Cameron Wigmore, Green Party Member: Fossil Fuel Free in 20 Years

July 2, 2007

Fossil Fuel Free in 20 Years

Prospects for renewable power are promising. But it means nothing if the public interest is drowned by corporate power...
George Monbiot Tuesday July 3, 2007 The Guardian

Before I get to the comment piece by George Monbiot, I'd like to reflect on my last few posts about energy.

Lately I've been under attack on my blog from a few pro-nuclear folks. They have been trying unsuccessfully to argue that we need nuclear energy, and that it's a good idea. In the end they've all been unable to argue against the many reasons why nuclear is a bad idea, they continually quote biased studies that rely on assumptions that energy demands will definitely rise (not true, if we embark on aggressive conservation and efficiency measures) and there's no other way to meet them, which is also untrue, since along with conservation, renewables can meet our demands.

We can meet energy demands by reducing consumption and enforcing energy conservation, while significantly ramping up renewable energies.

The problems with using nuclear energy include a lack of long term focus on conservation, threat of terrorist attacks, no acceptable solution to long term radioactive waste storage, providing materials for depleted uranium weapons, not a solution to climate change, unsustainable (especially without ample fossil fuels to provide energy for construction, maintenance, decommissioning and allowing for proper future storage for nuclear waste), and the extreme cost to taxpayers in form of industry subsidies.

Please see my previous posts on energy and nuclear power for more reference documents, studies, articles and discussion comments.

Now for the Monbiot comment piece published today in the Guardian online. Here's a different link to this article, along with a few quotes below.

Reading a scientific paper on the train this weekend, I found, to my amazement, that my hands were shaking. This has never happened to me before, but nor have I ever read anything like it. Published by a team led by James Hansen at Nasa, it suggests that the grim reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could be absurdly optimistic...

...Unaware of the causes of our good fortune, blissfully detached from their likely termination, we drift into catastrophe.

Or we are led there. A good source tells me that the British government is well aware that its target for cutting carbon emissions - 60% by 2050 - is too little too late, but that it will go no further for one reason: it fears losing the support of the Confederation of British Industry. Why this body is allowed to keep holding a gun to our heads has never been explained, but Gordon Brown has just appointed Digby Jones, its former director-general, as a minister in the department responsible for energy policy. I don't remember voting for him. There could be no clearer signal that the public interest is being drowned by corporate power...

...Until recently I guessed that the maximum contribution from renewables would be something like 50%: beyond that point the difficulties of storing electricity and balancing the grid could become overwhelming. But three papers now suggest that we could go much further.

Last year, the German government published a study of the effects of linking the electricity networks of all the countries in Europe and connecting them to north Africa and Iceland with high-voltage direct-current cables. This would open up a much greater variety of renewable power sources. Every country in the network would then be able to rely on stable and predictable supplies from elsewhere: hydroelectricity in Scandinavia and the Alps, geothermal energy in Iceland and vast solar thermal farms in the Sahara. By spreading the demand across a much wider network, it suggests that 80% of Europe's electricity could be produced from renewable power without any greater risk of blackouts or flickers.

At about the same time, Mark Barrett, of University College London, published a preliminary study looking mainly at ways of altering the pattern of demand for electricity to match the variable supply from wind and waves and tidal power. At about twice the current price, he found that we might be able to produce as much as 95% of our electricity from renewable sources without causing interruptions in the power supply.

Now a new study by the Centre for Alternative Technology takes this even further. It is due to be published next week, but I have been allowed a preview. It is remarkable in two respects: it suggests that by 2027 we could produce 100% of our electricity without the use of fossil fuels or nuclear power, and that we could do so while almost tripling its supply: our heating systems (using electricity to drive heat pumps) and our transport systems could be mostly powered by it...


This is exciting to me, as it reaffirms my own position that we can and must meet our energy needs through a combination of conservation & efficiency measures, as well as renewable technologies, with no fossil fuels or nuclear power, and the effect to our lifestyles would be minimal.

Now when I say 'minimal', what I mean is that a big chunk of the responsibility sits with our government to provide energy efficiency incentives, rebates, and to have the political will to remove taxpayer subsidies from oil & gas and nuclear energy industries and invest them instead in renewable energies. Still, much of the responsibility sits with the citizens, and we must be diligent in our personal efforts to use energy wisely. The really good news is that it saves us money when we use less energy, so in the end it's a win for our wallets too.


More from Monbiot on energy related matters:

Thanks, But We Still Don’t Need It - July 11, 2006 - Some of the arguments against nuclear power are no longer valid, but it remains the wrong technology.

Two Kinds of Mass Death - September 7, 2004 - The argument for nuclear power has strengthened, but it’s still not good enough.

What if the Oil Runs Out? - May 29, 2007 - Though the government is planning a massive expansion of transport networks, it has never considered this question.

A Lethal Solution - Posted March 27, 2007 - We need a five-year freeze on biofuels, before they wreck the planet.

33 comments:

Dana G said...

Without a significant increase in price to signal that these changes are necessary we are only going to drift along with modest improvements in efficiency and renewables. To achieve anything in 20 years on this scale we need to start ramping up industry right now. Industry needs a clear signal that going forward serious money is to be made in these sectors. Otherwise they will sink the investment dollars into further fossil fuel dependent activities.

Endlessly bashing nuclear as environmentally or geopolitically too dangerous to contemplate doesn't help renewables. Structure the cost of nuclear and coal to truly reflect the external costs associated with the technologies and I feel sure the price signal clarity will lead to a boom in renewables.

Cameron W said...

Thanks Dana for your interesting thoughts.

Of course removing tax payer subsidies from the oil & gas and nuclear energy industries would be an obvious starting point. The fact that this is yet to be done, and renewables don't receive the same subsidies or tax breaks, shows that our government is beholden to those industries.

I agree that pointing out the faults of the status quo doesn't automatically make people choose the alternative, so I do try to point out the pluses to renewables and energy conservation and show that they are better than investing in nuclear energy.

At the same time, I've worked hard to research appropriate background data on the problems with nuclear, as has Monbiot, the fellow quoted in this blog post.

