All posts by Will Dubitsky

About Will Dubitsky

Will Dubitsky worked for the Government of Canada on sustainable development policies, legislation, programs and clean tech innovation projects/consortia. He lives in Quebec.

China's emissions drop, global cleantech boom are grounds for optimism on climate change

China’s emissions drop, global Cleantech boom are grounds for optimism on climate change

Chinese solar company Suntech at the Bird's Nest stadium
Chinese solar company Suntech at the Bird’s Nest stadium

Despite Canada’s total lack of leadership in the green economy, a number of key global developments are grounds for optimism heading into the Paris UN conference on climate change.

Global emissions plateau in 2014

In a pleasant surprise for the planet at large, according to the International Energy Agency, global emissions reached a plateau in 2014.

Most importantly, this is not a onetime aberration, but rather an indication that the cumulative impacts of the growing numbers of measures to address climate change in China, Europe and the US are collectively bringing about transformative change.  Other key nations such as Japan, India and Brazil have also begun a process that will engender a transformative migration to a green economy.

Particularly encouraging is that in 2014, the CO2 emissions of China – the world’s largest energy consumer – declined for the first time this century, by 0.7%.   Behind this incredible achievement, China’s 2014 coal consumption fell by 2.9%, while coal imports declined 15%. This is not a lot, but very significant in that the China has long been associated with rapidly rising emission levels.

Accordingly, China is in the process of changing the global economic/energy paradigm.

China’s race towards a Green Economy

As mentioned in the Common Sense Canadian article “Fossil Fuel Era drawing to a Close…except in Canada“, with the cost of renewables declining, long-term investment cycles of 20 to 25 years already favour renewables. As a result, since 2013, renewables have overtaken conventional fuels in new electrical generation installations and the nuclear sector is reaching something close to a free fall, with plant closures and little interest in refurbishing facilities at the end of their respective active cycles.

A case in point: in just 2014 China’s new installations of wind and solar capacity amounted to 34 gigawatts (GW – a billion watts) of new electrical generating capacity, bringing the total installed capacity of wind and solar energy in that country to 114.8 GW and 28 GW respectively.  In other words, China’s new clean energy installations added in 2014 represent nearly 3 times BC Hydro’s entire installed capacity of 12 GW and more than 70% of the total electricity capacity of Hydro-Quebec, 46.3 GW – but China installed all of this new capacity in one year!

As to what all this means in terms of jobs, China has staggering employment numbers for 2014 in its solar PV and wind energy sectors, 1.58 million and 356,000 jobs respectively!

Wind and solar projections boosted

And China promises to do even better in 2015. So optimistic is China on accelerating the pace of new installations of renewables that its National Energy Administration has raised its target for new solar installations in 2015 to 17.8 GW, up from the original target of 15 GW.

Projections for China’s new wind installations in 2015 are such that as much as 20 GW of capacity may be added.

That said, there may be caveat to China’s impressive clean energy projections in that it is not sure if past trends will continue with respect to increases in transmission capacity, lagging behind new wind and solar farm developments.

Regardless, the aforementioned aggressive clean energy initiatives are part of a multifaceted Chinese government war on coal.  With respect to this war, as per the US-China climate agreement, China has set targets to the effect that by 2030: 1) 20% of that country’s total energy consumption will come from renewable sources and 2) carbon emissions will be capped. China is also expected to introduce a national cap and trade system in 2016, for the beginning of the country’s next 5 year plan.

Europe: excellent performance on Kyoto

Meanwhile, in Europe, the EU’s original 15 nations have done better than their Kyoto Protocol 2008-2012 GHG reduction target of 8% by achieving a 13.4% reduction below 1990 levels.  By way of comparison, Canadian emissions rose 18.5% during the same period.

Furthermore, not only are EU nations on track for meeting 2020 goals of a 20% reduction in emissions, 20% improvement in energy efficiency and 20% energy achieved from renewables, but in October 2014, the EU Heads of State endorsed a 40% emissions reduction target for 2030.

India works towards renewables while increasing access

Not to be outdone, the Government of India has set a target of 100 GW of solar energy and 60 GW of wind energy installations by 2022, which is especially ambitious considering that India’s current total electrical production from all sources combined is only 250 GW.

It is conceivable that India will exceed its targets as clean energy companies have spoken of total commitments of 266 GW of new renewable installations by 2022.

Equally impressive is that the aforementioned goals of India will bring jobs and electricity to regions that either have no electricity or unreliable/unsteady electricity supplies.  It is estimated that the solar and wind targets will generate one million and 183,000 jobs respectively, thereby providing boosts to impoverished communities by addressing energy and job deficits concurrently.  To-date, approximately 70,000 jobs are attributable to the country’s solar and wind sectors.

Japan: Post-Fukushima

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s post-Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear crisis, which led to the shutting down of 54 nuclear plants and the scrapping of plans to build 14 new nuclear facilities, initially meant a spike in fossil fuel imports, but this was followed by a boom in the renewables sector – supported by the central government.

US #2 on Green Economy, despite Republicans

President Obama visits Copper Mountain solar plant (Photo: Sempra U.S. Gas & Power)

As for the US, one may be inclined to conclude that the Republicans have put a damper on the progress of non-hydro renewables – yet 47% of new electrical power capacity added in 2014 came from non-hydro renewables. Republicans haven’t succeeded in stopping the Obama administration from doing what it can within existing constraints.

Firstly, there is the question of what contributed to the US having become the world’s number two investor in the green economy after China. The answer begins with the 2009 to 2011 period, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – when the US government laid the foundations for a green economy with a $70 Billion investment.

Today, despite US government support for wind energy being torpedoed: 1) the Investment Tax Credit for solar project development remains intact until 2016; 2) the US government, on an ongoing basis, maintains extraordinary levels of investments in clean tech innovation partnerships with the private and academic sectors; and 3) Obama recently announced a model green government procurement strategy designed to to cut federal government GHG emissions by 40% by 2025.  Also worth is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, a veritable beehive of US clean energy global leadership.

By contrast, Canadian green tech innovators and manufacturers face an unfavourably uneven playing field for participation in the high-growth, high-job creation, competitive global green economy – by virtue of the near total absence of Government of Canada support.

Public and private banks back Green Economy

In one of my previous articles, the increasing role of public banks in the green economy was described, with references to the Chinese Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Investment Bank, Germany’s kfw, the UK Green Investment Bank and Brazil’s Banco nacional.

Now, what is new is that private banks are getting into the act, supporting the green economy with dedicated funds. Barclay’s, Bank of America Merril Lynch and Citi Bank are among the new private sector players.

Consequently, with this increasing convergence of public and private banks on green investments, it is estimated that together they will issue $100 billion in green bonds in 2015.

Clean Transportation: California and China lead the way

A solar ev charging station in San Francisco
A solar ev charging station in San Francisco

According to a UBS study, by 2020, customer-side renewable energy production (e.g. solar roof panels), energy storage and electric vehicle charging station technologies – combined with an electric vehicle in the driveway – would offer consumers a 7% return every year with a 6 to 8 year capital payback. The payback would be greater in jurisdictions such as California, which now offers incentives for energy consumers to install combinations of these technologies on their respective properties.

For California and China, the future for zero and low emission vehicles has already arrived. Each has a long list of policies, including aggressive eco-vehicle government procurement targets, subsidies for consumers, support for manufacturing/innovation, generous funding for electric vehicle charging stations all across these jurisdictions and requirements for new/recent buildings to be designed to accommodate ev charging stations.

To this end, California aims to cut petroleum use in the transportation sector in half by 2030 and have 1.5M zero emission vehicles on the road by 2025.

China’s target calls for the domestic production of eco-vehicles reaching 2 million/year by 2020 and a cumulative total of 5 million new energy vehicles on the road by then. Also note that China’s national and regional eco-vehicle policies favour domestically manufactured vehicles.

Meanwhile, in 2016, the new US corporate average fuel economy standards will kick in, requiring that each manufacturer present in the US market achieve an average of 6.2L/100km based on cars sold in that year and 8.2L/100km for trucks. These standards, which are identical in Canada, get incrementally more stringent, reaching a mandatory average of  4.3L/100km for cars by 2025.

However, while these US vehicle standards constitute progress, appearances are somewhat deceiving for two reasons. First, the new standards will allow for the skewing of corporate average fuel economy results by leaving wiggle room in the form of fuel economy by category/size of vehicles sold (based on wheelbase length and track width). Second, the standards include higher consumption allowances for SUVs, considered to be trucks.  Together, these factors could translate into higher average consumption/vehicles sold by a given manufacturer than the above-mentioned targets suggest.

The collapse of the Big Oil business model

Scientists say fracking can't fulfill America's energy needs
A Pennsylvania fracking operation

While the cumulative impacts of the climate action measures are the backdrop for the International Energy Agency numbers on the plateau in GHG emission levels in 2014, another game-changing phenomenon is also occurring: the collapse of the business model of the oil industry.

This model is based on: 1) demand for fossil fuels continuing to climb; 2) oil prices remaining high enough to justify continued investments in expensive-to-extract unconventional sources such as the tar sands, offshore and shale sources; 3) high oil prices justifying the pumping out of greater volumes of conventional oil to further increase profits; and 4) the growing concern about climate change failing to affect the bottom line.  

Until recently, this business model worked like a charm, with Exxon earning $32.6B in 2013, more than any company other than Apple. Well as it turns out, all of the above elements of the business model have hit a wall.

Demand not Rising at the Expected Pace

Not only do China, the US, the EU and India have policies which are lessening the current dependence on fossil fuels, but they all also have policies that will increasingly reduce this dependence. As indicated above, even India, once thought to be a major vector for increased demand in fossil fuels, has targets to change the economic/energy/job paradigm in favour of locally-produced renewable energy.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, 2015 global oil demand had originally been projected to be 103.2 million barrels/day, but this number has been adjusted to 93.1 million barrels/day, thereby undermining the viability of unconventional investments.  True, economic slowdowns are also affecting demand, but the shift to clean energy and eventually clean transportation can only increase with time.

Evidently, global actions on climate change are starting to have an impact on Big Oil’s bottom line.

Low oil prices lead to stranded assets, dangerous debt

It now appears that the price of oil might not rise for a long time to come.  Low prices cannot sustain the development of tar sands, shale and offshore oil.

This is translating into dangerously high debt loads, with assets being written off in the billions, thus generating a cascade of announcements of abandoned projects around the globe, putting tar sands projects on hold and pushing  shale gas companies into bankruptcy.  The US shale gas and oil sector now has accumulated a debt of $200B!

Oilmart- Low, low prices!
By Lorne Craig

How long can this last?

