12.14.2005

800-pound gorilla

The Canadian news is abuzz this morning with the scolding from Washington.
Washington Scolds Ottawa
U.S. tired of Canadian attacks on environment, trade policies

Ottawa and Vancouver — The United States launched an exceptional mid-campaign rebuke yesterday of the Liberal government's constant criticism of the Bush administration, bringing the high level of tensions between the world's two biggest trading partners to the forefront of the Canadian election.

"It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and constantly criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner. But it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn't have a long-term impact on the relationship," the U.S. ambassador to Ottawa, David Wilkins, said in a tough speech to the Canadian Club at the Chateau Laurier.

The 20-minute address reverberated on the campaign trail. Liberal Leader Paul Martin, who had promised to repair relations with Washington when he became Prime Minister two years ago, vowed yesterday to continue to defend Canadian interests "against anybody."

Tory Leader Stephen Harper did not address the matter. It may become a challenge for him to strike the appropriate balance between improving Canada-U.S. relations and cozying up to the Americans.
That's for sure. Last night's National highlighted Harper's USophilia, and I see he's now trying to backpedal.

* * * *

Two more international bites.

The President of Iran called the Holocaust a "myth".

And Austrians are horrified as their one-time hero murders a reformed man.

31 comments:

Lone Primate said...

Rob's got a point; when you look a the numbers, Canada's got no right to point the finger at the US with regard to failed obligations on the Kyoto Accord. That's just hypocrisy, leaning on the natural inclination of Canadians to assume Canada is cleaner, more environmentally aware, etc. The numbers don't back it up and the Liberals are setting themselves up for a fall in pitching that.

But the trade issues are a fair cop. The US is a disappointing partner, to put it mildly, when it comes to playing by the rules. Any party in Canada can make hay out of this one because it seems like the sun never stop shining on it. Given how we love to set ourselves apart, Bush is only doing the Grits and NDP a favour.

Wrye said...

What I'm really finding missing is any discussion of WHY we're missing those targets on Kyoto. Because climate and transportation related emissions per capita will always hit Canada harder than just about anywhere else, we have a harder task than most places; but is this why we're failing?

On the other hand, Canada was the setting for last night's Amazing Race finale, which is always cheering.

RobfromAlberta said...

What I'm really finding missing is any discussion of WHY we're missing those targets on Kyoto.

There are many reasons, not the least of which is that the political will is not there. Canadians favour Kyoto because they don't realize what it means to them personally and the Liberals know that once that reality sinks in, most people will reject it.

Lone Primate said...

Canadians favour Kyoto because they don't realize what it means to them personally...

Well, what DOES it mean to us personally? I think it's unfair to suppose we'll reject change out of hand without even laying it out first.

RobfromAlberta said...

It will mean a significant decrease in the standard of living for most people. Manufacturing jobs will be lost in huge numbers as more and more companies move production offshore to avoid the necessity of expensive "green" upgrades. The trade surplus will drop precipitously as the oilpatch is dismantled. We will all be a little poorer and many of us will be a lot poorer.

On the upside, we will get some added decrease in emissions as more people are forced to take public transit since they can't afford to drive as much.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Well, there was that silly "one-tonne challenge" thing.

Although, apparently I'm way below the national average:

Challenge

_________________________________
Your GHG Emissions Report

Based on your answers, your annual individual GHG emissions are estimated at:

2.25 Tonnes (2249 kg).
Excellent results! Your emissions are well below the national average. You'd make an ideal One-Tonne Challenge ambassador! Spread the word and let your neighbors, friends and family know how they can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions! The chart below breaks this total down to show where you have the greatest potential to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions

Lone Primate said...

Manufacturing jobs will be lost in huge numbers as more and more companies move production offshore to avoid the necessity of expensive "green" upgrades.

Well, fine, so what are the alternatives here... starve if you do, bake the planet if you don't? Surely it's not that black and white. If the upgrades are "expensive", isn't the idea that the government will -- or was supposed to -- ameliorate those changes?

