadian businesses and research institutions. Coordinated press conferences to announce these grants took place across Canada: in the Maritimes,  Quebec City (Harper was there), the Canada Cement Lafarge cement plant in Ontario, Toronto and the Yukon.  These grants approved in the 2011 budget under the Federal ecoENERGY Innovation Initiative total 85 million.

Grants for $17 million were awarded for research into Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), larger  than amounts granted to any other research category.  Still the amount is relatively small in comparison with the Alberta Government committment to advance $1.3 billion to support the development of CCS as a solution to Alberta’s GHG emissions.

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