Browsing the archives for the Climate Change category.

Will Ottawa’s Home Builders Ever Leave the 19th Century?

Climate Change, Green Reality, Legislative Gaps, South March Highlands

The Greater Ottawa Homebuilders Association (GOHBA) recently published an advertisement that appears to have no basis in any of reason, fact, or good judgement.  In what some may view as an  self-serving editorial, and by others as a not-so-funny comedy of errors, the GOHBA somehow managed to allow publication of an article in which virtually none of its facts were accurate.

This article uses tabs, click on each one to read the full article.

Misinformation

If that article is any indication of what the GOHBA’s members believe, one might wonder if they believe it is in their best interest to spread what seems to be misinformation about the need to protect endangered species:

  • According to Natural Resources Canada, urban land use in Ontario was already 1000x greater than claimed by the GOHBA over 15 years ago!
  • Not to mention the fact that Blanding’s Turtles were documented in the South March Highlands (SMH) 8 years prior to the Terry Fox Drive Extension (TFDE) proposal in 2000.
  • Ontario’s Endangered Species Act predates the Blanding’s Turtle studies done for TFDE by 5 years.
  • Macro-ecologists proved over 8 years ago that the number 1 cause of species loss is due to destruction of critical habitat because, duh, that species has nowhere left to live, eat, or reproduce.

Common Sense?

It appears that the anonymous authors of that article expect us to believe that Ontario should allow  developers to trash what remains of our environment because some “rural critters” “choose to” “hang out” in cities.  The article calls for, in the name of “common sense”, the abandonment of recent regulations that protect species at risk and in general require developers to behave as environmentally responsible businesses.

  • So was it common sense to build TFDE through the middle of the most environmentally significant area in Ottawa in the first place?
  • Why is the GOHBA quibbling about the cost of a fence when the entire $50 M cost of the road was not justifiable without the use of inflated population forecasts?
  • The Environmental Study Report done for the road in 2000 actually admits that the worst location for the road was chosen from an environmental point of view.  Could it be because that location was of greatest benefit to the handful of developers who needed the road to expand the urban boundary at that time?

According to the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, relentless urban sprawl is a serious problem that does not make for cost-effective cities.   So is it common sense to allow developers to continually push the urban boundary outwards?  Several of the members of the GOHBA recently participated in the expansion of Ottawa’s urban boundary by 1103 hectares – a number nearly 5x higher than originally proposed in Ottawa’s 2009 plan.

Is it common sense for a developer to proceed with early phases of a subdivision plan based on a flawed master storm water servicing proposal?  And after it is discovered that earlier phases of that subdivision’s development are non-compliant with Provincial storm water approvals, is it common sense to allow that builder to continue to deforest the area?

Is an environmental assessment (EA) just red tape in a situation like that?  Is it environmentally responsible for the City of Ottawa to cancel the Class EA that exposed those very problems in the South March Highlands (SMH) in response to what appears to be a request by the non-compliant developer?

Is it common sense to increase flood risk by building storm water ponds in flood plains where these facilities could be submerged when we most need them?  Yet that is what developers appear to prefer along the Carp River adjacent to TFDE.  Even if Provincial authorities stretch the rules to allow them to get away with it, does that make those developers any more environmentally responsible?  Or should they take greater care and perhaps choose to build a few less homes so that those protective facilities are built on solid ground?  Even a subdivision with only a few hundred homes represents $millions in revenue for a developer.

Wildlife Contributes

Science informs us that a healthy climate depends on healthy forests and healthy forests depend on biodiversity. Even common species such as raccoons and porcupines are as important as endangered species when it comes to promoting a healthy environment because they are a major means for circulating a forest’s genetic resources.  Every species has a role to play and the loss of many species in one area inevitably leads to the loss of ecological function.

To portray species trapped within an arbitrarily changing urban boundary as merely “hanging-out” trivializes this essential natural function and suggests that the authors of the GOHBA article may be ignorant of how ecosystems function.  So when imbalances are caused by developers, is it common sense to reduce the protective measures that attempt to restore that balance?  Or does it make more sense to abandon current development in environmentally sensitive areas such as the SMH and to prevent future development in those areas?

In a world that is so obviously threatened by climate change, massive loss of biodiversity, and cancer-inducing pollution, no reasonable person can believe that the status quo is an appropriate response to these challenges.  Even the dimmest among us understands that our weather, crops, and economy are suffering as we pay the price for the excesses of the past.

Greed vs Sustainable

It is possible that a few greedy people may have a vested interest in the status quo which fails to allocate the long-term cost of recklessly exploiting the environment to those same businesses that gain from it in the short-term. However, it is hardly in the common good to continue to subsidize them by not making them do their homework and not requiring them to mitigate the impact of their business practices.

Fortunately a majority of industries are realizing that conducting business in a sustainable manner is not only socially responsible – it is also a more cost-effective and sensible way of doing business. The Canadian Council of Chief Executives has been lobbying our reluctant federal government for years to implement a carbon cap and trade system.  Modern businesses are realizing that their social license to operate depends on recognizing that the economy cannot be separated from the environment within which it exists.

A recent example is Imperial Oil that recently developed oil sands technology that has comparable carbon footprint to the extraction of conventional oil and is significantly better than the carbon footprint of extracting heavy oil in Saudi Arabia or Venezuela.  To quote Imperial Oil:

“Certainly it is Imperial’s belief that to gain and maintain a social license to operate and to grow, the oil sands industry needs to present a compelling case in how it’s addressing environmental challenges of oil sands development.”

While the oil sands industry has much further to go in becoming environmentally friendly, it is encouraging to see them making progress down that path.

Perhaps it is also possible that the less arrogant members of the GOHBA are embarrassed that the oil sands industry appears to be miles ahead of them when it comes to environmental responsibility.

In any event, why should Ontario tolerate less environmental responsibility from the industry that develops subdivisions? Is it so that a greedy few can continue to prosper at the expense of the common environment that we all must share?  The entire construction industry contributes less than 5% to Canada’s GDP and home building is a fraction of that number.  Where is the common sense in that?

If the green advertising of the members of the GOHBA is to be seen as more than superficial features in the houses they build likely depends on whether each builder is willing to make a meaningful commitment to improving our environment by conducting its business in a sustainable manner.

We can only hope that the more responsible home builders who may be members of the GOHBA will rapidly distance themselves from the colonial, 19th century style of thinking presented in that article and if necessary establish a more credible association that chooses to acknowledge that we all currently live in the 21st century and that the survival of our society depends entirely on our environment.

