Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category
We are supposed to have a carbon neutral government in BC. The BC Liberals introduced legislation to ensure that all the various organizations reporting to it – including schools and hospitals and so on – both took steps to reduce their emissions and where that was not feasible to purchase carbon offsets.
The BC Auditor General has been trying to ensure that his report on this program reached the public before he leaves for Australia and before we head to the polls. Not only was his report issued but he also got a presentation made and put it up on youtube. You can both read the report in full or spend a quarter of an hour listening to a nice lady read a summary. The video is just basic powerpoint type presentation. The main points appear as text on the screen as the voice reads the summary. Auditors are not noted for their exciting presentation skills – but this stuff is indeed dynamite.
The government has been boasting about how well it has done. How safe we are in its hands since the Liberals are so much better at running a businesslike government. Not rash tax and spenders like the NDP – or pie in the sky flakes like the Green Party. This report shows clearly the gap between government spin and reality.
I too have been caught out by false promises of carbon off setters. I wrote about that here. I expected much better of the Climate Change Secretariat, though I am hardly surprised by the results of the audit.
One of the projects was run by a company called Encana. They were flaring gas but now managed to capture it. But it turns out that they would have been doing that anyway, without the PCT financial contribution. And it also just so happens that Encana made $647,670.00 in contributions since 2005 to the BC Liberals. Thanks to Laila Yuile for that info
UPDATE 1 But there is another side to this story as Charlie Smith explores in the Straight. I do not know if the date has any significance.
UPDATE 2 However my conclusion is very much the same as that reached by Bob Simpson MLA – his open letter to the Minister of Finance is well worth reading
There is a Canadian Press story this morning which got covered by the CBC, where it caught my attention.
One year of logging old-growth forests in southwestern British Columbia blows away a year of carbon reductions accomplished by initiatives like the carbon tax.
That’s the finding of a Sierra Club report released today, entitled Carbon at Risk: B.C.’s Unprotected Old-growth Rainforest.
That’s the top of the CP/CBC story – and you can find the same thing elsewhere. In fact I think you should. For a start, missing from the CBC story is any substantive content that they have added – and, even worse in my opinion but common to most news web sites, there isn’t a link to the report. For a better example go to Huffington Post which has the same CP story but at much greater length, and with an interesting back and forth between Rick Jeffery, Coast Forest Products Association president and Sierra Club spokesman Jens Wieting. But also no link to the report.
In fact I actually talked to Jens Wieting myself this morning. First of all I did not even know that there is more than one Sierra Club – but I guessed that Sierra Club Canada was probably the source. Wrong, it’s actually the Sierra Club BC. Their web page is actually much more active and has the press release – but that doesn’t link to the report either. Jens sent it to me by email, but you can download it from the publications section. Its a six page pdf but worth a look.
I am not at all an expert in this field, but I have some connection to it. I would have had a job at the Forests Ministry had not the BCGEU “bumping” practices snatched it away from me. I did do quite a bit of research before the interview – and he who did the bumping didn’t have to – so I have been a bit more aware of the issues since. I have been in BC’s old-growth forests – there’s small patches on the North Shore, but more impressive are Cathedral Grove and Meare’s Island.
The latter was the famous site of the Clayoquot Sound protests. And I was also caught by a carbon offset scam which took my money so it could cut down old growth then plant new trees using the same justification that Rick Jeffery trots out. And which has been pretty much debunked. I do feel that the Sierra Club are a bit more reliable here as their report actually is backed by research and data, with useful links. That really is the point I am trying to make here. When you hear something on the radio or tv these days, they will often say “go to our web site for more information” but mostly it isn’t there. But there is Google. We watch tv news now with our tablets at hand. And when you read this
“They don’t want us to log,” said Jeffery. “That is the raison d’etre of the environmental groups. For them to tell you anything else is an outright lie.”
It is a matter of a moment to determine (by going to the report) that what they are calling for is
Increased conservation of the remaining old growth temperate rainforest, phasing out logging of old-growth and transitioning logging fully to second growth is urgent from a climate adaptation and mitigation perspective.
Improved forest management, in particular longer rotation, eliminating waste and selective logging, is equally important to reduce carbon loss. Forestry can be an important sector of the low carbon economy of the future, but not without increased forest conservation and improved forest management.
Perhaps if Jeffery had stuck to what he knows about – what his members are doing or proposing to do – and providing some source material to back that up, he might have some credibility. But by first claiming that he knows what the Sierra Club wants – and then calling them liars for their much more nuanced approach – it is not an end to logging that they are calling for – he discredits himself and his employers. Of course if you are a business you want to maximize your return on investment – that’s what business does. But businesses that want to be around for a while, that do not want to be treated as social pariahs and have some understanding of the concept of sustainability, rather than simple greed for short term profits – do better in the long run.
“They’re basically telling you that once you cut that old-growth tree, that carbon all gets released into the environment,” said Jeffery. “It goes to other uses. It gets recycled. It goes into buildings and it gets stored.”
No they’re not. What they are actually saying is that clear cutting releases a lot but not all the carbon – and the report uses the rather generous assumption that about a quarter of the carbon is stored. And there is a picture of slash burning to illustrate what actually happens in the woods when they cut the trees down.
