By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 - 0 Comments
During his State of the Union address, Obama made the case for action on climate change but proposed few concrete plans. The president said his administration would speed up approvals of domestic oil and gas permits to take advantage of America’s domestic energy boom.
He called for a “market-based solution” to climate change and referred to a past attempt at cap-and-trade legislation. But such legislation is likely a non-starter in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives — so Obama also said he willing to take unilateral executive actions “to reduce pollution.”
He didn’t give specifics about what unilateral steps his administration could take without legislation passed by Congress, but environmentalists have been asking the administration to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants — especially those that burn coal — currently the largest source of carbon emissions in the U.S.
Industry says that the costs of upgrading existing plants will be too high — but there is speculation a carbon rule or standard could be the trade-off for an eventual decision to approve the Keystone XL pipeline (which was not mentioned at all in his speech).
Here is what Obama said about energy in his speech:
“After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.
“But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.
“The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.
“Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.
“In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.
”Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.”
By The Canadian Press - Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – The federal government is firming up its support of two projects that…
OTTAWA – The federal government is firming up its support of two projects that would see oil from Alberta piped to Atlantic Canada.
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says he gave a tentative nod to one proposal in a meeting with industry giant Irving Oil.
“I met with Arthur Irving (Irving Oil’s chairman) and expressed the support of the government of Canada, in principle, for this initiative,” Oliver said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) wants to convert an existing, underused natural gas line to bring oil from Western Canada to Quebec and New Brunswick.
It would be up to the National Energy Board to approve such projects, and TransCanada has not yet formally submitted the proposal for scrutiny.
By Dirk Meissner - Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 9:16 AM - 0 Comments
VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark says her government’s plan to export liquefied natural gas…
VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark says her government’s plan to export liquefied natural gas to Asia is British Columbia’s economic equivalent to Alberta’s oilsands.
In a year-end interview with The Canadian Press, Clark said B.C.’s LNG development ambitions will transform the economy, but the province must act quickly before the opportunity evaporates like gas into the atmosphere.
Clark, who has spent the last year describing her “bold” and “audacious” plan to turn B.C. into Canada’s job-creation engine, said British Columbians will still be cashing in on the benefits of LNG exports 50 years from now. Continue…
By Mike Blanchfield - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 3:33 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Canada is a weak player in the “global energy game” and needs…
OTTAWA – Canada is a weak player in the “global energy game” and needs to improve its performance by selling more oil to China and Asia, warns one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s most trusted former cabinet ministers.
“For Canada, that is obviously where the future has to be,” said Jim Prentice, a senior banking executive who used to hold the industry and environment portfolios in the Conservative government.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 10:06 AM - 0 Comments
Canada may have oil, but the country is falling dangerously behind in energy innovation,…
Canada may have oil, but the country is falling dangerously behind in energy innovation, the Globe and Mail reports. A new study by the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto shows that Canada is by no means an “energy superpower” due to slow development of technology and “fragmented” government policies and programs.
Mowat Centre director Matthew Mendelsohn told reporters that the world market is evolving, and that Canada will have to produce cleaner forms of energy to keep up with the shift in demand. He says Canada should put new, greener technology at the centre of a new national energy strategy.
Mendelsohn also supports the suggestions put forward in the 2011 Jenkins report on research and development spending, which urges more direct government funding of technology development and less emphasis on tax credits.
While the Canadian government has invested a great deal into technology development, the country continues to have a poor track record of technology innovation and a growing technology trade deficit.
By Paul Wells - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 12:10 AM - 0 Comments
Surely the only reasonable reaction to allegations that some Canadian environmental groups receive cash and instructions from beyond our borders is “Gee, I sure hope so. Otherwise they’d be doing it wrong.”
If you’ve looked at a photo of the Earth lately, you’ll notice what I did in 1970: somebody forgot to draw in national borders. Clouds and currents don’t have passports; nor should anybody expect a movement dedicated, as environmentalists see it, to protecting the whole planet to colour within national lines. I’m not sure how to make this clearer, since it should be pretty obvious, but it’s why Jacques Cousteau had a boat instead of a Paris Métro pass.
