Monday, December 8, 2008

The Death of an Issue

With the global economic crisis, climate change is completely off of the table as an important issue.

Even in Canada, where the crisis is actually not a horror show, no one is talking about climate change.

The price of oil has fallen significantly, it is trading only marginally above $40 a barrel at the moment. The costs of using fossil fuels has fallen far enough that there are no economic signals out there making businesses want to use other cleaner but higher priced fuels.

In BC we have the odd situation of the pro-business Liberals being much more proactive on climate change issues than the NDP which likes to call itself a pro-environment party. The NDP are opposed to both the carbon tax and new green power production. Politically this will likely mean the end of new action on climate change in BC.

On the federal level there is no agreement from anyone on a way forward on climate change, but everyone has stopped talking about it since Stephane Dion did so badly with his Green Plan.

In the US there is no talk of Obama taking any action on the issue.

The global downturn will slow greenhouse gas emissions, but nothing will be in place to deal with the spike that will come in 2010. As the downturn ends in the US and Europe, there will be increased demand for fossil fuels as the economy expands. This means that in 2012, global greenhouse gas emissions will be higher than ever and higher than predicted.

The reality is that governments are going to have to move towards large scale carbon capture and storage in the 2010s. A new Kyoto will focus on not on reducing emissions, but on how much CO2 countries will capture and store. One of the goals will be to get countries to remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than they emit.

Carbon capture and storage will require governments to have carbon taxes to raise the money to be able to remove the CO2 from the air. Governments will have to figure out what it costs to capture and store and then pass on the costs.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The problem with Kyoto and such

Climate change issues have to be dealt with on a policy level by economists and not climate scientists. The role for climate scientists is to measure what is happening with as much accuracy as is possible but not to design and implement policy.

Policies have to be measured as to what sort of impact they have on society and the single best way to measure the impact on society is to measure the economic costs and benefits. Every policy has an impact and it needs to be quantified. Not doing something will in some cases be cheaper than doing something. All the policy options can not be enacted, so they need to be measured against each other and the ones that make the most sense are the ones that need to be enacted.

There needs to be an active international process to measure the policies. There is nothing better than using something like the Copenhagen consensus. An active debate before a panel to try and come to some agreement as to the best course is a good way.

More regulation and an attempt to reduce consumption is not going to bring positive results. Most policies are oriented towards these directions and are doomed to failure and cause more problems than they solve.

Solutions have to be focused on what will increase GDP, they have to be ones that can show measurable benefits to society. Everything says that the only real solution is to price green house gasses.

Pricing green house gasses is the only way to go that makes any rational economic sense. By putting a price on C02 of $30 to $60 a tonne, $700 to $1500 a tonne for methane and $9000 to $20 000 per tonne of nitrous oxide. Putting these sort of dollar figures on production of the gasses will make a significant difference to the cost of production of many things. The cost added to a pound of beef would be about 17 cents.

Adding the costs to the products by charging for the GHG emisions will cause businesses to figure out how not to emit them, consumers will seek lower priced alternatives.

If there is then a market for people to get paid for removing CO2 and other GHGs, there will be businesses working on how to capture and store the CO2. The more companies doing it, the better the technology and the cheaper the prices will get.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How many more cars are coming?

The November 15th issue of The Economist has a 20 age centre section on cars in emerging markets. If you can get a copy to read, do so as it is illuminating.

Here are some factoids that come out of it.

  • Even though 2008 is likely to be the worst year for total cars sold in the US since 1982, it will still set a global record for cars sold of about 59 000 000 cars.
  • Total cars sales in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will equal US sales this year at 14 000 000. In 2001 total sales in the BRICs was 4 000 000 cars.
  • There were 600 million cars on the road in 2005. In 2020 this will be 1.1 billion, 2030 it will be 1.5 billion and in 2050 it will be 2.6 billion cars. Details in this IMF report.
The emerging markets are going to be buying a lot of cars in the next few decades. The global car industry is going to be making its money off of the BRICs and countries near them.

What policy wonks and activists have to understand is that people want to own cars. To pretend that people in Chennai or Perm are not going to want to own cars as much as we do is folly. The new Tata Motors Nano is about 1/3 the price of the next cheapest car with a sales price of CDN$3000 each. It will be on the market in the next 12 months and will have a huge impact on car sales in India.

Anyone talking about climate change needs to work with the idea that there will be a lot more cars in the world. The solution has to be to work quickly towards cars that are very low or no emission vehicles.

The encouraging sign is that the battery technology needed for cars is a rapidly improving and getting to a point where fully electric vehicles is realistically in the next five years. The first generation were the hybrids like the Prius, the next generation is something like the Chevy Volt where the gasoline engine is only there as a generator to recharge the batteries.

The era of the gasoline powered car is coming to an end, in ten to fifteen years gas stations are going to start disappearing as demand drops. The era of cars is not only not coming to end, it is entering a new and bigger golden age.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Price of Oil

Over the last year or two I have been telling people that the price of oil would head back down again, a long way down. People did not listen, they assumed that the trend was one way and that this meant up with no end. People believed that this price rise meant we were dealing with peak oil and that the economy based on oil was coming to an end.

The reality is that demand for oil rose faster than the supply could keep up with. It is not that there was no potential for more oil to come onto to the market, it was simply an issue of the lag between the demand rising and the time for new supply to come online.

The higher price of oil has reduced demand, a natural part of the economic process. This has occurred as the supply has been rising. We are also now seeing a drop in demand because of the economic uncertainty in the world.