It's still important that the largely unknown information provided through the links to studies and other info in my previous posts about nuclear energy are made easily available.

Cameron W said...

Some useful and informative links.

Rob Edwards on Nuclear Power


Cost Disadvantages of Nuclear Power - Gordon Edwards, Ph.D.


UK advisers say 'no' to nuclear future - New Scientist

reality check said...

Here's an interesting exercise for you to consider on externalities.

Look at the proposed 2,200 MW new electrical generation for Northern Alberta.

Three options.

1) Natural gas fired generation
2) Coal generation
3) Nuclear generation

Total CO2 emissions per year (2200 MW installed)

1) Natural gas (@3,972 tons CO2 /MW ) = 8,738,400 tons/yr

2) Coal generation (@7,947 tons CO2/MW)= 17,483,400 tons/yr

3) Nuclear generation (@ 0 tons CO2/MW)= 0 tons/yr

Now, apply the GPC carbon tax @$50/ton

1) Natural gas = $436.92 million/yr tax

2) Coal generation = $874.17 million/yr tax

3) Nuclear generation = $0 /yr tax

Now, considering this tax will be paid every year for the 30 or 40 yr life of a project, I wonder which way the tax will drive investment...

You don't need to be a nuclear scientist to figure than one out.

(here's the emissions reference site http://www.seen.org/pages/db/method.shtml )

Let's see you google up a response to that one.

Cameron W said...

Hi reality check,

I don't need google to be able to tell you that not only is this list of options for energy generation poor in that it excludes renewable sources, it also fails to include costs of nuclear outside of the carbon tax which you've quoted as the only cost to tax payers.

By your numbers, given your options, with no consideration for other factors, nuclear appears to be the most economical choice, but this is an error.

Please review my previous posts on nuclear energy, energy efficiency, and the proposed carbon tax that the Green Party promotes. Many economists support this idea. It's done in other countries with a very positive effect on the economy.

reality check said...

Ok, let's have a look at renewables for Alberta.

A recent announcement of Fed subsidies for a windfarm in the Pincher Creek area of Alberta (near the southern border - one of the windiest and consistent areas of the province).

http://www.nawindpower.com/naw/e107_plugins/content/content.php?content.947

They are announcing a windfarm of 63 MW installed (nameplate capacity). Each turbine I read elsewhere is rated at 1.8 MW, so this means they are proposing 35 units.

Now, the problem with wind turbines is they are unreliable. They only operate part of the time. In this most ideal part of the province, they are expecting only 36% of full output.

Here's the calculations.
The article says they expect 200,000 Mwh of energy from the farm.

So 200,000 Mwh/365 days per yr / 24 hrs per day = 22.83 MW average peak generation.

22.83 MW out of 63 MW installed = 36.2 % average load.

So, lets compare this with the 2,200 MW generation planned for Northern Alberta.

Assuming the same 1.8 MW turbines, and the same ideal conditions of 36.2% availability, you would need a wind farm of 2,200 MW/ 1.8 MW /36.2% = 3,376 turbines (and you still couldn't ensure continuous baseload generation).

And what about the land required, the access roads, grid of electrical transmission lines etc. to deliver the electricity to its endusers?

And will the landowners go along with this? (the turbines have to be spread out).

Even Ann Murray has a case of NIMBY when it comes to wind generation. And this is only for 20-27 turbines!

http://novascotiabusinessjournal.com/index.cfm?sid=42458&sc=107

Another reality check for the dreamers.

Cameron W said...

Hi reality check,

At the one link you provided, the article ended with "According to Natural Resources Canada, the ecoENERGY for Renewable Power initiative provides C$1.48 billion to increase Canada's supply of clean electricity from renewable sources such as wind, biomass, low-impact hydro, geothermal, solar photovoltaic and ocean energy."

Alberta currently allows tax incentives for the oil & gas industry, subsidies to the companies in an industry that is again posting record profits. Wouldn't it make more sense to let the companies tough it out in the market without billions of dollars woth of handouts from the government?

Instead, we should be taking oil & gas tax revenue in reasonable amounts (about 40% I believe under the Lougheed government) and provide it to renewables in order to kick start these industries, providing thousands of jobs and clean energy.

Wind needs to be combined with other technologies in order to meet baseload needs, but that alone won't be enough. We also need to have an aggressive energy efficiency and conservation program that will help us to meet our energy needs in part by reducing consumption levels. It has been done, and we can do it, but we need the political will to carry this out.

For more on efficiency and energy conservation as tools to help us meet our demands for energy see this post of mine:

Energy Efficiency Better Than Expected

Cameron W said...

Renewable energy 10 times cheaper - July 6, '07

Cost of renewable energy 10 times cheaper than ‘business as usual’ fossil-fuelled future, says breakthrough report

Savings of US $180 billion per year predicted in first global analysis of renewable energy versus fossil fuels

Amsterdam/Brussels, 6th July 2007: Investing in a renewable electricity future will save 10 times the fuel costs of a ‘business as usual’ fossil-fuelled scenario,
saving $180 billion USD annually and cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030, according to a joint report by Greenpeace and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) released today. (1)

In the first global analysis of its kind, “Future Investment - A sustainable Investment Plan for the power sector to save the Climate’, demonstrates a powerful economic argument for a shift in global investments towards renewable energy (including solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and bio energy), within the next 23 years, and away from dangerous coal and nuclear power. The report gives the financial rationale for Greenpeace’s "Energy [R]evolution," a blueprint for how to cut global CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050, while maintaining global economic growth (2).


article continued at link above...

reality check said...

You still haven't addressed the issue that you yourself raised.

Now mater how cheap, or how subsidized it becomes, you can't physically install all of the equipment, realistically.

Tell me, do you really think this is possible? 3,376 turbines in lieu of 2,200MW generation? Suppose to appease the concerns of farmers, they are spaced 1 km apart. This is a grid of 59 kms square! Come down out of the clouds and tell us how this will be accomplished.

Putting it in Northen Alberta? Will you be running access roads, and electrical cables throughout the boreal forest, destroying this habitat?

Don't just google another article, or speak in generalities.