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GHG Denial in TFD EA

Climate Change, South March Highlands

Opportunity Cost

The 2010 CEAA Screening Study for Terry Fox Road Part B contains a manditory section that summarizes the effects of the project on air quality.

Amazingly, the road is assessed as having No Significant impact due to tailpipe emissions and resultant smog and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) effect!

CEAA Summary of Effects On Air Quality

Table 6-5 From CEAA Screening Study

The US Environmental Protection Agency, however, measures vehicle emissions based on the distance driven.  By creating more roads, our cities expand the opportunity for vehicles to drive (generating more GHG in proportion to the length of the road) and create a disincentive for using public transit – roads are more convenient. 

By investing in Terry Fox Drive (TFD), the City has also created an opportunity cost of $47+ M by not putting the same amount of money into public transit.  As an example of the impact of this opportunity cost, currently there is some concern over the cost of student bus passes that are now manditory.  An expenditure of less than $5 M is probably sufficient to allow all students to ride the bus for free.  The $47 M being spent on the road would have enabled students to ride the bus for free for over 9 years!

Real Disclosure

The City should have disclosed that TFD will result in a net total annual emission of 90,324 Tonnes of GHG per year.

 The calculation for this is:

  • GHG increased by volume of traffic x amount of time of traffic on road.
    • Use avg traffic volume x 24 hrs x avg GHG emission per hour per vehicle
    • Assuming peak to average ratio is 10:1 and that peak hour volume is 2 hours x morning & afternoon
    • US EPA: light duty vehicle (incl passenger car but not SUV and miniVANs) = 337 gCO2 per mile
    • US EPA: SUV, miniVAN, pickup trucks are approx 1.3 x worse
    • US EPA: Combined Cars & Trucks = 1.13 x passenger = 1.13 x 337 = 380.81 gCO2 per mile driven
    • 380.81 x 1.6 = 609.296 gCO2 per km per vehicle = 0.6 kg CO2 per km
    • TFD is 4.8 Km long = 0.6 x 4.8 = 2.88 Kg CO2 per vehicle
    • Using unconstrained modal split disclosed in the 2004 EA Traffic Study of 8950 vehicles per hour (In+Out) 8950 x 2.88 = 25776 Kg CO2 per peak hr
    • 8 x 25776 / 1000 = 206.208 tC per day from peak plus 16 x .1 x 25776 / 1000 = 41.2416 tC non-peak per day
    • 206.2 + 41.24 = 247.44 tC per day x 365 = 90,315.6 tC per annu
  • GHG absorption decreased by loss of forest cover due to clear-cutting for the road:
    • Use hectares removed by road times GHG absorption per hectare
      • 4.67 ha Dry-Fresh Sugar Maple-Ironwood Deciduous Forest
      • 0.34 ha Dry-Fresh White Ash-Hardwood Deciduous Forest
      • 5.61 ha Fresh-Moist White Pine-Hardwood Mixed Forest
      • 0.37 ha Young Deciduous Forest
      • 4.67 + 0.34 + 5.61 + 0.37 = 10.99 ha
    • 10.99 x 0.75 = 8.2425 Tonnes Carbon absorbed per year
    • According to David Suzuki Foundation, other GHG removal per hectare of forest is 60 kg/ha = 0.06 t/ha
      • 0.75 + 0.60 = 1.35 GHG per ha
    • 10.99 x 1.35 = 14.8365 Tonnes of GHG per year

 Net change in GHG = 90315.6 + 8.24 = 90323.84 Tonnes per year

Lack of Accountability

The analysis used in the previous section is based on the City of Ottawa’s own traffic study statistics which are based on unreasonable traffic volumes.  Nonetheless the City was obligated to disclose the impact based on the numbers that they used to justify the road.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) was also obligated to ensure that the disclosure was accurate.  How could they have accepted an error of over 90 MegaTonnes of GHG emission?

We deserve much more responsibility and accountability from our public servants at both the Municipal and Federal levels!

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Climate Change Data Exhonerated

Climate Change

On March 31, 2010, the Science and Technology Committee of the UK House of Commons issued its official report into the allegations of dishonesty at the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University.

The scientific reputation of Professor Jones and CRU remains intact… We have found no reason in this unfortunate episode to challenge the scientific consensus.”

The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. ”

On the accusations relating to Professor Jones’s refusal to share raw data and computer codes, “the Committee  considers that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community but that those practices need to change.”

On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—“trick” and “hiding the decline”—”the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.”

” Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.”

Even if the data that CRU used were not publicly available—which they mostly are—its published results would still be credible because the results from CRU agree with those drawn from other international data sets.

On the matter of Dr. Jones’ use of the phrase “trick” in an email referring to Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick graph, the Committee concludes:

Critics of CRU have suggested that Professor Jones’s use of the word “trick” is evidence that he was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that did not fit his view that recent global warming is predominately caused by human activity. The balance of evidence patently fails to support this view. It appears to be a colloquialism for a “neat” method of handling data.”

On the matter of Dr. Jones’ email including the phrase “hide the decline”, the Committee finds:

Critics of CRU have suggested that Professor Jones’s use of the words “hide the decline” is evidence that he was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence that did not fit his view that recent global warming is predominantly caused by human activity. That he has published papers—including a paper in Nature—dealing with this aspect of the science clearly refutes this allegation. In our view, it was shorthand for the practice of discarding data known to be erroneous.”

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Dark Clouds

Climate Change, Virtual Reality

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing helps companies (and individuals) off-load their computing needs onto a network-based facility.

At a personal level, the advent of mobile Internet devices such as

  • 3G/4G Broadband Roaming cards for laptops,
  • iPhone/iTouch,
  • Kindle / eBook Readers,
  • BlackBerrys /Smartphones,
  • etc.

has fueled a need for network-based applications, storage, backup, social networking, and a variety of other services.  These needs are typically met by a data center somewhere “off in the cloud” that is managed by someone else.

Similarly at a corporate level, clouds have enabled Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) opportunities that basically outsource management of the IT infrastructure to the Cloud provider on a pay-per-use basis.

In both cases, the cloud user’s carbon foot-print is reduced since less infrastructure is needed on-site.

Or is it?

Coal & Steam

Cloud computing simply transfers the burden of IT service delivery onto the cloud service provider.  Not surprisingly most of these providers are currently in the USA – with data centers in the USA.

Sadly most regions in the USA depend on dirty carbon-fired generating stations (oil, gas, coal) to provide electrical power, so it comes as no surprise that power-hungry data centers are dependent on greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting coal-burning power plants.

