Monday, January 22, 2007

A Greener shade of Blue?

There is No Alternative Answer!

Kudos to my fellow Canadians, according to the Citizen 60% of us do not believe that the ruling conservative party is concerned about the Environment. Upon further reflection, I am actually disappointed that the number isn't higher, I mean, what will it take to tip people off? The Conservatives have yet to treat the Environment as anything more than a PR vehicle. They appoint an unproven Bimbo to the ministry in charge, talk about “meeting commitments” for Kyoto, while missing our goals...and who do they blame their bad hand of cards on? Canada's “old” government. What they weren't counting on was Global Warming becoming the “hot” topic (pardon the pun), being the “it” thing to be concerned about. What are they to do now? Submit to the will of the people, and establish clear goals now, or in the immediate future? Take action to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from industry and individuals? Of course not! They're generating more PR, which seems to be what they do best. BeSt, I should say.

Harper begins by announcing $1.5B in financial support for renewable energy, while in Victoria no less. In fact, the highest percentage of Green party votes in the last election came from Alberta (I heard this from my mother, who is a civil servant). Also, “renewable energy” is procrastination, not action. No matter how clean, how affordable the technologies get, the problem is how to make sure everyone gets one, not to mention dismantling EVERY last vestige of our current oil-fired intrastructure over what we must assume to be a period perhaps as small as 10 years (and that is if fusion, say, could be brought past the break-even point at this very moment). Renewable energy will have to take the place of our current sources over a far longer time in reality, and is therefore a post-solution solution. I do not pretend to be an expert on global warming, but it is fairly certain that we are approaching a point of no return, an Event Horizon, if you will. Renewable energy has to be there to take over once we have passed (or even failed, I mean, why waste the investments?) this hands-on exam.

Worse still is that no one yet knows if renewable energy will be environmentally friendly. Corn – used to make ethanol – is supposed to ravenously absorb ground nutrients, leading to poorer and poorer soil quality (and chemical fertilizers to replenish it are by no means going to help its environmental impact). It also takes energy to grow corn, to harvest it, process it, and so on. In a New Scientist (which may be new, but I have read a lot of old issues lately, so I am not sure), there is an article where a Wind farm has caused damage to the land upon which it was built (the boggy ground actually emitted methane or carbon dioxide when disturbed by the turbines). Photovoltaic cells have maybe 25% efficiency, and are not clean to manufacture, although solar thermal power is a more-efficient alternative. Even if these problems could all be overcome, there is still the cost of completely overhauling our economy and power generation structure.

For the moment, the Conservatives should preoccupy themselves with eking out EVERY last drop of efficiency from existing sources of power. It may never be 100% clean to burn oil, but as the new Environment minister says (of the new $5000 credit for efficiency-enhancing home renovations) “The largest source of untapped energy is the energy that we waste”.

If only they could do more than talk the talk.

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