There is a also in the CP story as printed by HuffPo some policy issues with quotes from BC Ministers – again something the CBC misses altogether. But rather than get into that, I do think that what is being demonstrated is that the BC carbon tax is an increasingly flimsy pretence at doing something about greenhouse gas emissions, that is more than offset by all the other activities of the present administration. Perhaps it is indeed the right way to do accounting, to log the burning of our exported coal, oil and natural gas against the nations that burn it. But if we weren’t subsidizing the extraction processing and transport of these fossil fuels, they would cost a great deal more, would be less attractive and those nations would look to other sources of energy. Renewables would be much more attractive to them.
The whole world would be better off if we left more of the oil, gas and coal in the ground. We would also be much better off if we stopped logging old growth forests (especially by actually being honest about how much carbon is released when they are cut and how poorly second growth compares at carbon sequestration). And when we do cut down the trees, we do a great deal more than simply ship off the raw logs elsewhere.
The Throne Speech yesterday was just electioneering. It was all about why voters should change their minds about their intentions and allow the BC Liberals yet another four years. Nothing about what is going to happen in the next legislative session, which is what Throne Speeches are supposed to be about. And actually the session is mostly going to be concentrating on cleaning up the HST mess. Small wonder Christy didn’t want the LG talking about that.
So the CBC News Story I took the headline from is about the reaction of the Opposition – and in the CBC’s mind that includes the Conservatives – but not the Green Party. In fact they can’t even make the whole story about LNG and go off onto childcare halfway down.
So unsurprisingly the story misses out on some very important points. The first one would be that the revenue projections seem to ignore recent history. The fracking of BC started a bit late, and plenty of other places are loosening their tight gas, setting the water coming from their taps alight, poisoning wells and generally causing the price of gas to plummet. So much so that the BC government had to forgo its royalties to make the projects viable. The people who are saying they will build LNG plants in BC noticed that, and they came up with their own two billion dollar (federal) tax break demand. This was reported by the Sun last week (and repeated by Vaughan Palmer today) – but I am not going to send you to a paywalled site.
The other thing that you won’t see in the CBC story is any reference to the BC Governments legislated targets for greenhouse gas reductions. I am not talking about the dodge whereby our targets do not include fossil fuels we export – though that is sophistry enough. I am talking about the GHG emissions from the the fracking, pipelines and LNG plant construction and operations. Methane does leak from these activities – and methane is a far more powerful GHG than CO2. Inevitably, when you use a technique like fracturing rock it is a bit tricky predicting where the fractures will actually occur – and ensuring that you get most of the gas released. I do not think any gas company actually wants people to have gas coming out of their water taps – but there are plenty of examples where that is happening.
That methane will trap 72 times more heat than the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide over the next 20 years.
I was baffled when Stephen Smart characterized LNG as a “good news” story on the tv last night. What is good about allowing the fossil fuel industry to run the province? What is good about mystery chemicals – that we are not allowed to know about – being injected into ground water? What is viable about an industry that thinks the only way it can operate is if it is exempted from taxation and royalty payments? Why do we think that we are going to be safe and our environment protected when both federal and provincial governments are falling over themselves to deregulate and remove the ability to conduct environmental assessments objectively and completely?
Given that we are already facing a 4℃ warming from the anthropogenic GHGs already released – and we thought that the future with the expected 2℃ was going to be pretty uncomfortable – why would we allow any more emission increases? How comes the tv is not only full of wildly inaccurate government advertising telling us that we are well off, employment is growing and we are doing better than everyone else when we’re not, but there are also ads every night from the gas industry of equal mendacity? Burning natural gas is indeed quite a bit cleaner than coal in terms of common air contaminants (mostly, soot) but it is still a fossil fuel. It is still adding to the carbon load of the atmosphere. It is nothing like as clean as renewables – solar, wind or wave power. And in Australia wind is already cheaper than coal.
Was there anything in the Throne Speech about wind power? Or climate change? Is this really what Rich Coleman thinks constitutes a “larger, longer-term view” ?
Here’s a tweet
Of course, that’s actually quite an easy commitment to make, given the Liberals chances of winning the election. It would be something else to actually deliver on that – and 2020 is currently so reassuringly far away in the future. Just as long as the technology isn’t carbon capture and storage.
The following is a Press Release from Voters Taking Action on Climate Change on the decision yesterday by the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority to approve plans for coal export expansion at Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver.
I am copying it in full since it is well argued and referenced – and I somehow doubt that it will attract anything like the coverage it deserves in the mainstream media (which goes to the Vancouver Sun story. VTACC isn’t mentioned but the responsibility issue is. You might have to pay to read that.)
The contrast to the way that coal terminal expansion in our region is being dealt with stands on stark contrast to the ongoing battle just to the south of us.