Tell us SPECIFICALLY how you and the GP in particular would accomplish this in Alberta, in lieu of a nuke which is currently proposed for the Whitecourt area of Northen Alberta.

You seemed to be against a power transmission line based upon your earlier posts in support of landowners who object to the proposed routing between Edmonton and Calgary.

Offer specific alternatives, not just slogans or general comments.

reality check said...

Will the residents of Crowfoot respond in a similar manner? I bet they will. From today's paper:

From LethbridgeHerald.com

Letters to Editor

South pays dearly to power up Calgary
By LETHBRIDGE HERALD
Jul 7, 2007, 22:16

Editor:

According to the Financial Post, Enmax is to build a 1,200-MW natural gas-fired power station close to wind power generation in southern Alberta, in order to boost the reliability of wind energy (because it is so unreliable). This power station is said to provide enough power to supply two-thirds of Calgary’s needs. (This power station does not, in fact, have to be close to the wind turbines. It could be anywhere the power lines go.)

Even though this station will be powered by natural gas, it will be a polluter, wiping out the effect of the current wind turbines, which have a total capacity of less than 900 MW (actual capacity is around 300 MW since the turbines produce at around 25 per cent of their rated capacity). Note also that “green” Germany is to build 26 large brown coal-fired power stations, the first will be 675 MW and is due to go on line in 2010. Wind turbines do not prevent fossil fuel power stations being built.

The new high voltage power lines being built across the south enable huge power stations to be placed well away from the large cities, where the power generators will perceive planning permission will be easier to obtain. The South has become a dumping ground for power generators to provide electricity to Calgary and the U.S.

What we have gained is:
• the destruction of the scenic beauty of the MD of Pincher Creek and other parts of southern Alberta;
• the destruction of natural habit and birds, bats and millions of insects;
• noise and visual pollution, especially for residents near these turbines;
• pollution of the night sky (lots of red flashing navigation lights);
• devaluation of property values;
• higher electricity costs;
• probably higher natural gas costs, due to Enmax’s anticipated huge consumption for the power station;
• visual pollution by triple height power line poles;
• and visual pollution and potentially more habitat and wildlife destruction by huge 40-metre trellis-type pylons for 240 KV/380 KV power lines from Lethbridge to Pincher and Lethbridge to Montana.

As an aside, why does Calgary Mayor Bronconnier think the rest of the province should pay for Calgary? Our property values are being reduced by wind power and gas-powered development to provide power for Calgary. Should rural communities be looking for equalization payments from Calgary?

BARRIE SYLVESTER
Pincher Creek

© Copyright by LethbridgeHerald.com

Cameron W said...

Of course nobody wants a power station of any kind near their property.

If you read back to the original post and article my Monbiot, you'll see that the real solution is energy efficiency and reduction in consumption. There's no way around this.

I did address the issue I raised. Have you thoroughly read through the dozens of links at my posts on energy? Perhaps you don't fully understand the situation or the solutions I'm supporting.

There may be a loss of some luxuries, but our well being and quality of life should certainly not be affected.

I agree with you that energy needs are a serious issue, and meeting the demand will be difficult in the coming decades. Things will be very different 30 years from now, when we'll have passed global peak production of oil (as experts agree it will occur no later than this) and if we maintain current levels of usage even uranium will be significantly depleted.

We need to be preparing for tomorrow, today. Wind power will never replace fossil fuels. Neither will nuclear energy.


A combination of renewable energies, coupled with significant reductions in consumption and improvements in energy efficiency will prove to be the only sustainable solution.




-

reality check said...

I have read Monbiot's main article as well as the link provided from July 11, 2006. Now, let's acknowledge one thing here first - Monbiot is an anti-nuke advocate, using his soap box at the Guardian to put forward his ideas.

To his credit, in the latter article he acknowledged many of the issues that anti-nukes put forward (that you have endlessly repeated) do not carry any weight.

His blog appears to be focused on Great Britain, his main constituent, although he does acknowledge different circumstances in terms of energy supply for North America.

What Monbiot in his original article does is what most anti-nuke environmentalists do: accept and quote IPCC forecasts for modelling and climate change, but refuse to acknowledge that the IPCC scientists SUPPORT nuclear energy as ONE, I repeat, ONE source of energy to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Monbiot's suggestion of a wide web of interconnected DC grids connecting North Africa, Europe, Iceland etc. is pure science fiction in this day and age. Theoretical, yes. Realistically? Not a chance. Too mnay issues such as security of supply, sovereignty etc.

Now, like me you probably watched Al Gore's speech on Live Aid stage in NY. Did you notice the seven item pledge said nothing about banning nuclear energy? Want to know why I believe it doesn't appear? Because a number of scientists, environmentalists etc consider nuclear energy as PART of the solution to the climate crisis.

I have asked you to step out from the theoretical, ideal, or protest mode and tell us, as a political party, how you would go about achieving a significant reduction in electricity demand and increase in renewables. There are significant challenges - windfarms as a very valid example, yet you simply refer to articles and say it can be done.

Coincidently, even in the July 2007 issue of the GP news a Quebec member of the GP points out the problems with windfarms with his electorate. http://www.greenparty.ca/en/newsletter/July4/B

It is very easy for people who live in cities such as Barrie or Ottawa to advocate windfarms. Yes, they are nice to look at as you drive by on the way to Grandma's house- but let's be frank, these advocates don't have to live with them.

On many issues, the GP is not being realistic. So, good luck getting elected and helping to change things towards the other policies that are more realistic.

Cameron W said...

"...I have asked you ... how you would go about achieving a significant reduction in electricity demand and increase in renewables. There are significant challenges - windfarms as a very valid example, yet you simply refer to articles and say it can be done..."

Do you think it can't be done?

Do you agree that it must be done?

There are many challenges, and I certainly accept that it will require the necessary political will and public support.

Just as there are 'anti-climate-change' disinformation/denial groups, and pro-fossil fuel industry lobbyists, there are also nuclear industry lobbyists and supporters who fail to see the bigger picture when it comes to nuclear and the subject of energy in general.