New technologies also come into play, as an example, the production of the ethanol is now equal to about 1.9 millions barrels of oil per day. I am assuming 20 gallons of gasoline produced from each barrel of oil, if assume that you need one barrel of ethanol to equal one barrel of oil, then it is only 900 000 barrels a day. This is about 1-2% of the global oil demand. As the technology gets better and the organic material used is not corn but something more productive, in ten years would could easily see 20 million barrel of oil equivalents of ethanol being produced, or about 20% of world demand.

The problem a lot of people have had when looking at the oil prices is that they do not apply any economic analysis to the situation.

The latest spike in oil prices have pushed innovation, but it has also pushed the tar sands in Alberta. Year in and year out there are going to more development of the tar sands. Only a long period of the price of oil being below $20 a barrel will halt the expansion.

The oil era is not at an end, the only thing that can be done at this time is for governments to price the cost of removing the CO2 from oil production and oil use. A carbon tax is the way forward and is a tool that will make business more efficient. Strong price signals will impact the supply and demand for oil. Nothing else will work.

BC is the leader in this. Opposition to the carbon tax in BC only makes sense if you do not believe there is an issue with global warming. I will admit I am not entirely convinced of the case for global warming or at all convinced that global warming will have as negative impact as people are saying.

You can take action by supporting the carbon tax on this facebook group.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Carbon Tax - Political Suicide?

The NDP is hammering the government in Victoria over the carbon tax. Initially the public seemed well dispossed to the idea of a carbon tax, but with some fanning of the flames, the NDP has developed a dislike for the carbon tax.

Federally the Liberals have also proposed a carbon tax and they are being beaten up by the Conservatives about it. Certainly the issue is not looking good as a federal election issue and may push the federal Liberals further down in the polls.

The public likes the idea of the environment, but it does not want to pay for it. It is inevitable that carbon taxes are coming, that there will be some sort of system to attach a price or cost to carbon emissions, but it is not going to be popular and the people bringing it in will be lauded in the future but not now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Natural Resources Canada: Government of Canada Invests in Renewable Energy in British Columbia

2008-08-20 11:00:00

Natural Resources Canada: Government of Canada Invests in Renewable Energy in British Columbia

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(eMediaWorld - Aug. 20, 2008) - The Government of Canada is investing in renewable energy projects across Canada, thanks to investments in seven projects through the ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program.

The Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources, today announced the first project, the Kwalsa low-impact hydro project near Harrison Lake, which will benefit from an investment of up to $35 million thanks to the Government of Canada.

"Our investment in the Kwalsa low-impact hydro project is another great example of how our government is delivering on its commitment to reducing emissions, increase the supply of clean, renewable energy for Canadians, and accelerate the development of a strong and competitive renewable energy industry," said Minister Lunn. "We need energy to power our economy, and we must have more clean energy to protect our health and our environment."

When it is complete, the Kwalsa Energy Project will have a total capacity of 90 megawatts from eight turbines operating on four waterways around Harrison Lake at Douglas, Fire, Stokke and Tipella Creeks. The peak electricity demands of more than 27,000 households can be met with that amount of clean electricity. The site is located about 90 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

The project is owned by Harrison Hydro Limited Partnership, which is in turn owned by Cloudworks Energy Inc., a British Columbia-based energy firm specializing in run-of-river hydro development.

John Johnson, a principal of Cloudworks Energy Inc., was pleased that the Harrison Hydro Limited Partnership qualified for funding under the ecoENERGY for Renewable Power Initiative. "This federal program enables the Kwalsa Project to address not just the construction challenges related to building clean and renewable energy in the remote regions of this Province, but also to provide transmission grid access for the first time ever to our First Nations partners, the Douglas First Nation."

The Kwalsa Energy project has qualified for the one cent per kilowatt-hour incentive under the ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program, payable for up to 10 years to ensure the electricity it generates can be delivered to consumers at competitive rates.

Businesses, municipalities, institutions and organizations are eligible to apply for funding under ecoENERGY for Renewable Power. The program provides about $1.48 billion to increase Canada's supply of clean electricity from renewable sources such as wind, biomass, low-impact hydro, geothermal, solar photovoltaic and ocean energy. It will encourage the production of up to 4,000 megawatts of new electricity from renewable energy sources-enough electricity to power about one million homes.


The Honourable Gary Lunn, Minister of Natural Resources Canada, has announced the Kwalsa low-impact hydro project near Harrison Lake, B.C. will receive an investment of up to $35 million thanks to the Government of Canada's ecoENERGY for Renewable Power program.

NRCan's news releases and backgrounders are available at

Meet the team at Cloudworks :

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

2 interesting articles from the Goldstream Gazette

I find the increase in bus riders an interesting change. I wonder how this will pan out in the fall and how much of a change there is in Vancouver.

I also interested in knowing which routes in Victoria have had the biggest increase.

Fuel prices boost bus ridership

By Edward Hill - Goldstream News Gazette

Published: July 17, 2008 1:00 PM

High gas prices are finally prompting more people to hop the bus, says Ron Drolet, senior vice-president of BC Transit.

Transit saw a 11 per cent increase in ridership in late June as compared to a year earlier, after gas prices began their upward march in April. Typically, it takes a few months for pain at the pump to push people out of their cars — April only had a four per cent increase.

“We see growth every time there is a significant run up in retail gas, but there is a lag,” Drolet said. “(Early June) had normal weather. There was no intensive marketing. Obviously people are reacting to the retail prices. We’ll see if that holds true now that were at the lofty level of $1.50.”

BC Transit is planning to add 24 buses to the fleet and 60,000 service hours this September, the largest increase in Greater Victoria since the “heyday” of 1994 Commonwealth Games, Drolet said.

Where last year’s transit increases focuses on West Shore routes, this year it will be on the Saanich Peninsula, specifically the Royal Oak area.