The most popular form of “clean” energy generation in the USA is to use nuclear power to heat water to drive steam turbines.

Although the power-generation part of the nuclear power story is arguably clean, there is still that pesky detail of how to dispose of the radioactive waste that results from the process.  Since that problem has not been solved and is literally “buried”, nuclear power is actually dirty.

Isn’t it strange that in the 21st century, IT is largely dependent on coal & steam?

Greenpeace Study

Greenpeace recently did a survey of some of the largest and better-known Internet sites to raise an alarm about the dirty side of cloud computing:

  • Apple’s largest data center is in Lenoir, NC (500,000 Sq Ft) with a dependence on 96% dirty power.  Apple is building an even larger facility nearby that will have the same dependency on dirty power.
  • Yahoo’s 190,000 Sq Ft data center in Lockport, NY is 72% dependent on dirty power, while its largest facility in La Vista, NE (350,000 Sq Ft) is 93% dependent on dirty power.  Yahoos’ dirty power index is 86% based on the weighed average of these two facilities.
  • Google’s two largest data centers are in Lenoir, NC (476,000 Sq Ft) and Dalles, OR (206,000 Sq Ft).  The Lenoir facility depends on 96% dirty power and the Dalles facility depends on 49% dirty power.  The weighted dirty power consumption index for Google is 82%.
  • Microsoft’s 700,000 Sq Ft data center in Chicago is 99% dependent on dirty power, while its 470,000 Sq Ft data center in San Antonio, TX is 89% dependent on dirty power.  Microsoft’s 470,000 Quincy, WA data center is 100% clean energy powered (hydro).  The weighted average dirty power consumption index for Microsoft is 68%.

Silver Lining

What Greenpeace doesn’t tell you is that these industry giants are all trying to improve their GHG-emissions.

Although Apple has been visibly reducing the carbon footprint of its products and has taken the high ground in responsibly accounting for its total product life cycle impact, it appears that its IT department has not yet focused on this problem.

Overall, Apple reports that its facilities, including data centers, account for 3% of its total life cycle GHG emissions.  In other words, Apple has a massive reduction challenge to solve in the manufacturing and use of its power-hungry products before it shifts its focus on internal IT impact.

Apple’s focus on lifecycle impact will have a larger collateral benefit on reducing GHG emissions globally.

Yahoo is building a large facility in Buffalo, NY that is expected to be hydro-powered, so we can expect that its dirty power footprint will fall somewhat in the near future.

Google is moving aggressively by limiting it’s power waste and investing heavily in renewable energy sources through its RE < C initiative.

Meanwhile, Microsoft appears to have the leadership position with 25% of its total energy consumption coming from renewable sources.

All of this leaves considerable room for improvement and Greenpeace is rightfully keeping the heat on cloud computing.

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GreenPeace Got It Wrong

Climate Change

GreenPeace Protest

GreenPeace’s recent protest of scaling the walls of Parliament Hill to protest green house gas (GHG) emissions from the tar sands was certainly well-intentioned.  GHG emissions in Canada have been steadily increasing ever since Canada signed the Kyoto Accord.  The following chart from Environment Canada makes it painfully clear that

  1. GHG emissions in Canada have been steadily climbing since 1983.
  2. GHG-Intensity is a false metric for tracking GHG emissions.
  3. There is a strong correlation between energy usage and GHG in Canada.
Canada GHG Emissions 1980-2007

Canada GHG Emissions 1980-2007

But are is Oil Sand mining the biggest source of the problem?  Not by a long shot.

The Real Culprits

Environment Canada compiles an inventory of GHG emissions every year.  Since this takes them a while to add up, the most recent data available is for 2007.  A quick scan through this data with a calculator reveals that the top 3 sources of GHG emissions come from:

  1. Transportation (cars, trucks, planes) at 200 Mega Tonnes
  2. Mining, Oil & Gas, extraction and processing at 158 Mega Tonnes
  3. Electricity & Heat generation at 126 MegaTonnes

(1) and (3) are not surprising considering that Canada is the largest country in the world with a sparse population living in one of the coldest regions on our planet.  GreenPeace would have us believe that (2) is because of the Oil Sands, but only 18% of these emissions actually come from Oil Sands extraction and processing. 

In fact, according to Environment Canada’s GHG Inventory. over twice this amount (41% of mining, oil & gas industry emissions) comes from “fugitive” emissions that are caused by gas escaping from traditional oil & gas extraction through flaring, venting, burn-offs, leakage, etc.  Better engineering and less carelessness by roughnecks out in the bush would go twice as far in protecting our environment than targetting the oil sands industry.

Our #1 problem, transportation, breaks down almost evenly between personal use (87 Mt) and trucking-related (81 Mt) with aviation, railways and marine use mopping up the remaining (32 Mt).  More aggressive standards on fuel-related emissions and greater incentives for using electric/hybrid, clean diesel, and alternative fuel vehicles would have made it easy for Canada to live up to its Kyoto promises.

However, digging into the contributors for Electricity production reveals that there are 2 companies that EACH produce more GHG than all of the oil sands producers put together!

Top Polluters In Canada

The environmental watchdog, Corporate Knights, is a well-respected and independent publication that publishes an annual list of the best and worst companies as measured by their environmental practices.  Their most recent Carbon 50 report, reveals that two corporations,

  • TransAlta and
  • Ontario Power Generation,

EACH emit as much GHG as the entire oil sands industry.

Although both these polluters have plans to clean up their act, these plans are being measured using an Intensity-Based metric of  Total Pollution / Total Electricity Produced.

Using this metric (which was originated by the Harper & Bush administrations to avoid accountability on climate change), it is OK to increase pollution as long as you also increase the amount of electricity generated.  This enables the polluter to make faint progress, maximize public relations, and avoid accoutability.

We need to reject the intensity-based lie by refusing to allow politicians and corporations to hide behind it.  Mr. Bush is now a historical figure and Mr. Harper recently flip-flopped and is no longer using it, but we also need to hold corporate Canada accountable too.

TA

TransAlta (TA) is Canada’s largest investor owned electric power producer, producing 55% of its current 8.8 GW output from GHG-emitting, coal-fired power plants.  Despite their corporate rhetoric about investing in green replacement sources, according to their investor information, TA has more coal-fired new production (271 MW) under near-term construction than renewable wind or hydro production (153 MW). 

In fact, even after bringing a further 692 MW of renewable energy online by 2013, only 24% of TA’s electrical production will be from renewable energy sources.