As for the Big Oil premise that concern about climate change would not translate into social change, it requires an extraordinary amount of denial to ignore the emerging paradigm change entailing: 1) the decline in growth of fossil fuels; and 2) political trends favouring more stringent policies in support of the green economy.

Collectively, these factors offer grounds for optimism and hope. And the evidence presented here is only the the tip of the iceberg.  Indeed, there are now more than 100 countries that have adopted a target for 2050 to achieve zero net GHG emissions.

What we are seeing is an alignment of the stars which could well lead to real progress on climate change at the upcoming UN conference on climate change in Paris in December 2015.

But in Canada…

Meanwhile, back home, Trudeau and Harper remain wedded to the resource-based export economy, with trade deals to support this dated economic development paradigm. This while our potential customers for increased resource exports are working hard on reducing their fossil fuel dependencies.

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice meets with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard  to  salvage the proposed EnergyEast pipeline
Alberta Premier Jim Prentice meets with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard to salvage the proposed EnergyEast pipeline.

On the provincial front, Ontario and Quebec’s participation in the cap and trade (C&T) Western Climate Initiative (WCI), along with California, is helpful, but is also purposely a smoke screen. This is to say that these standalone measures are equivalent to suggesting that one can end poverty with a single policy item. The same can be said of BC’s carbon tax.

In effect, what both BC and Quebec have in common is that their current governments are committed to a resource economy, and are totally indifferent to and/or ignorant of the green economy model. Yet, on a global scale, the green economy is currently, and will be, offering the best economic development strategies of our time, as measured in both jobs and economic growth.

To this effect, Quebec is cutting all the environmental impact corners and investing large sums of public funds to sort out the potential of – and requirements for – the development and commercialization of shale gas and oil, plus offshore oil. This despite the aforementioned $200 billion in debt of the US shale sector and, more generally, the demise of the Big Oil business model.

And while Quebec is applying the above-described devious formula for the “reconciliation” of the environment and the economy, it is abandoning its nascent electric vehicle sector.

BC, for its part, is singularly focused on building outrageously expensive LNG facilities to serve export markets and is justifying the Site C dam for powering these energy-intensive LNG projects. What is amazing here is that BC Hydro’s own analysis indicates that wind power is the lowest-cost option.

Quite the contrast with the third C&T participant, California, with its hefty sets of policy packages to migrate California to a green economy. Even a partial list of the state’s policies on zero-emission vehicles is incredibly long!

What is wrong with this picture?


Fossil fuel era drawing to a close…except in Canada

Adrian Wyld/CP
Adrian Wyld/CP

The following is the sequel to an earlier story by Will Dubitsky on the growing green economy and Canada’s failure to take advantage of it.

In the first part of this story for The Common Sense Canadian, I discussed how Canadian and Quebec leaders are largely ignoring the potential of high job creation, high growth green sectors, while China, Europe and the US are showing real leadership. Here, I will dig deeper into the policies and organizations that are foolishly banking on the Canadian resource-based economy as the key to economic development. Sadly, while President Obama sits poised to veto the Keystone XL pipeline, signalling the accelerating transition into a new era, Canada is being left behind.

Up to a trillion dollars in stranded fossil fuel investments

In keeping with Einstein’s definition of insanity, nearly all the economic experts will tell you we must keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Yet the signs are that the fossil fuel era is approaching its demise.

First, long-term energy and energy-related investments already favour the green economy – largely because the costs of clean tech are coming down.

Second, in the Summer of 2014, long before the recent plunge in oil prices, it became apparent that unconventional resources such as the tar sands, shale and offshore oil cannot be supported by market prices. As a result, Big Oil has already started to withdraw from major unconventional investments around the globe, otherwise known as stranded assets. This trend is becoming more and more evident .

The growing order of magnitude of stranded fossil fuel investments are very telling. Of the$2 Trillion invested in oil development in 2014, $930 Billion may never reach the return on investment stage – the makings of an investment bubble.

Considering the 20% return on equity for oil and gas in 2008 and the projection of a mere 5% return for 2015, it would appear that the most of the financial community has got it all wrong – especially when you factor in the increased volumes of stranded assets to come with oil at less than $70/barrel.

Unfortunately, financial institutions are not as diversified as they claim to be, totally bypassing the high growth, high job creation green sectors while maintaining the resource economy as integral to the majority of investment products/strategies.

Doubling down on unconventional energy

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs has warned that the oil companies’ capital expenditures for investments in unconventional resources have “gone through the roof” and that their Reserve Replacement Ratio, the measure which investors use to rate oil companies, is not encouraging. (New Internationalist, November 2014)

Similarly, a UBS study concluded that the rapid decline in the costs of clean energy, clean transportation and green economy integration technologies – such as energy storage technologies – together suggest that the writing is on the wall for fossil fuels and point to a full-scale shift to a green economy by 2020. (Ibid)

Leaving it in the ground

This is about more than economics though. Governments around the globe are adopting strong climate policies which favour the green economy, acknowledging that 80% of fossil fuels must remain in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change. That means that of the 12,000 gigatonnes of fossil fuel reserves, only 936 gigatonnes can be used.

$26.4 Billion/yr in subsidies to Canadian fossil fuels: IMF

Another issue is the fact that fossil fuels remain one of the most heavily subsidized sectors in the global economy. According to the International Monetary Fund, in US 2011 dollars, Canada spends $26.4B/year in direct and indirect subsidies (including health, climate change costs, etc.) for its fossil fuel sectors. This means that the unraveling of short-term thinking on fossil fuels will accelerate over time as the international community increasingly engages in addressing climate change. Put another way, the idea of shifting subsidies away from fossil fuels to the green economy will become increasingly attractive for policy makers.

Oddly enough, the representatives of the fossil sectors complain about subsidies for clean energy. The response of the European Wind Energy Association is that the wind sector could compete without any subsidies if it weren’t for the subsidies fossil fuels receive.

Renewables lead new energy mix

In the US, wind energy is now cost competitive with natural gas. Indeed, the change in the US energy paradigm is now well-entrenched, with renewables representing 47% of new electrical generation capacity installed in 2014, natural gas at 50% and coal, nuclear and oil combined only accounting for a little over 2%.

Consequently, from an investment perspective, clean technologies are the safer bet, free of the fluctuating, speculative prices we see with fossil fuels and destined to be favoured by increasingly aggressive government policies, further driving down prices.

Yet in Canada, only the NDP has committed to end fossil fuel subsidies, transfer the savings to clean technologies and introduce a cap and trade system.

NEB locking us into yesterday’s economy

As a result of the Harper administration’s changes to legislation on environmental impact analyses, the National Energy Board does not have the mandate to consider the biggest issue among all issues associated with TransCanada’s Energy East and other pipeline proposals – that is, the emissions stemming from tar sands development and downstream consumption of these fossil fuel products.

Compounding the limitations of the NEB mandate, the regulator has an “attitude problem”. This is very evident from the NEB’s rejection of oral cross-examination regarding certain types of questions, such as those submitted by distinguished energy expert Marc Eliesen on Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain pipeline expansion proposal.

Marc Eliesen is a former CEO of BC Hydro and Chair of Manitoba Hydro and served as a deputy minister in seven different federal and provincial governments. Since the NEB did not see it as necessary for TransMountain to address most of Marc Eliesen’s written questions, he withdrew as an intervenor/participant in theNEB Kinder Morgan review circus.

One can expect more of the same for the NEB hearings on Energy East.

Changing our laws to suit oil and gas

Just as it restricted the NEB’s environmental review mandate, the Harper government gutted the habitat protections in the Fisheries Act, at the request of Canada’s pipeline industry.

Harper has also ensured that the NEB reports directly to the Prime Minister’s office.

In other words, Canada is painting itself into a corner.

Both Justin Trudeau and Harper view Canada as a resource export economy and both revert to the denial of science to increase Canada’s dependence on resource exports.

The new energy paradigm

As alluded to my Jan 23, 2015 Common Sense Canadian article, yesterday’s economists, Harper and Trudeau and most of mainstream media, much like the climate change deniers would like us all to believe in a fairly tale that presents economic and environmental considerations as opposing forces for which there is a need for reconciliation.

This economy versus the environment spin is comparable to the debate of 100 years ago on the reconciliation of woman’s rights with the need for economic development.

Yet the world’s largest energy consumer, China, is already changing the global economic-energy-environmental paradigm in through a rather schizophrenic war on coal. Consider that: 1) China is the world’s largest investor in green technologies, with $89.5B in clean energy technology projects in 2014; 2) China’s coal imports will be down by 15% by the end of 2014 compared to 2013; 3) China’s pilot cap and trade systems in Beijing and Shenzhen have reduced emissions by 4.5% and 11% respectively; 4) China is thinking of introducing a national cap and trade system in 2016.

Europe on track for big emissions reductions

Nearly all of the EU members are on track for their 2020 targets for a 20% reduction in GHGs, 20% energy from renewables and a 20% improvement in energy efficiency. Not resting on their laurels, in October 2014, the European heads of state agreed to a 40% GHG reduction target for 2030.

Then there is the incredible case of Germany, which outdid its own Kyoto Protocol objective of a 21% reduction of GHGs by 2012, having achieved a 25.5% reduction instead. But Germany is not an exception to the rule. For the same Kyoto period ending in 2012, the UK, Sweden and France reduced their emissions respectively by 23.4%, 18% and 10.5%.

At this point, Ban Ki-moon’s 2007 remarks on green economics seem highly appropriate:

[quote]We have witnessed three economic transformations in the past century. First came the Industrial Revolution, then the technology revolution, then our modern era of globalization. We stand at the threshold of another great change: the age of green economics.[/quote]

How long is it going to take for today’s economists to catch up?

Obama Keystone veto’s global ramifications

In closing, with Obama on the verge of applying his veto to Keystone, it may be helpful to read the article referred to below, which specifically deals with the matter of Keystone but could easily be recast as the case against TransCanada’s Energy East, Kinder Morgan’s TransMountain and Enbridge’s Line 9.

In a nutshell, this article in The Guardian speaks of the increased path dependencies generated by new pipelines and concludes that an Obama rejection of Keystone would be a clear signal to the US, Canada and the entire world that the time has come for putting the emphasis on developing clean energy and clean transportation alternatives – and the weaning off of our dependence on fossil fuels.

This is precisely the point President Obama made in his January 20, 2015 State of the Union speech, when he indicated that a rejection of Keystone would send a signal to the world that we must get serious about migrating to a green economy; whereas approving it would constitute a setback to the climate action agenda.

One can say “ditto” for TransCanada’s Energy East and the other major Canadian pipeline projects.

What is happening is that China, Europe, the US and other nations – not Canada – are becoming increasingly aligned for a future that functions on a green economy paradigm, the path to higher job creation,  stronger economic development, avoidance of catastrophic climate change and the embracing of environmental stewardship – in other words, the path to tomorrow’s economy.

