Tag Archives: The Tyee

Low-Energy Homes Mean Thousands of New Jobs


From The Tyee – Jan 27, 2011

by Monte Paulsen

Thirty-two years elapsed between the invention of the Saskatchewan Conservation House and the erection of Austria House in Whistler (structures this series profiled in the previous two stories).

Canada’s second certified Passivhaus was
completed just a year later. And a dozen more Canadian Passivhaus
projects are underway.

Passivhaus buildings — which include
schools, offices, apartments as well as a growing number of renovated
structures — use 90 per cent less energy for heating and cooling than
conventionally built buildings. Since buildings consume up to half of
all energy in North America, the prospect of a 90 per cent reduction
poses what green building advocates believe is the most affordable way to reduce energy costs and slash the emission of greenhouse gasses.

Europe has embraced the idea. The continent
already has more than 25,000 Passivhaus certified buildings. And by
2020, every new building in the European Union must be a “near zero
energy building.” With that shift has come a steep rise in new green
construction jobs.

Given that both the City of Vancouver and
the Province of British Columbia have committed to cutting greenhouse
gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020, it’s worth asking: Is B.C. ready
for Passivhaus building codes?

Read article


Environment Low on Agendas of Lib Leader Candidates


From TheTyee.ca – Jan 21, 2011

by Andrew MacLeod

Environmental issues were prominent in the 2009
election, with Premier Gordon Campbell’s carbon tax giving him claim to
the green high ground over the Carole James-led NDP which campaigned to
axe a tax many environmentalists supported.

While there are varying opinions on whether
those positions made a difference to either side’s results, less than
two years later none of the candidates to replace Campbell appear ready
to pick up the green agenda.

Indeed, there have been few mentions of
environmental issues in the Liberal race. Former cabinet minister and
recent talk radio host Christy Clark has mentioned the green technology sector and jobs. Others have staked out where they stand on the carbon tax, with Kevin Falcon pledging to freeze it after 2012 and George Abbott saying he would hold a referendum on whether or not to freeze it.

But nobody in the running to be the next premier has really claimed the issue.

As Nathan Cullen, a federal NDP member of
parliament who considered entering the race to replace James heading the
BC NDP sees it, “The Liberals are running scared away from Campbell’s
climate change work, some of which needs to be enhanced and continued.”

And environmentalists — some of whom are
encouraging people to join the parties and try to sway the campaigns —
are wondering whether there will be anyone to support in the Liberal

Read full article


Tar Sands Oil Some of World’s Dirtiest: Report


From TheTyee.ca – Jan 14, 2011

Findings counter studies that put bitumen’s carbon footprint slightly higher than regular crude.

A report
by a major global research group representing the world’s 10 largest
car buying markets has concluded that Canada’s bitumen is one of the
world’s dirtiest oils due to its poor quality, low gravity and the vast
amount of natural gas needed to enrich it.

The study for the International Council on
Clean Transportation (ICCT), which looked at the carbon intensity of oil
from 3,000 fields now supplying European gasoline markets, also concluded that increasing reliance on dirty fuels will raise greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent above that of conventional oils.

The findings of the ICCT, a group that does
technical research on the environmental performance of automobiles,
contradicts modeling studies
funded by the Alberta government and the oil sands industry which claim
that bitumen has only a five to 15 per cent higher carbon footprint
than conventional crude.

The study calculated the amount of green
house gas emissions created by extracting, moving and refining different
types of crude oil based on specific characteristics including weight,
viscosity, purity, age of the field, leaks and the flaring of waste
gases. (About 20 per cent of oil’s carbon footprint comes from the
production and refining process: the rest comes from cars burning

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Report from the Edge of BC’s Copper Rush


From TheTyee.ca – Jan 13, 2011

By Christopher Pollon

The province’s northwest is slated for a mining boom. A visitor to
those remote parts finds ambition and dread, natural wonders and
billions at stake. Part one of two.

Way up above the headwaters of the Iskut River, in an
alpine meadow bursting with August wildflowers, eight demon-horned rams
appear suddenly.