Similarly, I would have thought it’d be obvious that commodities are often traded among different countries. I don’t know a lot of mom-and-pop oil companies that pump the crude at one end of town and sell it to consumers at the other. And finally, it’s less shocking that broad political movements consult across international boundaries than it would be if they didn’t. (Here’s a wonderful piece of reporting on three French students of the 2008 Obama campaign who helped get François Hollande elected in France. Americans have sought to influence Canadian elections, and vice versa, forever.)
And yet here we are stuck in a crossfire of complaints that the environmental movement, the oil industry and Canadian conservatism, in the guise of the Fraser Institute, are receiving “foreign money.” Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 6:29 AM - 0 Comments
Ex-Colleague Coyne has an excellent column on the emerging political split between the resource-extracting parts of the country and the sentimental nationalists who think every drop of bitumen and chip of timber sent abroad makes baby Jesus cry. I noticed one snippet, though, which goes to show how even the most trend-aware and detail-oriented columnist (that’s what he is!) can be held prisoner by persistent images of the past: Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 25, 2011 at 11:30 AM - 8 Comments
Nathan Cullen has released his energy policy platform.
Among the items on his agenda: interest-free retrofit loans for low income households, high speed rail between Windsor and Quebec City, east-west power transmission, retro-fitting federal buildings, investments in clean energy technologies, the elimination of subsidies for the oil and gas sector, the elimination of subsidies for the nuclear industry, stopping the export of raw bitumen, pricing carbon through cap-and-trade and appointing a Minister of Energy Security.
By the editors - Monday, November 21, 2011 at 8:00 AM - 16 Comments
Canada can no longer count on obvious economic arguments to win over American decision-makers
From no-brainer to brainless in just a few weeks—Canada’s best interests have once again been trumped by American politics.
Just a few weeks ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was calling the approval by the United States of TransCanada’s Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico a “complete no-brainer.” The benefits to both countries in terms of employment, energy security and trade from the $7-billion project were so obvious and manifest that U.S. President Barack Obama’s consent seemed a sure thing.
Then Hollywood got involved. Superannuated stars such as Robert Redford and Daryl Hannah added their names to over-the-top civil disobedience protests against a “tar sands” pipeline from Alberta. Among the few coherent complaints expressed by green groups was concern the pipeline would cross the Ogallala aquifer that provides several Midwest states with drinking water. The project quickly became a test of Obama’s environmental credentials.
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 11:40 AM - 1 Comment
A small B.C. company hopes to develop a cheaper way of creating nuclear fusion—with oil sands backing
General Fusion Inc. of Burnaby, B.C., may look like a sophisticated nuclear research company. It’s also the manifestation of a mid-life crisis. A decade ago, physicist Michel Laberge and engineer-executive Doug Richardson were working together at another B.C. firm making software for print designers. When Laberge turned 40 he came to a realization, says Richardson: “[Michel] didn’t want to help cut down forests anymore.”
Today Laberge is the president and chief technology officer—with Richardson as CEO—of a small company that hopes to become the first to get more energy out of a man-made experimental nuclear fusion reaction than it puts in. General Fusion has raised more than $33 million to date from a mix of government eco-research programs and private investors, including Amazon.com CEO-founder Jeff Bezos.
Among the partners, one stands out as especially counterintuitive: this summer the company received funding from Calgary-based oil sands company Cenovus. In backing fusion research, Cenovus is supporting what could become an alternative to its own business, if fusion generation can ever shed its long-standing pie-in-the-sky status. “For us, the investment isn’t a large amount,” says Dave Hassan, who oversees the Cenovus eco- fund. “For a small research company with cash requirements it’s big.” Fusion is a long shot, Hassan concedes, “but it’s a game changer if it works—carbon-free energy, essentially, forever.”