With the aforementioned science and economic considerations in mind, Mark Carney, the current Governor of the Bank of England and former Governor of the Bank of Canada, recently wrote to British Members of Parliament, advising them that the Bank’s officials are reviewing whether or not the majority of fossil reserves are burnable.

Change is clearly afoot – if only Canada’s leader could see and embrace it.

Canada, Quebec's political leaders blind to clean tech revolution

Canada, Quebec’s political leaders blind to green jobs revolution


Canada's political, economic leaders blind to clean tech revolution

Part 1 of a 2-part story from innovation expert Will Dubitsky on Canada’s missed opportunity to build a prosperous green economy.

The ardent defenders of our resource economy are in no way limited to the climate skeptics who support TransCanada’s Energy East project, the Keystone XL pipeline and the tripling of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline capacity to Vancouver. There are also much larger and perhaps more influential groups of traditional resource economy supporters – the greenwashers such as Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, the majority of mainstream journalists, economists, Bay Streeters and more.

These stakeholders would have us believe that with a little tinkering of the status quo, we can address requirements to reduce greenhouse gases while supporting projects like TransCanada’s Energy East and the other proposed pipeline projects for Canada.

According to this line of thinking, the traditional resource-based economic paradigm is a permanent fixture of global economics. Consequently, if TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline isn’t built, another petroleum source would fill the “void”, leaving the impacts on greenhouse gases at the level of the status quo.  In other words, new infrastructure to increase dour dependence on petroleum is fine, even though the International Energy Agency has said we must leave 80% of proven reserves in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Green economy still ignored by many

It is rather unfortunate that the green economy paradigm – despite the facts on the ground in China, Europe and the US – remains off the radar screen of nearly all economists.

Even the very conservative International Monetary Fund, Goldman Sachs and UBS are way ahead traditional economists on the decline of the resource economy paradigm, respectively exposing: 1) the spellbinding levels of subsidization of the fossil fuel sectors; 2) the high financial risks of unconventional fossil resources, such as the tar sands; 3) the rapidly growing quantity of stranded oil assets due to the combination of high debt loads and reserves that cannot be supported by market prices; and 4) the growing aggressiveness and frequency of government action on climate change around the globe . Together, these factors are fostering the emergence of a global green economy.

Massive opportunity, huge job growth…except in Canada

The green sectors are among the fastest growing and highest job creation sectors of our times.  Unfortunately, Canada is missing out on these opportunities while China, the European Union and, to a lesser extent, the US are way ahead of us.

There are 3.5 million people currently working in the green sectors in the European Union (EU), with 1.2 million in renewables. The clean energy sectors in Germany are right up there with the German auto sector in terms of job numbers, and there is a 7,000-position labour shortage in the EU wind energy sector.

At last count there were 300,000 people working in the Chinese solar energy sector and another 800,000 in its thermal solar sector.  The projections for China’s wind sector are 500,000 jobs by 2020.

Meanwhile, the US had174,000 people working in the solar sector as of November 2014.

All this makes good sense, given the fact that government investments in the green economy create 6 to 8 times more jobs than the same level of investment in the extractive resource economy.

Quebec missing the boat

Though Quebec is participating in a carbon (cap and trade) market with California, current Couillard Quebec government actions are founded on a resource economy with negligible interest shown in high job creation green sectors. This is counterproductive not only for the environment but for the province’s economic development as well.

To begin, Quebec could better grow its economy and reduce its dependence on wealthier provinces by concurrently: 1) rejecting the few hundred jobs associated with Energy East; 2) reducing its dependence on petroleum from outside Quebec and thereby reducing local emissions; 3) focusing on the high job creation green sectors, including the development of Quebec’s emerging electric vehicle sector.

Quebec’s emerging EV success story

The transportation sector represents 42% of Québec’s emissions, so it’s a good place to start for tackling emissions. The good news is that not only does the province enjoy a clean energy surplus – mainly hydro – but its nascent electric vehicle (ev) sector has given rise to some promising local companies and institutions, including:

  • EV battery manufacturer Bolloré/Bathium
  • Electric motor wheel company TM4
  • A Nova Bus (Volvo) electric bus under development
  • Two manufacturers of electric vehicle charging stations – GRIDbot and ADDÉnergie
  • EV research centres such as the Centre National du Transport Avancé and L’Ecole de technologie supérieure

Should Québec and Canada not seize the day, it is China and the US – California in particular — that will continue to be the leaders in, and reap optimal long term benefits from, the electrification of transport.

China: Full steam ahead on clean tech

While  BYD of China is already manufacturing electric buses – this includes a manufacturing plant for BYD electric buses in California – China’s central government has adopted aggressive policies to the effect that beginning 2016, 30% of all government vehicle purchases will be electric.

Meanwhile, the city of Shenzhen recently announced a cap on new vehicle sales to cut air pollution, coupled with a requirement that 20% of registrations must be electric vehicles.

China’s central government is also considering a $16 Billion program to set up charging stations across the country and it has removed the 10% purchase tax for electric and hybrid vehicles.

California leads way with EVs

In the US, California is leading the way on electric vehicles with a comprehensive plan and legislation agenda that includes financial assistance for low income residents and support for clean energy micro-grids complete with energy storage and electric vehicle charging stations. New homes and parking lots are also being required to have the electrical infrastructure in place for setting up electric vehicle charging stations.

Quebec backslides on green investment, shale oil and gas

Yet the Couillard government, much like policies of Harper and Trudeau, lives in the past tense, supporting TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline proposal while cancelling a $500 million PQ program for the electrification of transport, instead committing $450 million for an unneeded cement plant that will be fueled by petcoke – a high-carbon content fuel derived from the residues of tar sands refineries. Couillard also remains fixated on his predecessors’ Plan Nord – a large scale vision for heavy extractive industries in the province’s north.

Meanwhile, Couillard shows disturbing signs of softening Quebec’s moratorium on fracking, letting it be known that his government will not be taking action along the lines of the New York State to impose a permanent ban on shale gas development. Instead, his government appears to be keeping its options open for developing a shale oil sector on the Island of Anticosti, which the previous PQ government injected $115 million into through two equity agreements.

In addition to the high level of methane leaks from shale gas wells and risks of soil, water and air pollution, it is becoming clear from the US experience that shale gas and oil lead to boom and bust economics. Yet Couillard appears reluctant to fully cut ties with this form of development and instead seize the enormous benefits available from the green economy.

Watch for the sequel to this story next week – exploring the decline of the fossil fuel era and remarkable rise of the green economy.

Justin Trudeau continues Liberal greenwash legacy- Former govt insider

Justin Trudeau continues Liberal greenwash legacy: Ex-govt insider

Justin Trudeau continues Liberal greenwash legacy- Former govt insider
Justin Trudeau argues for Keystone XL at a think tank in Washington, DC (Photo: Chip Somodevllla/Getty)

The Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) has a history of big talk on the environment, but, once in power, failing to deliver.  Each climate change action plan has demonstrated this trend, accompanied by boastful press releases on how much money the LPC would be investing in sustainable development. Now, Justin Trudeau is showing every sign of repeating this pattern.

Liberal Party never serious about climate change

Stéphane Dion, as the former minister of the environment, introduced no comprehensive packages of legislation, fiscal measures, programs and policies to make much of a difference in addressing climate change.

As a former Government of Canada employee, I can attest, from a unique insider’s perspective, that various Dion/Liberal climate change action plans were all designed to fail, or lacking in substance to achieve stated GHG targets. Eddie Goldenberg, Chétien’s highest ranked government employee and key adviser, admitted as much in February 2007 when he revealed that the LPC had no idea how it would meet Kyoto objectives when it ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

The result was that carbon emissions spiked as much under Chrétien and Paul Martin’s governments as they have during the Harper regime. Michael Ignatieff got it right when he said to Dion, during one of the Liberal leadership debates, that Dion failed to get the job done.

Justin Trudeau represents a continuation of this LPC legacy, as I will demonstrate. What follows is an insider’s detailed view of LPC failures on climate change – leading up to Trudeau’s positions to-date and the choices Canadians face going into the 2015 election.

Subsidizing fossil fuels and paying the polluter

Prior to the Liberal defeat, Stéphane Dion, as environment minister, introduced yet another climate change action plan, this one with a $1B Climate Fund designed for the government to purchase emission reductions from Canada’s largest emitters, in particular the fossil fuel sectors.  In other words, the more one emits, the more government support one could get under the Dion plan, a pay the polluter formula — rather than the polluter pays.

And no rewards were offered for the small and medium size private firms that had already contributed, or would like to contribute, significantly to emission reductions.

Price on carbon, maybe – but it would have to be cheap

Further along the lines of subsidizing the fossil fuel sector, Chrétien made a sweetheart deal with the oil industry to the effect that in the event of a price on carbon, it would be cheap/symbolic.  My guess is that Trudeau’s “endorsement” of a price on carbon is the sequel to the Chrétien model.

Ambitious targets, ambitious cheating

In keeping with the LPC greenwash tradition, during the 1999 to 2000 period, a key element of the LPC plan to meet their ambitious GHG objectives was an attempt to get UN/international approval for crediting Canada for its forests – including reforestation efforts – which absorb CO2. The Liberals referred to their forest component of the climate change action plan of the time as “carbon sinks.”

In other words, the LPC wanted to get carbon credits for doing absolutely nothing, by creating a fairly tale to give the impression that they were making progress GHG targets. Fortunately, the UN rejected the carbon sink proposal.

This brilliant idea on carbon sinks has since been adopted by none other than Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia, known for being as ferociously anti-environment as Stephen Harper.

Carbon Capture and Storage: subsidizing greenwash

Yet another facet of the LPC subsidizing of the fossil fuel sector was a heavy investment in the carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) experiment in Weyburn, Saskatchewan.

The problem with CCS is that this technology 1) is so prohibitively expensive that no one would adopt CCS in the absence of major government subsidies 2) is very energy intensive consuming up to one third of total energy produced from a given generator facility and 3)  offers no assurance that the carbon sequestered in former and empty wells would in fact stay there.

It is worth noting here that, prior to the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC) elimination of all sustainable development innovation funds, the CPC continued the LPC tradition with more than one CPC sustainable development fund supporting CCS.

One of the CCS initiatives supported by the Conservatives, is the current Boundary Dam CCS project pertaining to one of the five coal-fired generation stations in Estevan SK, a project which received a $240M CCS subsidy from the Harper administration. For the generating station equipped with the CCS technologies, one third of the 165 MW of energy produced, or 55 MW, is dedicated to powering the CCS system, while only capturing 20% of the generator’s GHGs, falling well short of the objective to capture 90% of GHGs.

