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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

“Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs”

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Yesterday evening we attended this free City program lecture by Larry Beasley and Jonathan Barnett. The large room was full and in his introduction Gordon Price said that bookings had filled up over the weekend after it had been posted late one Friday afternoon, something that had never before happened.

The event was video recorded and will be posted on the SFU City Programme site in due course. Here are two extracts from that notice

A couple of North America’s best urban designers have distilled two careers’ worth of knowledge into a new book:Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs. The SFU City Program is pleased to host both Larry Beasley and Jonathan Barnett for a lecture that will explore the important themes from their book and their experience.

Come learn how cities can reshape themselves to limit global warming, re-energize suburban commercial corridors with bus rapid transit, reclaim wasteful transportation infrastructure for public amenities, and make cities more attractive for family living.

Specifically, Larry and Jonathan’s talk will cover the following:

  • Solutions for a city’s environmental compatibility
  • Diversifying movement choices
  • Urban consumers’ aspirations for quality livability
  • The pros and cons of community amenity contributions

About the Speakers

Jonathan Barnett is an emeritus professor of practice in city and regional planning, and former director of the Urban Design Program at the University of Pennsylvania. He has extensive experience as an urban design consultant as well as an educator, and he is the author of numerous books and articles on the theory and practice of city design. Along with his PennDesign colleagues Gary Hack and Stefan Al, he teaches an online course called Designing Cities, available on Coursera.

Larry Beasley is the “distinguished practice” professor of planning at the University of British Columbia School of Community and Regional Planning. Along with Ann McAfee, he was the long-serving co-director of planning in Vancouver during the transformative years for the core city. He now teaches and advises cities around the world through his consultant firm, Beasley and Associates. He has been recognized with an outstanding alumni award and an honorary doctorate degree from SFU. He is also a member of the Order of Canada.

The event was a book promotion but was sponsored by Concord Pacific. There were copies of the book for sale at the back of the room and most of the illustrations used in the presentation were taken from the book. I was somewhat surprised to hear that the two authors had not physically been together during the book’s writing. I was also expecting – given the title and indeed the predominance of the design community in the room – that the content would be mainly about design. The term “ecodesign” was apparently coined by Kim Yang an architect from Singapore applied to buildings. The authors stated that they were applying it to cities. There was almost no reference to design thereafter. Most of the talk from both presenters was about policy and implementation – and much of it concerned transportation. Very little of what I heard was either new or even very remarkable. Much of it would be very familiar to readers of this blog, and I feel that it would be pointless for me to type out the extensive handwritten notes I made during the presentation, which would be my normal mode of operation. As noted above for those who could not get in last night, they will be able to see a video in due course, which would be both more accurate and less coloured by my opinions.

I was also very surprised that both presenters read slabs of text from their book to top and tail their presentation, and while they did so the screen displayed what they were reading. Larry Beasley did not appear to have noticed too that there were slides to go with his opening introduction. Given that he is an educator, Jonathan Barrett’s presentation style was not exactly sparkling either.

In the section on mitigating the impact of climate change they concentrated on sea level rise – or rather the way that storm surges amplify that issue. They used New Orleans as one example. There is indeed a design issue here – as the US Army Corps of Engineers has now admitted. They also referred to the Thames Barrier in London, which was installed in the 1980s, long before sea level rise due to climate change was in the political cross hairs, but was said at the time to be a response to the south east of England slowly sinking. At least, as an employee of the Greater London Council at the time, that is what we in the Department of Planning and Transportation were told. It has apparently been raised far more often than was originally intended and will be inadequate by 2030.

I was also somewhat taken aback by a slide which showed a “regional solution” – which was not actually described in detail but shown on a map as red lines across the Juan de Fuca Strait and the outlet of the Salish Sea at Port Hardy. It was said that this would require international co-operation. Quite how the ports of Vancouver, Seattle and Tacoma would continue to operate was not revealed.

