Contributed by Paul Gagnon © 2018
The U. of C’s School of Public Policy group is sponsoring a forum on June 06, 2018, entitled “Bridging Divides: In Search of Sound Public Policies for Energy and Environment in Canada,” to discuss what Canada’s energy policy should be. Energy allows us the standard of life we enjoy, mass production or import of fresh vegetables and heated homes in the winter, air conditioning during the summer, and mobility – driving or flying. And energy abounds in many forms, fossil fuels such as coal and gasoline, and electrical – produced by hydro power, nuclear, solar, wind, or fossil fuels. Before deciding on a public policy, we should try to agree on certain principles.
Availability – energy, in all its forms, must be available to satisfy our needs. Canada is a vast country, sparsely populated, with an unforgiving climate. Lack of energy at a critical time could be life threatening.
Affordable – energy is of little value if one cannot afford to buy it. Our standard of living, jobs and industry needs energy at the lowest possible cost – if other countries can supply their needs for less, industry will migrate there. Some Germans have been forced to decide between food and heat because of their rising energy costs.
Equality – the rules for one form should be equal to others. For instance, emission standards for imported fuels should equate to domestic sourced. And to tax or subsidize one differently than an alternate must meet a defined need and goal.
Safety – production, transmission, and use of energy must be done as safely as possible. We’ve had past disasters such as the Ocean Ranger (1982 oil exploration – 84 dead) and the Springhill (1958 coal mine – 39 dead), but eternal vigilance is in order. It was but 5 years ago that 47 were killed at Lac Magantic P.Q. with a runaway train carrying American crude oil. And safety encompasses emissions harmful to human health, such as sulphur-dioxide, nitrous oxide, and particulates.
Regulated – the field of energy is very complicated, in science, in risk, and in costing. Both new and existing facilities need close scrutiny by the best possible minds solely dedicated to that task. Any over-ride of their expert decisions must be done only in the rarest circumstances.
Canadian –supplying and transporting energy creates jobs, taxes and wealth. With everything being equal, Canada should be supplying our energy – which means equal rules for foreign and domestic. We’ve recently had different emission regulations for oil supplied by the proposed Energy East than that imported, and a tanker ban for the Pacific Northwest, but not the St. Lawrence!
The contentious issue is that of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a greenhouse gas (GHG). The theory, proposed by a United Nations committee, is that the burning of fossil fuels which creates CO2, causes a buildup in the atmosphere and traps heat, ultimately causing the earth to warm, and the effects are dire. Think of the earth as a house, the CO2 is extra insulation, and the sun is the furnace. Inherent in this theory are a number of assumptions: grappling with the actions of water vapor, the sun’s heat being constant, the bad effects are greater than the benefits, and past climate changes, caused by nature, can be ignored.
Dr. Dick Thones “Views on the Influence of CO2 on Climate”
C02 is a trace gas in the atmosphere, but one molecule out of 2500. Another GHG is water vapor, which acts like CO2, but varies immensely in quantity from the humid tropics do the dry deserts and poles – as high as 4 percent (100 times as much CO2) to less than one percent. Both capture heat from the sun with, in part, over-lapping portions of the electro-magnetic wave. Hence, the theory that CO2 will cause the earth to heat, requires assuming both the effects and volumes of water vapor in a changing climate.
Svante Arrhenius 1906 paper.
Also implicit is the assumption that the sun heat is constant. Recent studies have noted that the sun’s heat varies with the number of sun spots, and the sun now has fewer and is less active – hence less heat.
The third assumption of this theory is that more CO2 and a warmer planet is bad. CO2 is a plant food, and increased CO2 makes plants, not only grow faster, but requiring less water. Are the recent record grain crops only due to more fertilizer and genetic modifications?
The fourth assumption of this theory is the current climate is the ideal, and one that we must fight to maintain. Geology tells us the earth has been much warmer, and much colder in the past. Both science (ice cores) and history tell us that we were much warmer 1000 years ago, when the Vikings settled Greenland, only to be chased out during the “little ice age” (1300 – 1850) – long before industrialization yielded CO2.
The atmosphere is global and any solution must also be global. Some of the nations, including Canada, agreed to cut their CO2 emissions with the Paris Agreement. Both China and India, two huge emitters, are exempt until 2030, and the USA has announced withdrawal. So, no matter what Canada does to cut its CO2, the world will continue to add it to the atmosphere. See: International Energy Agency 2017 – Summary of Global Energy and CO2 Status
With Canada imposing a “carbon” tax, and its biggest trading partner (USA) rejecting hurting their economy with a carbon tax, our peoples and our industry have an unfair handicap in paying higher prices for energy – electricity, gasoline and natural gas. The end result will be a much lower standard of living for Canadians.
The current public policy is one to accede to the Paris Accord, cutting our CO2 emissions drastically, much to our detriment, and not succeeding in the task of lowering global CO2. That is what the debate should be about.
See: Just the Facts on Paris Agreement.
Paul Gagnon P. Eng. has been involved in the petroleum industry since 1959, and served on both the Parliamentary committees of Science & Technology, and Energy; as a M.P.
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