And I'm puzzled by your attitude here, on a personal level. Not that long ago, you were on a ride about how Canadian industry was uncompetitive, wouldn't upgrade, and was depending on the low dollar... but here you're saying that businesses wouldn't invest in new technologies in any case... why? Would make them uncompetitive! You're having it both ways here, blaming them on the one hand and letting them off the hook on the other. I'd tend to agree that they ought to be encouraged to adopt new technologies... but that can't be just when it only suits your philosophy, Horatio. There are more things in Heaven and Earth. :)

Lone Primate said...

Well, there was that silly "one-tonne challenge" thing. Although, apparently I'm way below the national average

Wow... you must be broke, then. Living under a bridge, are you? Don't worry, Stephen Harper to the rescue! :D

RobfromAlberta said...

Not that long ago, you were on a ride about how Canadian industry was uncompetitive, wouldn't upgrade, and was depending on the low dollar... but here you're saying that businesses wouldn't invest in new technologies in any case... why?

Not sure I'm understanding your point here, businesses will invest in new technologies if it means they will be more competitve and hence, more profitable. Investing in "green" technologies because of some government mandate doesn't improve profitability. If the investment required is small, most companies will probably bite the bullet since the costs associated with relocating to another country are greater than the required investments. But modest investments are not sufficient to achieve the goals required by Kyoto.

Well, fine, so what are the alternatives here... starve if you do, bake the planet if you don't?

I don't really know if there are any other alternatives. There are such things as no-win scenarios. This may be one of them.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Wow... you must be broke, then. Living under a bridge, are you? Don't worry, Stephen Harper to the rescue! :D

Actually, it's because I happen to have a 1400 sq ft. brand-new house (lo-flush toilets, hi-eff. furnace & central air, etc.) with brand-new appliances that's also only 5 km from where I work (a 7 min drive in my compact car).....

RobfromAlberta said...

There are also regional differences. Ontario has a lot of nuclear and hydro power, so you produce less greenhouse gases for the same amount of electricity usage. Alberta has no nuclear and precious little hydroelectricity. We do lead the country in wind power, but it's still a pittance. Most of our electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels. As a result, the national average is 5.5 tonnes of emissions, but the Alberta average is 8 tonnes.

Lone Primate said...

Not sure I'm understanding your point here, businesses will invest in new technologies if it means they will be more competitve and hence, more profitable.

I'm wondering why you pillory them for being "uncompetitive" because they don't want to spend money they don't have to in the one case (low Canadian dollar), but you're their champ when they don't want to spend money they don't have to in the other case (lowering emissions). If the bottom line in both cases is the bottom line (they don't have to spend money to make the same money), then you're having your cake and eating it too on these separate issues.

Investing in "green" technologies because of some government mandate doesn't improve profitability.

How does this automatically follow? Even at first blush, it seems to me that any technology aimed at increasing efficiency with an eye to lowering emissions implies a return in lower fuel costs. I imagine there probably dozens of other economies implied by greater efficiencies that defy a layman like me. Again, I think you're being needlessly absolutist in defense of your point.

modest investments are not sufficient to achieve the goals required by Kyoto.

Then the feds ought to be helping them. Ashcan all this tax cut nonsense and help pay the freight. We can burden ourselves with some added costs now, or our grandchildren with the environmental price tags later. I know which one will stand us in better stead... and I know which one most people will choose, unfortunately.

I don't really know if there are any other alternatives.

Sure there are. How about we don't all live under the misapprehension we have a right to buy the latest XBox the second it hits the shelves, and that we owe something to humanity now and in the future? That part of what we earn while polluting the place is owed back to clean it up? How selfish and short-sighted is it really in our interests to be?

Alberta has no nuclear and precious little hydroelectricity.

Well, there's not much we can do about hydro, but why can't we fund the building of some CANDUs in Alberta -- not to mention elsewhere. I know there are issues but it's a very clean power source and it's one of the best we have till we really crack fusion. I'm all for selecting some likely sites and building some reactors across the country -- federally-funded. Though I'd say with Alberta casting around for ways to blow the windfall, that first couple billion locally ought to come from Edmonton. Added bonus: Alberta uses less oil, therefore has more to sell. Smooooooth. :)

RobfromAlberta said...

I'm wondering why you pillory them for being "uncompetitive" because they don't want to spend money they don't have to in the one case (low Canadian dollar), but you're their champ when they don't want to spend money they don't have to in the other case (lowering emissions).

I am not defending their business decisions, merely stating what I believe will happen.