By Chris Sorensen - Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
The search engine is paying a price for its dominance of the web
Google’s recent decision to reveal how much energy its data centres use—220 million watts, or about one-quarter the output of a nuclear reactor, according to a New York Times calculation—is being billed by the Mountain View, Calif.-based company as a small price to pay for the convenience of having billions of Web pages at your fingertips, not to mention funny YouTube videos. And it probably is. But the rare disclosure (Google had previously feared giving rivals clues about its internal operations) has also highlighted the degree to which the Internet is not necessarily the “free” service most people think it is. All that information comes with a cost. While the numbers sound big, Google claims the actual cost per user is actually tiny. It says the environmental impact of 100 searches is the same as running a laptop for an hour or turning on a light bulb for 28 minutes. Three days of watching YouTube? That’s the same as manufacturing, packaging and delivering a DVD. However, Google’s accounting of the cost of using Gmail for a year appears a touch self-serving: “less than the energy required to drink a bottle of wine, stuff a message in the bottle and toss it in the ocean.” Is that how we’re supposed to imagine a Google-less world?
By macleans.ca - Monday, June 27, 2011 at 11:59 AM - 0 Comments
Province applauded for long-term stability in a new report
Saskatchewan is the best place in Canada for oil and gas investment, according to an annual survey produced by the Fraser Institute. The B.C.-based think tank praised Saskatchewan for its stable energy policies, low royalties and clear regulations. Manitoba dropped to second place after coming in first among Canadian regions last year. No Canadian jurisdiction cracked the survey’s global top 10 in this year’s survey, but Saskatchewan came close, placing 11th out of the 136 regions included. The yearly rankings are based on consultations with over 500 senior executives and managers from international companies representing more than 60 per cent of annual spending on oil and gas exploration and production.
By Jason Kirby with Chris Sorensen - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 10:05 AM - 12 Comments
It’s not just drivers feeling the heat. Why volatile fuel prices are killing the economy.
When gasoline prices in Central Canada hit record highs in early May, Industry Minister Tony Clement did what he always does when consumer rage boils over: he donned his populist cape and channelled citizens’ fury against a shadowy adversary—in this case, Big Oil. Standing in the driveway of a Toronto home, flanked by black and white Volkswagens and facing a wall of TV cameras, Clement bemoaned the lack of transparency in how pump prices are set. He then vowed to summon executives from the refining, distribution and retail industries to Ottawa for hearings. “All I know is that prices are going up and down and sideways and no one really knows why,” he said.
He was partly right, in that prices are zig-zagging wildly. At the start of May, oil and gasoline prices reached punishingly high levels, rekindling dark memories of the spike in energy costs that tipped the global economy into recession in 2008. Then, in the span of just a few days, oil prices, along with most other commodities, went into free fall. Gas prices have begun to drift down too, though not nearly as fast. But by the time MPs actually get around to holding hearings several months from now, the price of crude may well have fallen to the point that this most recent bout of pain at the pumps will have been forgotten—or it may have soared so high that the only affordable way anybody will be getting to Parliament Hill is by bicycle.
But where Clement was wrong was in his contention that nobody can explain what’s behind the extreme price movements. On the contrary, a growing number of experts in the industry as well as academia have come to the conclusion that excessive speculation by traders and investors, aided by ultra-low interest rates and easy money, is severely distorting the market. “You simply can’t explain these levels of volatility by supply and demand because market fundamentals don’t shift that quickly over such a short period of time,” says Michael Greenberger, a law professor at the University of Maryland who, in the 1990s, was in charge of the trading and markets division at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the U.S. government agency that regulates commodity futures. “Most observers now believe speculators are actively manipulating oil prices.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, May 13, 2011 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
The RCMP officers involved in Robert Dziekanski’s death face perjury charges, while scientists prove Einstein was right
Some justice at last
It’s been over three years since Robert Dziekanski died at the Vancouver airport after RCMP used Tasers to subdue him. Now B.C.’s attorney general has laid perjury charges against the four officers involved for allegedly giving misleading testimony during the exhaustive Braidwood inquiry. While some, including Dziekanski’s mother, Zofia Cisowski, are disappointed the charges don’t relate to the tasering itself, Cisowski still applauded the move. The wheels of the law may be slow, but they do keep moving, and in this sad case the charges offer at least some measure of justice.