The two parties — two humans and eight Stone’s sheep — all freeze on the spot, eyes locked. Paul Colangelo, a wildlife photographer hoping for just this luck, drops to the ground, crawling over a ridge and out of sight.

The Stone’s sheep he pursues are the
charismatic mega-fauna of Todagin Mountain in the upper Stikine River
watershed (see map below). Elite hunters
from all over the globe come here every year, about 1,700 kilometres
north of Vancouver, paying upwards of $30,000 for the opportunity to
take down a single ram, a cull considered sustainable in these parts
because the sheep are more abundant here than anywhere else.

They are equally numerous directly to the
northeast, which also happens to be the site of Imperial Metal
Corporation’s ongoing summer drill program at its proposed Red Chris
open pit copper/gold mine. The company has five drilling teams working
all out, and word in the valley is they are finding more gold the deeper
they drill; but as with everything I hear about mining ventures this
summer spent exploring B.C.’s northwest, it’s hard to separate fact from
cash-lubricated fiction.

While Colangelo chases sheep, I climb to
the summit to scan the valley below (see video, below): three
cigar-shaped, impossibly-blue lakes connected by the braided, meandering
Iskut seem to encompass the entire valley bottom. Skirting their edge
is the single-track Stewart Cassiar Highway; out of sight to the east,
not far from where I stand, are the collective headwaters of the Nass,
Stikine and Skeena rivers.

I’m returning to this area after a year’s
absence, during which time the optimism has returned to the northwest
mining and exploration community, thanks to a massive provincial and
federal infrastructure subsidy that will see
the electrical grid extended into this remote corner of B.C. Cheap
grid power promises to make economical many of the low-grade copper
deposits that have been known about for many decades, but “sterilized”
due to remote geography.

Read full article


Harper’s Pipeline Nightmare


What kind of year in politics is 2011 going to be? Very
likely another year (or at least ten months) of gridlock at the federal
level, with no sign of any so-called game changer on the horizon.

A spring election is looking less likely as
the Conservatives try to make a deal with the NDP — swapping its
support for the budget for increased support for seniors and hopefully a
halt to scheduled corporate tax cuts. Harper seems resigned to
remaining a minority government and doesn’t want an election. Canadians
are no more willing to give him a majority today than they were last
year or in the last election. As soon as a Harper majority appears
possible, a whole whack of voters change their minds and the
Conservatives go back to their maximum maintainable level of 36-38 per

So if there is so little meaningful action
on the parliamentary political front, we should look to
extra-parliamentary politics for action. And here the movement seems to
defy the polls. Because while environmental issues are still taking a
back seat to economic ones, it is on the environmental front that stuff
is actually happening. While the media seem to focus on the lack of
action on climate change, other enviro issues are witnessing intense
activity and campaigning by dozens of groups.

They have demonstrated that Stephen Harper,
a man who doesn’t like to blink, can be defeated when opponents fight
smart and are in for the long haul. The rejection of the B.C. Prosperity
copper-gold mine proposal and the saving of Fish Lake was a good
example. Approving the mine in the face of very effective publicity on
the part of opponents proved just too much for even Stephen Harper to
pull off. Defying many of the pundits’ predictions, the Conservatives
backed off and actually listened to their own environmental review

Coming down the pipe

While the fight isn’t over yet, Harper
faces another major defeat and it will happen this year. He will
confront another Fish Lake-like decision, except this time it is a much
bigger issue: the so-called Northern Gateway project, Enbridge
Corporation’s plan to construct a 1,200 kilometre pipeline (across 1,000
streams and rivers) that would carry unrefined bitumen from the tar
sands to Kitimat on the West Coast. That would result in some 200
supertankers a year loading the stuff up and taking it to markets in the
U.S. and Asia through the pristine and treacherous waters off the B.C.

Read full article here



Farmlands on the Brink: Tsawwassen’s Southlands


Hemmed in by Delta to the east, Point Roberts to the
south and the Salish Sea to the west, Southlands is a 538-acre farm that
has been in the middle of a tug-of-war between developers and farmland
defenders for nearly four decades.