There is no energy source available that will fill the shoes of fossil fuels, and we have maybe a few decades at most before the global ability to supply fossil fuels will be less that demand. What I mean is that our 'peak production' will peak within the next few decades (some experts say it may already be starting, and FYI - the USA is already long past it's peak production abilities) and we will soon realize that, in the words of James H. Kunstler, "we're stuck up a cul de sac in a cement SUV without a fill-up."

Nuclear will not fuel the massive fleet of personal autos around the world. Without cheap abundant fossil fuels, how do you propose we dispose of nuclear waste? How do you propose we maintain construction, upgrades and and decommissioning of nuclear reactors? What of the fact that the world will require thousands of nuclear reactors built at a rate not even possible if we are to have a significant effect on climate change?

Nuclear energy is a short term stop gap on the way to unavoidable downsizing in energy consumption. We will not be able to maintain our current way of life far into the future. Plastics, pesticides & fertilizers are just a few of the products made possible by petroleum. Nuclear will not solve the question of what to do regarding those products either.

Cheap shipping of products manufactured inexpensively overseas will no longer be possible when fuel rates are higher. Nuclear will not solve this. We need to restructure how we do things, and looking at the subject of nuclear energy with tunnel vision is not going to be helpful. When considering all of the other factors at play, one can easily see that the problems surrounding nuclear energy, and energy supplies in general, far outweigh the short term 'gain' from investing in nuclear reactors.

The thing is, no other political party has the will to speak the realities of creating a sustainable society.

While various 'experts' sit and talk about how to maintain high levels of consumption for just a few more years, allowing for the continuation of sprawling communities (if one can call them communities) in which people have to drive up to two hours a day to get from their homes to their place of work, the Green Party, and many other experts, are discussing ways in which we can shift to a more sustainable structure, so that decades down the road we won't be left with dozens or even hundreds of nuclear reactors that we cannot continue to run due to the lack of fossil fuels.

When talking about a transition from a fossil fuel rich world to a fossil fuel depleted world (the transition is currently underway) the sides seem to be for or against the use of nuclear energy on the ride down. it is a short term stop gap, and pro-nuclear advocates argue that if we want to make the transition with the lights on we'll have to build nuclear power plants.

I think this is short sighted rhetoric.

If we want to have a sustainable society where well-being and quality of life isn't measured through the consumption driven economic gague of the GDP (where oil spills are 'good', as is cancer) then we have to make a number of changes.

Nuclear energy is the vain attempt to hold onto a way of life that has done nothing for society's true well-being, and is linked directly to fossil fuels. Once we're on the downward curve, things will get tough, and nuclear won't help.

The Green Party isn't trying to please everyone, but it is a moderate political party that recognizes fiscal responsibility and sustainable solutions as part of the solution. We recognize that the old way of thinking no longer works, but the old-line political parties have done nothing.

Nothing.

reality check said...

There is no energy source available that will fill the shoes of fossil fuels, and we have maybe a few decades at most before the global ability to supply fossil fuels will be less that demand. What I mean is that our 'peak production' will peak within the next few decades (some experts say it may already be starting, and FYI - the USA is already long past it's peak production abilities) and we will soon realize that, in the words of James H. Kunstler, "we're stuck up a cul de sac in a cement SUV without a fill-up."

This is why you have no credibility. COAL IS A FOSSIL FUEL!!!!

Fossil fuels are NOT limited to oil.

Alberta is the biggest emitter of GHGs in Canada (by absolute numbers) and hence the highest per capita- and it has tons of COAL.

Coal can be used to make diesel. It was done in Germany in WW2 and in South Africa during apartheid boycotts.

The world has 200 yrs of coal now at the current rate of consumption, and based upon known reserves.

http://www.iied.org/mmsd/mmsd_pdfs/066_mccloskey.pdf

Again, you don't know what you are talking about, and it shows.

reality check said...

Here's more typical GP idealism. The people who drool over electric cars as the answer to GHG emissions.

Here's what you wrote:
Cameron Wigmore Says:

July 7th, 2007 at 11:01 am
After watching the movie ‘Who Killed The Electric Car’, I thought that we might not see this technology used until the large auto manufacturers decided to pursue it and make money for themselves. It’s exciting to see that the electric car hasn’t disappeared entirely. I do hope it takes off!


Where the hell do you think the electricity will come from in Alberta, or elsewhere? The little solar cell mounted somewhere on its top? What if you park in the garage either at home (say you ive in a highrise) or park underground at work. Or it is overcast? Or there is snow on your car? Or if you drive in cities where buildings block sunlight?

It has to realistically come from MORE electricity generation. And the increased load will be in the cities.

You guys really are on a different planet.

P.s. GM has already announced plans to develop the Volt - an electric plug-in gasoline hybrid.

Cameron W said...

Reality check, I think you missed the point that consumption is rising rapidly, and the study you cited states 200 years at current rates of consumption. Also, it doesn't mention that the lesser grades of coal will be more difficult to access. While coal provides about 25% of global energy needs, we will have to reduce this, not only because of climate change, but also because coal production peaks, and then slowly declines, no matter how much we try to increase production.

We can already see ramped up efforts to maintain fossil fuel supply (coal, natural gas, CBM, tar sands, etc) and this is just so we can meet current demands. This path is unsustainable, and the Green Party is the only federal political party in Canada that is looking to sustainable solutions.

Your condescension and increasing hostility is offensive. Lighten up!

I know exactly what I'm talking about, and your heightened level of hostility makes me wonder if you simply don't like being wrong. It's alright to admit when your argument is erroneous. You can give credit when others are right, and you can still be respected and make your point.

Right now I'm wondering what your objective here at my blog is. Are you here to discuss the issues, or insult me?

Making empty accusations like, "Again, you don't know what you are talking about, and it shows" will not make you right, and it will not make your proclamation that I don't know what I'm talking about correct.

I was aware of Germany's efforts with conversion of coal into fuel for vehicles in WWII.

I live in Drumheller, so I know there's a LOT of coal in Alberta.

I was aware that coal is a fossil fuel. Thanks for the reminder.
;-)

In the following talk David Rutledge, the chair of the Division of Engineering and Applied Physics at Caltech, mentions that coal extraction will peak in 2030.