Harnessing hot air
Energy sources such as wind and solar could provide 80 per cent of the world’s power supply within four decades if governments provide the cash and policies to make it happen. That is the landmark conclusion of a UN panel that says it’s not too late to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a “safe” level. In the meantime, farmers are enjoying the heat. According to separate research, Canadian crops have been largely spared from the scourge of climate change—and our historically hard-luck farmers are profiting from increased demand.
When the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded this year’s Peace Prize to imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, it was a blow to China’s human rights record. But the big winner may be Scottish fish farmers. In a fit of pique, China has stopped buying salmon from Norway—its biggest supplier—and signed a deal with Scotland. Perhaps that contributed to the unprecedented majority won by Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party in the May 5 elections. Good news for nationalist politicians, not so much for fish.
It’s all relative
A NASA study has confirmed two of the “most profound predictions” about Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity: that space and time are both warped and pulled by Earth’s gravity. Astrophysicists say the results, based on data measured by an orbiting space probe, will have implications “beyond our planet.” In other physics news: engineers have developed a golf ball that won’t slice. Now there’s a breakthrough we can relate to.
In the post-Mubarak era, Egypt is transitioning, but to what? Christians and Muslims clashed in Cairo, leaving 12 dead and two churches in smoldering ruins, amid signs Islamist hard-liners are asserting their power. At the same time, Syria continued its crackdown against anti-government protesters, killing scores of people and injuring hundreds, while in Libya, forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi hammered rebels. Clearly the fight is far from over for the pro-democracy movement across the Middle East.
Tens of thousands more baby boomers will face retirement without a company pension plan, Statistics Canada reported this week. Since the recession, membership in private sector plans has fallen below that of the public sector for the first time ever. Which is why Canadians should be cheering the Canada Pension Plan’s tripling of its 2009 investment in Internet-calling-company Skype, recently purchased by Microsoft for US$8.5 billion. Unless you work for the civil service or at a university, the CPP may be all the help you will get.
Lord Triesman, the chair of England’s failed bid for the 2018 World Cup of soccer, is alleging at least four FIFA members demanded bribes for their votes, including a knighthood for Paraguay’s representative. Trinidad’s football head wanted $2.5 million cash for an “educational centre.” London’s Sunday Times reports two West African delegates were paid $1.5 million to support Qatar’s winning bid. And in France, the national team is embroiled in scandal after it emerged officials considered quotas to limit the number of African and Arab-born players on their development squads. The ugly side to the beautiful game.
A good marriage isn’t necessarily built on love or even physical attraction, suggests new research in the Journal of Politics. Among the strongest shared traits between U.S. spouses is their political attitudes, the study found. The political bond forms early in marriages, but it’s not always enough to keep them together. Just ask political power-couple Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, who separated this week.
By Jason Kirby - Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Procter & Gamble has told its suppliers to regularly report their energy consumption rates
Procter & Gamble, the consumer products giant behind Tide, Crest toothpaste and Gillette, has told its suppliers to regularly report their energy consumption rates. The thinking is simple: if P&G can drive down its suppliers’ energy costs now, it could enjoy a price advantage over competitors later on if oil prices keep rising.
The program began last year with a survey to P&G’s raw material suppliers and even ad agencies, asking for information on energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, according to a story in Fast Company. More than 80 per cent responded, and of them, 94 per cent reported their electricity usage. This year, any company that doesn’t fill in the form won’t be able to do business with P&G.
The company has a big carrot to accompany its sizable stick. Suppliers who lower their energy consumption or offer useful energy efficiency advice get a higher rating, which will translate into a boost in business from P&G.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, March 25, 2011 at 3:27 PM - 1 Comment
Near-meltdown in Japan re-awakens doubts in U.S. policymakers
Japan’s nuclear crisis came just as the Obama administration was gearing up to jump-start a nuclear renaissance in America. The U.S. has not broken ground on a new nuclear power plant in the thirty years following the partial core meltdown at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island reactor in 1979. Obama’s plan to change all that in the name of climate change is now looking very uncertain.
Nuclear energy has been a key part of Obama’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 80% by 2035. Not only are nuclear plants a stable source of electricity without a carbon footprint, nuclear is also one area of energy policy where the president sees eye-to-eye with Republicans in Congress. In February, Obama announced a federal loan guarantee worth $8 billion for the construction of two new nuclear plants in Georgia. And in his 2012 budget request to Congress last month, Obama asked for a whopping $36 billion to expand federal government loan guarantees to help encourage the construction of other new nuclear plants. “We’re going to have to build a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in America,” he said last month.