Larry Beasley’s section on how to get buy in from the suburbs was all about “experiential planning and urban design” by showing examples of what has worked in other places. By that he meant that people “spontaneously and of their own accord buy in to sustainable and more interesting practices” (as though the High Line had not been skillfully promoted for years). The book starts with examples and then tries to extrapolate common themes rather than starting from a theoretical construct. All the examples were familiar and a lot of them I have my own pictures to illustrate. Not Cheonggyecheon or Boston’s Big Dig, I’m afraid.

Promenade Plantee in Paris

Walkers and runners

Highline New York

More people
Times Square

 

Herald Square

Herald Square

False Creek North (Yaletown)

#1 Public space in Canada

The big challenge will be the suburbs, and change there will of necessity be incremental simply because the area they cover is so large. Cars will continue to predominate travel for a long time even though traffic congestion is a symptom of “suburban dysfunction”. Growth boundaries are essential and work but behind them is business as usual. Tysons Corner VA was cited as a good example where an extension of the Washington Metro will facilitate TOD, but for others places Bus Rapid Transit was actually referred to as a “silver bullet”. But not a B Line as we know it.

I must admit I was a bit taken aback at this assertion. The 98 B Line was actually quite close to BRT standards on part of No 3 Road and might have been convertible to LRT had the province listened to what Richmond actually wanted. Within Vancouver, of course, the City’s Transportation engineers insisted that no bus priority of any kind was acceptable. And Linda Meinhardt ensured that parking along the curb lanes and access for her deliveries would never be compromised.

So the solution to our problems is – they said – adopting more generally the regulatory and management techniques pioneered by Ray Spaxman, the collaboration and public engagement as practised by Anne McAfee and regulatory reform which would expect rather less from Community Amenity Contributions than the current practice here.

I did not stay for the Questions and Answers. Sorry.

I am going to be travelling and will not be able to blog the following

The Urban Studies Program at Simon Fraser University is pleased to announce a pair of lectures from leading experts in urban transportation, who will be joining us this Fall. On September 22, Professor Jeffrey Kenworthy will reveal the challenges and opportunities of “Planning for Peak Car” and on October 28, Professor Robert Cervero will explain why “Mass Transit Needs Mass”.

These lectures are free of charge and open to the public, but they require advance reservation, and will fill up quickly.

Reservations can be made online at: www.sfu.ca/reserve.

Adrienne Carr’s Letter to the NEB

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This letter showed up in my email inbox this morning. I do not know what other media this may have been sent to. I hope it is circulated widely – it certainly deserves to be. Many people have decided to walk away from this process in disgust since it is so obviously biased. Adrienne gives her reasons for staying the course. Like her, it seems to me highly unlikely that they will pay the slightest attention.

The original is posted with a Green Party of Vancouver heading

 

————–

Dear Stephen,

Earlier today, I submitted my official Letter of Comment to the National Energy Board (NEB) Review Panel on Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion proposal, urging the NEB to turn down this reckless proposal that threatens our economy, our quality of life and our environment, both locally and globally. I would like to share my letter with you below:

I am participating in this hearing with trepidation. I have lost faith in the National Energy Board in general, and in your hearing on the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project in particular.

Failure to consider the broader impacts that this project will have on greenhouse gas emissions is unconscionable and tragic in the light of scientifically-verified and rapidly accelerating global warming (think of the droughts, fires and heat waves in BC and Canada this summer). Considering the vast quantities of fossil fuels that the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion project is intended to deliver over its lifetime, its negative impacts on carbon emissions are relevant and are of both Canadian and global significance.

Besides not weighing the overriding climate consequences of the project, your board has done much to limit discussion by not allowing verbal cross examination of witnesses by interveners and by siding with the company’s decision to not fully reveal pertinent information about spill clean up preparedness. Your decision to allow Kinder Morgan to withhold such information is particularly egregious given that authorities in Washington State—but not Canada—have been given the information. Such actions contribute to making this hearing a sham. The public has good reason to be cynical. Like many, I believe that no matter what I or anyone else presents to you at these hearings, you are going to approve the project. How tragic for democracy.