Recently, TransAlta abandoned its CCS project in Pioneer, AB after having received $800M in federal funding.

Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)

The LPC record on the auto sector also reflects its tradition of putting the emphasis on appearances rather than getting the job done.

On this, there is the matter of the auto sector corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) – a  given manufacturer’s CAFE performance for a given year is weighted by the individual sales and fuel consumption of each model, aggregated over the total vehicle sales of the manufacturer in the year in question.

During the Pierre-Elliot Trudeau reign, CAFE was approved but wasn’t presented as a law before Parliament. In its place, the elder Trudeau’s Cabinet adopted a voluntary CAFE without a government verification system in place.

Justin continues Liberal Party’s record

Justin Trudeau has chosen to continue in the LPC tradition of appearing to be committed on action on climate change, with doses of window-dressing, while ceding to powerful interests.

To this end, Justin has: 1) defined Canada as a resource export economy; 2) claimed that cap and trade and opposition to Keystone are not based on science; 3) also used the line that opposition is not based on science with regard to the proposed largest volume pipeline, the 1.1M barrel/day TransCanada Energy East pipeline, with it’s Cacouna, Quebec port planned on the St-Lawrence River, precarious for tankers ; 4) blindly supported free trade agreements with China and Europe that would allow foreign enterprises, including state-owned ones, to sue Canada in the event our environmental laws or aboriginal rights impede the maximization of profits from their investments in Canada; and 5) praised former Alberta Premier Redford for boasting of Canada’s environmental record as a sales pitch to convince the US to approve Keystone.

Trudeau firmly in denial camp

Trudeau’s cavalier dismissal of opposition to tar sands exports as not being based on science puts him squarely in the same camp as Harper – the denial camp.

According to the International Energy Agency, to avoid catastrophic climate change, 80% of known reserves must be kept in the ground, which translates into a maximum tar sands production rate of 3.3M barrels/day.  But tar sands production projections, based on current and planned projects, are for 7.1M barrels/day.

Furthermore, the facts on the ground are affirming that Trudeau’s characterization of Canada as a resource export economy is dated.  The fossil fuel party is over.   Specifically,  it has become evident that non-conventional fossil fuel resources, such as the tar sands, cannot be supported by market prices.  Already, Big Oil has pulled out of many non-conventional resource projects around the globe and it is now clear that long-term energy and energy-related investments favour clean energy and clean transportation, and more generally a green economy.

China leading way on renewable energy

As for the FIPA trade agreement with China, Trudeau has gone so far as to proclaim that FIPA, provides a great opportunity for Canada to sell its resources to China.  However, contrary to Trudeau’s dated paradigm, China is moving with incredible speed towards a green economy with: 1) 28 GW of solar and wind capacity added in the single year of 2013;  2) its  coal consumption down in 2014; 3) aggressive policies on electric vehicles; and 4) a strong possibility for the introduction of  a national cap and trade system beginning in 2016.  China already has two cap and trade pilots, one in Shenzhen and the other in Beijing.

Of particular significance to Canada, the above-mentioned green economy initiatives of China will ultimately lead to greater energy independence, thus once again showing that Trudeau’s FIPA resource export opportunity paradigm is totally out of sync with emerging new realities.  Moreover, the gap between Trudeau’s tunnel vision and China’s new paradigm will surely widen as China accelerates its migration to a green economy under their 5 year plan for the 2016-20 period.

Trudeau wrong to pan cap and trade

With respect to Trudeau’s comments against cap and trade, the empirical evidence from the longest standing existing international cap and trade scheme, the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), proves otherwise.  That is, the ETS has proven to be critical component of the EU success in meeting Kyoto Protocol objectives. More importantly, the ETS has put nearly all EU nations on track for meeting their respective 2020 targets

Yet  Justin referred to Australia’s abolition of a cap and trade system as proof that the cap and trade concept is not supported by science. This, despite the fact that Australia’s Prime Minister Abbott has views similar to those of Harper on environmental matters.

Corporate tax stance misguided

Lastly, though indirectly related to the green economy, another important Trudeau policy position that would have an adverse impact on Canada’s ability to go green is maintaining Canada’s corporate tax rate at 15%, the lowest in the G7.  While $630B lies dormant in corporate liquidity, the low corporate tax will limit a Trudeau government’s ability to assure adequate investments of financial resources in Canada’s own migration to a green economy.

Not only does Trudeau propose to maintain the low corporate tax rate, but he is also on record implying that he might go one step further than Harper by lowering the rate more in the future.

Suffice it to say that empirical evidence on the Liberals’ past, together with Justin Trudeau’s policy statements to date, clearly reveal that, for the LPC, environmental issues are primarily about political manipulation, rather than facing environmental challenges.

One cannot be serious about the environment and support the LPC.

Our choices for 2015 election

By contrast, the NDP is committed to a cap and trade system; ending subsidies to the fossil fuel sectors; and using the money saved on fossil sector subsidies to invest massively in the green economy – one of the highest growth and job creation sectors of our times.

As for subsidies for fossil fuels, at a cost of $110/tonne, they are one of the most significant barriers to our migration to a green economy.  On this matter, the International Monetary Fund has estimated that in 2011 US dollars, Canadian subsidies associated with fossil fuels – including indirect costs pertaining to climate change and health – amount to $26.4B/year.

In contrast to the Trudeau Liberals, the NDP would raise the ridiculously low federal corporate tax rate of 15%.

To conclude, the only barriers stopping Canada from catching up with our competitors in the global migration to a green economy are Harper and Trudeau.

We should all keep that in mind heading into the election of 2015.

China war on coal means more renewable energy...and shale gas

China’s war on coal means lots more renewable energy…and fracking

China war on coal means more renewable energy...and shale gas
Shale gas is a big component of China’s future energy plans

China has declared war on coal and coal consumption is down as a result. But this coal war offers some good news, some not so good news for Canada, and some bad news, all at the same time.

China turns to clean tech, fracking

The good news pertains to: 1) China having become an unparalleled leader and investor in the global migration to a the green economy; and 2) China’s ongoing adoption of ambitious new policies and targets to accelerate this migration at a spellbinding rate.

Unfortunately, the aforementioned good news for China also has serious implications for Canada in that not only is Canada falling further and further behind China regarding the green economy, but Trudeau and Harper, via FIPA, are set on selling Canada’s resources to China while opening the doors for China to dump its clean technologies in Canada.

The bad news is that China’s war on coal has also given rise to ambitious, but environmentally reckless, development of shale gas, wrongly perceived to be a cleaner, or less environmentally harmful, alternative to coal.

The good news

I highlighted the incredible pace of China’s initiatives to go green in an article last year, China’s Chaotic Leap Forword to a Green Economy.

In a nutshell:

  • China has become world’s the largest investor in clean energy technologies, with $61.3B spent on renewable energy technologies in 2013 that resulted in 28 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind capacity added in that year alone
  • It has awesome green job numbers, like 300,000 jobs in its solar PV sector and 800,000 jobs in the solar thermal sector
  • It has evolved from a domestic solar manufacturing sector that served 1% of global markets in 2004 to 50% by 2012
  • It has a plan for 7 pilots on cap and trade
  • Finally, China has laid the policy ground work for world leadership in the manufacturing and deployment of electric vehicles.

As result of these measures, the above-mentioned October 2013 Common Sense Canadian article projected that coal consumption in China would peak in 2015.

Coal use falling

China has become the global leader in clean tech
China has become the global leader in clean tech

But China is going green so quickly that projections about its energy future tend to prove too conservative. As a case in point, for the first time in this century, coal consumption and coal imports in China are down.

The prediction is that this trend will continue, translating into a 15% reduction in coal imports, to less than 300M metric tonnes imported by the end of 2014. Moreover, evidence that this trend is long-term comes from the Beijing government’s announcement that it will ban coal use in 6 city districts by 2020 replace it with clean energy.

Also worth noting, China’s war on coal includes the banning of sales and imports of coal containing high quantities of ash and sulfur.  The new regulation bans for sale and import coal with more than 40% ash content and 3% sulfur .  This ban would effectively eliminate low heating value coal from Indonesia and coal with arsenic from Australia.

Yet, notwithstanding the extraordinary progress China has made in such a short period, it is currently working on policies that will further accelerate its migration to a green economy.

China’s next leap forward

On that note, rumours abound as to what to expect from China’s five year plan for 2015-20. This includes the possibility of China introducing a cap and trade system in 2016.  China already has a pilot cap and trade system in Shenzhen, the first of seven pilots in the country.

Meanwhile, China is well-positioned to lead the world in electric vehicles (ev’s), not only now, but in the years to come. In particular:

Not-so-good-news for Canada

What does China’s exceptional progress and policy leadership mean for Canada, in the context of China having become the world’s largest energy consumer and, consequently, a major influence in global energy paradigms?  In crude terms, Canada will have an enormous green economy gap to close, beginning in 2015, after the upcoming federal election.

It also means that Canada will have to shed the mindset that says our future economic wellbeing lies with increasing exports of fossil fuels – a mindset shared by both Harper and Trudeau.

FIPA, the Canada-China trade agreement recently ratified by the Harper administration, will only compound these problems.

That is, the US and the EU have responded to China’s highly-subsidized dumping of clean tech on global markets with the imposition of steep tariffs.  But FIPA stipulates that there will be no commercial barriers associated with environmental technologies. This stipulation could seriously handicap the development of Canada’s clean tech sectors.

In short, a successful Canadian plan for a migration to a green economy must take into account China.  To do otherwise would be at Canada’s peril.

China gets fracking

China shale gas mapIn collaboration with US partners, China is setting the stage to develop what may be the largest shale gas resources in the world, 1.7 times the potential of the US. With fewer than 200 wells drilled to date, China is projected to produce 1058 billion cubic feet of natural gas annually by 2020.  And the environmental implications identified thus far of China’s pending shale gas boom are enormous.

First, fracking regulations in China are almost non-existent. Second fracking in China requires twice as much water than US shale gas operations because China’s gas lies deeper underground and in more complex geological formations.

This in a country with dangerously low water per capita and where land twice the size of New York City turns into desert every year.

This, in a country where fracking waste water often goes untreated.

Nevertheless, all is in place to speed up the tempo of shale gas development.  Already, foreign multinationals are investing heavily in China while companies like the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) – the same company that bought out Nexen in Alberta – have spent $8.7B buying shares in US shale gas operations. One can suspect that this will offer Chinese firms opportunities to obtain patents on technologies; ultimately manufacture these technologies in China; and then export these very same technologies to the US at a cheaper price.

