Canadian Politics from Canada's Centre

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Elizabeth May Interview - Part 3

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Green Party leadership candidate Elizabeth May has granted us an interview, of which this is the third part. We are presenting the interview, broken into pieces, throughout the week. Today we present the second part of the economics section of our interview with May.

Parts one and two of the interview covered issues of leadership and economics. This is part of our ongoing coverage of the Green Party's leadership race.

f) Most of the West as well as many emerging economies are dependent on oil. How important an issue is that, and why (not)?

Dependent is one word for it. "Addicted" is another. It is urgent that we break the addiction and dramatically reduce oil dependency. Sweden's recent pledge to go off oil is enormously encouraging.

g) If it is important, how would the Green Party act in regards to that? If not, what is the priority in alternative energy development?

We need to set clear goals and targets, and align economic and fiscal signals with those goals. (as described above).

The hierarchy of effectiveness in terms of costs and environmental benefits is as follows. Pursuing all aggressively can reduce our emissions and oil dependency dramatically -- without new large scale hydro or nuclear energy.

  • Demand-side management
  • Energy conservation (the two terms are often used synonymously but embody very different, although complimentary approaches.)
  • Co-generation, combined heat and storage and seasonal storage.
  • Expanded renewables from passive solar water heating to photovoltaics, wind power (especially off the shores of Lake Ontario, and our coasts, and in farmer's fields (hedgerows), run of the river hydro, tidal and geo-thermal.

h) Both Canada and the US have significant nuclear energy resources. Is it legitimate to expand their use to rid us of oil dependency? What about expanding use of hydro power? Note that one of our readers said: "Don't let them off saying we can conserve energy or solar/wind to meet all our energy needs. The sun doesn't shine all the time, and sometimes the wind doesn't blow..."

See above for the suite of measures. According to energy analyst Ralph Torrie, just demand side management and energy efficiency could cut our demand for energy in half, without any new large scale hydro, AND while shutting down existing nuclear and coal-fired plants. (see the study: Kyoto and Beyond, David Suzuki Foundation website, Climate Action Network site.)

Premier McGuinty should take note: not every unpopular decision is brave and far-sighted. Some are just plain stupid.

McGuinty has made an irresponsible and reckless decision, without having insisted on a clear analysis of all elements of Ontario's energy future. The advice of the Ontario Power Authority was manifestly inadequate as a basis for decision-making. It failed to even address the potential for conservation, and, as exposed in the Sierra Club of Canada research, only concluded that nuclear power was environmentally acceptable by rushing a private consultant to complete a hasty and incomplete report without including key impacts of nuclear including the mining of uranium. The pro-nuclear "cult," as identified by former Ontario Hydro chair, William Farlinger, is still in existence.

The OPA report did not make any case for ordering reactors in 2006 or anticipating any shortfalls before 2014. Yet, Premier McGuinty is using the pretence of imminent shortfalls to buttress a dangerous decision. At the same time, the Premier is backing away from the scheduled closing of dirty coal plants that drive up greenhouse gases and smog.

Ontario taxpayers and electrical users (and the environment) have already suffered from the enormous cost over-runs and unreliability of the nuclear industry. Cost overruns on the last nuclear station built in Ontario at Darlington were in the billions of dollars. Debt incurred by Ontario Hydro (the predecessor to OPG) in the operations of its power reactors amounted to over $35 billion dollars. Meanwhile, federal taxpayers have already sunk over $17 billion into the Crown Corporation pushing nukes, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

Energy efficiency expert, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute, reaffirms the advantages of energy efficiency over nuclear and adds "... nuclear power saves as little as half as much carbon per dollar as wind power and traditional cogeneration, half to a ninth as much as innovative cogeneration, and as little as a tenth as much carbon per dollar as end-use efficiency. ... Empirically, on the criteria of both cost and speed, nuclear power seems about the least effective climate-stabilizing option on offer. "

What is urgently needed is a plan to reduce air-conditioning demand in summer, to sub-meter apartment buildings and condos in the downtown of Toronto and to build green energy options within Toronto to reduce the stresses at the two pinch-points where all electricity for the metro area must pass. A promise to build reactors now does nothing about power problems, not through shortages but due to mismanagement, in the short-term. The federal taxpayers having sunk billions in to AECL already should stay light years away from assuring McGuinty of covering cost over-runs for an unwarranted, unjustified, wrong-headed political cop-out.

If you want to keep up to date with the Green Party's leadership race, consider our free newsletter. It's sent out twice a month and keeps you informed on important issues in Canadian politics. Here are some related articles:

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At 6:02 p.m., Canadian Politico Anonymous tenants said:

Click on the following link to read about Dalton McGuinty's flip-flop on hydro electricity privatization in Ontario.

This is from the Ontario Tenants Rights website that has a lot of information about Ontario hydro electricity energy issues.


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