Even at first blush, it seems to me that any technology aimed at increasing efficiency with an eye to lowering emissions implies a return in lower fuel costs.

Yes, some modest gains can be made profitably through increased fuel efficiency and I have no doubt those changes are being made as we speak. But to achieve really significant emission reductions, far more profound changes to the way manufacturing is done are needed. It's not clear to me such change is even possible let alone affordable. Ultimately, manufacturing generates pollution and the only way to stop the pollution is to stop manufacturing.

Then the feds ought to be helping them. Ashcan all this tax cut nonsense and help pay the freight.

Again, small potatoes. We not only have to eliminate the 24% increase in emissions we have accumulated since 1990, we also have to eliminate however much increase we would have accrued over the next six years when the Kyoto standards are supposed to be achieved. The task is monumental.

How about we don't all live under the misapprehension we have a right to buy the latest XBox the second it hits the shelves, and that we owe something to humanity now and in the future?

I agree with you, but you and I are in the minority in this regard. This discussion began because I suggested that most Canadians aren't willing to make significant sacrifices for the environment. You seem to be of the same mind on that.

Well, there's not much we can do about hydro, but why can't we fund the building of some CANDUs in Alberta -- not to mention elsewhere.

You're preaching to the choir on that one. I love nuclear power. Unfortunately, many of the same people who support Kyoto, oppose nuclear power.

By the way, a plan was submitted to the Alberta legislature last year to build a nuclear plant in Fort McMurray to supply power to the tarsands development. Currently, the tarsands uses over 10% of all the natural gas produced in Canada just to produce oil. This proposal would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by thousands of tonnes per year. Unfortunately, the plan was rejected for security concerns. Another opportunity lost.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

I must admit, I'm pro-nuclear as well. Large powerplants will always be necessary, and nuclear (despite its numerous shortcomings) seems to be the least disruptive to the environment.

Even though hydro doesn't pollute the air, it can be very destructive to the local landscape and wildlife. Other sources of green energy simply can't produce the quantity to supply the base load....

Speaking of that, one of things we could change is our aversion to living near power plants. It's amazing how much electricity is wasted in line-losses between the power plant and the cities it serves.

James said...

Investing in "green" technologies because of some government mandate doesn't improve profitability.

How does this automatically follow?


Not automatically, no. I just read an article the other day (didn't keep the link) about a new process in use in Canada (presumably in Alberta) that captures CO2 emissions on oil production sites and pumps the CO2 back into the well. This accomplishes two things: it reduces the carbon level in the atmosphere and increases productivity of the well by allowing more oil to be extracted (and more efficiently).

RobfromAlberta said...

Actually the CO2 reclamation project is in Weyburn, Saskatchewan and yes, it does offer a lot of promise. First of all, it gets rid of CO2 and secondly, it increases the pressure in conventional oil reservoirs thus allowing a greater amount of oil to be recovered. I have had one of the guys on the project working in my lab, so I know a bit about what's going on there. Unfortunately, it's still a pilot project. There's no way the technology will be in large-scale production by 2012.

RobfromAlberta said...

I should add that conventional oil isn't really the issue when it comes to CO2 emissions. It is the tarsands development which is the big polluter and CO2 reclamation is not going to major dent in that. The tarsands uses a technology called SAGD (steam-assisted gravity drainage). It uses a lot of energy to produce steam and CO2 can't be used as a substitute for steam in the process.

Lone Primate said...

You're preaching to the choir on that one. I love nuclear power. Unfortunately, many of the same people who support Kyoto, oppose nuclear power.

Those people are a pain in the ass. I remember we discussed something like this earlier in the year with regard to the wind power generators... that there were people stalling them because they "spoiled the view". Those people really make me mad. We ought to cut the power lines of anyone who lodges such frivilous complaints and say, "Fine, if you're not part of the solution that way, then you're gonna be part of the solution THIS way. Are pollution-free power generators uglier than your crap hitting the frozen water in the toilet bowl?"

...Forgive me. I was stamping my little feet again, wasn't I? :)

This proposal would have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by thousands of tonnes per year. Unfortunately, the plan was rejected for security concerns. Another opportunity lost.