Climate change not our problem: Port Authority approves Neptune coal export expansion
– shrugs off calls for broader consultation on climate, health impacts from climate scientists, mayors, Lung Association and others
For immediate release
January 24 2013
The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority announced yesterday that it has approved plans for coal export expansion at Neptune Terminals in North Vancouver. In doing so it ignored appeals from the public, climate scientists, regional mayors, the BC Lung Association and leading NGO’s(1) to delay a decision until the broad public had been thoroughly consulted on the climate and potential health impacts of this proposal.
Approval means that coal exports from this facility will expand by as much as 13 million tonnes per year over 2011 levels.(2) At full output, Neptune Terminals could see 4 to 5 loaded coal trains arriving each day (up to 10 train trips per day total), based on current coal train capacities.(3)
The Port Authority has rejected arguments about climate change, potential health impacts, and broad public consultation in making its decision. We address each of these points in turn below.
Climate change is a real and urgent threat to our children’s future. The greenhouse gas emissions that will result from the burning of BC’s coal exports will hurt all global citizens, including British Columbians. The International Energy Agency reported last year that if we continue to blindly service increasing demand for fossil fuels, by 2050 the world will be locked into a devastating 6 degree increase in temperature.
Taking steps to avoid this outcome cannot be reconciled with increasing exports of coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels. “Business as usual” is no longer an option. We must all take responsibility to reduce emissions. The Port Authority does not get a free pass on this issue by choosing to narrowly interpret its federal mandate as the demand-driven facilitation of trade.
Coal exports from Metro Vancouver have increased considerably in recent years, and if the Neptune Terminals and Fraser Surrey Docks coal export proposals are both approved Metro Vancouver will be the biggest coal exporter in North America. Total emissions from this exported coal would be greater than those from the Northern Gateway pipeline. The public should not think that these will be the last proposals to increase coal exports out of our region.(4)
The Port Authority and its tenant, Neptune Terminals, have not explicitly acknowledged that metallurgical coal exported from Neptune Terminals, when used in steel making, produces as much global warming pollution as thermal coal used in power production. By ignoring the harm that these exports will do to our fragile climate, Neptune Terminals and the Port Authority do a disservice to the public.
Regional impacts from increased coal train traffic
The Port Authority has not acknowledged that developments on its own lands have impacts in communities far outside its jurisdiction. It has not addressed the fact that the Neptune Terminals expansion will result in increased train traffic through North Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Langley and other municipalities further afield, resulting in increased exposure to diesel emissions and unknown amounts of coal dust.
The Port Authority indicates that Transport Canada has the power to regulate rail traffic, but it does not clarify that there are no regulations governing the release of coal dust from trains in Canada, and that any measures to control coal dust escapes are entirely voluntary on the part of railways. The Port Authority has ignored a call from the BC Lung Association, the Public Health Association of BC, Canadian Physicians for the Environment and individual health leaders to delay these decisions until unanswered questions about potential health impacts have been properly assessed. If the Port Authority truly aspires to be a good neighbour to Metro Vancouver communities, it would work to close these gaps in public oversight prior to approval of coal export expansion.
Port Authority decision making and consultation processes
We remind the Port Authority that their federal mandate includes a requirement that they act with broad public support in the best interests of Canadians. The Port Authority has ignored calls from the Mayors of Vancouver and New Westminster for broader public consultation on these decisions. They have ignored similar calls from leading public organizations and high profile individuals. Again, these actions call into question the Port Authority’s aspirations to be a good neighbour to Metro Vancouver communities.
In keeping with the Port Authority’s stated commitment to transparency, we call on the Port Authority to make public all comments received during their consultation over the Neptune Terminals decision, as was done during the scoping phase of the review of the proposed Cherry Point coal terminal in Washington State.
More broadly, the conduct of the Port Authority during this review process calls into question how well it reflects the interests of the region within which it operates. Seven of eleven seats on the Port’s Board of Directors are nominated by port users. Only one seat is nominated by regional communities. There are no board members representing health concerns. There are no board members representing environmental concerns. Voters Taking Action on Climate Change (VTACC) calls on the federal government to change the make up of the Port Authority board to better reflect the priorities of our region in Port decision making.
“The Port doesn’t lack the authority to consider climate change or broad health concerns in its decisions, it lacks the courage to do so,” said Kevin Washbrook, Director with VTACC. “We think the Port Authority shrugs off any responsibility for these issues because its board doesn’t reflect who we are as a region, our shared concern for a healthy future and our sense of a moral obligation to take action on climate change,” Washbrook said.
VTACC calls on the Port Authority to reconsider this decision, to open it to full public review, and to more broadly interpret their mandate to incorporate shared responsibility for our future. This is the transparent, fair and morally responsible thing to do.
“It is hypocritical to celebrate Vancouver as a Green City and British Columbia as a climate leader, while we continue to prosper from the export of coal and oil,” said VTACC Director, Kathryn Harrison “With each approval of new infrastructure for coal exports, the Port Authority further locks us into an economic path dependent on fossil fuels. They are sacrificing our children’s future for short-term gain.”
(1) Read the open letter from climate leaders here. Signatories included Bill McKibben, James Hansen, David Suzuki, Andrew Weaver, Mark Jaccard, Naomi Klein, Tzeporah Berman, William Rees, Greenpeace Canada, the Council of Canadians, the Islands Trust Council and a host of other individuals and organizations.
