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Archive for June 2nd, 2008

The Energy Issue

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The Globe and Mail has decided – at long last – to open up its web page so that all its content is now available. Welcome to the 21st century. So this morning we are going to have a broader, national perspective and concentrate on energy.

First Gary Mason takes a long hard look at “Clean Coal” which always sounded to me like an oxymoron – just like “gourmet hotdog”. Interestingly he does not mention Gordon Campbell as being among its promoters but trains his sights on Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall and Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach. There is no clean coal technology currently that is economically viable – and not for want of trying and George Bush subsidies. And Saskpower is also getting money from miniBush for its attempt.

The delays and cancellations of various test projects have raised doubts that clean-coal technology will be available before 15 to 20 years.

Mason thinks we should keep on trying. I disagree. Far better to leave the coal where it is and concentrate on cutting energy demand. We have to get ourselves organised to use less energy – as we are one of the most prolific consumers in the world. And it’s not as if we don’t have incentive now that it is clear that the days of cheap energy are not coming back. Obviously that means transportation – one of the biggest consumers – but simple energy efficiency projects are still worth doing – even if there is a bounce back effect. Though I would bet it will be less in $135+ a barrel world than it has been up to now. (Which Ralph Nader blames solely on speculators stating that there is no shortage of supply at present.)

By the way the CBC has a “poll” with open ended questions on how you see the your fuel future as part of its In Depth feature on Energy.

Quebec and Ontario are going to go ahead with their own cap and trade system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in the hope it will put pressure on Ottawa to move towards real reductions as opposed to its current intensity based plan. Well, good luck with that – much better I think to concentrate on doing something effective yourselves because it needs to be done. But don’t expect the Harper government to be persuaded by real evidence of success. They would much prefer the comfort of holding on to their preconceptions.

And in the opinion section Lawrence Martin looks at Michael Ignatieff’s call for national east west energy links – an oil pipeline, national electrical grid and so on. Of course because he’s a Liberal and we love holding on to old political grudges, that raises the spectre of the National Energy Policy once more. And sure enough that is all the readers seem to comment upon. Of course Ignatieff did not say anything about prices – but everyone immediately leaps to the conclusion that the East wants the West’s oil for less than market price. That must be his hidden agenda. This is a favourite neo-conservative method of analysis. Claim to know better than your opponent what they are really thinking. That way you can continue to fight old battles rather than deal with new realities. I remain agnostic, but in general I have some sympathy for the idea of a national energy strategy, and the federal government ensuring that old grudges – like the way the Newfies got screwed by Quebec on transmission lines for their power exports – don’t continue to get in the way of coming up with sensible solutions where we (Canadians) have more control over our future and it is not dictated to us by the international energy companies.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 2, 2008 at 8:09 am

Posted in energy