Archive for the ‘energy’ Category
The title is a direct quote from Yves Desjardins-Siciliano who is the CEO of VIA Rail. The story comes from the Huffington Post citing the Financial Post and the Windsor Star. It sets out the case for a separate passenger only railway between Toronto and Montreal, which would significantly increase the speed and reliability of rail service but would not be as expensive a full blown High Speed Rail (HSR). Given the financial position of VIA, and the nature of the demand in the corridor, this proposal would be Good Enough. HSR is a good example of the best being the enemy of the good. It has been studied extensively – I worked on one such study as a consultant back in the 1990’s – and so far nothing has been done in terms of improving VIA rail’s current service or winning people back to rail from short distance air or driving. It did surprise me, when I first came to Canada, that intercity buses were often faster than passenger trains.
It pains me a little that electrification is still seen as a dispensable option but actually I have to admit that a modern diesel electric locomotive can be very energy efficient. I just happen to think that since Ontario has done such a good job of getting rid of its coal fired power stations, the greenhouse gas reduction argument should be given much more weight. There are also a couple of considerable advantages of an electric train. First, electric trains can climb much better than diesels: they don’t weigh nearly as much, as they don’t have to carry the generator or the fuel. So lines purpose built for modern electric trains can have steeper grades, and often that means they can be straighter, which also helps increase speeds. Secondly, the energy used in braking can be captured and returned to the power supply line for the the use of other trains. Regenerative braking captures a lot of the energy that is otherwise lost as heat. Electric trains can also decelerate and accelerate much better than diesels, so dealing with intermediate stops is not such an issue in overall travel time. I would hope that the design of intermediate stations would permit fast trains to pass stationary ones, so that even if it is not actual HSR, there could still be some non-stop service between the two major centres, to improve competitiveness with air. However, given the way that the population is distributed across sprawling suburbs, centre to centre may not be the most important tool to attract traffic. Large Park and Ride lots, on the other hand, will be essential.
I have not seen any of the analysis that VIA has used to come up with the costs of its proposed separate line compared to a HSR, but there has to be a lot in common between the two. Land costs will be very similar, I think. It also seems sensible to eliminate level crossings – and to fence the entire line – just to increase safety. You have to do that for HSR, but if those components were omitted for a conventional speed line that might explain some of the price difference. While I am in favour of getting the costs down, this would seem to me to be very hard to defend when it comes to public consultation.
The constraints of the 140 character limit meant that this observation by Jeff Speck got spread over two tweets. But instead of retweeting I decided to make it a blog post.
“When we built our new house in Washington, we too did our best to clear the shelves of the sustainability store.
Yet, all of our green gadgets cumulatively contribute only a fraction of what we save by living in a walkable neighborhood.”
This is pretty much what was established by the BC Energy Aware Committee many years ago – and BC Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources Energy Efficiency Branch even earlier. Yes, you can save energy by buying better windows, and putting more insulation in the roof. But simply giving up one of those cars and walking to more of your destinations will save far more. Our built environment is based on the idea of energy that is “too cheap to meter” and that was a chimera. We are still stuck with that – not just as a desirable form but one that many of us will be forced to live in for a long time. And much of the battles that get fought over issues like transit funding or bike lanes stem from our attachment to the image of the place we thought that we had been promised.
And here are two more (November 4)
“Trading all your incandescent bulbs for energy-savers conserves as much carbon per year as living in a walkable neighborhood does per week.”
“The most green home (with Prius) in sprawl still spews more carbon than the least green home in a walkable neighborhood. (EPA)”
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
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.
Green Party of Vancouver · 207 W Hastings St, 403, Vancouver, BC V6B 1H7, Canada
This email was sent to Stephen Rees
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.
“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.
Afterword: and the BC NDP is no better.
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.
One of the benefits of having a blog – and one of its curses too – is that I get things in the email that other people want me to put on my blog. Or write about on my blog. This is one of those: it comes from The Nation which is a magazine whose web site operates behind a paywall. So I get a complimentary log in to see articles which they think I will direct you to. Many are worthy, and I understand why The Nation wants to stay in business and keep paying its journalists to provide content. But, as far as possible, I continue to try and find sources that are not paywalled.
Today the news is full of two things that everybody is writing about: the new Papal encyclical and the latest American shooting atrocity. The Nation has three, searing articles about that and how this church and this date were neither randomly picked. And a commencement speech by Naomi Klein to the College of the Atlantic on June 6, 2015.