And how! Hiring security for a nuclear plant is hardly the biggest expense of the enterprise. That seems like a pretty soft reason for not going ahead. I mean, we're talking about Alberta here, not Lebanon. :/

Speaking of that, one of things we could change is our aversion to living near power plants. It's amazing how much electricity is wasted in line-losses between the power plant and the cities it serves.

This is why wind power is so ideal! You can slap one of those things in any empty lot in town and power thousands of houses night and day. We need to gather up all the people who object for stupid reasons and subject them all to a giant swirly until they--

...Oh, I'm all frothy again, sorry. :)

Actually the CO2 reclamation project is in Weyburn, Saskatchewan and yes, it does offer a lot of promise. First of all, it gets rid of CO2 and secondly, it increases the pressure in conventional oil reservoirs thus allowing a greater amount of oil to be recovered.

God... now that's a piece of thinkin'.

L-girl said...

I love nuclear power. Unfortunately, many of the same people who support Kyoto, oppose nuclear power.

Those people are a pain in the ass.


So what do you guys propose to do with the waste? You know, the radioactive, cancer-causing waste that lasts forever?

I'm one of those pain in the ass people. And my problems with nuclear power has nothing to do buildings spoiling my view!

I'm not into a nuclear-power debate at the moment, but I am curious to know what you guys suggest be done with the waste.

Wrye said...

In a bottom-line sort of way, nuclear waste will always be easer to contain than atmospheric pollution, and the danger is far more localized than what the Greenhouse effect can potentially do. How serious about things do we wanna get? (I'll be back later. Big topic, and I have to work this morning for all you Easterners and your time zones)

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

That's one of those "numerous shortcomings" I mentioned.

What to do with the waste is a huge problem with nuclear power. However, as long as its contained properly it's not harmful to the environment.

Coal reactors are deadly to the environment, oil is cleaner but not great, natural gas is clean but powerplants guzzle huge amounts of what will soon be a scarce resource, hyrdo-electric is non-polluting but isn't feasible everywhere and floods large areas of land, tidal power is only really available to those on the Atlantic coast, wind power simply can't produce enough power unless you cut down acres of forest and fill it with windmills, and solar isn't viable in a cold climate like Canada.

It's a whole cost-benefit analysis. Nuclear power produces small amounts of deadly waste that can be contained. It's the "oops" factor that makes nuclear dangerous, which is why I think only the government should run them (the overly bureaucratic nature of government is a good thing in this sense, since it's less likely to cut corners on safety then a for-profit company).

In the end, we're still waiting for a magic solution, but almost anything that can generate massive amounts of power can be dangerous. An idea floated decades ago was to place massive solar collectors in orbit. You'd get tons of cheap, clean energy (except for the massive initial investment), but as a side effect you'd have also created a bunch of potential "Death Rays" that could fry cities from orbit.....

L-girl said...

and the danger is far more localized than what the Greenhouse effect can potentially do.

. . .

What to do with the waste is a huge problem with nuclear power. However, as long as its contained properly it's not harmful to the environment.


Do either of you want to live near a nuclear waste storage facility? I sure don't.

I haven't caught up on this thread yet, so forgive me if I'm not getting some of the nuances. Don't feel obligated to repeat yourselves - I'll catch up soon!

RobfromAlberta said...

I'm not into a nuclear-power debate at the moment, but I am curious to know what you guys suggest be done with the waste.

First step is to use a breeder reactor. Our own CANDU reactors are grossly inefficient in terms of how much energy they produce for a given amount of fuel. The European breeder reactors produce far more energy and, therefore, can use far less fuel and produce far less waste. Of course, there will always be some nuclear waste, but did you know there is a uranium mine in northern Saskatchewan that is so radioactive, humans simply cannot enter no matter how well-protected they are. That would be a perfect location for waste storage. Now, certainly there is some risk involved in transporting nuclear waste across the country, but I think it's a risk we have to take. We need energy, there's just no way around it. Fossil fuels are running out, wind and solar will simply never satisfy all our energy requirements and hydroelectric power is limited to places with suitable rivers and causes its own set of environmental problems. Nuclear power is not the best solution, it's the only solution.

James said...

Do either of you want to live near a nuclear waste storage facility? I sure don't.