He has his talk, slides and spreadsheet to back up his claims.
One need not take them at face value, but the methodology is
transparent and a place to start. He is now the third Caltech (in
addition to Nathan Lewis and David Goodstein) to raise the warning.

http://rutledge.caltech.edu/

So, are you proposing we could go on for much longer at current rates of consumption of energy? I sure hope not.

Also, if this is the only reply you have to my previous comment I'm shocked. I expected more.

reality check said...

For some reason, this was deleted from the GP site. I'm reposting here (from Google cache)as I had referenced it above in an earlier post.

Lower St. Lawrence experiences the downside of wind development

The following article is the first of a new series dedicated to local issues. We’ll try to present topics of interest to everyone and we invite readers to share their experience and knowledge on local challenges. This article was written by Bernard Viau, editor of Green Canada Vert and secretary of the electoral district association (EDA) in the Quebec riding of Montmagny L’Islet Kamouraska Rivière-du-Loup, located in the lower Saint-Lawrence river area.

In our riding, we have two burning issues: wind farms and a methane terminal. Politicians from all the other parties have been avoiding these issues for the last two years. For now I will deal only with the wind farm project.

Wind farm projects are being announced every month in Quebec and are growing like mushrooms, but the air is turbulent in the wind industry. The promoters tell us that wind farms will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (but reducing our consumption of meat will do more to reduce the GHG emissions).

Don’t be fooled, the money they are investing in wind energy has nothing to do with the environment. Promoters build wind farms because there is a lot of money to make. Firstly, it’s a tax shelter and a very efficient one. They also receive production bonuses from the government and special credits for reducing air pollution.

Wind farms may be built on private land but they affect the landscape, which is common property, so to speak. Opposition to wind farms has focussed mainly on this spoiling of the landscape. Most of the time, we judge things according to their potential return on investment and so, it is only normal that promoters and shareholders are at loss when one speaks of the “value” of a landscape. In Europe, citizens are complaining that miles of landscape have been destroyed by wind farms; many are even complaining about health hazards associated with them. In Europe, land values have fallen around wind farms, and tourism also. Let’s face it, a wind farm is like a forest of huge towers with intermittent headlights on top of them for airplanes; nobody can miss them!

Also construction needs a lot of cement; a sea of cement would give a better picture. Thousands of trucks, very heavy, very broad and very long, damage the roads, on top of polluting with diesel fumes, noise, vibrations, dust and traffic. House foundations will be affected, and the following spring roads will break up.

In 30 years, if the promoters have not declared bankruptcy to avoid paying for dismantling of wind towers, the foundations will be left to the grandchildren of the original owners. It would be better to force promoters to put money in trust to cover end-of-life dismantling; a form of asset fund for future generations.

If promoters and shareholders had their way, public enquiries would not be necessary. Industrial wind farms are not nice and green like the promoters want us to believe.

In our riding, they are telling us that there will be an economic windfall, but 75% of the expenses go for the turbine and Quebec does not produce any. Industrial wind farms create no permanent jobs because the turbines are monitored by a technician working far away in an office filled with computers.

Wind farm projects need planning. The huge towers will still be on our landscape when today's decision-makers are dead. Municipalities need stronger regulations to exclude industrial wind farms from agricultural lands, migratory corridors and tourist areas. It is also necessary to group wind farms in areas far from urban areas, and substantial indemnity should be requires to repair damage to the road system.

To make a good decision today, one needs to think 30 years ahead. The opposition to the wind farm project in our riding is mainly because of its size. Large industrial wind farms are rapidly becoming anti-environmental because they are symbols, not of respect for the environment but of resources’ exploitation and industrial domination over our territory.

What we propose is a local development run on a cooperative basis, instead of the usual economic exploitation where millions talk louder than common sense. Municipalities have to become partners - or better, responsible investors for future generations - by forcing government power monopolies to include local participation. Large wind farms should not be built near populated areas, but in Canada’s & Quebec’s North on the edges of big hydroelectrical reservoirs. The Green Party of Quebec adopted this proposal for its electoral platform.

Municipalities are starting to take the first step in the wind farms issue. For more information, read this article from July 3rd 2007 (in French) : http://www.bas-saint-laurent.org/texte.asp?id=4860 and the links associated to it.

At the June 2006, public hearings for the office of environment of Quebec (BAPE) we made submissions that wind farms should be far away from cultivated lands, the river, migratory corridors and heavily populated areas. We wrote several articles for the newspapers. Eventually, the plan was postponed and even the tax shelter of 2006 was put back by another year. Our voice was heard; we are proud to say that we have contributed to changing attitudes towards wind farms in Quebec.

Skypower announced on the 5th of July that they have received all necessary permits from the government and that the construction of the first wind towers will begin in the next few weeks. To read the communication on the web, follow the link. (in french)

We would like to get in touch with other citizens, and members of the Green Party across Canada, with similar problems in their areas to exchange information and experience. viaub@sympatico.ca

Cameron W said...

From the post you've quoted, "...What we propose is a local development run on a cooperative basis, instead of the usual economic exploitation where millions talk louder than common sense. Municipalities have to become partners - or better, responsible investors for future generations - by forcing government power monopolies to include local participation. Large wind farms should not be built near populated areas, but in Canada’s & Quebec’s North on the edges of big hydroelectrical reservoirs. The Green Party of Quebec adopted this proposal for its electoral platform...."


This makes great sense.


This letter is a good example of how we all play a part in a collective 'footprint' on the environment. No matter what kind of energy sources we pursue, There will be an effect. What I mean is you can never get something from nothing.


It's also a good reason to support the Green Party goal of decentralized, community organized systems.


Reality check, I want to also mention that I am a regular guy that decided two years ago to get involved with the Green Party to participate in being a part of the solution. I'm not an energy or economics expert, but I find the subjects very interesting and recognize the importance being well informed on the issues. The reality of the situation is that many Canadians want a significant change for the better in the way we do things in Canada, and more people everyday are recognizing that the Green party is the political party that is out in from with regards to policy and long term strategy for the country, the people and the planet.


