The Costs of Green Energy in Ontario

The following post was published in the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal this past weekend, in response to a letter, “Green Zeal Too Costly”, which claimed that the provincial government’s move to shift Ontario towards more renewable energy forms was driving up prices for consumers. The author is Scott Harris from Thunder Bay, who is on the Board of Directors for Environment North. Thanks to Graham Saunders for sharing it.

Glen Day’s Feb. 26 letter, Green Zeal Too Costly, rightly criticizes government flip-flopping on energy supply in Ontario, but wrongly targets the move toward green energy as the cause of our energy woes.

I agree that green energy should have to prove itself as a viable energy source, but we have to look beyond our household energy bills , and consider the real costs of not going green.

For example, the Ontario Medical Association estimates that the total annual health costs associated with poor air quality in Ontario, to which the current electricity supply mix is a major contributor, is $9.9 billion per year. We know that the “current electricity supply-mix” culprit is fossil-fuel, pollution from which kills and sickens thousands of Ontarians each year, and drives up health care costs. We need to connect the dots here and recognize that getting rid of the fossil-fueled component of our electricity supply translates into better health and health-care cost savings.

Why are energy costs where they are?

Paul McKay, journalist and author of Atomic Accomplice: How Canada Deals in Deadly Deceit, documents convincingly how, since 1999, Ontario ratepayers have made $36.3 billion in cumulative payments toward a “stranded” nuclear energy debt, and how they will likely pay at least $60 billion in the next decade just to service and retire a further $27.6-billion nuclear-related debt, and get not a single extra kilowatt-hour delivered for these payments.

Given these facts, it’s hard to grasp that nuclear plants are currently being lauded by some as the way to eliminate fossil-fuel generation. Build a new reactor? Darlington, our last reactor, cost $14.3 billion to build, four times its original estimate. And so-called new-generation reactors are predicted to be as expensive as they were a generation ago.

“So we have a perverse optical illusion: more than half of Ontario’s energy comes from nuclear plants which appear far cheaper than they are, while new renewable projects appear far more expensive than their secretly-subsidized main rival,” says McKay. “In addition, our generation’s public utility will leave behind some 40,000 tonnes of nuclear wastes that will remain latently lethal for centuries, and a related fiscal time-bomb for entombing retired reactors, for which we are likely to be cursed.”

The promotional materials issued by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization as it tries to seduce our vulnerable, job-hungry, down-on-their-luck northern towns into becoming nuclear waste graveyards, promises “thousands of jobs . . . for many decades.” Try 25,000 decades as that is the length of time radioactive waste must be safeguarded. Add those very real transport and safe-storage costs to ours and our children’s children’s children’s etc., electricity bills!

Contrast that with a proposed $14-billion investment in pollution-free, fuel-free, waste-free, safe-storage-free green energy (two coffees and a doughnut per month) with real honest-to-goodness electrical energy to show for it.

Let’s get fossil and nuclear off the table ASAP. Coal’s legacy is one of pollution, dangerous acceleration of global warming, health and climate risk. Nuclear has a deplorable fiscal track-record, transportation and safe storage of nuclear waste is a daunting problem and nuclear reactors are vulnerable to accidents and acts of terrorism. (Good luck terrorizing a wind farm!)

In our own best interests, and on behalf of the voiceless and vulnerable yet unborn, I say let’s first of all conserve energy like our collective good health and wealth depend on it. Energy conservation is generally recognized as the most cost-effective way to help curb CO2 emissions and stabilize our household energy bills. (Premier McGuinty, keep those household energy retrofit rebates coming!) And let’s give green energy a chance.

Conservation and green energy in concert add up to a cleaner, more sustainable environment, with better health, a less expensive health care system and the potential to keep more green in our own pockets.

Ontario's microFIT program encourages renewable energy development

 

DeChristopher: Our Children Are Calling To Us, Unite In a Powerful, Nonviolent Fist

“I understand that prison is a very horrible place, but I have been scared for my future for a long time and I think the scariest thing that I see is staying on the path that we are on now. Obedience, to me, is far scarier then going to prison.”