One of the reasons for their wimpy plan is that TA has failed to include GHG reduction as a corporate key performance metric.  TA has adopted non-finanical key performance measures such as Availability and Safety but not GHG reduction.  Sadly, TA’s annual report measures future progress (page 58) using GHG Intensity metrics as if they are useful metrics.  As a result, their executives can pocket bonus compensation while continuing to pollute our air. 

Clearly TA’s leadership needs to hear from their green-minded investors that how they make money is just as important has how much money they make!!  Mr. Gordon Giffin is the Board member who Chairs the  Governance & Environment Committee of the Board.

OPG

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is Canada’s largest government-owned electricity producer, producing 22% of its 21.7 GW from GHG-emitting gas and coal sources.  OPG has established a target of zero production from coal by 2014 but also uses an intensity-based metric to measure progress. 

This enables OPG to crow about a 2% reduction per GWhr while pumping out 28.4 Mt of GHG in 2007 – more than the entire oil sands industry.  Under OPG’s flimsy plan, their zero-coal target can be acheived by replacing coal-sourced power with gas-sourced power.  Since fewer GHG are produced by gas than coal, their intensity-based metric will show a reduction while total GHG pollution continues to increase.

OPG’s public relations also fail to come clean on the fact that OPG’s “renewable” power sources are actually dominated by nuclear power production which is neither green nor a renewable resource.  While nuclear is “clean” from a GHG perspective, only 26% of the 21 GW produced in Ontario in August 2009 was from renewable and green sources.

OPG gets its marching orders from Mr. Gerry Phillips, Ontario’s Minister of Energy.  I’m sure he’d like to hear from you.

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When is it Ever Good to Pollute?

Climate Change

Never.

Those who are all worked up about the so-called climate-gate scandal are forgetting that ALL pollution is bad.   Or perhaps that is something they want us to forget.

1. No scientist disputes that there are natural warming cycles to climate.

2. No scientist disputes that the pollution caused by greenhouse gas emissions contribute to the warming effect of the earth. 

These conclusions are well-documented by many independent data sets and were reached by the scientific community at least 10 years before the alleged “cooking” of the data by the team at the University of East Anglia led by Dr. Phil Jones. 

The climate-gate thesis that the global community of over 10,000 informed and independently minded scientists have all been bullied by some conspiracy led by either Dr. Jones at East Anglia. or by Dr. Michael Mann at Pennsylvania State University defies common sense. 

It is only in the past 4 years that climate scientists have additionally concluded that:

3. Human greenhouse gas emissions have become the dominant cause of climate change and

4. If we don’t do something about it soon, these changes will become irreversible and goodbye to climate cycles. 

These recent conclusions are based on independent data collected by NASA, NOAA, and many other researchers around the world.  The unlikely possibility that the data managed by Phil Jone’s team has been manipulated to agree with these other sources does not change their conclusions. 

Nor does it make it good to pollute.  Pollution disrupts the natural cycles by accelerating the effect of warming.  All pollution is bad and it is no surprise that it is caused by irresponsible human activity.

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Ontario’s MicroGeneration Feed-Tarriff

Climate Change

FIT

A relatively unnoticed part of the McGuinty government’s Green Energy Act is the plan to establish a preferential feed-in tarriff (FIT) for renewable energy generation.  The FIT program provides incentives for homeowners to install rooftop solar and other renewable energy generation equipment (windmills, etc.). 

Homeowners who produce energy can tie into the Ontario electrical grid and sell their power at rates up to 10x more than their cost of electricity from the grid!  The rate for rooftop solar (80.2 cents) is double the previous fixed rate for purchasing power from home solar systems and 10x the average rate for electricity  during daylight hours (8 cents).  The approval process is also simplified and streamlined for home and small-business-scale systems that are less than 10 kW.

The rationale for the program is that it is cheaper to encourage consumers to install their own micro-generation capability than to spend hundreds of billions replacing the coal-fired generation stations that currently produce 20% of Ontario’s power (the current installed capacity at Ontario’s four coal-fired generating stations is 6,434 MW and this is used 15 – 30% of the time depending on the availability of other non-coal generating stations).

Each home that micro-generates its own power displaces demand for centrally-produced power.  Solar generation is especially valuable as an energy source because it produces power during peak periods of energy demand as shown below.

 Ontario Hourly Demand

Economics

The FIT price schedule is still being fine tuned pending final approval of the Green legislation.  The average price for most non-solar energy production is 13.5 cents per kWh.  Solar production is clearly favoured and ranges from 44 – 80 cents per kWh.

Suppose the average home installs a 0.32 kWh rooftop system costing approximately $4000. Typical PV Solar panels have a life expectancy of 20 – 25 years. These systems are virtually maintenance free and, because your extra power goes into the grid, you don’t need to mess around with batteries.  The expected efficiency of a grid-attached PV Solar micro-generation system is about 95% since the primary loss is only when the DC output is converted to AC by your onsite inverter.

According to Natural Resources Canada, Stittsville has a PV potential of 1201 kWh / 1000 kW installed generation.  So a 0.32 kW system x 1201 hrs = 384 kWh per year x .95% efficiency = $365 kWh x $0.802 = $293 per year.  A system costing $4K will pay back in just under 14 years. A good guide to calculating the economics of PV Solar in Canada can be found in the Photovoltaic Buyer’s Guide.

Under the FIT program, you get the benefit of this production even if you consume more energy than you produce. When a FIT micro-generation system is installed, your local power company will install a meter that measures it’s output and you will be give a credit for the energy produced based on FIT pricing.  Your electrical bill will reflect the cost of your power consumed from the grid (at an average of 8 cents during peak period) minus the credit for your power produced to the grid (at a rate of 80 cents during peak period).

If you plan on selling your house within the 15 year payback period, your buyer will benefit from the micro-generation and you should be able to negotiate that value into your resale price for your home. 

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Calculate Carbon Footprint of Your Bank Account

Climate Change

Bank Funded GHG

Is government intervention necessary to kick-start funding of alternative energy projects in Canada? 

According to ClimateFriendlyBanking.org , the top 5 Canadian banks provided $55 B in direct funding for coal, gas, and oil production in 2007.  To put this in perspective, Canada’s entire military budget that year was only $17 B. 

If indirect funding is counted, the total credit extended for greenhouse gas (GHG) emitting fossil fuel production totals $155 B as illustrated below:

Bank Funded GHG 

This funding resulted in 625 M tonnes of CO2 emissions per year from fossil fuels - most of which is domestic GHG emission.   For example, in 2006 Canada’s entire GHG production was 583 M tonnes from all sources.