I'm honored that you'd hold me to such high standards, and I will continue to rise to meet them, but you should remember that I'm not a professional politician. I am a 30 year old father and husband who works as a gallery interpreter at a museum and enjoys commuting to and from work by bicycle. My life has made some fairly dramatic turns, and I'm proud of the path I'm on today.


I'm flattered that you are following my online activity in various forums so closely. Regarding your comment above on electric cars, I suspect you haven't seen the movie. You really should watch it. In the end even electric cars will need to plug in, and that energy will have to come from somewhere. How we restructure our cities, living arrangements, and consequently how much we drive will be a key factor in how long we'll be able to sustain a system similar to our current motoring model, regardless of whether cars are fueled by gas or are electric.


So, while I was in another forum talking about the wisdom behind electric cars and my desire to see this pursued rather than continuing to build gas guzzling SUVs for urban commuting, you took my comments out of context and applied them to this thread, where the point is that we'll need energy to maintain society in a form similar to what we have today.


There is a problem with the idea that we can all have electric cars powered by the grid in the near future, but there's an even greater problem with the idea that we can all have personal vehicles powered by fossil fuels for much longer.


Better designed cities, better public transportation systems and better more efficient use of energy will be key factors in determining how we'll live in the future. The solutions are in renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. There are issues to resolve, and there are realities that will need to continue to be addressed, but to criticize or dismiss renewable energies and instead support coal or nuclear would be the most absolute backwards direction, and I will not fall prey to your attempts to sway me.



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Cameron W said...

Hi reality check,

Here's more about that article on wind power that you posted above.

Green Party blogs

One of the comments:

What's so bad about wind farms on/near agricultural areas? I've seen a payment model where you are paid a share based on proximity to the turbine, rather than a straight rent. So, for example, the hosting farmer gets half, then the next farmer over gets 1/4, and so on in a growing ring of smaller shares. That avoids the resentments created when the hosting farmer gets 100% and the neighbour gets zero. Instead, the community benefits in proportion to proximity/impact. The income produced for the farmer well exceeds minimal loss of usable land or esthetic harms.

By insisting on staying off agricultural (i.e. disturbed) land, you are forcing wind farms onto wild/undeveloped land - not just the windmills, but the associated construction/access roads, transmission lines, etc. How is that better? Agricultural land is not 'natural' at all - much of it is deforested & chemically treated.

Also, why oppose wind farms near urban areas? It is far more efficient (and sustainable, and lower footprint) to generate power near the user than to transport it over long distances from the hinterland. Certainly wind turbines are much less an eyesore than traditional urban views of smokestacks, interchanges, transmission towers, or unispiring highrises.

The article makes it sound like windfarms are a negative that should be kept as far away from people as possible - out of sight, out of mind. I often drive past one on agricultural land on the way to my grandparents' farm and always enjoy the sight, day or night. The turbines may be novel, but no worse to the eye than silos or high-voltage pylons.

Why need windmills be dismantled after 30 years? Can you not replace the turbine/blades as necessary (with newer/better technology)? Can you not re-forge the steel tower if it loses strength? Is the foundation worn out after 30 years, could it not be refurbished? Major bridges made of concrete & metal stand under constant wind, and they seem to not need dismantling after a mere 30 years. The Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower (stone and steel, respectively) have stood at or above wind turbint height for over a century.

The list of impacts from construction (trucks, cement, etc.) does not provide any comparison to alternative generation methods. Hydro, coal, nuclear, even co-generation or solar also require huge amounts of energy & materials for construction. You don't get anything for free.

How does cooperative ownership in any way reduce the environmental impacts you list? How are 100 windmills in 50 communities less impacting than 100 windmills in a single wind farm? Some impacts may be reduced via distribution, but others are reduced via economies of scale - seems like a wash to me.

I see room for multiple models of wind development - municipal, cooperative, small scale private (local partnership), large scale industrial, public (provincial), etc. Co-op is great, but not the only way to do things.

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
Barrie, ON

p.s. I find it odd for Greens to demand subsidies for greener alternatives like wind power, then attack those who take advantage of them as being only interested in the money, not the environment. If the market just did things for the environment, then subsidies would be unnecessary.
Submitted by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins on 7 July 2007 - 12:11pm.

reality check said...

I've been studying hard on the subject of energy lately. It all started when I was told by a pro-nuclear advocate that we 'need; nuclear energy. This declared 'need' is based on the assumption that we will not significantly ramp up use of renewables, and that we will do nothing to significantly reduce levels of consumption through increased efficiency and other measures. I was challenged at my blog on whether we could meet our energy needs through a combination of renewable sources and energy efficiency measures/reductions of consumption levels. I looked for studies, and contacted our relevant shadow cabinet members, and I now know that we can.
...

The comments at some of the posts are full of reference links and interesting pro-nuclear attacks. For an interesting snapshot of the arguments used by individuals who are pro-nuclear the comments are useful. I've dome my best to keep a cool head in my replies!

Interesting summary on the GP site. Biased I would say, and not at all what has been said on this site.

If you are not qualified through your training as you mentioned above, then you should acknowledge as much when you make unsubstantiated and definitive claims.

Cheers

P.S. I purposely chose not to register on the GP site and blog there as I figured it would probably get more traffic there than here, and would probably cause more internal strife. Blogging and raising issues on your site as a member of the Council was a compromise solution to avoid wider dogmatic GP arguments.

Cameron W said...

Thanks for the comments reality check.

Have a great day!

Cameron W said...

Reasons Not to Glow
On not jumping out of the frying pan into the eternal fires


by Rebecca Solnit
Published in the July/August 2007 issue of Orion magazine

Chances are good, gentle reader, that you are going to have to sit next to someone in the coming year who will assert that nuclear power is the solution to climate change. What will you tell them? There’s so much to say. You could be sitting next to someone who hasn’t really considered the evidence yet. Or you could be sitting next to scientist and Gaia theorist James Lovelock, a supporter of Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy™, which quotes him saying, “We have no time to experiment with visionary energy sources; civilisation is in imminent danger and has to use nuclear—the one safe, available, energy source—now or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet.”

for full article click on link above

Anonymous said...