Notwithstanding the frustrations I express above, I cannot boycott this hearing. I feel that it is my duty and responsibility to act in whatever way I can to protect the interests the citizens of Vancouver—whom I serve as a City Councillor—and my children and those in the future who will have to live with the decisions being made today. Here are my comments for your thoughtful consideration.

I was born in Vancouver, am married and have two grown children who live in Vancouver, too. I own a condo in Vancouver’s West End, a few blocks from English Bay and Stanley Park. My husband and I chose to invest here because of its proximity to the beaches that I played on daily every summer as a child, and the globally-reknown seawall and park that we use regularly. On a personal level, my quality of life and my property value would be negatively impacted should a spill of diluted bitumen occur either during transport in our harbour or at Westridge Terminal.

Both as a Geographer (MA, UBC) and as a former member of the Executive Team at Western Canada Wilderness Committee, which participated in the clean-up of the 1988 bunker C oil spill from a barge off Washington State that fouled some of the beaches in Clayoquot Sound, I understand the potential of tides and currents to spread an oil spill and how difficult it is to clean up even only a small percentage of it. Perhaps fifteen percent can be recovered under ideal conditions. The rest persists over many years, with negative impacts on water, marine life, shorelines, and beaches.

I understand, too, the disastrous negative socio-economic impacts that a spill can have. As a co-author of the Globe 90 Sustainable Tourism Strategy and former lead campaigner with the Wilderness Committee, I have expertise in the field of eco-tourism, which relies on maintaining a pristine natural environment. As Vancouver’s first elected Green Party city councilor (re-elected at the top of the polls in 2014) I am deeply concerned about the potential impacts—both short and long-term—of an oil spill on the health of Vancouver citizens and on our city’s reputation and economic well-being. Our local economy is highly dependent on a thriving tourism industry. The long term impacts of a spill—especially of thick, heavy bitumen which sinks to depths where clean-up is virtually impossible—are now well known after the Kalamazoo River spill in Michigan which is still not cleaned up. Vancouver is striving to be the world’s Greenest City. This goal will be unachievable if we become the West Coast’s major Tar Sands oil port.

The danger of a spill is real. The near tripling of the capacity of the Westridge Terminal would mean an estimated 10 tankers a week: 520 tankers a year that must pass through the Second Narrows in Burrard Inlet, what is considered by many the riskiest oil tanker passage in the world. The big tankers carrying 500,000 and 700,000 barrels of bitumen must leave at high tide. At high tide there are only about 2 metres of draft under the keel. The waters in this narrow passage are swift and turbulent and the tide drops quickly. There is no room for error, but we all know that human error cannot be full eliminated. The risks are too high to allow this project to move forward.

Those risks were brought home to me in April of this year when the MV Marathassa grain carrier spilled about 2,700 litres of bunker fuel in English Bay, just offshore from Vancouver’s Stanley Park. The spill was first noticed by a recreational sailor. It took 13 hours for our city to be officially informed of the spill. Small releases continued from April 8 to April 13—five days—until the point of leakage was finally identified. The Coast Guard and Department of Fisheries and Oceans did not have any scientists on staff to sample the waters and wildlife for contamination. In the absence of government scientists, sampling was independently undertaken by scientists engaged by the Vancouver Aquarium. The City of Vancouver also engaged experts to scientifically monitor contamination effects on the environment. The oil dispersed to beaches in Vancouver and to the north shore of Burrard Inlet where clean-up efforts began on April 10.

It is still unknown how much of the oil sank to the ocean bottom.

As a member of Vancouver City Council I asked the city staff reporting to us on the Marathassa spill whether or not there was a multi-agency integrated oil spill emergency response plan for our coast. I was told that, previous to the Marathassa spill, staff had inquired about such a plan, but none had been forwarded to the city. In dealing with the spill, they were not aware of such a plan. A few weeks later I attended a meeting of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association that was focused on emergency planning. I asked representatives of Port Metro Vancouver and of IMPREM (Integrated Partnership for Regional Emergency Management) whether an integrated multi-agency marine spill emergency response plan exists. I was told “no”.