(2) Starting with the Port Authority’s overall figures for coal exports in 2011 (32.7 million tonnes in 2011) and subtracting Westshore’s self published figures (27.3 million tonnes) leaves approximately 5.2 million tonnes for Neptune in 2011. (Minor amounts of coal may have been shipped from other locations.) The proposals just approved will increase Neptune Terminals capacity to 18.5 million tonnes/yr.
(3) A rough estimate of the relationship between daily train traffic and annual export volumes can be derived from the Fraser Surrey Docks proposal. This indicates that 4 million tonnes/yr export results in 1 coal train per day (scroll down to point 8). Other sources confirm these numbers, assuming standard rail car volumes and 126 car trains. Applied to Neptune, this means that in 2011, with exports of approximately 5.2 million tonnes, there was likely 1 coal train per day to the terminal, and perhaps 2 on some days — or 2 to 4 one way trips in loaded and out empty.
Using the same calculations, exports of 18.5 million tonnes per year would mean 4 to 5 coal deliveries per day, and 8 to 10 total train trips (in loaded, out empty). Neptune indicates that it may begin using trains that are 152 cars in length. If that is the case it would decrease the total number of daily trips, assuming the rail cars were the same volume.
It’s worth noting that longer trains will also increase delays at rail crossings; a 152 car train is approximately 2.6 km in length
(4) Fraser Surrey Docks has indicated that it is seeking out other coal export customers in addition to BNSF. If the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal near Bellingham Washington (projected to generate 18 return coal train trips per day) is not approved, there will be increased pressure to export US coal through BC. Westshore Terminals general manager Denis Horgan has stated that currently proposed capacity increases will not be enough to meet expected demand:
“Between us, Neptune and Ridley right now, let’s say we’re close to 50 million tons capacity. All of us combined. With all of these projects going on in a couple years time we’ll be at 70 million. But even then it still isn’t enough,” said Denis Horgan, vice president and general manager, Westshore Terminal.”
Thanks to Sightline again for the link to an AP article in the Seattle Times. It is a very useful, non-technical review of the lack of progress in battery technology. “It’s why electric cars aren’t clogging the roads” which is a useful bit of reality check against the optimism expressed by the report I looked at yesterday.
As for the electric car industry, lithium ion batteries have proved to have two major drawbacks: They are costly, and they do not allow automobiles to go far enough between rechargings. A123, a maker of lithium ion batteries for electric cars, went bankrupt last year because of poor demand and high costs after receiving a $249 million federal grant.
I know I have covered this ground before, but it is worth re-stating. What we want is the comfort and convenience of the car without its environmental impact. It is based on the mistaken idea that if we could get rid of the internal combustion engine – or the fossil fuel it now runs on – all would be well. And that is not true. The problems we have due to cars include urban sprawl, health impacts from that as well as the direct impacts of vehicle collisions (even if we can bring ourselves to trust computers to drive the cars for us), huge economic dependency of both societies and individuals from over-investment in a movement device that spends nearly all of its time stationary, congestion and delay. If every car was suddenly to become zero emission tomorrow, nearly all of the problems of motordom would remain to be solved.
it has conflicting functions. Its primary job is to store energy. But it’s also supposed to discharge power, lots of it, quickly. Those two jobs are at odds with each other.
“If you want high storage, you can’t get high power,” said M. Stanley Whittingham, director of the Northeast Center for Chemical Energy Storage. “People are expecting more than what’s possible.”
At this point I expected a diversion to fuel cells: mercifully that isn’t there – but again yesterday’s report was full of optimism about hydrogen. Which is not a fuel at all but simply a way of storing and transmitting electricity – and not a very good one at that. It is horrendously expensive and very inefficient – simply because hydrogen is the smallest molecule and thus extraordinarily hard to store.
That does not mean we cannot expand the use of electricity in transport – just that we will have to concentrate on technologies that we know work, even if they are not quite a perfect replacement for the convenience and mobility of the private car. What we need to convince ourselves about is that neither of those things is a project killer. We don’t actually need so much mobility if we only could redesign and retrofit our cities to be more accessible. If what we want was in easy reach by walking – or cycling – and both modes were safe and attractive – we will do a lot more of both, reducing both our carbon impacts and the size of our waistlines. For longer journeys, fixed route public transportation that is unhampered by single occupant vehicles can be readily powered by very long extension cords – trolleybuses, streetcars and trains. As long as these have adequate priority the expense of grade separation can be avoided. Yes, private cars will be delayed. Good. That improves the case for modal shift and saves lives.
I also think that by now somebody ought to have taken the step of putting a set of lightweight trolleypoles on the roof of a hybrid bus – or shoving a hybrid power plant into a trolleybus. Then we in Vancouver could see extensions of trolleybus routes to useful destinations – and redeployment of diesel buses to the suburbs. So the #41 to UBC gets converted, the #9 extended to Brentwood – and the inner set of “express bus” wires along Hastings get used for SFU services instead of being an historical anomaly of earlier faster trolley bus service to the PNE.