All this is going on while the US experience has taught us that that methane leaks associated from shale gas development are grossly underestimated and the potential for regulations to control these emissions are overestimated. Drilling creates fractures in surrounding rock that cement cannot completely fill, thus opening paths for the escaping of gases and liquids.  Furthermore, as the cement ages, it pulls away from the surrounding rock, reducing the tightness of the seals, thereby generating greater danger for methane leaks and water and air pollution.

Will history repeat itself?

The good and bad news have been presented in this article to demonstrate the incredible ability for China to head in opposite directions – at a tremendous speed.

On one hand, China’s amazingly rapid migration to a green economy, accompanied by a reduction coal use, suggests that China will be a major vector in the global replacement of fossil fuels with clean technologies alternatives.

On the other hand, its fracking activities, while nowhere near the scale of what is happening on China’s clean technology side of the equation, raises the weakness for which China is so famous – first go full speed ahead, wait for the problems to accumulate and then engage with incredible zeal in gestures to solve the problems created by their previous mistakes.


Nearly 100% of US car sales could be electric in 15 yrs – the challenge is powering them with clean electricity

Powering clean transportation with clean energy
An electric smart car in Amsterdam – from the popular car sharing service, Car2go (Wikimedia Commons)

There are those who suggest that a migration to a green economy is too expensive, that we must convert to natural gas as a transition fuel, that the subsidies for clean technologies are driving up the cost of energy, that we need to sell more fossil fuels to finance the transition to clean technologies. What all these views have in common is “denial”. Indeed, these arguments may be referred to as today’s version of the case for The Flat Earth Society.

Clean energy investments offer better long-term economics

For starters, investments in fossil fuels no longer make any long-term sense.  The oil companies know the writing is on the wall in light of: 1) the need to shift more emphasis to non-conventional fuels that are more expensive to exploit and refine – such as Canada’s tar sands and offshore oil; and 2)  market prices that do not reflect the increases in fossil fuel project costs.  On the latter point, market prices are based on speculation more than anything else.

Taken together, the rising cost of fossil fuels, the declining cost of clean technologies and energy storage, the long-term financing associated with major energy projects – typically a 20 to 25 year cycle – plus the introduction of government measures to reduce fossil fuel-related emissions around the globe, indicate that, already, long-term clean energy investments are now cheaper than fossil fuels.

Add to this the fact that fossil fuel sectors represent the most subsidized in the world, to the tune of $1.9 Trillion/year in 2011 dollars, or roughly $110/tonne.  If we were to eliminate these fossil fuel subsidies, not only would clean energy be cheaper in the long run, but it would be immediately competitive without any subsidies.

While some will argue that shale gas discoveries have injected new life into the longevity of the fossil fuel sectors, the evidence is accumulating that US shale gas is tied to boom and bust cycles because only the initial extractions of the sweet spot gas are economically sound investments.  To this effect, US shale gas stakeholders have already begun writing off billions in investments in the US.

One might also say that the case for a shift away from fossil fuels has been internalized in China and the green shift is gaining momentum in the EU and the US – but not in Canada.  Pity!

Going green is uphill battle, but not insurmountable

For the migration to a green economy, the transportation sector may appear to be the most difficult challenge.  This is so because this sector is currently nearly 100% dependent on fossil fuels and there are no obvious, immediate, large-scale, practical alternatives for making the switch to clean transportation.  But these barriers are more psychological than technological.

Those jurisdictions with the courage to make the right political decisions today can change the paradigm, and some have already begun to do so.

The role of electrical utilities

Crown utility BC Hydro has been saddled with massive debt associated with overpriced private power contracts
Public utilities like BC Hydro can help power electric cars

Electric utilities for the most part have not paid much attention to the new market possibilities associated with the electrification of transport.  This is so, despite the advancements in batteries, bi-directional, fast-charging stations that can be networked to use parked electric vehicles as energy storage facilities – plus the arrival of both plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles.

Perhaps the best explanation for why utilities haven’t paid attention is their internal cultural mindset.  One would think that electric utilities would be actively investigating new types of markets because the combination energy efficiency, the prevailing economic slow-down, and the emerging trend entailing individuals, corporations and communities getting into the act of producing their own clean energy, all suggest growth in traditional markets may be low or stagnant in the coming years.  In effect, without efforts to pursue the possibilities in the transportation sector, these utilities may find themselves faced with higher costs, without the additional revenues to cover them.

UN: Electric vehicles could approach 100% of US sales by 2015

Accordingly, utility investments in clean transportation are logical next steps given: the 1) size of the transportation sector; 2) government initiatives around the globe to reduce dependence on fossil fuels; and 3) the current near total reliance on fossil fuels for transportation.  With the latter two considerations in mind, a UN report indicated that electric vehicles could make up close to 100% of US new vehicle sales within the next 15 years.

Utility incentives for electric vehicles could range from discounts for charging stations, vehicle purchase discounts or loan payment arrangements with dealers/manufacturers, and off-peak rates for charging vehicles at night.

In Canada, where many utilities are public, the above incentives could be part of overall provincial government incentive packages to foster a migration towards electric vehicles.

Local and regional infrastructure

As implied by the preceding information, one of the keys to making the shift to electric  transportation is that of infrastructure – in particular, large-scale, clean energy smart grids and micro-grids.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, semi-autonomous micro-grids, supplied by local, intermittent clean energy sources (e.g: solar and wind) – backed up by storage systems and linkages to regional utilities – are no more complex a system than our current electrical infrastructure.

US and California’s leadership

In February 2014, the US federal Department of Energy announced $7 million for advancing the design of community-scale micro-grids, with capacities going up to 10 MW.  In addition, the DOE is offering$6.5 million in matching grants for the development of integration technologies to accommodate multiple, intermittent renewable energy sources and energy storage in a grid.


Even bolder than the US federal government, the state of California has adopted the Self-Generation Incentive Program that will provide $415 million over 5 years to install micro-grid components on the customer side of the grid, including wind turbines, waste-heat-to-power technologies and advanced energy storage systems.  This program will help meet California’s energy storage mandate, which, among other things, requires that investor-owned utilities add 1.3 GW of energy storage to their respective grids by 2020.

Electric vehicles as extensions micro-grids and energy storage

With the support of electric vehicle bi-directional charging stations, during energy surplus periods, regionally networked, parked electric vehicles that are plugged in would serve as energy storage facilities via their respective batteries. Parked electric vehicles would become extensions of the energy storage network, to be called upon during periods of high electricity demand.

At the micro-level, the combination of 1) a parked electric vehicle in an employer/industrial park parking lot or at one’s home, and 2) a clean energy micro-gird, supplied by local solar rooftop and/or wind power sources, supplemented by the regional utility, would offer several attractive features.  These inclue: 1) building-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-building opportunities off the regional grid and 2) possibilities to supply/sell surplus energy to the regional grid, as appropriate.  Also, in times of blackouts, the parked vehicles would be sources of stored energy to bridge the loss of power period until the regional source is restored.

Utilities, hydrogen and energy storage

Other types of utility partnerships for storage solutions could include the Canadian hydrogen sector. This involves the electrolysis of water, using clean energy generated from hydro, wind and solar sources, to produce and compress hydrogen – or leave it in a liquid form as long as necessary for later use in fuel cells.

Conversely, the governments and utilities can adopt a wait-and-see attitude regarding competition in the transportation sector from fuel cells and bio-fuels.

Hydrogen vehicles

Germany has already started down the hydrogen vehicle path with a mass program to set up hydrogen fueling stations across the country.

Under the  €350 million “H2 Mobility” Initiative – a partnership involving Air Liquide, Daimler, Linde, OMV, Shell and Total – by 2015, Germany will have 50 hydrogen fueling stations around the country, 100 by 2017 and 400 stations by 2023.

This will mean that, in Germany’s metropolitan centres, drivers of fuel cell vehicles will have at least 10 hydrogen refueling stations available, starting in 2023.  Integrated into this plan, there will be one hydrogen station for every 90 kilometers of highway between densely populated areas.

At the EU level, the ‘Fuel Cell sand Hydrogen (FCH) Joint Technology Initiative’ (JTI), a partnership between the European Commission and EU industry will invest $1.8B  on the development of market-ready fuel cell and hydrogen technologies over the next 10 years.

New Quebec government choosing fossil fuels over green jobs

New Quebec government choosing fossil fuels over green jobs

Canada's fixation on resource economy holding back green jobs
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard is putting green jobs on the back burner (Photo: facebook)

One thing Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, BC Premier Christy Clark and new Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard all share in common is the dated notion that economic and sustainable development are competing concepts that need to be reconciled, with great difficulty. And in hard times, the economy must take precedence.

The term reconciliation seems totally out of place when one considers that the green sectors are among the fastest growing and highest job creation sectors of our time and that this growth can only get better as nations adopt more aggressive approaches to fully participate in the new economy.  Moreover, the green economy is every bit as diversified, if not more so, as Canada’s traditional natural resource-based economy – while offering 6 to 8 times more jobs for the same level of government subsidy as the fossil fuel sectors.

New Quebec government disappoints with green jobs policy

Among its first public statements on the natural resource sectors and environment, the new Quebec Liberal government announced:

  1. A one-year strategic environmental evaluation study (SEE) of the development of fossil fuels in Quebec to be completed in 2015
  2. The continuation of the strategic environmental evaluation (SEE) of the shale oil potential of the pristine Anticosti Island
  3. A new variant of the previous Charest goverment’s Plan nord,  a key component of the Liberal an economic development plan calling for the development of mining potential in Quebec’s northern most regions
  4. Approvals for small hydro facilities on rivers all over Quebec.

What has become clear with the above and other pronouncements by the Couillard government to date is that it is preparing the terrain with inadequate or smoke screen environmental analyses to facilitate full-tilt fossil fuel and natural resource development in the province.

The Economist: China's going green...but is it fast enough?
China invests $70 billion a year in renewable energy

It will do so without assessing the economic costs and benefits – only paying lip service to the opportunities of the green economy.  With regard to the latter point, China is now the world leader in clean energy technologies, having installed 28 GW of new wind and solar capacity in the single year of 2013 while also being a world leader in electric vehicles. Meanwhile, there are currently 3.5M jobs in the EU green sectors.

Accordingly, in  a May 30, 2014 press release, the Liberal government stated that while it is favourable to the development of fossil fuels in Quebec,  it wanted to assure the population that the environment would be protected and safety would be addressed.

As for the rationalization of its interest in the development of the fossil fuel sectors, the Couillard government argues that while awaiting the shift to a green economy, it’s best that Quebec produce its own fossil fuels, rather than importing them. A rather strange line of reasoning since the prime focus on fossil fuels and other non-renewable resources diverts funds that could otherwise be directed towards to the high-growth and high-job-creation green sectors.