This is not acceptable. The City of Vancouver is responsible for the safety, health and well-being of our residents. The completely inadequate response to the relatively small Marathassa spill, raises huge concerns about the risks, lack of emergency response preparedness and potentially devastating impacts of the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project.

This project should not be approved.

The opposition to this project is overwhelming. It includes all the First Nations surrounding Kinder Morgan’s Westridge Terminal. Based on the literally thousands of conversations I have had with local

citizens and the results of the November 2014 local election in which the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project became a key issue, with those opposed now forming a majority on Vancouver City Council, I believe opposition to this project includes a clear majority of Vancouver residents. They have nothing to gain and everything precious to our city’s quality of life to lose if this project is approved.

Please consider my comments, and turn this project down.

Respectfully submitted,

(signed)

Adriane Carr

http://www.vangreens.ca/

Green Party of Vancouver · 207 W Hastings St, 403, Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7, Canada

This email was sent to Stephen Rees

 

Written by Stephen Rees

August 18, 2015 at 1:49 pm

More dross about the viaducts

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I am quite sure that none of what I write on this blog is of any surprise to my regular readers. The purpose of this post is simply to host an important piece of research which clearly has had no impact whatever in this part of the world. Oddly enough I am now able to offer you the complete pdf version of the publication because it has been used to support the case of the removal of the Gardiner East expressway viaduct in Toronto.

The Vancouver Courier has an article by Mike Howell who cites Ian Adam to support the contention that somehow the removal of the viaducts east of downtown will be a disaster and somehow this inevitability has escaped the attention of those currently responsible for traffic management in the area.

Ian Adam, who retired in 2008 as the assistant city engineer of streets and structures, said he believes the loss of the viaducts will create more traffic congestion in Chinatown, Gastown and nearby areas.

“Anybody who thinks you can take down two major viaducts like that, which handles 60,000 people a day and a thousand heavy trucks a day — and not have some impact — they’ve got to be dreaming in Technicolor,” said Adam, who once held the position of what is now called director of transportation. “I would say leave them up. They’re a $100-million asset that’s doing a job.”

This is a common theme with the mainstream media. When the Vancouver Sun reporter Jeff Lee covered the recent SFU City Conversation on the Removal of the Viaducts he made a huge effort to chase down Marguerite Ford, a long retired NPA Councillor who has no faith in traffic engineers. She is convinced that they do not understand how traffic works and that things will get worse, although she says she is not against removing the viaducts.

Both Ian Adam and Marguerite Ford are unaware of the research done in many places where traffic lanes have been reduced, freeways closed, viaducts removed – all around the world – and somehow the traffic adapted. I got interested in this phenomenon when I lived in London and the venerable Albert Bridge had to be closed to vehicular traffic for safety reasons. The traffic simply adapted, congestion did not get worse, and life went on. Phil Goodwin was a colleague of mine at the GLC’s Department of Planning and Transportation and went on to a distinguished academic career. He was interested in how traffic models needed to be adapted to become more realistic. Because they have no way to forecast either induced traffic – trips that appear on the network because of additional capacity (a new freeway or a new bridge) – or disappearing traffic – trips that no longer are made when a network loses capacity.

Here is the abstract

Reallocating roadspace from general traffic, to improve conditions for pedestrians or cyclists or buses or on-street light rail or other high-occupancy vehicles, is often predicted to cause major traffic problems on neighbouring streets. This paper reports on two phases of research, resulting in the examination of over 70 case studies of roadspace reallocation from eleven countries, and the collation of opinions from over 200 transport professionals worldwide. The findings suggest that predictions of traffic problems are often unnecessarily alarmist, and that, given appropriate local circumstances, significant reductions in overall traffic levels can occur, with people making a far wider range of behavioural responses than has traditionally been assumed. Follow-up work has also highlighted the importance of managing how schemes are perceived by the public and reported in the media, with various lessons for avoiding problems. Finally, the findings highlight that well-designed schemes to reallocate roadspace can often contribute to a multiplicity of different policy aims and objectives.