For one group, the use of lightweight cheaper batteries is already paying off handsomely. In general I do not think that electric bikes are such a great idea. For better health outcomes alone, I favour human power as much as possible. But we have an aging population. When you are young, you have time but no money. In middle age you have money but no time. Then, just when you have money and time, your knees give out. That is when a power assisted pushbike makes all kinds of sense.
So we can indeed reduce the use of oil (and other fossil fuels) in transportation – and it doesn’t require any kind of technological advances. We already have “good enough” technologies which are getting better. Information technology has done a great deal to reduce much of the frustrations inherent in using transit, and for facilitating things like bike shares and car shares which could be so effective in increasing its range and effectiveness if only they were integrated properly.
What is missing is not some whizzo battery – or personal rapid transit or a cheap fuel cell. It is political will and resources. And that has been the case for nearly all of the time I have been conscious of the issues – over fifty years! Conservatism – the power of the special interest group we refer to as “the elite” – the 1%. That is the root cause of the problem – however you decide to define the problem. Unaffordability of housing, traffic congestion, bad air quality, environmental impact, global warming. All of these issues are based on the incredible selfishness of a very small group of people. Many of who spend a great deal of time and money telling us how much they care about these issues but none of which ever seem to get solved. Even though the solutions have been staring us in the face all that time.
VANCOUVER – Canada can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to a fraction of current levels while maintaining or improving living standards and quality of life, according to Low-Carbon Energy Futures: A Review of National Scenarios, an international review released today by the Trottier Energy Futures Project (TEFP).
The headline is attention grabbing. Unfortunately, the report it points to is a lot less exciting. It is an important message to get across – that we can indeed reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and we don’t need to wreck the economy or reduce our standard of living to do that. The apparent choice between the economy and the environment is simply a diversionary tactic dreamed up by the “business as usual” crowd. Who can readily be identified as the present governments of Canada and British Columbia and their paymasters in the fossil fuel and automotive industries. And who, in recent years have been busily pushing us in the wrong direction.
I suggest that you download the report - it is a 40 odd page pdf – a give it a once over, and hang on to it if you need some quick reference material. But do not expect anything especially new or earth shattering. It is simply a review of reports produced on eight countries and what they could do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Only three have actually reduced their emissions in recent years
Sweden, Germany and the UK all managed (small) reductions in GHG while growing GDP.
But most of the report is summarizing studies which looked at what could be done – and is based on one study in each country, some of which are not exactly new.
What did strike me is the lack of emphasis on land use – admittedly one of the hardest things to do and one of the slowest in producing results, but I would argue one of the most important in bringing about structural change. These are all overwhelmingly urban countries – that’s where most of us live and will continue to live. Unfortunately because it is tough to change, it is not happening very much here. All the stuff about transportation is focussed on better energy efficiency for cars – and electrifying them. Not on reducing the need for motorized transportation. There is the usual focus on energy efficiency for buildings, but hardly anything on the location of those buildings.
Research shows, for example, that Americans generally consume more energy – and emit more carbon dioxide – getting to and from a typical building than does the building itself. Research also shows that location and neighborhood factors can create a dramatic difference in how much energy is consumed and emissions are generated in the getting to and fro.”
“Additional research also shows that even ordinary households in transit-oriented locations save more energy and emissions than “green” households in sprawl, across several housing types. In other words, a home with no green technology, if in the right place, is actually greener than a house with every bell and whistle imaginable, even if the latter gets a platinum rating.”
That comes from a recent article in The Atlantic on the shortcomings of LEED. And while it was about Americans it applies equally to Canadians.
The Energy Revolution report that covers the Canadian issues does have this acknowledgement of the importance of transportation
The report recommends transportation demand management through government investment in public and non-motorized transport, better urban planning and limits to urban sprawl, and freight transport management. Proposed behavioural changes are confined to the transportation sector, including greater dependence on public transit, more active transport, a shift to smaller vehicles, and “teleworking.”
which does cover the ground but fails to indicate which ones are likely – or actually important. Nothing at all of course on the current trend of a reduction is car use, even though there has been no real shift in transit provision, or better urban planning and most of the investment – especially in BC – has been lavished on highways. And while teleworking reduces commuting it can increase travel.
My biggest beef with the studies cited is that none appears to have identified the potential for rebound demand in energy efficiency programs. This has been observed – when energy efficiency produces cost savings for consumers they tend to consume more. Your fridge and furnace cost less to run so now you can buy an wine cooler – or a much bigger tv. Your car mileage is better, so now you can drive more.
It is important to have good news stories about greenhouse gas emissions – that all is not lost and there is a point in trying to do much better. We can certainly do far better than we have done - Canada in general and BC in particular. Canada is the only country in the comparison that is a net exporter of petroleum (there is no mention of coal) – and in BC whatever we might have achieved through our carbon tax or run of the river hydro has been vastly overshadowed by our ramping up of extraction of fossil fuels. Coal and natural gas are keys to the present government’s “jobs strategy” even though neither are very significant employers. And we are also very much on the radar to increase exports of bitumen (from Alberta) and coal from BC and the US. There is not much gain for the planet if we reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions but vastly increase the ability of other places to more than replace what we have cut.