Colwood OKs CRD climate plan

By Amy Dove - Goldstream News Gazette

Published: July 17, 2008 1:00 PM

With safeguards in place for taxpayers, Colwood council is officially supporting the Capital Regional District’s climate action plan.

The plan, which needs support from all 13 member municipalities, will see one person hired to oversee several projects.

These include a regional emission survey, ways to make buildings more energy efficient and assistance for smaller communities in finding grants.

Expected to cost $200,000 annually, Colwood councillors originally balked at the idea because it lacked an opt out clause if the service was unsatisfactory, as well as a cap on costs.

“Council unanimously supports this. We just wanted a few controls,” said Mayor Jody Twa.

“This shows we can have an opt out clause (on various CRD functions),” added Coun. Ernie Robertson.

The CRD board added Colwood’s requests to its climate action bylaw last week. In order for those two items to be added the rollout of the service has been delayed by at least six months, said Dwayne Kalynchuk, CRD environmental services general manager.

Each municipality will have to vote on the bylaw again before it can be enacted. Colwood was the only council which reserved support the first round.

BC Goverment to be Carbon Neutral in 2 years

The current government in BC is moving light years ahead of anywhere else in North America in relation to climate change issues.

We have a carbon tax - though there is now a backlash against the tax from the left.

We have a comprehensive climate change plan - though once again, the left seems to dislike it

The government has given $90 000 000 to the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions

And the government itself is preparing to be carbon neutral by 2010 - which means a market for 600 000 to 900 000 tonnes of CO2 offsets, a great kick start to the system of offsets sales here in BC.

What this all means is that Gordon Campbell is clearly the greenest major politician in Canadian history.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hypermiling and such stuff

I found this very interesting graphic online. It shows where the energy in a car is going. The top is city driving and bottom is highway driving.

The first big thing that you can see is that only 4-7% of the energy actually ends up making the car go forward.

The second thing you can see is that standby - or idling - uses more energy in city driving than driving and braking. 17% of the energy into the car goes into idling.

The third thing you can see is how much energy is lost in the engine - over 60%, close to 70%. There is clearly a huge potential for industry to improve fuel economy by improving engine efficiency.

So what can we as drivers control? Only a few aspects

* Idling
* Aero resistance
* Braking

If we change our driving habits, we can reduce the loses.

Idling - if we can reduce our urban idling by 50%, frees up 8% more energy to flow into the rest of the system, about 1/2 of that will be lost in the engine, but this still gives a boost to 23% of the energy actually making it to the driveline instead of 19%. This means 17% goes through to driving the car.

Braking is the next area where you can gain a reasonable amount. Each time you use the brakes, you are wasting the energy you used to get up to speed. By driving with a fair amount of distance between you and the next car and by looking ahead to the lights and letting the car coast to the light, you can cut your braking in half again. These two things are the main differences between a hybrid and a regular car. They do not idle and they use the brakes to recharge the batteries.

If you idle less, and this does mean turning off the car each time you stop for even a few seconds, and if you drive as if the brakes do not work, you can very quickly get highway mileage for your car in the city. Saving 15 to 20% in fuel is easy.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Turning off your car at traffic lights

About three years ago I had a chance to drive a Prius. Once I was in the car and driving it, I realized that the single biggest thing the Prius did to save fuel was to have the engine turned off when you do not need it.

I decided to adapt one aspect of this to my driving - I turn off my car at traffic lights. When I am driving in the city I am amazed at how long I sit at lights. There are some rather long ones in Victoria and the benefit is clear - I can save as much as 300 ml at some of the lights.

This issue was the subject of an editorial on CFAX today with the station coming out against the idea because it would make no difference.

I have been doing this most of the time for about three years now. I have not seen any issues with my starter, that was my initial concern. I estimate that I am saving about 200 litres a year doing this at the moment, more than enough to buy a new starter every six months at current prices.

I turn on my car an extra six times a day on average because of this. Without this I would be turning the car on average six times a day total.

I have researched the issue as much as is possible - google hypermiling for extreme tips on how to save gas. I have not found any data that points to what I am doing as being bad for the car or not being useful in saving fuel. The only issue I can not answer with certainty is the time one needs to have an engine off to save an fuel. I have seen all manner of estimates, the best I can find is that anything more than five seconds will save you fuel.

One argument against it is that I am not in control of my car - well, I am in control, it is not moving. No stationary car has ever caused or been the reason for an accident. All accidents are caused by moving cars. Slowing your car down and coming to a stop is always the best option in a dangerous situation - yes, I am sure someone can come up with some odd situation where this would not be the case, but they are reaching and I am sure I could solve the same situation by stopping the car.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Capture and Storage

The only direction that anything is going to go with global warming is towards capture and storage.

The hair shirt brigade has to wake and see that the future means more cars, more trucks, more holidays overseas, and more everything. The concept of voluntary simplicity is not going to happen on a large scale and no government is going to force it on us.

The only answer is capture and storage. The task is huge, but it is doable.

The process is a relatively simple one. One would force companies to capture all of their green house gases or pay a fine/fee to have the same amount removed from the atmosphere.

This process would offer a real price to the cost of producing GHGs. A company could decide to either reduce their emissions, capture their emissions or pay the government to capture a like amount of emissions. A market would be created offering options and real world prices for each option - there is no need for a carbon tax.

As Carbon Capture and Storage takes off, the technology to do it will dramatically improve and the costs will fall. The companies best at CCS would get market advantages and make good money.

The government can use the fine/fee as a last case option and thereby set the upper price.

Initially there would be a large cost to develop technologies and build the infrastructure. The first years would likely see high prices for CCS, but these would quickly fall.

The biggest problem will be for produces of methane and other GHGs that have a much higher impact than CO2. Meat production could take a really big hit unless producers figure out how to deal with cow farts. I have heard there is work in Australia being done on a vaccine that is supposed reduce cow farts......