Obama held to this line after the disaster in Japan, declaring on March 17, that nuclear power is “an important part of our own energy future, along with renewable sources like wind and solar, natural gas and clean coal.” Obama emphasized that American nuclear power plants have undergone “exhaustive study” and had been declared “safe for any number of extreme contingencies.” Nonetheless, he asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to do a comprehensive review of the safety of our domestic nuclear plants in light of the natural disaster that unfolded in Japan.
But across the country, the Japanese crisis reawakened old fears. Continue…
By Jasmine Budak - Friday, February 25, 2011 at 3:57 PM - 21 Comments
Unrest in the Arab world has left the oil market feeling understandably jittery
A reviving global economy and mounting unrest in the Arab world are stirring renewed fears about a long-term spike in oil prices. Earlier this month, as protests in Egypt peaked, oil hit a two-year high, prompting anxiety about a return to the $100-a-barrel days of 2008. And with Egypt not quite out of the woods, and uglier protests igniting in Bahrain, Libya and Iran, the oil market remains understandably jittery. (Last week, oil prices hit $90 a barrel.)
But renowned energy analyst Charles Maxwell, looking beyond the political turmoil to the more long-term pressures on oil prices, predicts oil could fetch $300 a barrel within the next decade. “We will begin to settle very slowly and gradually into a world in which we need more oil each year, but we can’t get more,” he said in a recent interview with Barron’s. The 79-year-old “oil oracle” has been an enduring advocate of peak oil, the theory that says demand will rise faster than the production capacity.
His latest forecast rests on growing energy demands by emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil. But unlike the severe hikes of 2008, when oil went from $60 a barrel to more than $100—and sparked fears of an energy crisis that would wreak havoc on everything from the airline industry to suburban car culture—Maxwell estimates a gradual, less economically damaging increase that will plateau in 2015, before oil production begins to recede in earnest by 2020.
Even though, historically, overly high oil prices have been blamed for triggering recessions, Maxwell resists a Chicken-Little scenario. He says the slower climb will force the world to get off oil once and for all. Natural gas, he says, with help from Alberta’s oil sands and some renewable sources, will ease the painful transition and bide us time to get into conservation mode and accept a future that will include nuclear energy.
Other analysts agree that oil will climb in the long run, though not necessarily as high as Maxwell predicts. However, the underlying reasons remain the same. As economies and GDPs grow, so do the requirements for raw materials, energy being the most basic of them all.
By Josh Dehaas - Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 8:20 AM - 1 Comment
The NPRA was thought to contain 10.6 billion barrels
The National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, a chunk of the state about twice the size of Nova Scotia, has less than one-tenth of the oil than it was previously thought to have. The NPRA, created by president Warren Harding in 1923, was thought to contain 10.6 billion barrels of liquid gold when it was last studied in 2002. However, recent surveys with new 3-D technology revealed that the deposit is more like 896 million barrels, says the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). (Estimates of natural gas deposits in the NPRA are also down 13 per cent.) The much lower figure was a surprise for Philip Weiss, a senior energy analyst with Argus Research in New York. “Estimates change from time to time,” he says. “That one seemed a little extreme.”
It isn’t the first time 3-D seismology has caused such a surprise. In 2008, the USGS announced that the Bakken shale formation (which runs through North Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan) may contain 25 times more than was estimated in 1995. In Alaska’s case, though, less is bad news for almost all of the state’s 700,000 residents. Each Alaskan receives an annual “dividend” payout funded by royalties charged on oil, gas and minerals (it’s been as much as $3,000; in 2010, it’s $1,281 each). Now that the NPRA is smaller, future cheques could shrink, too.