Frances Bula in the Globe and Mail has been talking to Pascal Spothelfer, the university’s vice-president of community partnerships. He seems not to understand that the way to make a partnership is to look at the combined interest of both – or all – parties rather than than your own self interest. Of course UBC wants to get more people onto transit than the current bus lines can carry – and as usual all eyes are on the Broadway corridor. Prior to today, the City has been favouring an underground line from VCC to Arbutus, with bus the rest of the way. The city’s engineers have delivered an update today (see foot of this post).
I am a bit reluctant to open up the comments on this since it will almost inevitably revert to the tired old debate of SkyTrain vs LRT. What we really need to be talking about right now is what do we do to resuscitate Translink – which is starved of operating dollars and is busy cutting service in much of the region in order to get some more service into areas where there is now severe overcrowding. For UBC to be pushing its own agenda at this time seems more than a little insensitive. For the decisions that matter will not be made in the City of Vancouver, which is unlikely to be swayed by views of the unincorporated area to its west. UBC’s population may be growing, but they don’t vote in City elections. And the areas that are going to be impacted by whatever is built are some of the most expensive and politically influential bits not just of the city but the province.
And, like it or not, rapid transit is – and always has been – a provincial issue. “TransLink typically only takes on a big transit expansion once a decade. ” And that being the case, really ought be concentrating its attention on the part of the region that is growing fastest, has the greatest current and future car dependance, and is currently grossly underserved by transit of all kinds. Any new dollars that Translink gets seem to me should be ear marked for Surrey, so that the 555 Highway #1 rapid bus can have a park and ride and service connections into Surrey (instead of blasting straight through non-stop) and the #96 B-Line can be extended along the rest of King George all the way to White Rock. Rapid bus may not be as sexy as light rail, but it can at least be introduced in the next few years, given some political will.
Next year we will have a new provincial government. Let us dream a little and imagine that it is not only NOT the BC Liberals, but also the NDP with some significant Green influence – given last night’s federal by-election result of 34.3% in Victoria. That new administration might well want to reconsider the once a decade track record, and conclude that what BC’s major urban area needs is a program of steady transit expansion – with perhaps a moratorium on major new road building projects. Stop talking about six lane Patullo replacement and a new Deas Island crossing, start talking about managing the steady decline in driving that we have been seeing and how to provide all kinds of alternative ways of getting around. Don’t put all your investment into one big project, but start a long term program of continuous improvement in affordable increments. And the only way that gets thrown into doubt is if there is some change in funding strategy from other levels of government. As long as Canada is cutting is transit spending, and province is playing blacktop politics (where the NDP has a very similar record to the small c conservatives) Metro Vancouver needs a strategy that it can fund – likely from road user charges and parking fees.
The other thing that gets put back on the table with the a new provincial government has to be land use and higher education. Making universities behave like businesses was really silly since UBC had land that could have been used for student housing and might well have gone some way to cutting the distance that “140,000 people a day” have to travel. Allowing university land to be developed for market housing only makes sense if you view UBC as a commercial venture with a cash bottom line that overrules any other consideration. That does not seem to me to be a sensible way to run any educational service – or any public sector enterprise come to that. Of course we cannot unscramble that egg now, but we can resolve to do much better in future, and putting both UBC and SFU into downtown(s) was a good first step – but not nearly enough.
It also means that the region gets effective land use powers to overcome local resistance to increased density at rapid transit stations and along transit lines. I am not at all convinced that we could adopt a Hong Kong model, but given that developers pay for so much transportation and parking infrastructure now, diverting that to a broader toolbox of urbanization and public space management seems to make a great deal of sense. As Brent Toderian has been saying – it’s not about the bike lanes it’s about building better cities. But it also seems to me that it is insufficient for one or two cities to follow that strategy while the rest continue with business as usual. We need a regional approach, both at setting priorities for major infrastructure investments and also to tackle the shape (as opposed to serve) development role.
“Given the impacts of surface rapid transit west of Arbutus, a Broadway Subway should be extended all the way to UBC.” staff presentation
BY proposing to reduce air pollution by banning vehicles made before 1997, Mayor Bertrand Delanoë has angered vintage car owners and motorist groups and raised concerns among those who say they cannot afford new cars.
That is the first paragraph of a New York Times story last week - and is an admirable example of summary of the story. And much better than the Grist follow up which is just facetious, but at least made it to my twitter stream this morning. It is not that there are no local stories – just that Voony, Gord Price and Eric Doherty are beating me to the blog. And, it just so happens that I happen to have a set of flickr pictures I took when in Paris earlier this year of some very nice classic cars.
There are apparently 367,000 vehicles that would be affected. Just how many that is as a percentage of the fleet is not mentioned. Nor is the fact that old collector cars tend not to be used every day – unless there is some special reason.