Friday, July 4, 2008

Another Solution

Here in BC the biggest source of greenhouse gases is from driving, though if we had account for the cow farts et al of our meat consumption, that would be up there.

When it comes to cars we have to keep in mind that we need to work on ways that assume we will keep driving. Assuming we are going to quit driving goes against the global love affair that comes with the freedom having a car offers.

What can be controlled is how much CO2 a car produces. Better fuel efficiency for new cars helps, as does educating the public in how to maintain and drive their cars to reduce demand. Higher gas prices will promote these things. But we still need to do more to encourage less gas being used.

The biggest source of high gas use by a driver is from driving fast. The faster you go the faster you suck the gas out of the tank. It is time to make it much less appealing to drive over the speed limit.

First off, there needs to be a return to photo radar. The chances of being caught with photo radar are much higher than the status quo and therefore people will take the threat of being caught much more seriously.

Second, the time has come to make the fines for speeding hurt. Since most people rarely get caught speeding, when you get a speeding ticket, the cost is amortized over tens of thousands of kilometres. The cost per kilometre driven is so low as to be pointless. The fine for speeding should be high enough to hurt and make people think again about driving. The fine should be in in the range of $500 for up 10% above the posted speed and then another and then another $100 per 1% over the posted limit with no end fine. For a second fine within five years, double the amounts.

With high enough fines and a real threat of being caught, the marginal cost of speeding becomes too high and people will slow down.

If you can get the traffic slowed down 10% on average on highways, there would be a drop in the amount of fuel purchased in BC and therefore a drop in CO2 emissions. Knock benefits would be that the cost of gas would fall as demand falls. Traffic problems at major choke points like the Port Mann would also be eased as the traffic coming into the problem area would be arriving slightly slower.

A quick note on traffic choke points such as the Massey Tunnel or the Port Mann bridge. Translink should introduce variable speed limits based on volumes of traffic. If traffic is building up, slow the traffic coming into these chokepoints and the traffic will move through the chokepoint at a reasonable speed. High speeds and stop and start are two of the worst situations for gas use in a car. Getting all the traffic through the Port Mann at 40 Km/H would reduce fuel use.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Better Gas Mileage - Ban Air Conditioners

Here is a quick and easy solution for Canada to reduce gas consumption - ban air conditioning in cars.

Air conditioning has a huge impact on gas consumption at low speeds and a mixed impact at highway speeds. On balance a car with air conditioning uses more than a car without.

This is Canada, I have lived in the hottest place possible in the country, Lillooet BC, and lived there without air conditioning in my Subaru - it can be done. First step was to avoid driving during the hottest time of the day. Second step was to make sure the car was parked so that it did not get direct sun on it and if it did to cover the windows with cardboard.

When I was a kid, my parents often took us on trips to the Okanagan. We went from Vancouver to the Okanagan about five times a year, many of them in the heat of the summer. My parents dealt with the heat issue by either leaving early in the morning or in the evening. It worked then, it can work now.

We should also consider getting rid of air conditioners for houses and buildings - this is Canada and it should not take rocket science to keep a building cool in the summer in the coldest country on earth.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Carbon Tax Starts Tomorrow

The first carbon tax in Canada starts tomorrow. The amount it adds to the cost of fuel is not much, only a bit more then 2 cents per litre, though eventually rising to about 8 cents a litre. The idea being to put a cost on the carbon dioxide being produced.

While I think that this is a good way to go, I wonder if it is enough to make a difference? Will a cost of $30 a tonne of CO2 be effective? Is the intent to use the money to get rid of the CO2 or is it to get people to drive less? What happens if a fuel company can legitimately show they are carbon neutral, does the tax come off of their product?

I have a lot of questions about the carbon tax.

Ultimately I see the tax being successful if it causes industry to change its behaviors, it if it makes it economically worthwhile for an oil company to capture and store CO2. But for that to happen, the tax has to be applied based on the CO2 footprint of the fuel producer and not be the same across the board.

I am still stunned that the NDP is opposed to taking action on greenhouse gases. Carole James has made herself the leader of the brown movement in BC and only highlighted how much of a green leader Gordon Campbell is.

Monday, June 23, 2008

If people realy believe in Global Warming.....

There are some easy and quick steps people can take if they want to have an impact on their carbon footprint.

1) Drive slower - drive 5 km under the speed limit. On the highway most people are still driving 10 to 20 km over the speed limit.

2) Reduce the temperature in your house - set the heating in the house to about 18 degrees unless you heat with electricity and therefore already have no carbon impact.

When I see people driving slower and driving in such a way to reduce their use of gas, then I will believe that people take global warming seriously.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It is all so complex.....