Meanwhile these same banks provided a total of only $6.8 B in direct funding for renewable, alternative energy production.  In other words, Canadian banks directly funded over 8x more GHG-intensive energy production than green energy production.

Your GHG Account

So what does this have to do with your bank account?

From previous posts on this site, you know that banks leverage their deposits by a ratio of approximately 10:1.  So for every dollar that you leave in a bank account, the bank lends out $10. 

By dividing the total funding of GHG-producing loans by the total amount deposited, it is easy to calculate the proportion of deposits that fund GHG emissions.  Multiply that by your bank balance, and voila, you have calculated the carbon footprint of your bank account.

To simplify this, you can readily calculate the carbon footprint of your bank balance by using the onlne calculator at  ClimateFriendlyBanking.org.

You can also determine how you can trim your personal funding of GHG emissions just by switching banks! 

For example, moving $5000 from the Bank of Montreal (535 Kg of CO2) to the TD Bank (485 Kg) will save 50 Kg in CO2 emissions – roughly equal to parking a small car and not driving it for 9 days.

Fund Green Jobs Instead
A study by the David Suzuki Foundation found that a $16 B investment in renewable energy—wind, solar, low impact hydro, biomass and geothermal—could in Ontario alone create:

  • 5,000 jobs in the wind energy sector by 2010
  • 77,000 jobs in wind energy by 2020
  • 18,750 jobs in geothermal energy within 2 years
  • 51,000 jobs in geothermal energy systems by 2020
  • 25,000 jobs in solar energy systems by 2025

This funding, which is less than 1/2 of what our banks are lending to generate fossil fuels, would install more than 12,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2020—enough electricity to entirely phase out all of Ontario’s coal plants.

These are not idle claims, the UNEP reports that Denmark created 17,000 permanent jobs within 5 years of launching a major investment program in wind energy production.  In Germany, over 45,000 people are employed in the wind energy industry.

Wind also presents a unique opportunity for a new cash crop in rural Ontario.  Farmers can lease their land to a wind developer. Or farmers can install, own and operate the turbines themselves. According to the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, if 1/2 of Ontario’s farmers install only one 1 MW wind turbine, they could pump $4 billion through the rural Ontario economy by harvesting the wind!

Who says we have to choose between economic prospertity and a green future? 

And why are we focusing on bailing out the auto-industry when we could be replacing lost plants with green jobs?

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Forget GM, Save Dokie

Canadian Politics, Climate Change

Credit Threat

The global financial crisis has forced Canada’s largest wind energy project in northeast B.C. to seek court protection, in order to hold off creditors who are looking to recover $131 million in debt.   Despite the fact that the Dokie wind energy project has a high credit rating (S&P: AA+, Moody’s: Aaa, DBRS: AA(high)), the project ran into trouble when its developer, EarthFirst Canada Inc. announced recently that it needed creditor protection.

The company’s press release stated that “EarthFirst’s efforts to pursue strategic alternatives has been severely hindered by the unprecedented crisis in the global financial markets which has impacted on EarthFirst’s ability to raise financing or to complete a sale of the company”.

EarthFirst Canada is important because its alternative energy projects represent 25% of Canada’s pipeline of new wind energy projects through 2015.  If EarthFirst is allowed to fail, Canada’s ability to generate new jobs by meeting Kyoto targets will be seriously at risk.

In fact, the collateral damage caused by the global financial crisis has put all major capital projects at risk. Since every single new alternative energy project is a major capital project that requires significant lending, many of these important projects, like Dokie, are now at risk.

Rather than suspending Parliament, our country would be better served by immediate government action to provide federal loan guarantees for these alternative energy projects!

About Dokie

Dokie Ridge is located on the Rocky Mountain foothills of the Peace River region  near the mountain spine that runs the length of North America. It’s location is one of the top-ranked wind resources in Canada.  The Dokie Project is located approximately 150 kilometres southwest of Fort St. John and is adjacent to the existing 500 kV and 230 kV transmission lines which originate at the Bennett Dam.

Where is Dokie Ridge?

The Dokie Wind Energy project is already under construction on Dokie Ridge after winning a 20-year power purchase agreement with BC Hydro in 2006. The project has obtained an Environmental Assessment Certificate, completed its engineering design, as well as First Nations and community review. The Dokie Project is structured in 2 phases: Dokie I will produce 144 MW followed by Dokie Expansion which will generate a further 156 MW for a total of 300 MW of green power.

By comparison, the next largest project in Canada is the 100 MW Anse-a-Valleau project in Quebec.  All the wind energy projects in Alberta currently total only 524 MW, Ontario’s total only 491 MW. 

The Dokie Project significantly adds to Canada’s wind energy output as it would be 30% of the total of Alberta and Ontario combined!

Global Comparisons

Europe was the first to embrace wind energy and now dominates the wind energy industry globally, with over 48,545 MWs or 65% of total global installed windpower capacity in 2006 according to Global Wind Energy Council.  Within Europe, Germany and Spain have been the largest producers.

Germany had 20,622 MW of installed windpower capacity at the end of 2006, which accounted for approximately 6% of that country’s total power consumption.

Spain had 11,615MW installed windpower capacity at the end of 2006, which accounted for approximately 9% of its total power consumption.

North America accounted for 13,062 MWs in 2006 which represents less than 1% of total power consumption.  The USA expanded its wind energy production by 45% in 2007 and currently produces 16,818 MW of power from wind.

GWEC reports that Canada has 1,846 MW of wind energy production in 2007.  As shown below Canadian provincial electrical utilities are currently seeking to commission 10,000 MW installed windpower capacity by 2015. 

Planned Wind Energy In Canada

EarthFirst Canada represents 2,500 MW or 25% of this total and Dokie is it’s leading project.  Dokie alone would add 16% to Canada’s current wind energy generation capacity.

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GHG Reduction Leadership or BullShip?

Climate Change

USA

For those of us who can recall JFK, Obama certainly echos that spirit of change and hope.

If you ever wondered what JFK might have said about climate change, check out Greenpeace’s creative video rendition John F. Kennedy’s famous speech on climate change. Sadly it never happened.

By comparision, in these videos, Obama sounds considerably less visonary by comparison but certainly can be more specific.

Canada

Meanwhile this video shows our Canadian leaders spend more time attacking each other on this issue than actually attacking the real issues!  

Meanwhile, even though we can clearly do more, our [former] government is busy taking a so-called balanced approach that avoids concrete targets and gives the illusion of progress on the issue.

Research by both the Pembina Institute and the C. D. Howe Institute confirm that the Harper government’s policies won’t result in any GHG reductions by even 2020.   That’s because the current federal climate-change plan focuses on emission-intensity reductions—rather than on cutting overall emissions.  