There are some 2CVs (they look like the one above) that are used to drive tourists around the city. I think the Woody Allen film has probably cemented the idea for all that one of the reasons for visiting Paris is an attempt to re-visit its history. It is a lovely idea that one could be picked up by some antique vehicle to whisk you off to a party with Fitzgeralds, Hemingway and Dali. I would settle for the opportunity to see again the Paris on 1964 – just for the old cars, old trains and older buses that were running then, when I first visited. In those days, the streets were full of French cars. These days, it is not just Europe that has become the “home” manufacturer – but the far eastern volume makers too. The street scene, automotively speaking, is more like everywhere else.
Though I doubt you would see one of these anywhere else.
I think it is right that there is a move to make the city a low emission zone, and, as with Greater Vancouver, the decline of manufacturing industry means that cars have become – proportionately – the main source of air polluting emissions in the city. And the opportunities for other kinds of mobility are far greater in Paris than here. We, of course, do not ban old cars. They get grandfathered emissions standards, but we do have the, very successful, ScrapIt program, and ICBC does give special status to collector vehicles that have very low usage limits set on them. That does not mean they cannot be licensed for everyday use, of course, nor do we have the sort of mandatory vehicle safety testing program that gets dangerous clunkers off the road elsewhere. They don’t even have to be all that old – just cars that are not properly maintained, which is not usually the case for collector vehicles but can, too often, be the case for older cars used by people who cannot afford to pay for preventative maintenance – and will often have several older donor vehicles in order to keep one runner going.
I will admit to an affection for the daring designs and technological innovation of Citröens – I did not see any of the lovely DS Pallas that the NYT features at the top of their story – this XM was later and less attractive. But the French are by no means exclusive in their affections and still run classics like the original (British) Mini or (Italian) Fiat 500 (“cinquecento”)
These were real small cars unlike their repro modern equivalents. And while their tailpipes might not be as pristine in terms of common air contaminants, they were certainly very fuel efficient because they were light cars with tiny engines. Obviously it is better that people walk, ride bikes or use transit. But if they are going to use a car, surely there is less CO2 emitted from either of these than an SUV. Or – the ones that make me especially irritated – the huge pick up truck with the off road tires.
The need for a ban is apparently driven by European air quality directives. And if that is the way that Paris can meet these then I suppose that is the way it has to be. In general, I think that there are usually better ways of ensuring compliance. And if we are going to ban vehicles then perhaps we should turn our attention as well to the needless huge, gas guzzlers – and the high performance vehicles which are designed to be operated at race track speeds which ought never to be permitted on public use roadways.
These things have so much power the problem is keeping them within legal speeds – and earlier versions (prior to EFI) used to die in traffic congestion. But really, does anyone actually need to have this kind of performance available in a city bound runabout? Anymore than they need a Hummer?
I was alerted to this story by the Globe – which this morning is trumpeting going behind the paywall as “access for all” (Orwell would be proud: newspeak lives). I am not going to link there since they were in any event simply recycling something. Not – I hasten to add – plagiarism. Just what we all do – and in this case adequately cited, though without the necessary web links. Which of course Google gets quite quickly.
The Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Conventional and Electric Vehicles is available from the Wiley online library - and since it has yet to appear in the paper version of the Journal of Industrial Ecology you can get the whole thing as a pdf though that may not last for long. What the Globe was doing was reporting on an on line discussion on Leo Hickman’s blog – part of the Guardian’s web presence – and one that I freely admit I had missed.
The study looks at both the potential of increased emissions from the manufacturing process – especially for batteries – as well as the source of the electricity. The EV has often been criticized as an “elsewhere emission vehicle” (49 million google hits on the phrase) – it may have no tailpipe emissions but if the electricity comes from a coal fired power station …
Here are the key conclusions
The production phase of EVs proved substantially more environmentally intensive. Nonetheless, substantial overall improvements in regard to GWP [global warming potential], TAP [terrestrial acidification potential], and other impacts may be achieved by EVs powered with appropriate energy sources relative to comparable ICEVs [internal combustion engine vehicles]. However, it is counterproductive to promote EVs in regions where electricity is produced from oil, coal, and lignite combustion. The electrification of transportation should be accompanied by a sharpened policy focus with regard to life cycle management, and thus counter potential setbacks in terms of water pollution and toxicity. EVs are poised to link the personal transportation sector together with the electricity, the electronic, and the metal industry sectors in an unprecedented way. Therefore the developments of these sectors must be jointly and consistently addressed in order for EVs to contribute positively to pollution mitigation efforts.
All of which is fair enough since all they are doing is comparing one sort of car to another sort of car. Which is why the big problem of electric cars gets completely missed. As I have often written on this blog the problem is the overuse of cars – far more than how those cars are powered or constructed. As a policy issue in urban areas – and after all most of us live in urban areas – what we need to confront – here and elsewhere – is that when most people use a single occupant vehicle for most of their trip making, the consequences are dire. Traffic congestion is the one that gets most noticed, as it is the most obvious, but add to that the horrendous toll on life and limb caused by collisions, the health impact of not using your own muscles enough and being sedentary for most of the time, and the sprawl of urban areas onto productive farm land and essential natural areas (loss of biodiversity and the greenhouse gas collection function of forests are merely examples).