The original citation is Cairns, S; Atkins, S; Goodwin, P; (2002) Disappearing traffic? The story so far. P I CIVIL ENG-MUNIC , 151 (1) 13 – 22.

Here is the full text as a pdf Disappearing traffic the story so far which you can download

Both Adams and Ford appear to believe that the number of trips on a network is absolute. That any change to the network must therefore accommodate all the trips currently being made – and, by extension, any forecast of future trip making. Typically, models used to predict travel have also fallen into the same trap – leading to the never ending cycle of predict and provide which has only ever produced more vehicle trips, and worse congestion. The gravity model treats motor vehicle trips as though they flow like water, and thus have to be accommodated to avoid flooding. In reality traffic behaves more like a gas that expands and contracts to fill the space available.

You also need to bear in mind that the engineers responsible have also observed that traffic into downtown Vancouver has been declining, and the network they are proposing can easily accommodate all of the current trips with some slight delay for cars entering the downtown during the morning peak from the east. Among the “behavioural responses” which will occur, once the viaducts have been removed are trips will be made at different times of day, trips will be combined  – so that more than one errand can be completed in the same journey – trips will divert to other equivalent destinations and some trips will switch modes. There will be a few people who decide to stop driving their single occupant vehicle and try the same trip by walking, cycling or using transit. Many trips in this city are short enough to be accomplished in this way, and most people who try the alternatives will prefer them to driving. This is already apparent here, as elsewhere. Though obviously 70 case studies across eleven countries were not enough to convince some. Though this stuff is also really old: March 2002 publication. There have been many places since then that have followed this advice and found that it worked. We will too. Actually, we have. Point Grey Road and the Burrard Bridge ought to be enough evidence – even if all those protected bike lanes downtown which seem to be working quite well too are not convincing either.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 15, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Posted in Traffic

Tagged with

The Economist and London

with 2 comments

Piccadilly Line Barons Court  20051201

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with The Economist newspaper. I have at times been a subscriber and regular reader, but in recent years its rightward shift has grated on my sensibilities. And I do not feel like subscribing to it any more. Of course I follow them on Twitter and try to limit my clicks to stay within the limit of free articles. And as it is the start of the month I did manage to read all of an article on one of my favourite topics: the London Underground. And no that is not a political movement.

But as as so often the case these days there were a couple of things that I noticed. Now since these are things that I know about, I feel entitled to post about it. But is does make me wonder how much one can rely on this source for things I know very little about, and need enlightenment. Am I being misled?

So the article in question. Now the questionable statements

Money for improvements is limited. Fares are already eye-wateringly high (a monthly pass costs £225.10

Hold on a minute there: the fare table for the Underground takes up a full page (A4 size) in tiny type and that is just the adult fares – 12 columns and I lost counts of the rows – for there are 9 fare zones. You can see it as a pdf  and the cited £225.10 covers zones 1 – 6 – or the whole of the Greater London Area without the lines that run into darkest Essex, Hertfordshire or Buckinghamshire. So it is an understandable choice – but by no means the only one. Incidentally, that covers about the same area as Metro Vancouver’s 3 zones and is CAN$460.40 compared to Translink’s at $170 so the eye watering is indeed understandable. Still feel we get ripped off?

There is also this comment

Moreover, if London’s puny mayoralty had the tax-raising powers of its New York equivalent,

which also seems at odds with what I am reading about how annoyed New Yorkers are with the Governor of New York State Andrew Cuomo and his lack of willingness to recognize that the MTA is in fact a state agency, and he is not willing to open up the state’s coffers to pay for much needed modernisations and extensions to the Subway but is happy to fund upgrades for La Guardia airport. Which sounds familiar to us, I think. For a neat summary of how Metro Vancouver gets stiffed go see what Price Tags has based on the longer series of articles by Nathan Pachal. Gord also has good stuff – as usual – on New York too.