The president of the development company
that owns Southlands has proposed a plan that he says could serve both
interests equally. Proponents argue that it could serve as a model for a
new form of planning — agricultural urbanism — where people and farms
can co-exist. Opponents fear it will only drive up the prices of
already expensive, and scarce, farmland in the region.

Read the full Tyee article here


Prestigious Journal Calls Oil Sands an ‘Environmentalist’s Nightmare’


The prestigious scientific journal Nature is urging scientists to
speak out against the environmental impacts of Alberta’s oil sands.

“It would be unrealistic to expect that we could harvest fossil fuels or minerals without an effect on the environment,” reads an editorial
in this week’s issue. “But the fast development of the tar sands,
combined with weak regulation and a lack of effective watchdogs, have
made them an environmentalist’s nightmare.”

Since the 1990s, greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands
extraction have declined 30 percent per barrel, the journal notes. And
ongoing University of Alberta research to reduce water impacts is a
positive step, it reads.

On the surface, Nature’s editorial argues, Alberta
government regulations appear to be tough on industry. Large companies
have to pay $15 per tonne on each tonne of carbon they emit over a
certain limit and mined lands and tailings ponds must legally be

“But many of these rules are weaker than they seem,” the editorial argues.

Read full Tyee article here


Why Is Canada Freezing out Geothermal Power?


Canadians are some world’s best at advanced exploration
and drilling technologies. Not surprisingly, members of the Canadian
Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA) also produce more than 20 per cent
of the world’s geothermal energy. They just don’t do it here. The
almost complete absence of government support means that all of this
green energy infrastructure in being installed somewhere else. That’s
right — the total geothermal energy capacity in Canada is zero. 

That is a shame, considering that
geothermal energy is a clean, continuous base-load power whose source is
the virtually unlimited heat from our planet’s interior. Unlike other
renewables such as wind or solar, geothermal plants can operate 24 hours
a day, rain or shine. 

While the upfront costs for geothermal can be considerable, it is ultimately very cheap energy. According to CanGEA chair and founder Alison Thompson, “it has the lowest levelized cost of any power source in the world, even coal.”

Canada’s advantage

Thompson points out the ironic reason
Canadians are so good at geothermal is because there has been so much
focus here on fossil fuel extraction. “I come from the oil patch. We
have developed enormous expertise in advanced exploration and drilling
techniques. These are exactly the skills you need to develop geothermal

So if Canadians are among the best
geothermal experts in the world, why aren’t they doing business here?
“Most of our membership are die-hard Canadian entrepreneurs, but they
are forced to operate in other countries because there is so little
support for the industry here. We are just so frustrated that it doesn’t
need to be like this.”

Read full Tyee article here


The Tyee: Welcome to Farm School


“The agriculture that we should bring about substantially is local
scale, human intensive, ecologically sound,” says Dr. Kent Mullinix from
Kwantlen Polytechnic University. The director of Sustainable Agri-food
Systems acknowledges that, “The fact of the matter is this post
industrial agri-food system is going to require a lot of people, in
particular a lot of farmers.”

Mullinix references the work of Richard
Heinburg from the Post Carbon Institute whose research suggests that the
United States will need up to 50 million new farmers to work the land
and feed the people in a post carbon world. That’s roughly 17 per cent
of the current population. Applying that number to British Columbia
suggests that three quarters of a million of us will need to take up the
hoe. At the moment, I’m feeling woefully unprepared.

Read full Tyee article here


$1.7 Billion and Rising: Taxpayers’ Gas Bill for Oil Sands


Alberta’s oil sands extractors’ use of natural gas,
already voracious and set to rise steeply, is more than half paid for by
Canadian taxpayers — a vast yet little-known subsidy that insiders say
encourages profligate consumption of a finite energy source. The numbers are huge. Oil sands operations
currently consume about one billion cubic feet of gas per day, heating
thick bitumen so it can be extracted from surrounding rock and gravel.
This reverse-alchemy eats up about 20 percent of Canada’s natural gas demand and may balloon to 40 per cent by 2035. Read more of Tyee article here