I find it offensive that I am being accused of “a rapture of techno-narcissism” when I have long been advocating some very old fashioned ideas. Electric trains, trolleybuses, and trams as well as human powered bicycles were all widespread at the turn of the 19th into the 20th century. Not to mention the somewhat obvious wisdom of building places where it was both possible, safe and pleasant to walk – something humans were able to do for millennia prior to gadarene rush to rebuild cities to accommodate the automobile. Or even something that seems revolutionary in Vancouver but has always been instinctive in older cities – places to sit down comfortably outside in public spaces without any payment being required.
Something similar seems to be going on with the debate about the pipeline. I really do not think that the main issue is the possible impact of spills on either land or sea. It is the problem of burning ever more fossil fuel that worries me. The oil sands are one of the worst offenders simply because of the amount of energy it takes to convert tarry sands into liquid fuels. If we had better ways of moving ourselves around – and we could have very easily and relatively cheaply – then the oil could stay in the ground. Possibly not forever – since there are so many other really clever things we can do with petro-chemicals, for which there often fewer readily available alternatives. Burning the stuff or making non-biodegradable plastic bags is simply profligacy, given the increasingly precarious future we face.
Or as Bill McKibben states
“We also figured out that we’re not going to win just fighting one pipeline at a time. We have to keep all those battles going, but we also have to play some offense, go at the heart of the problem.”
There was a proposal to build a path along a new seawall from Kits Beach to Jericho. This part of the shore is underwater at high tide, but there are several access points and it is possible to walk between the two beaches at low tide. I did that today in about an hour. A shoe salesman told me that my walking shoes have “aggressive soles” – which I think means a deep tread. This certainly seemed to be useful as the beach is often covered in sea weed, wet sand and loose mussel shells.
While I thought that the Parks Board had put off the idea, there are those who are concerned it might be revived and there is to be a meeting about that on Wednesday October 3, 2012 at 7:30pm at Kitsilano Sailing Club. It may be helpful to those who have not visited this part of Vancouver to see what it looks like. Hence the set on flickr.
The set covers the foreshore from Trafalgar Street (the end of the current pathway) to yacht club at the eastern end of Jericho Beach, and then back along Point Grey Road to show all the access points along the way.
No doubt if a seawall was constructed it would be wider and not have steps in it too allow for use by bikes, roller bladers and so on, as with the rest of the seawall. Actually, I am not sure that this is a virtue. At present, the area is not accessible unless you are willing to do a bit of clambering and rock hopping. I have seen people carrying their bikes along here, and wondered why they bothered. I have also been in a minor contretemps with a female cyclist on Point Grey Road outside Brock House. She was riding on the sidewalk – with a child on a bike trailer behind her, and simply rode “through” me – not stopping to apologize, if she was even aware of my existence, since she was talking over her shoulder to the child. Not that this is to characterize all cyclists, of course, but it is one of the things one remembers.
This plaque by the end of the path seems to sum it all up nicely. If there were a seawall along here to Jericho, it would become all about speed, as it would be treated in the same way as the seawall around Stanley Park which is a one way race track for those on wheels – and a bit of a hazard for the pedestrian flaneur. I told you at the top it took me about an hour – but that was not intended to be a challenge. After all I was stopping all the time to take the pictures. I was also on my own, but I think the walk would be much more fun with a small child or a marine biologist, and make the whole thing last even longer (keeping an eye on the tide, of course).
The seafloor is actually interesting even without the flora and fauna. Shelves of sandstone jut out interspersed with areas of gravel. There is, mercifully, not a lot of mud along here.
Some of the riparian owners have quite elaborate arrangements to give themselves access – and keep others off their own property.
Others have neglected upkeep. But all along is plenty of evidence that while the foreshore is indeed a natural and wild area the edge of land is anything but. In many places significant amounts of effort have been expended either to secure additional space or to prevent erosion – which I suppose amounts to the same thing.
Local street artists have done their best to reduce the dull greyness of the concrete used in these installations.
There are intermediate access points along the way if you want a shorter walk or if the tide takes you unawares. These steps are about halfway along at the foot of Balaclava Street.
There do seem to be places where the property owners have very little concern about the visual impact of their “improvements”. I suppose because these have been in place for so long that they would have grandfathered “rights” if the City did decide to impose some kind of code of practice here. Also bear in mind that Point Grey Road has some of the highest priced property in the region. It also seems to me to reduce the value of the “wilderness experience in the heart of a big city”.
When I first heard about the idea of “completing” the seawall, I must admit I was initially attracted to the idea. After all you can never have enough routes that are completely forbidden to motor vehicles and adjacent to the water. I also expected that the loudest protest would come from the property owners. But it now seems to come from “the Point Grey Natural Foreshore Protective Society”. Actually one or two of the property owners actually seem to welcome people to the beach.
I did provide a link at the top to the Parks Board meeting July 23 highlights, but just to be clear here’s what it says about the current position
The first motion: that the Park Board, as the organization that manages the seawall with City Engineering, direct Park Board staff to work with city staff as appropriate to develop options for connecting the seawall from Jericho to Kits Beach and provide a timeline and cost estimates for these options, as well as address any environmental and First Nations concerns with the proposals, was deferred.