Cut your carbon footprint … take the car
Globe and Mail Update
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May 7, 2008 at 6:00 AM EDT
British environmentalist Chris Goodall asserted last year, in his provocative book How to Live a Low-Carbon Life, that driving your car to the supermarket could be better for the environment than walking there.
It all depended, he said, on the food you use to supply the energy for the stroll. He cited a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometre) jaunt as an example. Consume 100 grams of beef and your car – “a typical car” – would be four times better for the environment. Drink a pint of milk and it would still be better. Eat a potato, though, and you could walk with a clear conscience – assuming you cooked the potato efficiently.
For Mr. Goodall, this calculation was simple science.
“It makes more sense to drive than to walk if walking means that you need to eat more to replace the energy you have lost,” he said. “Walking is not zero-emission. We need food energy to move ourselves from place to place. Food production creates carbon emissions.”
Some people found the proposition absurd. (University of Michigan economist Mark Perry proposed that all exercise be considered eligible for trade in carbon offsets.) Yet the Goodall heresy continues to garner support.
University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt, co-author of the best-selling and contrarian Freakonomics, has written sympathetically of Mr. Goodall's argument. (“When it comes to saving the environment, things are often not as simple as they seem at first blush.”) And New York Times science columnist John Tierney, on his blog, has described Mr. Goodall's argument as “an interesting challenge” to conventional wisdom. (“Mr. Goodall takes into account something that a lot of environmentalists don't,” Mr. Tierney says, “[such as] the human energy expended in averting fossil-fuel use.”)
Now the Pacific Institute, an international consulting company based in Seattle, has published a scholarly critique of the Goodall hypothesis, which concludes that, in the end, it all depends.
The institute found that there are too many variables, requiring too many arbitrary assumptions, to conclude that driving is environmentally superior to walking – but found that, in some instances, it can be.
Researchers Michael Cohen and Matthew Heberger, authors of the report, calculated that walking 1.5 miles at a moderate pace (three miles an hour) requires 123 calories – equivalent to the calories in 67 grams (2.4 ounces) of sirloin steak. They calculate further that the calories burned by walking this distance would be equivalent to 1.9 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions.
The real problem arises with assumptions adopted – a particular feed, a specific fertilizer. On balance, however, the researchers concluded that between 1.3 kg and 2.4 kg of CO{-2}-equivalent emissions are produced “to raise, process, store and transport the sirloin that powers a 1.5-mile walk.”
Further, substituting ground beef for sirloin, they calculated that between 0.79 kg and 1.5 kg of CO{-2}-equivalent emissions would be produced to power the 1.5-mile walk. Substituting eight ounces of 2-per-cent milk, they calculated that between 0.23 kg and 0.66 kg of CO{-2}-equivalent emissions would be produced. Substituting a large apple (237 grams), they calculated that between 0.07 and 0.17 kg of CO{-2}-equivalent emissions would be produced.
“Under these assumptions,” the researchers concluded, “[Mr.] Goodall's numbers pan out. Using Japanese agricultural statistics, a person who eats sirloin would generate double the greenhouse gases by walking compared with driving the 1.5 miles. A person who eats ground beef would generate 30-per-cent more emissions by walking rather than driving. Even using lower British [statistics], the sirloin eater generates 16-per-cent more GHG emissions by walking rather than by driving.”
How do cars compare? Mr. Goodall based his conclusions on the assumption, officially used by the British government, that “a typical car” produces 0.29 kg of CO{-2}-equivalent emissions a mile – roughly comparable to the consumption of two or three apples. The Pacific Institute researchers based their conclusions on the quite different assumption that “a typical car” emits more than 1 kg of CO{-2}-equivalent, roughly the equivalent of the sirloin steak. (They also assumed that all cars get 17.4 miles a gallon.)
Environmentalists have accused Mr. Goodall of ignoring the “life-cycle” costs of driving a car. Mr. Goodall insists that his calculations fully incorporate these costs. Life-cycle costs of cars and gasoline, he says, are not enough to affect even remotely the conclusion “that car travel is less carbon intensive than walking [in all cases in which] the walker replaces lost energy with animal products.”
These calculations miss an important point. Cars are rapidly getting more efficient. Within a few years, “a typical car” will average 35 mpg, or more, on greener energy. You won't dare walk to the supermarket – unless you have bought carbon offsets from your virtuous vegan neighbours. The fuel in your own tank will be as environmentally important as the fuel in your car.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Creating Solutions - Working with People

In all the talk about green house gases and the potential they have for changing the climate, the core of the idea for solutions all seem to be based on a radical shift in the lifestyle of people. This is unrealistic and a waste of time and energy.

To effect change you need to work with people's own desires for their lives. Most people like to drive their own car, to have it available for them to use when they want it. Trying to get rid of cars is not going happen. Any solution has to recognize that every family on earth would like to have one car. With that as a starting point, how do you deal with it?

First off you can improve the emissions of the car. This can be done by educating people how to use less fuel in their car. It can also be done by rewarding the purchase of cars that use less fuel. You can also shift more of the costs to fuel and away from the car itself.

Secondly you can offer the public chances to get out of their cars and do other things for getting around. As it stands, in a city like Victoria BC, the cost of using the bus for a month is typically more expensive than paying for parking at an office. Transit needs to have more advantages over cars to get people to park the car at home for the week.

Third you need to work on ways to remove the carbon from the atmosphere. If there a carbon tax used to pay for the removal of the carbon from the atmosphere, then there is no reason to stop driving or having cars.

The reality is that the car is here to stay.

Much the same can be said of air travel, most of us want to be able to fly to somewhere for a vacation if we can afford it. Luckily the airlines are very motivated at reducing their fuel use and thereby their carbon emissions. They are doing better than car manufacturers and on a single person basis are better than the best cars now. In fact the newest planes will be able to transport 3 people for the same carbon emissions as a car would over a long distance.

If there were a carbon fee on an airline ticket that was based on the real efficiency of the plane and the actual load and this money was used for capturing carbon, air travel could be carbon neutral. But since no one know how full the flight would be, there would have to be a charge for the ticket higher than needed and then a rebate if the flight was full. This charge would also have to be spread out to some extent over the weight of the people and their luggage - everyone shares the weight of the plane equally but differ on their personal weight.

Airlines with new planes and full loads would have to charge the least. This would mean an increased demand for the newest and most fuel efficient planes and flood of old planes leaving the market.

We have to work with the global desire for a middle class lifestyle and not against it.

Friday, February 29, 2008

How do you make Buses Cool?

It is amazing that the most cost effective and efficient form of local transit is seen as the 'loser cruiser'.