Mine is not going to be your average commencement address, for the simple reason that College of the Atlantic is not your average college. I mean, what kind of college lets students vote on their commencement speaker—as if this is their day or something? What’s next? Women choosing whom they are going to marry?
So as it happens there’s a couple of things here that have resonance with me. Firstly the Atlantic has, very wisely, closed comments on the three articles about the Charleston massacre. After yesterday, I have been seriously thinking that might not be too bad of an idea here, but two comments from the Usual Suspects set me straight on that. We do have good discussions here, and one wingnut is not going to be allowed to upset that. Secondly, one of the topics that Naomi Klein addresses speaks to something I have been thinking about.
These days, I give talks about how the same economic model that superpowered multinationals to seek out cheap labor in Indonesia and China also supercharged global greenhouse-gas emissions. And, invariably, the hand goes up: “Tell me what I can do as an individual.” Or maybe “as a business owner.”
The hard truth is that the answer to the question “What can I, as an individual, do to stop climate change?” is: nothing. You can’t do anything. In fact, the very idea that we—as atomized individuals, even lots of atomized individuals—could play a significant part in stabilizing the planet’s climate system, or changing the global economy, is objectively nuts.
Recently Jane Fonda visited Jericho Beach and spoke there about pipelines and coastal tankers and whatnot, and of course the commenters weighed in as usual, being snide about how Jane chose to travel here, and thus was some kind of hypocrite because that trip used fossil fuel. Just as the same cabal has chided Al Gore for his campaigning on the same topic.
Maybe the Pope is going to be different. Maybe his speech will start the moral shift that is needed in the corridors of power to finally address the issue. Of course the fact that someone inside the Vatican leaked the encyclical (not a usual turn of events) and that Jeb Bush was already out front of it seem to point in the direction that the pontiff will be going. A bit like the way the President has had to acknowledge on gun control.
But continuing the “fair use “privilege, here is how Naomi Klein sees it towards the end of her speech
….the weight of the world is not on any one person’s shoulders—not yours. Not Zoe’s. Not mine. It rests in the strength of the project of transformation that millions are already a part of.
That means we are free to follow our passions. To do the kind of work that will sustain us for the long run. It even means we can take breaks—in fact, we have a duty to take them. And to make sure our friends do too.
And, as it happens you can also watch – for free – what Naomi Klein said on YouTube
And also here is what she has to say about the Pope’s new message
Sorry about the shouty headline: the UVic Press Release uses all caps and my WP editor lacks a ‘change case’ key. This actually came to me from a tweet. You do follow me on twitter don’t you? There’s now a handy widget over there on the top right if you need it. Some of the tweets do get repeated by facebook, but not many of the retweets. And quite a lot of stuff that I see does not get blogged these days, especially since Twitter changed the way retweets are done that now can include commentary. Today, for the first time, I was able to retweet something with the terse comment “Horseshit!” – something, I now realize, I have wanted to do for a long time.
Climate research – and the long list of projects – is all very worthy, but I am afraid I am very much unimpressed. And I am also a bit inspired by a post in the Tyee which sets out the progressive manifesto 0f what needs to be done once we have got rid of Stephen Harper. So while the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) is doing its five year research project here are some things that we need to be doing right away. That is because action on climate change is now urgent. Like The Man said “We don’t have time for a meeting with the Flat Earth Society“. We do actually know what needs to be done and, sadly, these things seem to have slipped through the PICS net.
First note that they are hung up on gee whiz technology. We don’t actually need any of that. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that we know about, familiar technologies and techniques that are held back simply by a combination of out of date policies and inertia. BC Transit was forced to waste money on hydrogen buses (whatever happened to them? I asked BCT but they have yet to reply) when we knew plenty about trolleybuses and extended range hybrid dual powered buses too. Nothing was learned from that five year demonstration project other than it is possible to truck hydrogen across the continent and convince yourself that you are helping the environment.
Transportation and the Built Environment are treated in the research list as two separate programmes. I wonder if the researchers will talk to each other over lunch sometimes? Because we all know that land use and transportation are two sides of the same coin. The best transportation plan is a good land use plan. The best way to save energy from transportation is to cut the need to make motorised trips. Community Energy Planning should have become mandatory fifteen years ago, but Glen Clark shut down the Energy Efficiency Branch of MEMPR – and forgot all about the BC Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program. Most of the advances that we are going to see in the field of transportation will come from a combination of information technology and deregulation. (See Bridj below) There’s a great deal we can do to make better use of what we have but the rules and regs get in the way. Like bike helmets, for instance. By the way did you know that the researchers who did the study that supports BC’s current helmet law have themselves repudiated that study? Protected bike lanes work better to both save lives and encourage bike use – and they are amazingly simple to introduce. As The Lady said, if you want to see change, do it quickly. The Burrard Bridge case is as convincing as any that chaos will not ensue.