Investing in the green economy would offer better returns on public funds and the logic of Couillard’s yesterday’s economy club could entrench new fossil fuel economic dependencies, thus further impeding the migration to a green economy.

Shale gas and oil moratorium in jeopardy

Quebec currently has a moratorium on shale gas development. But all the signals are that the new Quebec government wants to put an end to this moratorium, under the guise of an environmental report which said that with certain precautions and regulatory tweaking, all will be well. Nothing to worry about.


Indeed, Couillard and company want us to think that a one-year strategic evaluation study (SEE) on the development of fossil fuels in the entire province will be more exhaustive than: 1) the two-and-a-half-year study on the development of the shale gas in the St-Lawrence River valley; and 2) the findings of the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) (the public consultation office on the environment), which is now reviewing shale gas issues a second time.

The reality is that we are just beginning to grasp the horrors of  fracking. It is not environmentally benign by any stretch of the imagination.

Distorting the evidence on fracking impacts

Fracking has been tied to infant congenital heart defects

Fracking involves a reckless collection of secret, corporate-specific chemical cocktails injected into wells ultimately leave us with the “heritage” of have unchecked methane gas emissions escaping from wells long after the drilling has stopped, and serious prospects for water contamination and air pollution.

Some very substantive, scary, empirical evidence is coming to the fore, but, as with the case of the early reports on the impacts of smoking on human health, the private and government lobbies for shale gas development are implying that the absence of hard, one-to-one cause-effect data means the practice of fracking is safe.

Concerning shale oil, the Quebec Liberals said they will be an investment partner with the private sector to explore the shale oil potential on the of the pristine and huge Anticosti Island. The exploration will proceed this summer, long before the Strategic Environmental Evaluation on the matter is completed in 2015!

As for the much-touted economic benefits of the industry, we only have to look south of the border to see that the shale gas sector in the US is going through a boom to bust cycle, because after one has drilled to get to an easy to access sweet spot in a given well, it’s too expensive to go after the rest. US shale oil is on the same path and a decline in shale oil production may come as early as 2016.

Offshore oil development: Old Harry

The Old Harry potential offshore development area is on the Quebec-Newfoundland border, not very far from the Îles-de-la-Madeleine (Magdalen Islands), an area for which the economy is largely about fishing and tourism.

The Couillard government’s interest in this Gulf of St Lawrence play offers further evidence that the Quebec government, very much like the Harper government, is using inadequate environmental analysis processes to fast track approvals for major fossil fuel projects.

Couillard has already indicated he will sign an agreement with Harper for the development of fossil fuels in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.  The 2014-15 Budget confirms this intention.

Old Harry
Proposed offshore oil development at Old Harry (Council of Canadians)

With the possibility of developing Old Harry on the horizon, a 3-year, 800-page strategic environmental evaluation report on the Gulf, published in 2013, highlighted the deficiencies of exploration and development technologies – and the biological and human impacts of spills in the region. These risks are particularly high, given the region is covered with ice for much of the year.  The study concluded that Quebec does not have the capabilities to deal with a tanker spill.

The fishing industry in the Gulf represents $1.5 billion/year and tourism $800 million, while the development of Old Harry site on the Quebec side of the border would only generate about $300 million

While the federal government wishes to increase corporate accident liability in the event of a disaster, from $30 million to $1 billion, it is important to note here that the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe cost more than $40B to clean up.

Quebec as corridor for tar sands exports

Included in the “package” of Coulliard’s gung-ho development of the fossil fuel sectors are favourable views on pipelines running through Quebec to ship tar sands oil for export as well as meet Quebec “needs”.  Such is the case with respect to the TransCanada Energy East pipeline to bring Alberta bitumen to the Cacouna port, in the eastern section of the St-Lawrence River.

In this region, any spill would be devastating to both the fragile beluga population and a dozen important natural marine habitat zones.  A spill during the winter would be especially destructive, since there aren’t any adequate means to clean up bitumen in the presence of ice. It would also be devastating to the tourism industry, with $80 million in annual revenues.

Under the Couillard government – not all that different than the position of BC’s Christy Clark government on pipelines – Quebec would take all the risks as a transportation region for the sake of something in the order of 200 jobs. The main beneficiaries would be the exporters of the bitumen to foreign markets via tankers from Cacouna, carrying 80,000 to 200,000 tons of bitumen.

Quebec’s approach mirrors the expeditious National Energy Board smoke-screen evaluations of pipeline safety, meant to distract citizens from the fact that these evaluations do not include emissions associated with tar sands development and climate change.  No wonder the Federation of Chambers of Commerce in Quebec is happy.

Quebec’s new hydro development

Quebec's Romaine River
Quebec’s Rivière Romaine

Despite Quebec’s surplus electricity capacity, for which hydro power represent 94% of the supply, the new Quebec government favours building more dams – much like the BC Liberal government’s private “run-of-river” policy.

Carried over from the preceding PQ government without any changes proposed by the Liberals, on Hydro Quebec’s, site one finds a glowing synopsis from Hydro-Québec on the 1550 MW Rivière Romaine projects.  The web site informs us that, in the name of sustainable development and clean energy supplies for future generations, the 3 new power stations make sense.  No mention is made of Québec’s electricity surplus or that the Romaine is one of Québec’s last “damable” wild rivers.

Not content with having targeted all of Quebec’s great rivers with high hydro power potential, the new Couillard government has also announced approvals for small hydro facilities on rivers with modest hydro potential.

In this regard, this article  – “10 Things You Should Know About Dams” – offers a global portrait on dams to the effect they are are far less environmentally friendly than their proponents care to admit.

Plan nord, Version 2.0

The Couillard government picks up where Jean Charest left off, with an enhanced version of the former Liberal premier’s Plan nord. What Couillard has not factored into his economic vision is the fact that natural resource prices – relative to the prices of finished products manufactured with these very resources – have been declining for the last half century.

Subsidizing cement factories, cutting electric car budget

Last but not least are the following two amazing decisions of the Couillard government.

First, there is the amazing approval under an Liberal austerity Budget 2014-15 of the Port-Daniel cement facility, in the easternmost part of Quebec – the Gaspésie area. The government allotted $450M to support the $1B project, despite the fact that existing cement factories in Quebec are operating at 60% of capacity.

Moreover, the intention is to use the petecoke residues from petroleum/tar sands bitumen refining as a fuel. Petcoke is cheaper than coal but has much higher emissions.

Second, to keep his promise to the preceding PQ government, Couillard has agreed to maintain the transport electricification initiative. However, unlike the PQ, which allocated $500M for this initiative, the Couillard government has de-funded it, with responsibility transferred to Hydro-Québec. Meanwhile, the Liberals are putting a similar amount of funding into the unnecessary and high-GHG emission Port-Daniel cement plant.

This while China’s BYD is manufacturing electric buses and cars and recently built an electric bus manufacturing plant in California. Meanwhile, two Quebec urban transit commissions – the STM serving the Montreal area and the STO serving the Gatineau area – have run pilots projects with BYD electric buses.

That said, battery manufacturing and electric motor stakeholders in Quebec all have to take a back seat to the top priority given to the mining industry under Plan nord. So does the Volvo-owned Nova Bus urban transit facility in Ste-Eustache, which is working on the development of an electric bus.

A Matter of Priorities

Suffice it to say, with the Quebec Liberals – like BC’s Clark Liberals and Justin Trudeau in his promotion of tar sands exports – the environment is being used like an artificially flavoured candy coating to render projects palatable for public consumption, despite the evidence that their projects are not environmentally sound.

Also reflecting Couillard’s sense of priorities are the nomination of his economic Executive and Cabinet ministers, with the Minister of Finance Carlos Leitao, President of the Treasury Board, Martin Coiteux, and Jacques Daoust, Minister of l’Économie, de l’Innovation et des Exportations (Economy, Innovation and Exports). All of them have strong economic backgrounds.

By contrast, the Minister of Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte aux changements climatiques (Sustainable Development the Environment and Climate Change), David Heurtel, has no background in environmental fields.

As for the Minister of Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (Energy and Natural Resources) Pierre Arcand, he was the Environment Minister in the previous Liberal Charest government, where he played the role of an eternal apologist for weaseling out of the responsibility for defending the environment.

It’s clear that the environment will not play a key role in Philippe Couillard’s government – despite the clear financial benefits of investing in the green economy.

Green jobs see huge growth globally - Why is Canada missing out

Green jobs see huge growth globally: Why is Canada missing out?


Green jobs see big growth

There are those like Stephen Harper who repeatedly say we must choose between economic development and sustainable development.

And there are those who, concerned about the environment and the latest reports from the International Panel on Climate Change, suggest that economic development and sustainable development should be reconciled.  Countries such as Germany are often cited as cases in point.  Most environmental organizations fall into this latter reconciliation category.

Sustainability and economic development go hand in hand

That said, the term reconciliation seems totally out of place when one considers that the green sectors are among the fastest growing and highest job creation sectors of our times and that this growth can only get better as nations adopt more aggressive approaches to fully participate in the new economy.  Moreover, what especially makes this growth attractive is that the green economy is every bit as diversified, if not more so, as Canada’s traditional natural resource-based economy.

Accordingly, rather than the reconciliation of opposing forces, we should be talking about the green economy as the prime focus of Finance, Economic Development and Treasury ministers, supported by a minister responsible for the green economy.  If this “attitude” was to be adopted in Canada, we would be assured of significant progress towards synergistic economic and sustainable development objectives.

Green sectors deliver big job creation, economic development

There are 3.5 million green jobs in the EU and 1.2 million EU jobs in renewables.  Germany’s renewable energy sector alone boasts 382,000 jobs, making it among the largest in that country.

Renewable job growth is so strong, Europe’s  wind sector faces a shortage of about 7000 positions/year.

The Economist: China's going green...but is it fast enough?
China is investing $70 billion a year in renewable energy

Meanwhile, China added a whopping 16.1 gigawatts (GW) of new wind capacity just in 2013, bringing total domestic wind capacity to 91.4 GW.  (To put this in relative terms, Québec’s current entire electricity production capacity is 43 GW).  By 2020, China may reach 200 GW of installed wind capacity along with 500,000 jobs in China’s wind sector.

China also added 12 GW of solar capacity in 2013.  Currently, there are 300,000 jobs in China’s solar photovoltaic domain and another 800,000 in Chinese solar heating and cooling.

Of course, there is much more to the green economy than just clean energy.  The green economy is also about technologies to reduce waste and therefore improve business profits over the long run.  This includes technologies aimed at reducing pollution, toxic by-products, and above all, those technologies which reduce the production of waste at the source, in the manufacturing  process.