The public loves to own their own cars and seems to have an instinctive love for trains, but the bus is ugly duckling.

Vancouver, the city about to have Canada's longest rail rapid transit system, is still moving a lot more people on buses than on the SkyTrain.

How do we make buses cool? How do we get people to love buses?

Maybe it can not be done and that all we can work with is the fact that the buses can operate cheaply and can offer flexibility.

The fact that you can get a bus from a small 12 person unit up to one that carries over 80 people means that you can offer regular service in low use areas and upgrade the bus used as the demand requires. The use of the double decker buses means you can move more people in one space than a regular bus and get more use out of the roads. Routes can be changed as demand changes. This flexibility should make people love buses, but they do not.

People argue that no one will leave their car to ride a bus, but they will leave their car to ride a train. But this simply not true. People will go from their cars to buses if their transit times are reasonable and the cost is also reasonable. With the new single zone for Greater Victoria, I would expect a lot more people in the out lying areas to switch to buses.

One thing that could be done to make people prefer buses is to make the bus shelters are stops beautiful. Have them always clean and comfortable, have a display with the time till the next bus, have the cities make them part of their street beautification. Connect them to coffee shops is some manner so to integrate the people waiting into their community. Make people think they are beautiful and an addition to their community.

Gardening as a way to save the world?

I made a total hash of the garden last year, I really did not try, but that was because I knew I was moving. This year I want to get a good garden underway for veggies and fruit.

I figure I will have about 300 to 400 sq feet to work with. What can I do with this space? A fair bit.

I would like to get some lettuce and spinach into the ground soon. I am trying to sprout some lettuce plants indoors at the moment. I figure I direct seed the spinach in a few weeks. If I can stay on top of it, we should have fresh greens from mid April through to November of this year.

I also want to get in a large number of strawberry plants and some rhubarb. Blackberries I can pick wild enough spots and I should have another large crop of figs - the tree is still huge after I pruned back a lot of it.

I figure I will go back to the square foot garden method I have used in the past. This means making the beds into 4x4 boxes with about 18 inches between them. This is a very effective way to use a small amount of space. Each box is fully accessible for all sides and the shape allows very dense plantings. The space needed to get around is much more limited than what you need with rows.

So what is the point of all this? I simply go back to the observation that most people living in the city have the space to grow some of their own food needs. The space needed is not that much and in return you produce some of your food.

Between everything I am proposing, I suspect I will produce 500 pounds of food. This means that 500 pounds of food will not be needed commercially. What is the impact of this? Commercially there is a higher use of chemicals and a lower production per unit of land - on a mass scale you simply can not pay as much attention to plants as you would in your own garden. There is also no use of any fossil fuels to bring the food here, though the amount of green house gases produced by the production of 500 pounds of vegetables is not that much at all.

What I find interesting is that I will do my part to make the world a better place but no one will reward me for it. There are so many other areas in which I can get some sort of reward for doing the right thing, but not for growing my own food.

There is no reason why the average Canadian could not produce 100 pounds of their own food each year. Certainly in rural areas this still goes on.

I remember in Lillooet the local grocery store manager could tell when the first frost came, people would finally come back and buy their produce from him. Many households grew their own produce and virtually everyone had their own fruit trees. In Lillooet people managed to produce a significant portion of their produce each year.

In Lillooet there was also a lot of hunting and fishing. On average, there is about 5 salmon caught per person - about 30 pounds of protein. To a lesser extent there is also deer and moose.

Here in Victoria we have an ocean at our doorstep with a bounty of crab, shrimp, fish and shellfish but very few people take part in harvesting any of it.

What it comes down to is that we have the resources in our urban areas to provide for a large amount of our food but we choose to give over the land to lawns and ignore out wild bounty.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Government Subsidies

The amazing thing in Canada is that there is an ongoing demand for public dollars to made available for businesses. The aerospace and automotive industries seem to be the biggest ones looking for public dollars.

Today the Globe and Mail had a column today by Konrad Yakabuski about Bombardier seeking money to develop the latest version of their commuter jets. The threat is that if the money is not forth coming, the company will move their manufacturing elsewhere. They are looking for something in the order of $1 000 000 000 from government. This is crazy. Why would we want to keep taxes higher to support a business that we are told is one of the biggest sources of green house gases? The threat is that Canada could lose 2500 jobs if the money is not forth coming. With the $1 000 000 000, the government could pay this work $50 000 a year for eight years. More than enough money to offer these workers the time and money to retrain, more than enough support to get dozens of entrepreneurs out the group of workers to start their own companies.

Meanwhile the auto industry is asking for large sums of money to keep the factories going. From 2003 to 2007 the industry has shed some 230 000 workers, but unemployment in Canada fell during that time. The economy added 1.4 million new jobs, half of those jobs are at least as well paying as the auto sector jobs. The reality is that we are in a transition away from making things like old style cars.

When government chooses to put money into some industries and not others, it skews capital investments to the 'winners' chosen by government. Government is always behind the times when it comes to what is the future. Small manufacturers making new and innovative products in the high tech field, green energy and other new emerging fields are having trouble competing with government supported old industries.

In 2004 some $19 000 000 000 was given by government to industry as subsidies. This means that the government had to raise an extra $6250 per family of five in taxes to support this.

Right now there is a huge global push to go green. In BC we can be the source of a huge amount of the greenest electrical power possible. We have businesses interested in coming up with innovative solutions on how to reduce green house gasses and how to capture them. We have more and more businesses that have a very small ecological footprint. All of these greener businesses are directly harmed by government over taxing us to offer more money to old industries.

The money government offers in business subsidies are also very inefficiently used. A billion dollars in subsidies cost close to $500 000 000 to offer - not counting damage it does to the nimble part of the economy.