Oil and gas shortages likely within 5 years

As reported yesterday by CBC.ca, "The IEA (the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's International Energy Agency) predicts a combination of increasing world demand and inadequate supply from Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) nations will lead to a global oil and gas crunch by 2012, but also says the signs will become obvious by 2009."

Canada imports 58 percent of the oil we consume. About 40 percent of the oil used in Ontario is imported, while about 90 percent of the oil used in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces is imported. 25 percent of the oil Canada consumes comes from the unstable regions of the Middle East or North Africa. This is a higher percentage than U.S. dependence which is at about 23 percent of their consumption from these regions.

As well, Canada exports 70 percent of the oil and 61 percent of the natural gas we produce each year to the United States. NAFTA limits the extent to which the Canadian government can act to reduce exports to the United States. Article 605(a) of NAFTA prohibits measures that would reduce these exports as a share of Canada's production to below "the proportion prevailing in the most recent 36-month period for which data are available." In effect, NAFTA prevents a reduction in the amount of oil or oil products going to the U.S., unless both Canadian production and consumption fall.

In order to fulfill its NAFTA commitments to the United States, Canada is now importing more than half the oil it uses, even though its production has grown by 64 per cent since the FTA was signed. (It should be noted that Mexico, another oil and gas producing nation, excluded itself from these NAFTA obligations.)

On September 21, 2006 CBC.ca reported on Harper's address to an elite business audience in New York: "On the economic front, Harper spoke with pride about the growing production from Alberta's tar sands and Canada's position as the largest exporter of energy to the United States. Harper touted Canada as an 'energy superpower'..."

This statement by Harper runs contrary to Canadian public opinion. A poll conducted for the Canada Institute of the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Toronto-based Canada Institute on North American Issues shows, "only one in five Canadians agree that Canada has an abundance of energy and should be sending more of it to the U.S., compared to 55 per cent of Americans who say the same thing." (Globe and Mail, October 5, 2006).

And yet despite all of this, Canada does not have a strategic petroleum
reserve. Professor Larry Hughes has written that, "A degree of energy
security can be achieved by maintaining supplies of crude oil in strategic petroleum reserves (SPR). All OECD countries, except Canada, maintain national SPRs."

On January 24 of this, I wrote to you that the Calgary Herald reported that, "The U.S. Department of Energy said Tuesday it plans to increase the capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to 1.5 billion barrels from 691 million barrels..." In short, the U.S. currently has a strategic petroleum reserve capacity of 727 million barrels which would theoretically replace about 60 days of oil imports for them. The U.S. Energy Secretary is saying that it is a "wise and prudent policy decision" to expand this reserve to 1.5 billion barrels, which would be equal to about 97 days of oil imports.

Given the population difference between Canada and the United States, it could be suggested that Canada should have a strategic petroleum reserve of at least 73 million barrels. Given that Canada exports 1.6 million barrels a day of oil to the United States - we would only need to withhold our oil exports to the U.S. for 46 days to establish our reserve.

If expanding the strategic petroleum reserve in the United States is "a wise and prudent policy decision to provide additional layer of protection" as their energy secretary says, what does it say about the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper that has not set aside a single barrel of oil for ourselves, wants to export a "fivefold" increase in oil from the northern Alberta oil sands, and wants to further entrench a trade agreement that prohibits us from cutting back these exports even in times when we run short?

Brent

Oil and gas shortages likely within 5 years: report
July 9, 2007
CBC News

Consumers will see the beginnings of a serious global oil and gas shortage within two years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned Monday.

The IEA predicts a combination of increasing world demand and inadequate supply from Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) nations will lead to a global oil and gas crunch by 2012, but also says the signs will become obvious by 2009.

"Not only does oil look extremely tight in five years time, but this
coincides with the prospect of even tighter natural gas markets at the turn of the decade," the energy security watchdog for the 26-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said in an oil market report.

The Paris-based agency forecasts spare capacity (unused pumping capacity than can be immediately opened and sustained in a crisis) will plummet to "uncomfortably low levels," owing to increasing world population growth.

Further compounding the problem, the IEA predicts other oil-producing nations will not cover the OPEC shortfalls.

While the agency does not forecast oil prices, the end result is clear: even higher prices at the pump.

A warning to OPEC However, this oil shortfall may not be inevitable. One analyst says the IEA's ominous prediction is meant to warn OPEC nations, not panic consumers.

"The IEA has a political role as well as an economic role: the defense of the consumer," Thierry Lefrançois, an analyst with French bank Natixis told the Associated Press. "They are saying to OPEC countries, 'Look at where petrol consumption is going to be in 2012, so you will have to increase your production capacities faster than you planned.' "

However, Lefrançois says the IEA's warning should not be taken lightly. He finds the agency's predictions very plausible.

"If demand increases more than two percent a year we will have a major
petrol crisis," he said.

Oil prices reached nearly one-year highs last week, rising three per cent from the June 29 settlement price of $70.68.

=========================

reality check said...

More drivel on NAFTA energy provisions.

OK, here's a question. The anti-Nafta crowd wants the oil from Canada's oilsands to not go to the US (the free market most economic route choice)but rather to refineries in Ontario/Quebec etc.

The free market has failed according to this policy. So, how much is the GP or other anti-Nafta partners prepared to subsidize the O&G companies to build higher capacity pipelines and upgrade the refineries to handle heavy bitumen or crude from Alberta? You can't just replace light sweet midEast crude with heavy Alberta bitumen without major investments (probably billions).

I thought the GP was against subsidies. Pursuing this "security" boogey man will cost billions.

So, who foots the bill? Canadian taxpayers?

You've raised the issue, now offer solutions.

Cameron W said...

Let me ask you what you think the solution is. Please try contributing to my blog... you do come here rather often! I promise I'll listen!

If you really want answers, contact the relevant Green Party shadow cabinet representatives through the contact info at the Green Party website.

For more about the GPC and it's view of NAFTA check out the comments section at this post:

On Pesticides - More or Less

Cameron W said...

reality check said, "...Even Ann Murray has a case of NIMBY when it comes to wind generation..."