By macleans.ca - Friday, December 10, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Skeletons in Princess Victoria’s closet, Dick Cheney meets his match, and LeBron James goes home
Helena Bonham Carter, fashion plate
Her corsets, crinoline and frizzy hair have made her a constant on “worst dressed” lists over the years, so when the British actor, who counts Marie Antoinette as her style icon and claims a “f–k it attitude” to red-carpet dressing, heard she’d made Vanity Fair’s “best dressed” list, even she burst into laughter.
When nature’s in your path . . .
Vancouver’s organic breakfast moguls, Ratana and Arran Stephens, may have cast their professional lot with the environment—their cereal company, Nature’s Path, aspires to “advance the cause of people and planet along the path of sustainability.” But this week they came under fire for razing 25 trees from their lawn in tony Point Grey: a violation of the city’s famously strict tree-protection bylaw, and a major no-no in Lotusland. Their sins made headline news in Vancouver, which bars homeowners from removing trees from their property, prompting the pair to apologize profusely and repeatedly, even writing a letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson insisting that they be heavily fined.
By Kate Lunau - Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
If a Canadian researcher has his way, the red mud that caused disaster last week could turn very useful indeed
The Danube River is famously blue, but after a recent toxic waste spill in Hungary, parts of it were flooded with a sickly red slurry. On Oct. 4, a reservoir wall had collapsed at an alumina plant near the village of Kolontar, releasing over 750 million litres of red mud—a byproduct of turning bauxite to alumina, which is needed for aluminum production. The disaster forced hundreds from their homes and left nine dead. The red mud was waist-deep in some places, locals reported; one witness said it smelled like blood.
A chemical soup of heavy metals and minerals (including iron oxide, hence its colour), red mud is highly corrosive; workers in Hungary measured the pH level and found that, in some places, it was as caustic as bleach. It can even be slightly radioactive. (Rio Tinto Alcan’s alumina processing plant in Quebec is the only one in Canada; it has withstood flooding and an earthquake without incident, a spokesman noted, adding that it’s “highly unlikely” such a spill could occur here.) We end up creating 63 million tonnes of red mud each year worldwide, but we still don’t know what to do with it: red mud is typically stored in reservoirs, dried out and buried, but it’s so chemically stable it won’t really break down. Marcel Schlaf, a chemistry professor at the University of Guelph, has a better idea. Red mud, he believes, could help transform bio oil derived from plant waste into fuel.
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
Power from waste
Residents of 200 households in Oxfordshire, U.K., are cooking with their own poop. They’re part of a co-operative project aimed at reducing energy costs by recycling household waste into odourless, clean-burning biomethane. The fuel is created by taking waste sludge from treatment tanks and placing it into special “anaerobic digesters” that are filled with a special mixture of bacteria and heated to produce raw gas. This is then sent to a biogas plant, which produces biomethane that’s piped back into homes for heating and cooking. Since most of the infrastructure exists, implementation is relatively cheap, costing less than an estimated $7 million per 500 houses in some circumstances.
British Gas, Scotia Gas and Thames Water are heading the venture, which is expected to help meet an EU requirement that 15 per cent of Britain’s power come from renewable sources in the next 10 years. It’s estimated that the heating demands of 200,000 homes could be met if the waste from every Briton was treated in a similar way. Other companies are also working on such plans, with 500 Manchester homes set to be literally cooking with their own gas by the end of 2011.
By Tom Henheffer - Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
“Arcand and Charest have taken the necessary steps to commence a process of exploration in shale gas”
Shale gas is fuelling a political firestorm in Quebec, where a recent Léger Marketing poll found that three-quarters of residents want a moratorium on drilling. But neither Ottawa nor the province have any plans to curtail the industry. “Minister [Pierre] Arcand and Premier [Jean] Charest have taken the necessary steps to commence a process of exploration in shale gas. We support that process,” said federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice.
Still, the vocal majority, who’ve been vehemently protesting—and once forced an energy executive to flee a town hall meeting out of fear for his own safety—have earned a few small victories. The government is starting public hearings into the environmental impact of shale gas, and is scrambling to write industry regulations. Meanwhile, two of the biggest energy players in the province, Questerre Energy Corp. and Talisman Energy Inc., are pushing back a major exploration project by six months. They blame the public backlash, low natural gas prices and the high costs of importing workers and infrastructure.