Climate change issues will be best addressed through less government intervention in the economy and more use of the market to deal with public 'bads'

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


I look around hospitals, hotels, airports and the ferry terminals and all of them have special parking for taxis - this is crazy, why are we making it easier for taxis to be in use?

Many taxis are Prius in Victoria, but still they spend most of their time without passengers in them. They are not efficient in their use, but they get special access to so many places.

As a start, we need to work on the Victoria Airport. The taxis need to be pushed out to make room for decent bus service to city. Move the taxis out beyond where we the public have to park.

If there were buses every 15 minutes going into to town, I would use it all the time.

I have also been at Royal Jubliee recently. Once again taxis get to come in close, public parking is further out and the buses do not come that close. The entrance needs make a priority for public transit. I would add a new bus running from the Fort and Foul Bay, via the backside of the Hospital and the front door, along Bay Street all the way to government and then down government into town. You could also reroute the #14 to pass by the hospital.

The government should also look at an extra carbon tax on taxis and limos - make them clearly and totally carbon neutral. Have them pay full freight for all their carbon emissions.

Friday, February 22, 2008

2008 BC Budget

The Climate Change Budget. It is nice to see the government beginning to understand that one of the strongest public policy tools that is has is taxation. Tax shifting has been around as an idea for years now, but very few governments are willing to move forward with it. BC is starting to break this mold.

The budget has introduced a modest carbon tax and balanced it with tax cuts in other areas. The goal is no change in net revenues.

The amount the price so fuel is going to rise is still not enough that it is going to make a dramatic difference, but another few cents a litre is going to make people think and will make people move forward with different choices.

Not very long ago a litre of gasoline was in the 50 cent range. Now it is around $1.10 a litre. at 25 000 km per year and 15 l/100 km, this means fuel has gone from $1875 per year to $4125 - that is an extra $2250 a year. Trading in this heavy gas user for one that comes in at 7.5l/100 km - quite reasonable for a lot of sedans now - your current gas bill will come in at about $2065 a year, not much more than what was spent a few years earlier.

Moving from an Xtera to an Optra would achieve this savings. $2000 a year is nothing to sneeze at- this is $40 a week.

It also makes sense to try and improve your gas mileage - saving 10% in fuel a year is now worth hundreds of dollars. It also becomes worthwhile to look at reducing the amount of travelling - say you drop that by 10% as well. You could go from $4125 the Xtera would cost you with current driving numbers to something in the range of $1700 a year - $2400 less in spending. This is the same as a before tax pay increase of $500 a month.

The amounts the government is proposing is still small, but they have started the process of taxing a bad to change behaviour.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Impact of Rising Gas Prices

We are now seeing a sustained period of gas prices of over $1 per litre. I wonder how much of an impact this is having on consumption in the Canada? I wonder what the impact is in the US?

It is hard to tell if people are driving less or just absorbing the costs. How big has the impact been?

A few years back we were paying about 50 cents per litre. An average car drives about 20 000 km in a year and gets about 10l/100km. This works out to a fuel cost of about $1000 per year for an average car in Canada. At $1.10 per litre, this has now risen to $2200.

$2200 is in the range of what we pay for fuel for the car. We spend much more on other things. Our annual food bill is about $10 000. We pay more for one month of our mortgage than all the gas for the car for a year. Gas for the car is not a big thing in our budget.

If you drive 10% less, you save about $220 - this means driving about 40 km less per week. But is it really worth doing? Does it make much difference? Would I even notice this money? This about the same amount of money as 2 Americanos at Starbucks a week or one beer a week out at a cheap bar.

The other way to save is to get better gas mileage - if one can improve by 10% the gas mileage on the car, this again saves about $220. This can be achieved by more frequent car care and driving with fuel economy in mind. From what I see out there very few people are doing this.

Another option is to buy a car that uses less fuel. If one can improve the mileage by 5l/100km, one saves about $1100 per year. Not a very big bonus to encourage buying a car that can get better mileage. Just over $20 per week.

As far as I can tell, the price of gas is still much too low to make any significant dent in driving habits. The marginal cost of owning a car will have to rise a lot more before large masses of people will choose to get out of their cars. Realistically we need to be looking at gas prices of more than $4 per litre before we will see the price make any change to driving habits. At this price, a 10% reduction in fuel costs would save $800 per year and a 5l/100km upgrade in vehicle would save you $4000 in a year. But even at $4 a litre, my gas expenses would still be smaller than what I spend on food.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Behaviour Modification

Given that almost everyone seems to think cars a problem, how about doing with cars what was done with cigarettes - ban any advertising of cars........

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Rail Transit and Busways

We need to get the public away from the irrational love affair with rail transit and recognize that we can not afford to build any sort of track based transit expect for in the dense areas of the lower mainland.

Somehow there is a large segment of the public that dislikes buses. Every city that has a subway moves huge numbers of people via buses as well. The bus is the core to transit is the mechanism that will get people out of their cars.

Right now there is a campaign in Greater Victoria for a light rail system of some sort from downtown to the western communities. The people seem to want to use the old E and N line and think that there will be the traffic to make it work. Not a chance.

The cost of building a light rail line out to Langford from downtown Victoria would cost in the order of $200 000 000 to $500 000 000. The amount of money that this entails is enough to do some amazing things in Greater Victoria to deal with climate change issues. The potential savings from the rail transit will be minimal.

Make it faster for me to get to work on a bus and I will do it. Make it cheaper as well - say sell me an annual pass for $30 a month - and I will have one and use the buses more often.

At the moment the incremental cost to me to drive downtown is about $0.75 plus parking - say a buck. The bus will cost me $2.25. Using my car is cheaper. But I can hear you say that I am not counting all the other costs of car ownership, payments and insurance. Well, I have to pay that if I use the car or bus.