But to go back to The Economist, while it may well be true that New York’s Mayor has more tax raising ability than London’s, that does not mean that it is enough to deal with the extreme decrepitude of much of its Subway. Anymore than Metro’s Mayors feel happy about dipping into property taxes again to pay for Translink. That is driven by a political doctrine – and I am not so sure that much of “Bagehot’s” isn’t equally so driven.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

July 31, 2015 at 2:56 pm

Port Mann Tolls

with 3 comments

Once again I got a last minute plea from the CBC to appear on the evening news to talk about the announcement of an increase in tolls next month. It seemed to me that there was little to say, and that over an hour’s travel for a few minutes screen time not very productive, but they sent a camera man to Arbutus Village and I stood in the park. I did not know that the new technology they use relies on the cell phone network, which is why those trucks with dish antennas are no longer needed. When my segment got broadcast it was very obviously cut short as the sign off was missing. I had been asked what the solution was to increasing tolls – and clearly the CBC did not like the answer. I had managed to get in a shot at how the much vaunted lowest income tax in Canada has been brought about by increases in all kinds of fees and charges – tolls, MSP premiums, ferry fares – and how wages were not keeping pace with the increasing cost of of living in the region.

But it was only later that I realized that I had missed on a real solution. My moment d’escalier was the memory of how people coped with tolls (and SOV line ups) on the Golden Gate Bridge by forming last minute car pools. These days no-one has to risk anything by lining up at on ramps. You can – of course – do it on-line. If the increase from $3.00 to $3.15 a crossing is a real issue for you go check out car pool, rideshare and van pool information on Translink ‘s web page. You can easily avoid the congestion on the Patullo and halve the cost of the toll. You can also share rides on Hitch Planet.

There were a couple of graphics that I had sent the CBC producer that did not make it to air, which is a shame. The first is a good effort by Jeff Nagel using recent data to show how people have been gradually getting used to paying $3. I personally doubt the $0.15 will cause much more than a short term blip, but I do think people are right to expect more increases in future. The toll company blames their rising operating costs – but if interest rates start increasing that will be the real stimulus for faster toll rises.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 8.00.49 AM

The second one is a bit older, and is from Sightline, and shows how the real traffic data compares to the forecasts

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 8.04.04 AM

The red line should just dribble across a bit further. It certainly has not been sticking up like the forecasters thought.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 31, 2015 at 8:09 am

City staff recommends demolishing viaducts

with 2 comments

Georgia Viaduct from False Creek pano

This story is in the Vancouver Courier but is also in the Globe but that is behind a paywall so I am not linking to it.

The staff have done a lot of work and found that removing the viaducts actually improves the local network. I have always argued for their removal, since we know for a certainty that traffic adapts to road removal. Traffic is not like a flow of water  – as most models assume – but rather a gas that expands and contracts to fill the space available. Nearly every model that I know of assumes a fixed trip matrix. The models simply try to reassign the same number of trips – generated by land use and population – across the available routes. Real life does not work like that – as a very large number of before and after studies has shown.

However you can be sure that the dinosaurs will never believe that removing a road can make traffic flow better. Even though the traffic calming measures on Point Grey Road showed exactly that effect. None of the forecast carmageddons ever happen. But the idiots who always make these predictions have never been known to apologize after their doom laden predictions fail to materialize.

NPA Coun. George Affleck said he will wait to see the final report in September before stating whether he agrees with staff’s recommendation to demolish the viaducts. Affleck said he is concerned removing the viaducts would have a negative effect on traffic flow in the area.

And he will keep to that line no matter what the final report says and repeat it until once again he is shown to be wrong. Then he will switch his attention to some other project which he will also oppose for the same reason, but be quiet about the ones that worked. Have you ever heard any of them admit they were wrong about bike lanes downtown or the Burrard Bridge?

Written by Stephen Rees

July 22, 2015 at 9:36 am

Rachel Notley’s Speech to Investors

with 3 comments

Like many people sick of conservatism, I was greatly encouraged by the recent change in the government of Alberta. The victory there of the NDP after so many years of right wing domination seemed like a breath of fresh air.