Then there are the exceptional opportunities pertaining to the transportation sector. Being nearly entirely dependent on fossil fuels, transport must be seriously revamped.  The right legislative and fiscal frameworks for the auto sector would spur both innovation and new supply chain products and industries.

What is stopping us from working on these high job creation sustainable development solutions?

Time to stop subsidizing fossil fuels

One of the greatest impediments to migrating away from the traditional economy rests with the fact that we continue subsidizing the problem, big time.  Indeed the fossil sectors are the world’s most subsidized.

According to the International Energy Agency, we are subsidizing greenhouse gases at the level of $110/ tonne.

Particularly telling is the data churned out by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on 2011 fossil fuels direct subsidies, plus the costs of externalities – such as the impacts of climate change on infrastructure and pollution on health.  The IMF came up with a global total of $1.9 Trillion/year in subsidies and government costs associated with fossil fuels.  Among nations evaluated by the IMF, Canada shamefully ranked 14th in public subsidies for fossils at $26.4B/year.

Consequently, ending these subsidies would not only level the playing field for more equitable competition from clean technologies, but would also free up financial resources to support the shift to a green economy.

And the payoff is green jobs – lots of them.  That is, a green shift offers 6 to 8 times more jobs for a given unit of investment when compared with government investments in the fossil fuel economy.  To this effect, the BlueGreen Alliance published a report indicating that $1.3 billion in subsidies for the oil and gas sector supports just 2,300 Canadian jobs, while the same amount invested in the green economy would support 18,000 to 20,000 jobs.

Not only does the green economy give a better bang for government bucks, but a green economy is also very unlike a resource-based economy, which concentrates the wealth in the specific geographic areas where the fossil and natural resources are found.  This is to say that a green economy spreads the wealth opportunities all over the country and planet.

The production of clean energy, the manufacturing of clean technologies and the maintenance of clean tech systems can occur in most parts of Canada and around the globe.

Other sources of revenue for a green shift could include auctions of emission credits under a cap and trade scheme, and stiff, progressive penalties for non-compliance on environmental legislation.  Moreover, public banks and export corporations could play a major role in supporting the green economy as is the case in China, Germany, the UK, the EU and Brazil.

Finally, with respect to funding to support the transition to a green economy, it is important to note that both Harper and Trudeau support an exceptionally low corporate tax rate of 15%, a policy that has resulted in $575 billion lying dormant in corporate liquidity – a formula for austerity budgets.

In other words, with a higher corporate tax rate, there would be  plenty of money around to support a fast-forward catch-up to other nations regarding the green economy as well as improvements in job creation, health, child care, innovation and so on.

Removing the roadblocks

The main obstacles in the way to moving to a diversified, high-growth, high-job creation, green economy are our governments and political leaders – incapable of thinking outside of the box.

Indeed, both Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau regard Canada as a natural resource/fossil fuel export economy and place an undue emphasis on tar sands exports, supporting pipelines and trade agreements.  Both seem oblivious to the fact that China and the EU have aggressive green economy policies, with objectives to reduce their dependency on fossil fuel imports.

To a lesser extent, the US has embarked on a similar path.

Both Trudeau and Harper also seem oblivious to the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) conclusion that, “apart from short-term price booms, the ‘terms of trade’ – the price of resource exports relative to manufactured goods – have been falling for more than a century.”  Suffice it to say, neither Harper or Trudeau is prepared for the emerging global green economy – the economy of tomorrow.

Finally, green advocates have got to get out of the paradigm of economic and sustainable development reconciliation and start talking about attractive, green economic development strategies.

Environment, green economy left out of Quebec election

Environment, green economy left out of Quebec election

Environment, green economy left out of Quebec election
The PQ’s Pauline Marois and Pierre Karl Péladeau (Photo: Graham Hughes/CP)

It is not unusual to hear and read about Québécois saying they don’t like any of the four options offered in this election.  What is often referred to as mudslinging/insults – between Philippe Couillard of the Liberals (PLQ); Pauline Marois of the Parti Québécois (PQ); and François Legault of the Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) – has become the main focus on this election campaign.  To her credit, Françoise David of Québec Solidaire (QS) has managed to stay away from the mud.

[quote]Sadly, in this election, there isn’t any party proposing a road map for a prosperous, inclusive and green Quebec.[/quote]

What happened to the issues people care about?

Two leaders’ debates failed to rise above the mudslinging and the all-important issue of health was treated as an organizational or structural challenge.

Worse, the environment is one of the forgotten issues for the 3 main parties.

Only 4% of Québécois consider the Charter of secular values a priority issue, but the Charter has been and continues to be central to the campaign of the PQ, and by ricochet, for the other parties as well.

In the midst of all this, Philippe Couillard is trying to distract attention from the PLQ’s record of corruption and their weak platform by saying that Pauline Marois, if elected, plans on holding a referendum – which two thirds of Québécois don’t want – during her next mandate.  Pauline Marois’s reply is that there will be no referendum until such time as the Québécois are ready, thus providing herself with very elastic time lines.

Sadly, in this election, there isn’t any party proposing a road map for a prosperous, inclusive and green Quebec.  Many Québecois, federalists and independentistes alike – and myself included – feel like orphans in this campaignIn effect, a recent poll gave low marks on “integrity” to all four leaders.

Environment takes back seat to resource economy

For his part, Philippe Couillard’s vision for the economy is a re-run of an old Jean Charest movie to the effect that Quebec will generate much of its new wealth from the mining and export of raw natural resources from northern Quebec – the old economy tunnel vision.

The environment doesn’t even rank as an important election issue for Couillard.

Indeed, Couillard omitted the environment from the moment he submitted his vision as a candidate for the leadership of the Liberals.  For the 2014 election campaign, continuing along the same lines, other than rhetorical messages that resource development practices would respect the environment, the environment gets little to no attention from Couillard – not all that different from Stephen Harper in this regard.

In replaying Jean Charest’s “Plan nord” to pour government money into infrastructure for developing northern resources, Philippe Couillard has simply added a few bells and whistles for a “new and improved” plan.

For its part, the PQ is equally focussed on a resource economy – the economy of the past – and has its own version of a nebulous Plan nord which it pairs with lottery-like, high-risk government investments in shares of shale oil activities for Anticosti Island in the Gulf of the St-Laurent (St-Lawrence River).

The reality is that the UN Conference on Trade and Development has indicated that resource economies are formulae for trade deficits because the price of raw resource exports relative to high-tech manufactured goods has been falling for more than a century.

I am not sure what planet Couillard and Marois live on, but they seem to have not noticed that China, the EU, and even the US, are well-engaged in the emerging global green economy.  In effect, the green sectors are now among the highest job creation sectors of our times. There are currently 3.5M jobs in the EU green sectors, 1.2M jobs in EU renewables and the German green sectors employ more people than the German auto sector.

To be fair, however, Marois, while favouring investing government money in shale oil exploration on Anticosti Island, also claims to be interested in promoting a green economy.  Against the backdrop of Quebec’s emerging electric vehicle industrial base – which  includes manufacturers and developers of batteries; electric motor wheels; urban and intercity electric buses; and charging stations – the PQ platform proposes $517M over 4 years for the electrification of transport.  But in the final analysis, this is a small sum of money that won’t go very far in supporting the electric vehicle sector in Quebec when spread out for charging stations, vehicle rebates, subway and commuter extensions, leaving little for supporting innovation and the development of a local industry.

In any case, it’s hard to say where all the money for Marois’ many electoral promises will come from because Quebec is broke – the cupboard is bare.

Pierre Karl Péladeau and the Charter of Secular Values

Not to be outdone by the Liberal nonsense, the PQ, to make itself attractive to nationalist right wing voters, has offered us its anti-Muslim secular Charter; its draconian greed representative, Pierre Karl Péladeau; and, the icing on the cake, its hysterical, anti-anglo, paranoiac outburst on the invasion by Ontario anglos of Montreal voters’ lists (where there are 2 English, as well as two French, universities).

If one believes the PQ, a miniscule percentage of anglos and non-Christians wearing religious symbols are to blame for Québec’s incapacity to realize its “noble” identity.

The Charter’s purpose is supposedly to promote the equality of the sexes and the neutrality of state by eliminating the wearing of religious symbols by public sector employees – because these symbols are associated with the inferiorization of women and the undermining of government neutrality. Trouble is that the equality of the sexes exists in places like BC and California and the neutrality of their respective state institutions is not undermined by having a female doctor with a headscarf treat a patient.

The Charter is, in effect, political theatre for the purposes of cultivating a sense of fear, while exploiting ignorance of the other/unknown, in the regions of Quebec which have little to no multicultural presence.

On March 31st, in a seemingly desperate attempt to head off criticism regarding years of judicial battles that would follow the adoption of the Charter, Pauline Marois spoke of using the “notwithstanding clause” to permit exemptions from the Quebec and federal charters of rights and freedoms. In reality, in the event of the adoption of the Charter as proposed by the PQ, one should still expect legal battles that go on for years, plus generalized civil disobedience in the greater Montreal area – which represents half of the population of Quebec.

Does Marois plan on building lots of prisons for this battle?

CAQ and QS: The other parties

The CAQ is a Quebec version of the Conservative Party of Canada (CPC), with its plan to reduce the size of government and offer a $1000 reduction in personal taxes.  This CAQ/CPC formula would not only result in a deterioration of government services, it would also lead to greater deficits and consequently further justification for cuts – a vicious circle.

Meanwhile, the QS is focussed on the re-distribution of the wealth and a green Quebec but doesn’t seem to have any interest in, or knowledge about, creating wealth and developing a green economy. QS doesn’t even appear to be aware of the relationship between the green economy and job creation.

Also, as amazing as it may seem, QS is so disconnected that it is unaware that a green economy is as diversified as a resource-based economy and includes nearly every economic sector. Consequently, when the QS says it will finance going green by redistributing the wealth to invest in public transportation for all parts of Quebec, it reflects how naive or inept is the QS.

By way of magic, the QS’ fluffy platform for a green and equitable Quebec suggests these goals require an independent Quebec.  With only 9-10% of the vote in Quebec, it may be argued that the QS stands a better chance of realizing its re-distribution of wealth and green objectives by joining with progressives from the rest of Canada.

Moreover, addressing the green economy challenges is like addressing the challenges of poverty and as such does not lend itself to the short wish list of QS generalities.  Rather, a holistic approach is required so that a wide range of measures can converge in a synergistic manner to produce transformative change.  A combination of fiscal and legislative initiatives, policies, programs and projects, incentives/disincentives and other related measures are essential for a successful migration to a green economy.

Four bad choices

In the final analysis, for progressives with their feet on the ground, all four parties are unattractive.