Tim DeChristopher

Yesterday in Salt Lake City, Utah, environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was found guilty for taking a stand and blocking a bogus auction of oil leases in that state during the waning days of the Bush administration. Here are his words, and the video of his speech after the verdict. Watch it now, and whenever you are feeling in need of inspiration. DeChristopher is a moving speaker whose words come from his heart. From  350.org:

What the world wanted to see was how you would react. And you have reacted with joy and resolve. You’ve shown that your power will not be intimidated by any power that they have, and that’s the most important thing that’s happened here this week.

Because everything that happened inside that building tried to convince me that I was alone and that I was weak. They tried to convince me that I was like a little finger out there on my own that could easily be broken. And all of you out here were the reminder for all of us that I wasn’t just a finger all alone in there, but that I was connected to hand with many fingers that could be united together as one fist, and that fist could not be broken by the power that they have in there.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cae5Pr7CHgk&feature=player_embedded]

That fist is not a symbol of violence. That fist is a symbol that we will not be mislead into thinking that we are alone. We will not be lied to and told that we are weak. We will not be divided and we will not back down. That fist is a symbol that we are connected and that we are powerful. It’s a symbol that we hold true to our vision of a healthy and just world and that we are building the self empowering movement to make it happen. All those authorities in there wanted me to think like a finger but our children are calling to us to think like a fist.

And we know that now I’ll have to go prison, we know that now that is the reality. But that’s just the job that I have to do. That’s the role that I face. Many before me have gone to jail for justice and if we are going to achieve our vision many after me will have to join me as well.

No one ever told us that this battle would be easy. No one ever told us that we wouldn’t have to make sacrifices. We knew that when we started this fight.

Every wave on the ocean that has ever risen up and refused to lay back down has been dashed on the shore, but it is the very purpose of a wave to rise up, because once it rises up above the horizon it finally has the perspective to see that it’s not just a wave, that it’s a part of a mighty ocean. And the sharpest rock on the wildest shore can never break that ocean apart, they can never wear that ocean down, because it’s the ocean that shapes the shore.

That’s what we’re starting to do here today. That’s what we’re starting to do here this week. With wave after wave after wave crashing against that shore, we shape it to our vision. Thank you all for being a part of that.

More links:

Bill McKibbon on Tim DeChristopher Trial

Robert Redford: Bidder 70

Tim DeChristopher Takes The Stand: “I felt I could be powerful enough”

Bidder 70 Opened Our Eyes

Les Miz Echoes Through The Wisconsin Rotunda

Les Mis in the Rotunda of the Wisconsin capital:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVEMZSP8Ypk&feature=player_embedded]

Here are the words, slightly adjusted for the situation:

Do you hear the people sing,
singing the songs of working men?
It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again.
When the beating of your heart
echoes the beating of the drums,
there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes.

Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Beyond the mass parade, is there a world you long to see? Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free.

Then join in the fight
That will give you the right to be free!

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

Will you dedicate your all so that our freedom may advance?
Some will stand and some will fall.
Will you stand up and take your chance?
Let’s fill the Rotunda
’til everyone joins in the chants.

The Koch brothers, notorious fossil fuel billionaires who have actively worked to undermine democracy in general and action on climate change specifically, are big supporters of Governor Walker of Wisconsin, who is attempting to push through a union-busting bill using the excuse of a budget emergency. The fight in Wisconsin is shining more light on these nefarious brothers and their money.

More links:

Billionaire Brothers’ Money Plays Role in Wisconsin Dispute. NYTimes

Race to the Bottom: Gov. Walker Assaults Jobs, Innovation, and Clean Energy in Wisconsin

Report from Wisconsin: This is What Democracy Looks Like

Canada’s Federal Government Slashes Environmental Spending, But Keeps Subsidies to Big Oil

The Harper Conservatives have racked up a mighty deficit.  When they came into power, the outgoing Liberal government  handed them a $12 Billion surplus. The financial crisis is only partly to blame for the huge shortfall, however much the Conservatives would like to lay all the blame on its doorstep. But the fact is, in 2011, after five years of Conservative government, we are in a fiscal mess.  And the looming budget, expected in on March 22, will see some belt-tightening measures.  It won’t be Big Oil and Gas who will be cinching up their girths, despite the fact that Canadian taxpayers subsidize the richest industry in the world to the tune of $1.4 Billion a year. Instead, the government is targeting programs that address climate change and air pollution.  Those programs are being cut to the tune of $1.6 Billion dollars a year, according to numbers released yesterday by the Treasury Board.