The disappointment I am currently experiencing is visceral. Premier Rachel Notley spoke to the Stampede Investor Forum on Tuesday “her first major (private) speech to an industry crowd, two months after her New Democrats won.”

…it’s the oil sands that have really emerged as our international showpiece.

For more than half a century, Albertans have been coming up with unconventional solutions for an unconventional resource so we can extract, handle and ship it responsibly, to the very best of our abilities.

This attitude of pushing the limits of what’s possible influences every aspect of the oil sands, from research and development to environmental management to the service and support fields.

It’s a tremendous asset which has transformed Alberta into one of the world’s leading oil producers.

And I’m here today to emphasize that the province has a government determined to defend this advantage, by being constructive at home, and by building relationships around the world.

…Alberta will continue to be a healthy place for private investment under our government.

This definitely applies to energy.

Expanding existing oil sands projects, establishing new ones and pioneering advanced technologies — all this requires spending on a large scale.
Under our leadership, Alberta’s abundant oil and gas reserves will remain wide open to investment.

MacLeans has “the premier’s prepared text at the forum cosponsored by her government, Calgary Economic Development and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the industry’s main megaphone.”

I have been regularly berated by NDP supporters who claim that the Green Party is “splitting the progressive vote”. I will now quote this speech to anyone who dares to claim that the NDP and the Green Party share the same values.

Humanity is rapidly approaching  an existential crisis. If we are to have some impact on the increase in greenhouse gas emissions we have seen in recent years, then it is essential that fossil fuel consumption starts to decrease. It is not enough that some renewable energy sources have been increasing. These sources have to replace fossil fuels, not supplement them. We have to reduce our carbon footprint. In Canada that means the tar sands – one of the dirtiest forms of energy – must be left in the ground. We simply cannot follow a path that sees exports of diluted bitumen as a way to make short term profits at the expense of a habitable planet. We cannot plan to increase exports of coal or LNG either. Which, by the way is nothing like the clean fuel that Christy Clark likes to pretend (see: Methane Emissions in Texas Fracking Region 50% Higher Than EPA Estimates)

Of course I want to see Stephen Harper unseated at the upcoming election. If the NDP is really serious about its intentions to lead the next federal government, it would be making overtures to the Liberals to create an anti Conservative electoral pact. It is simply not good enough to hope that a coalition can be formed after the election. But that seems to be their current strategy. I do not think that the Liberals can be seen as “progressive” given the way that Paul Martin ran a more conservative than the conservatives economic strategy. And Trudeau Junior does not seem to me to be nearly as committed as his father – to anything at all! But he sure would like to be elected. And will say anything at all to make that possible.

And to those that still think that somehow the economy trumps the environment I can only say that they are just not paying attention. Renewable energy is showing itself to be a significantly better investment in terms of local employment – even if you disregard the huge environmental benefits. You also need to be blind to the current impacts of less than 2C of warming that we are currently experiencing. If you think long hot summers with droughts and forest fires are bad now,  I feel certain that what we are seeing now will seem mild in comparison to what is coming. The loss of the bees and the salmon seems to be getting some attention too. About time.

Notley again

“the energy sector needs stability to keep Albertans employed and to innovate as it confronts climate change.”

Which seems as usual to be pinning her hopes on the elusive carbon capture and storage which has always been  just around the corner – and always will be. At least Alberta is also a leader in wind energy – the Calgary LRT already runs exclusively on wind power. They will probably be beating us in solar panels and geothermal too, given the miniscule attempts being made in BC and our foolish commitments to Site C and run of the river.

Calgary Transit C Train

Pincher Creek

Afterword: and the BC NDP is no better.

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 11.24.27 AM

The LNG in question would be produced from fracking. Fugitive methane from fracking makes it worse from the GHG perspective than coal. BC LNG is unlikely to be cost competitive for the export markets it is aimed at: the Chinese, for example, have already signed a deal for Russian gas at a price BC could never match let alone beat. But if the BC NDP wants to claim it cares about the environment it cannot at the same time support more fracking for gas here.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 10, 2015 at 11:35 am

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