Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Future…My Way

How are you…you envoy of democracy? Did you have a nice chat with one of your political reps? Send them an email? No?!

Democracy in Action Made Easy
Try this, it’s easy. AVAAZ is meeting up with German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel in Potsdam, Germany on Thursday with a petition that could have your name on it. The environment ministers of the G-8 are getting together in Potsdam, and AVAAZ is asking them to get real serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Now Sigmar seems pretty savvy to the environmental crisis so this shouldn’t be a hard sell. It’s not too late to include your name but you must act fast. Visit http://www.avaaz.org/en/climate_action_germany/av.php and let Sigmar and the whole lot of them know!

Wouldn't it be Great If....
What a week for thinking! I’m reading Fueling the Future an interesting collection of essays from businesspeople, academics and advocates connected to the energy sector. One of the essays is “The Dawn of the Hydrogen Economy”, written by Jeremy Rifkin. Jeremy’s all excited because he envisions a future where, thanks to hydrogen, cars become mini generators that can light up homes and pump energy back into the grid. This is highly revolutionary. It would enable folks to become energy producers, no longer dependent on big corporations, thereby democratizing the very thing that we have come to need. Energy – more specifically electricity and fuel. And clean electricity and fuel at that.

Now hydrogen is not without its problems, something I will devote attention to in my next installment (stay tuned), but the essay excited me because it supports what I feel to be the right direction in reducing our carbon footprint: moving away from concentrated energy production, such as coal fire plants and nuclear facilities, and towards dispersed production, such as turbines and solar panels on businesses and homes, and from wind and solar farms, biomass and geothermal.

Of course, homes and businesses must be made energy efficient with new ones built with low impact and zero toxic materials. I see most buildings and homes with some form or combination of renewable energy sources to satisfy some if not all their energy needs. Wind and solar farms would supply the remaining energy. I see power literally in the hands of you and me.

First of all such a scenario would dramatically reduce the stress we place on the grid, making blackouts and brownouts a problem of the past. Second, it would make homeowners and businesses energy producers, not only reducing utility bills but providing them with a bit of income. Third, it would provide the majority of people of the planet with energy that they can easily capture.

My Chat with Gord Miller
While at the Kyoto rally last Sunday, I met up with Gord Miller, Ontario’s Environment Commissioner. I told him about my vision for renewable energy sources in every home and business because I wanted to know if there was any real movement towards this and what the obstacles were. He took my vision another step further. We looked around Nathan Phillip’s Square, a large outdoor space at Toronto City Hall. He pointed out potential micro wind turbines that could be on buildings and lining the street.

But there is a problem. Ontario is committing $40 billion to build new nuclear facilities and not enough to true renewable energy sources. Gord explained that the Canadian Nuclear Association is a very powerful organization with full time staff to advocate against wind, solar, geothermal and biomass, claiming that they cannot meet the future demand for energy (certainly not with $40 billion assigned to nuclear). I responded that surly environmental groups are countering this lobby effort. He said that while these groups are good at pointing out the serious pitfalls of nuclear, they are not doing a good enough job in providing alternative solutions.

He also pointed out that it is very difficult to motivate homeowners and industry to conserve energy and invest in efficiency retrofits when the provincial government fixes the price of electricity.

Renewable energy needs money – enough to make it viable for you and me to come up with the capital costs and see a quick turn around in capital recovery.

Gord told me that this nuclear deal does have an Achilles heel. The government may not be able to come up with the money to pay for it. That’s right, nuclear might collapse from its own weight.
I wish Ontario would take a chance. It’s not as if it would be working on blind faith. It can follow Denmark’s example and commit to renewable energy. Subsidize the industry until the market takes off. And make it financially viable for people to make their older homes energy efficient. Is this too much to ask?

For an account on the tomfoolery around Ontario’s past energy decisions, check out Hydro: The Decline and Fall of Ontario's Electric Empire, by Jamie Swift & Keith Stewart. The craziness seems to be ongoing.

In the News

Green Bloggers

Ecoshock

Grist Magazine

Tree Hugger

Zerofootprint Blog

StopGlobalWarming.org

BBC – The Greenroom

New York Times – Environment

2 comments:

Deborah said...

Hi Cheryl,

My name is Deborah Kaplan. I'm the executive director of Zerofootprint, a site you mentioned in your blog.We are also based in Toronto. I'd like to connect with you. How can I reach you? Please email me at info@zerofootprint.net.
Many thanks,
Deborah

Deborah said...

HI Cheryl,

We love your blog. I'd like to connect with you. My name is Deborah Kaplan. I am the executive director of Zerofootprint. We are a not-for-profit based in Toronto. How can I reach you? Please let me know; send an email to me at info@zerofootprint.net.