But with some of Canada’s richest reserves and an industry expected to generate up to 19,000 jobs and $1 billion annually in tax revenue for Quebec, drilling is all but an inevitability, regardless of how many executives are sent running.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 14, 2010 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
What you’re thinking
British Columbia: While three-quarters of Canadians admit to being distracted while driving, British Columbians are some of the most responsible. Just eight per cent of West Coast drivers talk on the phone without a hands-free device, compared to 15 per cent in the country overall. B.C. drivers do lead in one category: six per cent coif their hair and apply makeup while behind the wheel.
Alberta: Eighty-six per cent of Albertans have heard, seen or read something about the oil sands. That means one in six Albertans know nothing about their province’s most valuable resource. In Quebec, the land of abundant hydro power, only 66 per cent have heard about the oil sands.
Saskatchewan and Manitoba: Eighty per cent of women between the ages of 45 and 64 in Saskatchewan and Manitoba believe that they are smarter investors than their mothers were at their age. And while 29 per cent of Canadian females have a financial plan, that number climbs sharply to 38 per cent of the women in those two Prairie provinces.
Quebec: If NHL players have their way, then La Belle Province should be next in line to get a hockey franchise. In a survey of 90 pro players, Quebec City earned the most support, with the backing of 37 per cent. Other top Canadian cities included Winnipeg, which finished second with 20 per cent of the vote, and Hamilton, a distant fourth, with 12 per cent.
Atlantic provinces: When it comes to entrepreneurship, the East Coast lags behind most of Canada. Only 3.1 per cent of individuals in the region took steps to create or take over a business. And just 7.4 per cent own a business, compared to Alberta and British Columbia, where 13.2 per cent of the population are owners. (Quebec was lowest with 5.1 per cent.)
SOURCES: Léger, Ipsos Reid, The Hockey News, Léger, Environics
By macleans.ca - Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Canada’s resource sector may be emerging in an unlikely place: Baffin Island
While the future of Saskatchewan’s potash industry is grabbing attention around the world, the real hub of Canada’s resource sector may be emerging in an unlikely place: Baffin Island. The remote and sparsely populated Arctic island could soon be home to companies extracting everything from diamonds to oil to gold.
Among the largest projects being studied is Baffinland Iron Mines Corp.’s plan to build a huge open-pit iron ore mine at Mary River, about 1,000 km northwest of Iqaluit. The $4-billion project would allow the Toronto-based company to tap a site that’s believed to hold some 500 million tonnes of high-grade reserves.
Just who gets to develop the site, however, remains up in the air after rival Nunavut Iron Ore put in an unsolicited offer last week to buy out Baffinland for $274 million in cash.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, October 4, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
How the oil sands industry tried to convince him it’s not all bad
Nature versus the machine: it’s the great theme of James Cameron’s visual poetry. He would have appreciated the vantage point that journalists and photographers had for his Hollywood-style arrival at Syncrude’s South Bison Hills reclamation area on Tuesday morning. As Cameron’s helicopter swooped in like a predator, showing off with lazy circles around the helipad, it set a nearby cluster of wood bison dashing off at a full-speed lope. Their brute power, as they fled nature’s self-appointed protector, was breathtaking. The contrast could not have been more Cameronian if he had been there, yelling, “Action!”
The man himself, clean-shaven and cheerful in his lime green Syncrude safety chapeau, disembarked from the chopper for a brief hike through Syncrude’s top environmental showcase. What was once a bitumen mine of the type that inspired the nickname “Canada’s Mordor” is now a mix of humdrum boreal forest, grassland and wetland. A modest little lake on the site teems with life. Once a traveller leaves the road behind, only the pen separating the Syncrude bison herd from their disease-bearing free-range fellow ungulates suggests a human presence on this land—land that, not long ago, was utterly eviscerated by petrocrats.
Cameron said little, but seemed impressed at how Syncrude had handled the problem of re-establishing biodiversity from scratch—a movie-director kind of problem, as he pointed out. After deflecting a few questions (“I’m still . . . finding out how all this works and getting my arms around it”), he was whisked off to view more oil sands vistas, ones carefully chosen to appeal to his green conscience.