According to Canada’s lead scientist to the UN’s blue ribbon panel on climate change, Andrew Weaver, “From the information provided in the federal plan, we learn that by 2020 the oil sands sector will be required to reduce its emissions intensity by 23%.  But oil sands production is also expected to quadruple by 2020.”   The net effect, according to Weaver, would be a tripling of GHG emissions from the oil sands by 2020. [Keeping Our Cool: Canada in a Warming World published by Viking Canada]

So why is the Canadian government so ineffective on climate change?

GHG vs GDP

Harper’s behaviour is entirely based on a belief that progress on GHG reductions is at odds with economic growth.  In reaching this point of view, it has been reported that Harper met once with leading environmentalist David Suzuki, zero times with accredited Canadian scientific experts on climate change, and over 40 times with representatives from the Alberta oil industry.

However, the point of view that GHG reduction equals GDP reduction is not a uniquely Alberta perspective. This is based on data that clearly shows that increasing GHG emissions have historically accompanied GDP growth.  It is also based on data that shows that the countries who have grown their economies the most also tend to be the countries with the highest per-capita GHG emissions.

Heck, that is how we got into this mess in the first place. So if increased GHG emissions is the price of increased GDP, then it seems logical that reduced GHG emissions must cause reduced GDP growth.

But what may be true in one direction is not always true when going in the opposite direction.  E.G. Just because my feet get wet when it rains doesn’t mean that drying my feet will cause it to stop raining.

Decoupling GHG from GDP
When applied to the question of GHG-GDP, several countries (India, China, Sweden, Denmark, etc.) have in fact proved this reverse logic to be false.  This is known as “decoupling” GDP growth from GHG emissions and many countries have shown that they can take aggressive action on GHG reductions without impairing GDP growth.

For example, according to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency, illustrated below, GDP growth has been achieved while simultaneously making progress against Kyoto commitments:

Denmark Decouples GDP 

A recent study in New Zealand also found that relative de-coupling (based on GHG / GDP intensity) can readily be achieved as a first step to absolute de-coupling.   “Relative decoupling is useful to highlight the trends in CO2 emissions relative to GDP.  Relative decoupling may mean a drop in emissions relative to GDP but that drop may still be insufficient to minimise climate change impacts.”

So in other words, the fact that you can reduce your GHG intensity as GDP grows is proof that GHG can be de-coupled from GDP.  The report presents evidence that the USA, the EU, and Japan have already achieved relative decoupling.

The report also states that a country cannot rely solely on GHG intensity metrics to lead you to overall declines in emissions.  The report concludes that absolute de-coupling is possible and must be the goal of national policies:  “Decoupling has shown that it is essential to reduce absolute CO2 emissions, i.e. to achieve absolute decoupling.”

So it is time to do away with the fear that our economy will suffer from Kyoto.  Our leaders also need to dispose of false intensity-based targets and adopt absolute GHG reduction targets.

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Update on Canada’s Track Record on GHG

Climate Change

In a previous post, I highlighted Canada’s poor record on climate change based on 2002 per-capita data that puts us 4th worst in the world. 

In the meantime awareness on climate change has grown, so how are we doing now?  Not good – based on the most recent data on total change since the 1990 benchmark year.

Background

In 1992 most countries (including Canada and the USA) joined an international treaty — the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — to begin to consider what can be done to reduce global warming and to cope with whatever temperature increases are inevitable.

In 1997, a number of nations (including Canada) approved an addition to the treaty: the Kyoto Protocol, which has more powerful (and legally binding) measures. 

This protocol was ratified by Canada in 2002 by accession, meaning that Canada accepted the legality of the binding resolution without issuing explicit consent to it. 

1990-2004

Canada’s tepid response on ratifying Kyoto was no doubt based on our appalling and shameful compliance to the objectives of Kyoto.  According to Canada’s 4th National Report on Climate Change:

“On September 28, 2006, the [Canadian] Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development released her 2006 Report on Climate Change. The Report described that even though the [Liberal] federal government had announced billions of dollars in funding since 1992 toward meeting commitments to address GHG emissions, as of 2004 Canada’s GHG emissions were 26.6% above 1990 levels.

The Commissioner urged Canada’s New Government to come up with a credible, realistic and clear plan that should address the long-neglected need to help Canadians cope with the consequences of climate change and to commit to specific actions with timeframes for completing them.”

In other words, the Canadian Commissioner was quite sickened over our lack of progress and kicked our government’s butt to get serious or give up. 

1990-2006

Ok, so we changed governments, how are we doing now?  According to the most recent data available from the UNFCC, Canada is now the 3rd worst nation in the world having gone from a 27% miss to a 54% miss in our Kyoto targets!  

 Changes in GHG Emissions 1990 - 2006

 LULUCF = Land use, Land-Use Change and Forestry Total emissions and removals from activities relating to land use, land-use change and forestry (from the following categories: forest land, cropland, grassland, wetlands, settlements and other land).

Why We Suck
In the 4th National Report on Climate Change, our new Conservative government responded with:

“The cornerstone of Canada’s new approach is legislation tabled in Parliament on October 19, 2006. Canada’s Clean Air Act takes a comprehensive approach to the problem of worsening air quality and GHG emissions. … The Act represents a significant shift from a voluntary to a regulatory approach.”

So far so good, but (here comes the water):

“Over the next three years, new regulations on all major sectors will be implemented. … Compliance options being examined include:

  • an industry-led emissions trading system; [industry-led - what happened to regulation??]
  • a technology investment fund that would support the development of transformative technologies for emissions reductions to which companies, and potentially governments, could contribute; [potentially contribute?  so its up to industry to invest, wonder how much?]
  • opt-in mechanisms that would enable entities not covered by regulation to voluntarily assume emissions targets; [opt-in?? what happened to regulation??]
  • incentives that could see companies receive credit for investments in technology; [more investment, but where's the regulation??]
  • mechanisms to recognize credit for early action; [pats on the back!!]
  • domestic offsets in which verified emissions reductions outside the regulated system are recognized as eligible for compliance in the regulated system. [more pats on the back!!]“

Thats it. Thats all the compliance that we have in place to enforce our “regulations”. Basically our shiney new “regulatory compliance program” is entirely based on industry-led initiatives and investment fueled by “atta-boys” from our cheer-leading government.

Wow – no wonder the rest of the world thinks we’re idiots.