I had almost forgotten that you were trying to reframe the issues here on my blog in an attempt to change the argument to one you might appear to win. On this point, you didn't manage to spin it the way you had likely hoped.

Murray says Nova Scotia wind farm hits wrong note in cottage country
Charles Mandel, CanWest News Service
Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From the article:

...However, Elizabeth May, the Green Party leader whose riding is in Nova Scotia, said she sides with Murray in the debate. “She’s clear she supports wind power and is talking about siting. Perhaps we can agree cottage country is not the best site for wind farms.”

Instead, May expressed surprise that Atlantic Wind Power - previously involved in a siting controversy in Nova Scotia in 2005 - hadn’t learned its lesson and was fighting uphill against public opinion

again. In 2005, the company developed its Pubnico Point Wind Farm in southwest Nova Scotia. At least one family moved, complaining of noise from that development.

May suggested hilltops in the province might be more appropriate for wind developments rather than the coastline.

“I think Anne Murray was right to say she supports wind power, but this isn’t the right place for it.”

- - - - -

So reality check, now that you hopefully understand this specific issue, and have been called out for trying to mislead in your comments, will you instead try to contribute to the solutions rather than sit on the sidelines and criticize?

reality check said...

Let me ask you what you think the solution is. Please try contributing to my blog... you do come here rather often! I promise I'll listen!

Yes, the GP should stop fear mongering over Nafta, energy etc. and base its policies on fact and input from professionals who actually have experience and knowledge of how energy investments are made and energy commodities are traded.

If the GP is suggesting the status quo is unacceptable, then rather than simply raise the issue, and erroneously, in my opinion, blame it on Nafta , offer costed out solutions. Does Canada really require a strategic oil reserve in Eastern Canada in the event of an energy crisis? OK. Where does it go, how much will it cost, how much will it hold? What additional pipelines are required? What additional refineries need to be built, what will it cost, and will the local population be agreeable to have such facilities installed? Then a cost/benefit analysis can be done, and if the cost far outweighs the perceived benefit, than it should be dropped from the issues/policies of the GP.

So reality check, now that you hopefully understand this specific issue, and have been called out for trying to mislead in your comments, will you instead try to contribute to the solutions rather than sit on the sidelines and criticize?

Actually, in truth the article you provide supports my position, completely.

Energy efficiency, conservation and transforming a country's energy supply mix is far, far beyond sitting at a computer, running a spreadsheet, and coming up with a theoretical plan. It has to be then tempered with what is actually achievable, or in effect, a reality check.

I've heard/seen some people claim that 30% of our energy supply mix can be met with renewables (principally wind). But there are reliability issues. And there are system stability issues (ask an electrical engineer to explain). Then there are land use issues (NIMBY). Then there are transmission rights-of-way issues, etc. etc. etc.

It is no longer good enough to simply say it can be done without offering credible, realistic plans - and without fully thinking out what the implications might be.

Ann Murray is a good example. Once you remove cottage country from a number of provinces, you may well find that the best locations for windpower also disappear. So the theoretical no longer becomes achievable.

That is the reality that is missing from the GP plans that make them less than credible.

reality check said...

A letter to the editor G&M last fall on windpower. I'm sure you've heard of Energy Probe (big anti-nuke NGO)

Wind power disappoints
TOM ADAMS

Energy Probe

December 6, 2006

Toronto -- Re Answer Blowing In Wind (letter -- Dec. 2): The David Suzuki Foundation complains that Energy Probe's recent wind-power study, which identifies disappointing production results from wind in and around Ontario, is based on only a "few months of data" and that the experience in Germany provides "concrete evidence about the reliability of wind power."

In fact, our study shows disappointing production from Ontario and Quebec-based wind-power installations since the 1990s. Germany's actual wind-production results since the industry became established four years ago are also about a third less than expected.

Leading German environmentalists and energy experts, including world-renowned expert Richard Tol, whose work on greenhouse gases the Suzuki Foundation cites, recognize that the German wind system has been a political boondoggle. Mr. Tol notes that the real beneficiaries of Germany's overblown wind system are the corporate interests aligned with Germany's powerful Green Party.

Cameron W said...

I don't share your pessimism, and with more success and financial strength, more studies to research and back up GPC policies will be conducted.

One must remember that the other major federal parties have a lot of money to conduct their studies, such as those that assume we will continue to increase consumption levels without significant increases in efficiency, and then state that "based on those assumption, so say the 'experts', we need nuclear", or that sort of thing.

The GPC has a lot of respectable science and experts backing it's policies.

I believe the next GPC election platform will be costed by a respectable research institute, so stay tuned!

Check out the GPC policy page for more info along with background documents.

Cameron W said...

On wind power, even at the current realized levels of productivity wind energy is still important as a source of energy for us to pursue.

It's not a stand-alone solution to our energy needs, but it should remain a part of the solution.

Cameron W said...

reality check, I'm curious where in general you live, how old you are, and what your background is in this subject.

Would you be willing to share this info rather than hiding behind an anonymous nickname?

I think we could communicate more efficiently through personal email rather than in the comment section of a post on my blog.

reality check said...

In an ideology based value system, policies are developed, and then studies are produced to support the pre-established policies, often by individuals who share the same ideological bias.

This is what you describe above.

The proper process is exactly the opposite, using objective individuals. Any professional will know this.

Cameron W said...

Actually, you're wrong.

The general membership - Canadians from across the country - contribute to policy and it's the membership of the Green Party of Canada that the Green Party listens to when it comes to what direction the Green Party will take on various issues.

It's bottom up, not top down.

What I was saying is that there are many experts and many studies that support Green Party policies in a number of areas. The policies were written by a group of members, the policy was voted on during a general meeting, and approved of or dismissed. Interestingly, when this logical grassroots process is followed, the professionals and other experts end up finding that GPC policy makes good sense, is well planned out, and the overall strategy meshes very well with what most Canadians want.


- - - - -

reality check, I'm curious where in general you live, how old you are, and what your background is in this subject.

Would you be willing to share this info rather than hiding behind an anonymous nickname?

I think we could communicate more efficiently through personal email rather than in the comment section of a post on my blog.