Building rail and operating it will mean a huge reduction in bus service in Greater Victoria and higher fares. So more people will start to drive because the bus will no longer be an option or the price premium for transit is too high.

Most of the people taking transit in Greater Victoria do not live along any proposed rail transit route. The population of the western communities is not slated to rise that dramatically that there will ever be a large portion of BC Transit's customers on that line.

A rail transit system is likely to lead to more green house gases in Greater Victoria, not less.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Uranium Exploration

The hysteria about global warming and greenhouse gases has produced a huge boost to mining junior companies exploring for uranium. Not only are companies looking in Saskatchewan, but also in Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland. We are at the start of a new uranium rush and I am not happy about this.

#January 18, 2008
Commander Outlines Drill Targets at Troy's Pond

Commander Resources Ltd. (CMD-TSX Venture) reports that a geophysical survey has defined a significant drill target coincident with uranium mineralization at Troy's Pond. The Induced Polarization (I.P.) survey was completed late in 2007 on the Troy's Pond, ST-129 and Quinlan uranium prospects on the wholly-owned Strickland Property, part of the Hermitage uranium project, Newfoundland.

Results from back-hoe trenching and alpha-track survey work completed in the fall on other areas of the large Hermitage project are awaited.

At Troy's Pond, six I.P. lines were completed to follow-up significant uranium mineralization intersected in drill holes completed in early in 2007 (previously reported in the Company's news release dated February 2nd, 2007), including a 10 metre wide uranium bearing zone assaying 0.02% U3O8, with a 4.3 m interval assaying 0.045% U3O8 (about 1 lb / t). A weak I.P. chargeability response, detected close to this uranium-bearing drill intersection, strengthens 100 metres to the west, then continues for a further 200 metres along strike of the host rock sequence to the end of the survey grid, beyond which the anomaly is open (refer to map on the Company's website). Several drill holes will be required to test this anomaly once a follow up I.P. survey has been done.

The I.P. survey identified a new target in an overburden-covered area in the northwest portion of the Troy's Pond grid where no uranium prospects are known. The new target is 300 metres long and is open beyond the survey limit. An alpha-track survey, scintillometer survey, and soil sampling are required to determine if there is uranium associated with the anomaly. If the presence of uranium is indicated on this anomaly, it will be ready for drill testing.

At the ST-129 uranium prospect, one kilometre east of Troy's Pond, three lines of I.P. surveying gave inconclusive results due to technical problems. Further I.P. surveying and sampling are required to develop drill targets.

At the Quinlan Uranium Prospect, 10 km to the east of Troy's Pond, only three short lines of I.P. surveying were completed due to weather constraints. An anomaly on the westernmost line surveyed is clearly associated with uranium in bedrock. The I.P. anomaly is open in the direction of the uranium bearing trend which continues for several 100 metres. Uranium mineralization has been traced over a strike length of more than 800 metres in this area. If a suitable I.P. anomaly is developed, it will be drill ready.

Logistically, the Strickland property is ideally located. Troy's Pond is situated only 8 kilometres from the old Hope Brook gold mine, which is 2 kilometres from tidewater where there is a useable pier. Also, an active, 150,000 volt powerline terminates at the old mine site.


Commander Resources Ltd. is a junior exploration company focused on gold and base metal exploration in Canada. The strength of Commander comes from a combination of aggressive land acquisition and strategic partnerships to increase exposure to discovery while mitigating risk to the shareholders. Diversification is the cornerstone of Commander's strategy and is reflected in its extensive property portfolio including the main projects, Baffin Island Gold, Hermitage Uranium and the South Voisey's Bay Nickel properties.

On behalf of the Board of Directors,

Kenneth E. Leigh
President & CEO
For further information, please call:
Investor Relations: BMK Communications
Toll Free: 1-877-489-4440


The TSX Venture Exchange has not reviewed and does not accept responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this news release.

Copyright © 2008 by Commander Resources Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide.
For more information, send questions and comments to
This page was created on Fri Jan 18, 2008 at 10:40:51 AM Pacific Time.

Tata Motors New Car

Recently the Indian based transnational announced the one lahk car. This car will retail for about $2500 in India and make car ownership a reasonable option for a much larger portion of the Indian population.

The response in the west has been interesting. One set of people are arguing that this is a horror as the world can not sustain the Indians massively expanding car ownership. The other set are saying the developed world is sinning because it has been on top too long and is producing so much more green house gases per person. Both are small minded and backward thinking approaches to the issues.

The people of Indian want to be able drive as we do and who are we to tell them no? Frankly, the predicted problems from global warming seem to be worse for India than most of the developed world and it is the Indians that could suffer, not Canadians.

The thinking has to evolve when it comes to GHGs. Realistically the answer lies in new technologies that cause less green house gases, carbon capture and a transition time till to allow for society to shift over.

India and China, a total of 40% of the global population, are going to be very quickly shifting to a much higher standard of living and this will mean a dramatic increase in cars, air travel and meat consumption in these nations. China is now the biggest producer of green house gases and the reality is that neither nation is going to slow down or stop.

If governments were to start some sort of program carbon taxes, it would make sense for government to use the money raised to buy back carbon. Making a large market for the purchase of carbon will create a market for the technology to strip carbon from the air.

The way forward will have to be one that allows people to consume more, drive more, and lead a higher standard of living or change will not occur. People are not ready to stop eating meat or live without air conditioning. Most new cars in Canada have air conditioning and reduce the gas mileage by about 5% when in use - pure CO2 production to keep people cool in a cold nation.

The public in the developed world will not willing trade down their standard of living and people in the developing world want our standard of living. Working against these trends is at best moronic and at worst psychopathic.