Intense Pollution
But it gets even more ludicrous when we look at our regulatory targets in more depth:

“Targets are an important dimension of Canada’s new approach. … Short-term intensity based GHG reduction targets will be set in consultation with provinces and territories and all affected industry sectors.”

Intensity-based targets are a made-in-USA concept (courtesty of G.W. Bush) where your GHG target is based on efficient you are at polluting.  Suppose you crank out X tons of GHG to generate Y dollars of revenue.  Your intensity is X/Y. 

If you cap your emissions but raise your revenue, then your intensity is less. So even though you are still polluting the same amount, you get an atta-boy from the government because you are more efficient at it!

But we are ALREADY the 3rd worst country in the world relative to our 1990 baseline target.  We can meet all our government’s intensity targets and still fail because we are not making absolute progress in REDUCING GHG emissions that we are already 54% behind on.

Is it time for a completely new political approach?

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Consumer Vs Conserver Society

Canadian Politics, Climate Change

Consumer or Conserver
In September 1977 the Science Council of Canada wrote a landmark document, “Canada As A Conserver Society” [Report No. 27], that brought into focus for the first time our choice to be either a Consumer or Conserver Society. This report outlined how we should recognize the total cost of our wanton consumption of energy, the imperative of respecting the capacity of our biosphere, and laid the policy foundations for what we should do about it.

Also in 1977, the Canadian dept of Energy, Mines, and Resources published “An Energy Strategy for Canada” that mapped out the detailed policies necessary for energy self-reliance and environmental sustainability. For example the report identified the prime importance of appropriate energy pricing to cause shifts in consumption patterns. (Today this same concept has resurfaced as “carbon taxation”. )

Other innovative policy imperatives identified in this report included:

  • energy conservation,
  • interfuel substitution,
  • increased R&D stimulus for sustainable energy, and
  • greater Canadian content and participation in natural resource development.  This last policy led to the creation of Petro Canada as a policy implementation vehicle.

These concepts vaulted Canada into a leadership position internationally on this topic.  These ideas were widely reported and many young people, including myself, went “Green” and initiated Conserver Society practices such as recycling, re-use, repair, re-purposing, etc. 

For example, the first community paper recycling project in Canada was launched by a volunteer group of Queen’s students in Kingston in the winter of 1978 (for which I have the honour of knowing and the privilege being one of those volunteers).  This project was ultimately transferred to the City of Kingson and is now commonplace in virtually every municipality in Canada.  The Recycling Council of Ontario was also born in 1978 as were similar recycling initiatives in Toronto and other cities.

But these initiatives were not enough to change our society into a Conserver Society.  Although Canadians started re-cycling (e.g. 1/2 of the paper in Canada is currently recycled), and we did a better job of insulating our homes, we only reduced the trajectory of our energy consumption.  We did not fundamentally change it.

Today

30 years later, according to ”Key World Energy Statistics’” from the International Energy Agency 2006, North America with 5% of the world’s population consumes 33% of the world’s resources.

IEC 2006 Energy Consumption Per Capita Emissions

Notice Canada’s embarassing position at the far right of the graph. Nobody else consumes as much energy as we do per capita!

If every other person on the planet consumed on a per person basis as much as we do, we’d need another 3 planets to provide for that consumption!

National Comparisons

This consumption translates directly into greenhouse gas emissions. The chart below shows the outrageous per capita CO2 emissions of Canada and the USA relative to the rest of the world.  Thanks to our resource-intensive industries, we rank along with Australia and Saudi Arabia among the world’s worst polluters.  Notice that most European countries are significantly less egregious emitters of CO2.

World Bank 2002 Per Capita Emissions

Canada's Track Record
As Canadians we have nothing but shame. Our track record relative to the promises we made to the international community when we signed the Kyoto Accord is not very pretty as illustrated below.

United Nations Environment Protection Agency

Our recent election proved that politicians to not lead change, they respond to popular opinion. We must change popular opinion first and become embarassed enough to get out of our comfy chairs.

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One Pound of Coal = 625 L of CO2

Climate Change

Official sources usually describe greenhouse gas emissions by the weight of the gas produced, typically in kilograms of CO2.  This is strange because we normally use kilograms to refer to the amount of a solid substance (weight), and we use volume to refer to the amount of a liquid or gas (e.g. Liters). 

When CO2 is in solid form it is known as “dry ice” and it sublimates into a gas at any temperature above -78.51 C.  In fact liquid CO2 can only be formed at high pressures greater than 5 atmospheres.  Since CO2 is normally a gas called carbon dioxide, don’t you sometimes wonder how much of the gas is actually produced and how much space it takes up? 

Chemistry

There is no easy conversion of weight to volume because different liquids and gases have different molecular densities.  The only easy exception is that proves this rule is that 1 liter of water weighs 1 kilogram at sea level (the original definition for these units).

The combustion of all carbon containing fuels, such as methane (natural gas), petroleum distillates (gasoline, diesel, kerosene, propane), but also of coal and wood, will yield carbon dioxide and, in most cases, water. As an example the chemical reaction between methane and oxygen is given below.

CH4 + 2 O2 → CO2 + 2 H2O

Since coal is 60 – 80% pure carbon (depending on the “hardness” of the coal in question), burning coal is pretty much the same as burning carbon.  Burning carbon in the presence of oxygen (O2) has two possible combustion reactions: C + O2 -> CO2 (i.e. carbon dioxide) and C + 0.5*O2 -> CO (i.e. carbon monoxide). 

If too much carbon is present (relative to the amount of oxygen) when the combustion occurs, then CO will be produced.  When sufficient oxygen is present CO2 will be produced instead of CO, unless the combustion occurs at very high temperatures such as above 800 C.  Since the self ignition temperature of coal is 400 to 425 C (depending on moisture content and environmental conditions), the burning of coal is well below this threshold and CO2 is the main byproduct of the combustion.

Calculation

To calculate how much CO2 is produced in the chemical reaction from burning coal, we need to calibrate the chemical formula using moles.  Carbon has a molecular mass of 12.011 grams per mole and CO2 has a molecular mass of 44.009 grams per mole. 

1 pound of coal contains 453.59 g/lb x 70% =  317.5 g carbon, or 317.5 / 12 g/mol = 26.4 mols of carbon.  Since the number of atoms in a chemical reaction remain unchanged, this means that buring 1 pound of coal must produce 26.4 mols of CO2.  This amount of CO2 will weigh 26.4 x 44 = 1163 grams = 1.16 Kg.