Most of the change we need will start happening once we stop subsidizing fossil fuels. Indeed it is quite remarkable how much change is already under way, despite billions of dollars propping up what will soon be a dying industry. The tar sands are already uneconomic, and unnecessary, just as LNG export is a really stupid proposition in the present market. So stop throwing money at oil and gas, and you not only free up some fiscal headroom for sensible policies, but you also give the market the sort of signals it would have got if you had stuck to your guns over carbon tax. Ditch revenue neutral as a policy objective there, keep jacking up the carbon price and spend the proceeds on public transportation – local transit and high speed electric trains for longer distances. Electrify the main corridors straight away (Toronto – Ottawa – Montreal, Edmonton – Calgary) and then start building new high speed railways as cancelling freeway expansions permit. Maybe by then the Americans will have started to catch up with the rest of the world, and we can talk about Vancouver – Seattle – Portland.
What I do see as problematic is that we will probably be better at civilizing the suburbs than getting real change in urban areas, where many more people live in multifamily buildings. It’s pretty easy to put up your own solar panel, and put both a Tesla car and a home battery in your own garage. If you can afford it. It is going to be much harder to get equivalent changes in condos, though co-ops seem to be doing better with things like bike storage. Public housing, of course, has to go back on the agenda. It is not enough to make the existing housing stock more efficient when so much of it is out of range of the middle class, let alone the people who struggle on unlivable wages and such welfare assistance as survives. I do not see any work being done by PICS on environmental justice. But make no mistake, we do have to tackle the issue of the lack of jobs in range of affordable housing in transit deprived areas. We do need to think about how our energy policies can be used to create better employment prospects for our own population rather than simply looking to exploit export markets for barely transformed raw materials. “Researchers will also identify opportunities to substitute timber products for carbon-intensive steel, concrete or plastics used in many sectors, including the building industry.” Start first by banning the export of raw logs to ensure that there will be some local industry to produce these wonderful things.
I am really against spending so much on building technologies – where the potential savings in fossil fuels in BC are limited – when you have no plan to tackle the major user of liquid fuels – personal transportation. Again, we know that old fashioned ideas like trolleybuses, trams and interurbans – even diesel buses, for goodness sake – produce far less ghg per passenger kilometre than single occupant internal combustion engine cars and trucks. So we really do not need any more research on “the distribution potential of alternative fuels including compressed (CNG), liquefied (LNG) and renewable (RNG) natural gas.” Even if every car could be electric, zero emission at a wave of a magic wand we would still have all the present problems of traffic, road deaths and urban sprawl. There is even less saving in ghg in having a carbon zero or even positive reduction in CO2 building if it is stuck out in the middle of nowhere – and everybody is driving to and from it! On the other hand, increasing bus service frequency and reliability – mostly by paint on the streets – is a well established technique for increasing transit use – and it doesn’t all come from cannibalising walking and cycling. Much of it comes from unpaid chauffeuring.
The article on Bridj really got me thinking. First note that this service is actually delivering something slower in downtown DC than can be achieved on a bike. But then this guy is also wasting time “20 minutes to shower and change” after his ride. Imagine someone from Copenhagen or Amsterdam writing that. Bridj could be a serious challenge to transit – much more than Uber and Lyft which are aimed at the taxi market. Or it could be a very useful supplement, and work much better than Community Shuttle service does in the suburbs. Indeed, when you look at how it works, isn’t that a good description of what HandyDART was supposed to do? And how about we simply abandon (once again) the old “separate but equal” philosophy, and instead of having a segregated service for people with disabilities – which actually does not work very well at all – but have a service which anyone can use. But is cheaper to deliver because you separate out the paying for it from using it. $5 for a ride on a profit making service? If the math is right, that is cheaper than most Community Shuttles, and much less than HandyDART. The driver, of course, would continue to help those who need assistance for door to door movement. As I have always said, in the low density areas (which includes most of Vancouver south of 12th Avenue) we need something better than a bus but cheaper than a taxi. Bridj isn’t going to attract people who can use really good transit. But then we don’t actually have that in much of the region, and it is not at all clear that we will turn out to be ready to pay for more of that yet. Oh, and before I forget, we would also need to sort out a much more equitable transit tariff, based on ability to pay, but that is a subject for another day.