Those Canadians who didn’t realize before where this government’s allegiance lies, can see it clearly now; when the choice is between our children’s future and fattening the already stuffed wallets of corporate elites, the Harper Conservatives chose the latter.  Our children will just have to wait.

Take Action Now:

Please call the Prime Minister asking why he would rather cut $1.6 billion in environmental services and not the billion + dollars in subsidies to fossil fuel companies:  (866) 599-4999. As of yesterday,  civil service employees are answering the phones,  and they are not saying this is the Prime Minister’s office, but state CLEARLY that you wish to speak to the Prime Minister. You will most likely be sent to a machine to leave a message but PERSIST! It is vitally important that Canadians make their voices HEARD.

Also, call your Member of Parliament, and let them know you are not willing to sacrifice the future health and prosperity of Canadians while the fossil fuel industry gets richer and richer. Better yet, call them and make an appointment to meet with them – and bring some friends along!  If they’re Conservative, ask them why the fossil fuel industry’s subsidies continue while environmental programs are slashed. If they are in opposition, get their assurance that they will fight to end the subsidies to Big Oil and Gas.

Click here for contact info on Members of Parliament.

More links:

Federal Government to cut Environment Spending

Climate Action Network Canada – End Fossil Fuel Tax Breaks


Dr. Fred Singer, Grand-Daddy of Deniers, Delivers Shoddy Lecture Based On Bad Science

Today’s guest blogger is Danny Richter. Danny is a Ph.D candidate at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego.  His research is centered on diatoms, a type of phytoplankton, and the role they play in the global cycling of elements important for marine life and the climate. In addition to his studies, Danny enjoys guiding occasional backpack, kayak, and canoe trips for the campus outdoor program.

As expected, Dr. Fred Singer’s recent talk at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, CA was very well-attended by climate scientists.Also as expected, he made a case that modern climate change is due to natural causes, and not man’s activities. He did not deny the climate is changing, and he even conceded that both anthropogenic and natural forces probably play a role, but he argued that natural causes are far more important.

Unexpectedly (at least by me), his presentation was unbelievably shoddy. While he deftly wielded lofty terms and discussed complicated situations with the fluency of one who has spent a lifetime in the realm of physics, close computation, and complexity, this was very obviously a front. The facade was toppled by the simplest of questions, such as what acronyms stand for, where the data were taken, and why he chose to omit other data. He could answer none of these questions.

Dr. Singer hates models. A lot. He makes no secret about this. Yet, for someone who so publicly hates models, you would expect him to present a lot of data. He did not. He rested his case on a paltry 7 data sets. Of these, he himself pointed out that 3 disagreed with his argument, and despite the fact that the data were published at a later date, he dismissed them for reasons that were quite opaque. Thus his entire argument for debunking anthropogenic climate change rested on 4 data sets.

Why only 4 data sets? Balloons are released from hundreds of sites around the world. Yet, when asked where these balloons were released from, he could not provide an answer. This is significant, because you would expect different results from weather balloons released, say, over land or over the ocean. Supposedly, these balloon data represented tropical data, as his argument focused on temperature anomalies in the tropics. Yet when asked specifically where they came from, he waffled about most data coming from North America and Europe. Both are decidedly un-tropical.

These 4 data sets represented a time slice from 1979 to 1997.  As he stated, weather balloon records go back to 1958. He even stated that the records agree well with satellite data over the period we’ve had satellites measuring these things (1979). Yet, when pressed, he gave no explanation for why, if the agreement is good, he did not include the weather balloon data from the beginning of the record.