As for which party is more corrupt or deficient in integrity – the PLQ or PQ – under the circumstances, it doesn’t really matter.  Unless, of course, one feels the choice boils down to a corrupt federalist party versus a corrupt “independantiste” party.

Accordingly, whatever the results on April 7th, a word of caution about the pundits’ explanations of the results:  don’t buy any of it.  Too many will not have voted for something they want.

While Tom Mulcair has made some hints about the creation of a provincial NDP party in Quebec,for those wanting an option offering a path to a prosperous, inclusive and green economy, there isn’t anything available for April 7, 2014.

Justin Trudeau-Just another Con man

Justin Trudeau: Just another “Con” man?

Justin Trudeau-Just another Con man
Justin Trudeau addresses a progressive think tank in Washington, DC (photo: Chip Somodevllla/Getty)

Justin Trudeau wants to project a young, fresh face, representing all the good things that Canadians want – a man who would do politics differently.  But the gap between reality and fairytale is extraordinary.

If one looks at what he has said to date, one finds a man with tired old ideas;  a limited understanding of, and sensitivity for, many major issues; and a puppet serving Bay Street, Big Oil and other powerful interests. The same powerful interests served by the Harper administration.

A middle class fairy tale

Most telling is Trudeau’s supposed concern for the middle class.  Though 80% of Canadians have seen their revenues decline or stagnate over the last 3 decades – income inequalities are at an all time extreme – Trudeau, like Stephen Harper, has concluded that low corporate taxes are the way to go for maintaining what they perceive to be a prosperous and rich Canada.

But Trudeau goes one step further to the right than Harper.  He has repeatedly expressed the view that now is not the time to lower the corporate tax rate, implying that, at a later time, a lower corporate tax rate could be an option.

To put all this in context,  the lowering of corporate tax began with the Liberals and was accelerated by the Conservatives.  The result is that: 1) At 15%, Canada has the lowest corporate tax rate in the G8; and 2) approximately $575B lies dormant in corporate liquidity.

Together, these factors imply that having the lowest corporate tax offers very few competitive advantages and that a better distribution of the wealth could be achieved with higher corporate taxes and fewer fiscal escape clauses/deductions.  The additional accrued revenues could be invested in economic development and regional diversification; youth employment; health; innovation for the jobs of tomorrow; public transportation and other urban infrastructure; day care –  to name just a few examples.

Further on this theme, Kevin Page, the former Parliamentary Budget Officer, concluded that a low corporate tax rate limits government manoeuvrability to that of austerity budgets.

In his own clumsy fashion, Trudeau has confirmed Kevin Page’s analysis in that he recognizes that the Liberal Party of Canada’s (LPC’s) own Harper-like policies on wealth distribution would produce Harper-like results. To be more specific, to prepare Canadians for such an eventuality, or the “necessity” of this Bay Street accommodation, Trudeau has indicated that the post election LPC budget could  very well be an austerity budget.

In other words, there is a disconnect between Trudeau’s supposed concern about the middle class and reality. In the absence of any serious attempt at redistribution of the wealth – something in which Trudeau appears not to believe in – he can only offer a middle class fairy tale.  This is a backdrop for many Trudeau’s positions on other issues.

No wonder Justin has described income splitting as “a decent idea”, even though 85% of Canadians would receive no benefit, while the majority of the top 1% of income earners would get $6500 and up.  So much for his preoccupation with the middle class.

Appeasing Big Oil, denying science

Turning to the environment, once again Trudeau has much more in common with Harper than most think, particularly when it comes to the denial of scientific evidence. It’s high time to debunk the myths about Trudeau’s “concerns” in this domain.

Trudeau’s position on Keystone XL is case in point.  According to Justin, the opposition to Keystone XL to transport tar sands bitumen to the US Golf coast is not based on scientific evidence.  Yet life-cycle emissions related to tar sands – from the extraction stage to the refining and production of major quantities of the by-product pet coke for use as a cheap, dirty fuel; and to the final consumption as fuels – place tar sands-derived substances in the range of 20% to 25% more emissions than those associated with conventional petroleum.

As if this extreme denial is not enough to put Trudeau in the same Big Oil camp as Harper, Trudeau has also complimented Premier Redford for promoting Keystone XL with references to Canada’s good environmental record!  Trudeau has been critical of Harper for not doing the same – despite Harper’s disastrous environmental legacy.

This is absolutely astounding!  After Harper’s dismantling of environmental protection legislation, weakening of the environmental impact analysis process, muzzling scientists, decimation of Canada’s environmental research capabilities especially as it relates to the impacts of climate change and the monitoring of Canada’s emissions, pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol,  and much much more, Trudeau, like Harper, perceives the environment as a PR challenge rather than a Mother Earth/humanity state of health challenge.

But the denial doesn’t stop there.  Trudeau bases part of his support for Keystone XL, as is the case with Stephen Harper, on the recent US Dept of State report which suggests that the environmental impacts pertaining to the approval of Keystone XL will be minimal.

Never mind that this report was written by authors close to the petroleum industry who concluded that if the US cannot import unrefined tar sands derivatives, the US would get it’s petroleum from elsewhere.

Never mind that a rejection of Keystone  XL would be a US and global game-changer, sending a clear signal to the globe that the US is serious about reducing its dependency on fossil fuels and will be looking to clean tech to address tomorrow’s energy needs.

Indeed, under these circumstances, it should come as no surprise that Trudeau did not distant himself from Jean Chrétien’s January 2014 remarks to the effect that it makes no sense to restrict tar sands development because we are going to need petroleum for a long time to come.

Falling behind Europe on emissions reduction, green economy

And the denial goes a notch higher when it comes to Trudeau’s views on national solutions to address climate change.  In keeping with the Liberals’ conciliatory legacy with Big Oil, this time, in reference to cap and trade, he claims that this environmental concept doesn’t have scientific merit. (Cap and trade is a model which penalizes companies that exceed their emissions limits and rewards companies that reduce emissions below their targets by being able to sell their credits to firms in the proceeding category.)

Never mind that Europe has had an Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) since 2005 and that the ETS has proven to be a potent compliment to other environmental policies. The results are such that at least 25 EU nations have been identified as likely to meet or beat the EU target 20% reduction of emissions by 2020, relative to 1990 levels.

Never mind that Germany has exceeded it’s Kyoto Protocol goal of a 21% reduction in emissions by 2012 with an achievement of a 25% reduction, all while having one the world’s strongest economies and a clean tech sector that has become bigger than the German auto sector.

Never mind that China has become the world’s largest investor in clean tech – with $67.7B and $61.3B invested in renewables in 2012 and 2013, respectively – and is now planning to introduce the first of seven pilot cap and trade schemes in Shenzhen.

As a former Government of Canada employee who worked in the field of sustainable development, it comes as no surprise that Trudeau’s “thinking” on Big Oil is both conciliatory and wishy-washy.  Emissions spiked up during the previous Liberal reign – as has been the case with the Conservatives at the helm.

The Liberals’ oil-friendly legacy

This LPC legacy was so because of, among other things: 1) the absence of effective legislative and fiscal measures; 2) the party’s continuation of generous subsidies for the fossil fuel sectors; and 3) a fossil fuel-friendly mindset as reflected in the Stéphane Dion proposal, prior to the Liberals’ defeat, to invest billions of government funds in the fossil fuel industry to help that “impoverished” sector reduce its emissions.

It is becoming increasingly evident that Trudeau is vague as to his environmental plans because of his alignment with Big Oil, a longstanding Liberal tradition.

By contrast, Thomas Mulcair advocates a transfer of subsidies from the fossil fuel sectors to the clean tech.

Poor judgement, top-down leadership and Harper similarities

Further on the denial of science,  but in a different context, is the matter of the unusually long time – over a year – that it is taking for Health Canada to approve for use in Canada the drug  Mifepristone (a.k.a. RU-486), the abortion drug.  This, despite the fact that the drug has been in use around the world since 1988, when it was first approved in France.

Given the views on abortion of the minister in question, Rona Ambrose, the delays are suspect. But all Justin Trudeau could say on the exceptional delays is that he is not a medical expert.  Imagine the implications of him being in power with his weak judgement, when this is combined with his not wanting to upset Big Pharma and right wing groups.

Equally telling on Trudeau’s poor judgement and flippancy, was his “performance” on the Radio-Canada TV show Tout-le-monde-en-parle, on Feb 23, 2014.  The Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada, Vadym Prystaiko, quite aptly called for Trudeau to apologize for his “joke” on the show to the effect that Vladimir Putin would not be in a good mood to discuss the Ukrainian turn of events  because of the defeat of the Russian men’s hockey team in Sochi.  As the Ambassador said, 82 deaths in the clashes between security forces and the demonstrators is no laughing matter.

Trudeau’s lightweight Senate proposal

As for the Senate, I have saved this for near the end because I think we should go beyond the scandals of the moment, to the stuff that has implications for all Canadians. Let’s get real. The case has yet to be made as to why a different Senate, made up of unelected officials and appointed by another group of unelected officials, would improve Canadian democracy.  More important, with Senate retirements not mandatory until age 75, it means it would take at least two decades before this so-called different Senate would take shape.

Add to the Trudeau Senate cocktail the way in which he went about springing the news on “Independent” former Liberal Senators. Here one discovers Harper-style, top-down leadership, with no consultations outside a small inner circle. Due to the absence of internal consultation, Trudeau not only surprised Liberal Senators, but his entire caucus!  Or is this another case of poor and gratuitous judgement?

Justin opposes divisive politics – except when it suits him

While Justin Trudeau presents himself as a uniter, not a divider like Harper and Quebec Premier Pauline Marois, delegates at the Feb 2014 national convention in Montreal expressed the view that a Marois majority would help the party gain votes in BC and Ontario. In other words, the LPC hopes for a PQ majority in order to falsely represent the LPC in English Canada as the saviour of national unity. This is wedge politics that places party interests above national interests in order to target specific regional voters. This is the kind of traditional LPC trick that turns off Québécois.

No wonder only 10% of the LPC delegates at their convention in Montreal, Quebec were from Quebec.

During the orange wave in Quebec, the NDP gains were in part the result of former Bloc voters shifting over to the federalist NDP.  This is the way to unite Canadians, by presenting a progressive alternative for all parts of Canada – with the same themes/messages in every region of the country.

Trudeau and Harper: Other similarities

Finally, there are a host of other matters where we find Trudeau and Harper very much on the same page – such as Trudeau’s views that: 1) the sale of Nexen would pave the way for free trade with China and a more prosperous middle class; 2) health is primarily a management issue, rather than a financial challenge; and 3) guns are an integral part of Canadian culture.

Summing up the LPC policy positions to-date, it is clear is that Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau are on the same Bay Street/Wall Street, Big Oil team.

Why would we expect anything different from Justin in 2015?