That brings up one of the good points about nuclear waste: you have to be near it to be affected by it. Fossil fuel waste is dumped into the atmosphere and circulates globally. Far more people and animals have been harmed and/or killed by fossil fuel emissions than nuclear waste, even when you include the big disasters like Three Mile Island, Windscale, and Chernobyl.

Which is not to say that nuclear waste is a trivial matter -- it is, however, not so much worse than anything else as many people believe.

My personal favourite idea (based on very little knowledge of the matter, so this is grain-of-salt time) is dumping it into tectonic subduction zones to be subsumed into the Earth's mantle and recirculated.

That, and getting fusion working: no unstable elements to deal with there.

L-girl said...

Maybe my aversion to nuclear power is anachronistic. I freely admit I don't keep up on the issue...

Far more people and animals have been harmed and/or killed by fossil fuel emissions than nuclear waste, even when you include the big disasters like Three Mile Island, Windscale, and Chernobyl.

...or maybe living in Pennsylvania during Three Mile Island, and living 30 miles from a nuclear power plant (Indian Point) built on a fault line and in proximity to a major terrorist attack has coloured my views too much.

But I'm taking all this in...

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

Essentially, when it comes to energy, the pros and cons of any choice are difficult to balance.

And you can't say "ah, forget it, I'll just live in a cave". We polluted much worse back in the olden days (burning wood for heat and light, for example, is almost as bad as burning coal). It just didn't matter as much back then because there wasn't so many of us.

For the near-term future, choosing a powerplant option is kinda like asking "do I want to stab myself in the left hand, or the right hand?"

teflonjedi said...

So what do you guys propose to do with the waste? You know, the radioactive, cancer-causing waste that lasts forever?

Sometimes I've thought that encasing it all in concrete, and then dumping it down into the Marianas trench, so that it's swallowed back into the Earth's mantle, might be a good approach.

I see that James was thinking the same thing!

I agree with others here, that with proper regulation and care, nuclear power can be quite safe if not placed on a fault line. (Which reminds me, I should figure out where the nearest fault line is, now that I'm living out here). Properly executesd, it should be a good alternative!

L-girl said...

This has been really interesting and educational. (As per usual.)

If you all you guys who are both smart and responsible, concerned about the planet, are pro- nuclear energy, perhaps I should re-think. At the very least I should update my facts.

Wrye said...

Think of it this way: it is the least bad option for the scale, the locales, and the timeframe necessary. Time is not on our side, and the possibility of a dozen or even a hundred nuclear accidents pale beside mass extinctions and the drowning of every coastal city and island nation on earth.

The Oil Drum has an article on Weyburn here.

And of course, there's always J.H. Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation. He gets repetitive after a while, but body's gotta scream, right?

Scott M. said...

One other thing to bear in mind is the quantity of waste...

Currently, all of the waste made in thirty years of nuclear power in Ontario can fit (and is currently housed in) three olympic-sized swimming pools. (They are currently housed on-site at Bruce, Pickering and Darlington).

Yep, that's it. Yes, it's highly hazardous, but it's a heck of a lot of power for that much waste.

And, as many mentioned, due to the size and stability of the waste (radiation doesn't "flow" through the atmosphere or water [though radioactive particles can]), it can easily be contained. We have hundreds of abandoned mines in the sheild of Northern Ontario which are stable and could easily be outfitted to contain the waste.

Wind power is great, as long as it's windy. Solar power is great, as long as it's sunny. They can be used to augment base power loads instead of Natural Gas, Oil or Coal (though they must still be available for those days that there's no wind or sun). But you still need a reliable base power producer.

The sad thing to think about is that the base power possibilities we have (NG, coal, oil, nuclear) are all non-renewable resource based (though it's unlikely we'll run out of Uranium-232 anytime soon, despite initial dire predictions). The only renewable-resource base power providers available are geothermal (impractical), hydroelectric (environmentally problematic and mostly maxed out anyway), and tidal (impractical in Ontario -- too much line loss from James Bay).

We've painted ourselves into a corner...

Lone Primate said...

Yeah, I expect the amount of uranium we have in the world will see us through to the point we have reliable (and safer) fusion reactors... though I expected we'd have had them by now when I was a kid. Still, if it takes another 50 years, it takes another 50 years. I imagine we have a couple centuries left on our uranium dance card.