Other gross errors included mis-labelled (and unlabeled) axes and comparisons of cherry-picked plots representing different time scales. First, if you’re going to try convince anybody of anything, you need to show that you’re competent. Undergraduates doing research get lampooned all the time for not labeling axes. Even for them that’s unforgivable. For an Emeritus Professor to do that is inconceivable. Second, if he’s not grossly negligent, then he’s outright lying. To say two plots are comparable when they’re not is lying, plain and simple.

In conclusion, while a high-schooler would have struggled to give a talk with the complex ideas he presented, if he had succeeded in giving this talk, that high-schooler would still have gotten a bad grade for the presentation. The fundamentals of scientific integrity were completely absent. He claimed to debunk the conclusions from the entirety of the 1,000+ page IPCC fourth assessment report with 4 measly data sets. On top of that, he didn’t even know where those data sets come from, nor could he explain cherry-picking the time-span they covered.

In a way, this was reassuring. As the grand-daddy of anthropogenic climate change deniers, if he puts together such a shoddy talk, it speaks volumes about all climate change deniers. On the other hand, that such a poor performer has been able, arguably single-handedly, to delay action on climate change in the United States for at least 3 decades is demoralizing. Where were the scientists then? Why didn’t they write pieces like this to call him out as the fraud he is earlier? Why am I, who wasn’t even born when he began denying the science (even though I have been alive for 9 years longer than the 1979-1997 period of data he based his conclusions on), still needing to call him out?

As a climate scientist, Dr. Fred Singer is a fraud. He built his admittedly good scientific reputation upon satellites and physics. He should have stuck with that. His climate change talk would not have passed muster for a professor, for a post-doc, for a graduate student, for an undergraduate, or even a high-school student. It is unfortunate that science has no equivalent to a lawyer’s bar exam, or a physician’s medical license. His would have been yanked long ago. Perhaps then, with the official stigma of a quack attached to his name, policy makers would have been quicker to recognize his unethical and just plain bad science for the snake oil it is.

Thanks to Lauren, Anais, Taylor, and Sandy for checking this to make sure I accurately recounted the details of the presentation.

More links:

Dr. Singer has ties to the U.S tobacco lobby. For example, the 1994 report “Science, Economics, and Environmental Policy: A Critical Examination” lists him on the report’s advisory board (click on the title to go to the report). The report condemns the EPA’s attempts to regulate exposure to second-hand smoke and rejects the science showing tobacco’s harmful effects (sound familiar?).

Also, the “Heartland Institute” (featured in the photo above) is one of Mr. Singer’s supporters in his fight against addressing climate change.  For more on this organization’s dubious record of promoting a junk science, pro-pollution agenda, and its alliance with the tobacco industry and the fossil fuel industry, go to Sourcewatch.org.


Practical Changes to Home Energy Usage Can Help Tackle Climate Change

Today’s guest blogger is Krista Peterson. Krista is a recent graduate from the University of Central Florida and an aspiring writer. She has a passion for the health and wellness of our communities and our environment, and hopes to spread awareness of healthy and green living. In her free time, Krista enjoys reading, writing, and doing yoga.

With the continued environmental destruction brought on by our current reliance on fossil fuels, it remains imperative for individuals to recognize practical changes they can make at home to reduce their personal contribution to this trend. One of these simple changes involves insulation. With as much as half of a home’s energy usage going towards heating and cooling, it remains important to make sure you implement as many responsible energy practices as possible, including the regular replacement of air filters, installing a programmable thermostat and sealing heating and cooling ducts.

However, one of the simplest ways to decrease the energy usage in a home is to improve its insulation, which can save individuals around 20% on their heating and cooling bills. Besides being good for the wallet, that 20% reduction in energy means a significant decrease in the usage of fuels or electricity in the home. Furthermore, new forms of insulation, most notably blown-in cellulose, present a natural alternative that is both sustainable and non-damaging to the community and environment. As much as 80% of this product is made from post-consumer recycled newspaper, meaning its production does not heavily tax the environment. Furthermore, this form of insulation is chemically treated to safely resist fire, mold and insects.