We can apply the law for ideal gases, V=nRT/P, to convert from mols to liters if we know the temperature and the pressure of the gas:

  • n is the number of mols
  • R is the universal gas constant = 8.3145 (L x Pa) / (mol x K)
  • T is the absolute temperatures measured on the Kelvin scale.  It is possible to mix Kelvin and Celsius in this equation as long as we adjust for zero (0 C = 273.15 K) because 1 degree Celsius has the same gradation in heat as one degree Kelvin
  • P is the pressure measured in kiloPa

Suppose the coal is burned at 415 Celsius at sea level (101.325 kPa is the average sea level barometric pressure),

V = (26.43 Mols) * (8.3145 L*kPa/Mols/K) * (415 Celsius+273.15 Kelvin) / 101.325kPa = 1492 Litres 

Of course, the resulting CO2 gas won’t stay that hot and it will contract in volume as it cools.  By using the same calculation with 15 degrees C (the average temperature of the earth, across all seasons and geographic areas) instead of 415 C,

V = (26.43 Mols) * (8.3145 L*kPa/Mols/K) * (15 Celsius+273.15 Kelvin) / 101.325kPa = 624.98 Litres 

So  1 pound of coal cools into 625 Litres of CO2 once the gas has cooled down to ambient air temperature.  The density of this gas is 26.43 mols x 44 g/mol / 625 L =  1.86 g/L.

Impact

Burning 1 long ton of coal (2240 pounds) produces 635,013 L of CO2 gas that weighs 1.18 metric tons.  This volume of gas is roughly 5x the volume of the 40′ x 20′ in-ground swiming pool in my backyard.  This is a pretty big pool that can easily be seen from space by the Google satellite in the centre of the photo below.

Paul\'s Pool

So for every ton of coal burned, we end up with 5 swimming pools worth of CO2 hanging around in the atmosphere. 

We could plant a lot of trees to absorb that, but a typical mature tree typically weighs about 3 tons, just over 2 tons of that comes from carbon dioxide.  Each ton of coal would need 1 tree planted and 50 years to grow to offset the carbon dioxide.  But, as Ronald Reagan pointed out trees cause pollution because they also release carbon dioxide.

If this is taken into account then an average tree will absorb about 25 grams more CO2 per day than it releases. Since a typical person generates about 2 to 2.2 pounds of CO2 per day, so for the entire Earth’s population, humans alone generate about 6 to 7 million tons of CO2 per day just by breathing.  Just to keep up with human CO2 output from breathing we would need about 100 billion trees – without offsetting the burning any coal!

The other major natural carbon sink is the ocean which currently absorbs approx 6 Billion Tons of CO2 per year.  Although this is a very large number, studies estimate that it is already only 27% of our collective CO2 emissions worldwide.

Guess we’ll just have to find ways to burn less coal!

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A Carbon Tax Is Inevitable

Canadian Politics, Climate Change

Canadians emit an average of 19 tons of CO2 per person per year compared to 8 in the UK and even less in Scandinavia. A cap and trade system will limit the growth of CO2 emissions but it will not really help diminish them very quickly.

Cap & Trade

This is because all cap & trade systems are based on limiting growth in emissions above their current level – forcing companies to become more emission efficient if they are to grow. If a company cannot reduce emissions faster than they intend on growing, then it must trade to get credits that another company is able to generate via “excess” reductions in their reduction program.  The idea is to progressively lower the cap over time, and this clearly takes a while to bring emissions down.  For example the European Union has had a cap & trade system in place for nearly 30 years but only 2 of 25 countries actually have cap limits below historical levels!

Since a cap & trade system is based on limiting the quantity of emissions, the value of the credits is largely determined by how fast the cap is reduced.  If the rate of quantity reduction is too high, not enough credits can be generated to be traded and the cost of compliance soars.  On the other hand if the rate of cap reduction is too slow, then the value of the credits are too low to be worth obtaining.

It is well known and widely accepted that current levels are too high. In fact Kyoto is all about reducing emissions by 6% below the 1990 level. Without effective government leadership, Canada is now running 22% above our 1990 level – a full 28% off target.

Carbon Tax

The main alternative to a cap & trade system is a carbon tax.  This essentially fixes the price of compliance at a known level and corporate environmental impact planning is significantly clearer.  The downside is that companies could choose to absorb the tax as a cost of doing business if it is not high enough – thereby resulting in insufficient reduction in emissions.

It is inevitable that Canada and the USA will impose a carbon tax since it is the only proven way to make any real progress on diminishing CO2 emissions. It has worked in other countries (without killing their economies) and it can work here.  For example, the European Energy Agency estimates that the EU-15 has spent approx 1-2% of its GDP annually on environmental protection measures since 2001 and all those countries realized GDP growth rates equal to or higher than Canada and the USA during this decade.

Inevitability

The fallacy of so-called “intensity-based” targets is evident in any chart that shows whether progress is being made or not relative to Kyoto commitments. Since the USA did not sign Kyoto, only Canadian data is available from official sources as illustrated below:

United Nations Data

So if intensity-based targets are meaningless, and if we have to do something about this intolerable situation sooner rather than later, we need a real mechanism for reduction.  Carbon taxes can work and can also be used in combination with a cap & trade system.  In fact in Europe, more and more countries are adding some form of carbon tax into their national policy for emission reductions as a means of accelerating compliance under the EU-wide cap & trade system.

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Have Carbon Taxes Worked In Other Countries?

Climate Change

Yes.  All the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland) as well as the UK, Netherlands, and Italy have had a carbon tax system in place for the past several years without impacting their economies.   The European Energy Agency estimates that the EU-15 has spent approx 2% of its GDP annually on environmental protection measures since 2001 and all those countries realized GDP growth rates equal to or higher than Canada and the USA during this decade.

Denmark

As the example graph for Denmark shows, there has been a substantial improvement in Denmark’s ability to meet Kyoto targets as a result of implementing a carbon tax system. According to the EEA, Denmark’s industry improved its CO2-intensity by 25 % in seven years from 1993–2000; the econometric analysis shows that at least 10 % resulted from the CO2 tax. The impact came about both through fuel switches and energy efficiency, each accounting for about half the CO2 reduction.

United Nations Data

United Kingdom
Even partial taxes work. Consider the UK that originally started with a carbon tax on some types of fossil fuels and not others.  The UK found carbon taxes so effective that they actually expanded the scope of what was taxed.
United Nations

Sources
Denmark & UK emissions of greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O) 1990 and 2010 projections as published from national statistics and complied by United Nations Environmental Knowledge For Change Program. Emissions from human activities, and primarily fossil fuels, contribute to climate change, global warming and the greenhouse effect. This is primarily from industry, energy, transportation and related sectors.

 

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