Cellulose Insulation in bulk

Another added benefit of replacing inefficient home insulation is the removal of potentially lethal materials, including asbestos-containing insulation like Zonolite. Besides the environmental benefits of replacing outdated insulation, you can ensure the continued safety of your family by having this dangerous material removed from your home. Insulation containing this material is dangerous because when asbestos enters the body, it leads to a cancer known as mesothelioma. Unfortunately, mesothelioma symptoms are very hard to recognize and typically appear decades after exposure, meaning homeowners might allow themselves to be exposed to the material for years, never realizing they were increasing their danger of developing this cancer all along.

Besides the delayed symptoms of mesothelioma which result from asbestos-tainted materials, another dangerous form of home insulation is urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, which can result in a host of health effects, including burning sensations in the eyes and throat, respiratory difficulties and even cancer. As this material degrades, it gives off a pungent gas which can trigger serious reactions in residents. Like asbestos, this material should be removed from a home and replaced with an environmentally-friendly product that takes into account both the environment and homeowners.

A home’s insulation represents just one of many examples of where our best interests and the planet’s are aligned. Besides making homes more comfortable, safe and economical, replacing outdated materials in a home with green insulators ensures the energy efficiency and sustainable construction we need to globally adopt if we hope to lower our fossil fuel emission levels. Just as a poor mesothelioma life expectancy accompanies those who let asbestos materials continue poisoning their homes, accepting current levels of fossil fuel emissions puts our planet in a precarious position where it is uncertain if it will remain inhabitable for future generations.

More links:

Mesothelioma on Wikipedia

Natural Resources Canada: Energy Efficiency

We Have More Than Enough Power to Win This Battle: DeChristopher

Tim DeChristopher is the Utah activist who is going on trial today for derailing the illegal sale of public land to private oil and gas developers during the dying days of the Bush administration. Tim is facing ten years in prison on two felony charges, if convicted.

In a recent interview with Yes! Magazine, DeChristopher had this to say about the ongoing political upheaval in the Middle East and its relation to the climate movement:

Throughout the few weeks of the uprising in Egypt, there was never really any doubt that the protesters would eventually take out Mubarak. It was totally clear: They knew they had this level of power and were committed to exercising it. What we’re missing is that commitment to exercising the citizen power that we already have. In Egypt, once they made the decision that they were going to be a powerful force, there was no stopping them.

…We think we have no power when in fact we have more than enough power. Right now, we have a big enough movement to win this battle; we just need to start acting like it. That’s the message that the climate movement really needs to internalize. On an individual level, it means making the commitment that we’re going to be powerful and effective agents of change; on the movement level, it’s about making the decision that we’re really going to win this battle.

Click here to read the full, inspiring interview.

The following is an excerpt from a letter co-written by five leaders of social and environmental justice – Dr. James Hansen, Robert Redford, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibbon, and Terry Tempest Williams. All recognize the trial of Tim DeChristopher to be a turning point in the climate movement:

…Why is this trial so important to the fight against catastrophic climate change, even in light of recent ecological disasters like flooding in Pakistan and the BP oil spill? As we all know, this fight takes many forms: huge global days of action, giant international conferences like the one that failed in Copenhagen, small gestures in the homes of countless people.

But there are a few signal moments, and one will come February 28th, when the federal government puts Tim DeChristopher on trial in Salt Lake City. Tim—“Bidder 70”—pulled off one of the most creative protests against our runaway energy policy in years: he bid for the oil and gas leases on several parcels of federal land even though he had no money to pay for them, thus upending the auction. The government calls that “violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act” and thinks he should spend ten years in jail for the crime; we call it a noble act, a profound gesture made on behalf of all of us and of the future.  Click here to read more

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbFL31ZODlU]

Those of us who can’t be there in person, can still send a message of support to Tim at info@peacefuluprising.org, and/or donate to Peaceful Uprising.

 

More links:

Tim DeChristopher: Standing Up For a Liveable Future