February 17, 2011
According to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NTREE), because of uncertainty in U.S. climate policy direction, Canada should adopt a phased-in approach to climate harmonization policy with the U.S. Doing so will avoid delay in emissions reductions and maintain economic competitiveness.
Parallel Paths: Canada-U.S. Climate Policy Choices, is the third report in the NRTEE’s Climate Prosperity series examining the economic risks and opportunities of climate change for Canada. The report explains that while our economies are integrated and the U.S. is our largest trading partner, there are significant differences that call for a made-in-Canada policy. The report shows that Canada’s current policy of harmonizing greenhouse gas reduction targets with the United States requires a higher carbon price in Canada to achieve those targets. Alternatively, harmonizing with the U.S. on carbon prices alone, rather than on targets, means Canada’s GHG target of cutting emissions to 17 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020 would not be met.
The report suggest a “Transitional Option Policy” which contains four elements:
- Contingent Carbon Pricing – to establish a price collar that limits the Canadian carbon price to no more than $30.00/tonne CO2e higher than the price in the U.S.
- A National Cap-and-Trade System – with auctioning of permits and revenue recycling to cap emissions and address regional and sectoral concern
- Limited International Permits and Domestic Offsets – to keep domestic carbon prices lower for Canadian firms
- Technology Fund – to stimulate investment in needed emission reductions technologies.
The report also recommends creating a new Canadian Low-Carbon Technology Fund financed through the compliance investments of carbon-polluting firms.
The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy is an independent Canadian federal advisory agency dedicated to preserving the environment while maintaining a strong economy.
May 12, 2010
As we’ve seen with project like the United Arab Emirates’ Masdar City, there’s something to be said for raising a city’s energy profile with a splashy public display — like any huge public monument, it definitely makes it hard to look the other way. But when it comes to splashy projects, Rio de Janeiro’s got everyone else beat: Their latest design for the 2016 Olympic Games is nothing less than a giant, artificial waterfall.
Designed with embedded solar panels that provide power for the city and the games’ facilities during the day, the Solar City Tower will use excess energy to pump seawater into its upper recesses, 60 above sea level. At night, this water would be released with the help of turbines, producing even more power. To accommodate guests and tourists, the facility includes an amphitheatre at the tower’s base and an urban plaza with a glass walkway located at its top.
Though the structure’s “urban waterfall” display isn’t intended to be constant (no matter how much renewable power fuels the process, it would be awfully hard to justify building a giant waterfall for nothing but show), the effect it produces is undeniable — like Rio’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, it’s hard to look away from something so massive. And that attention, in turns, draws attention back to the city’s larger energy goals.
Greenhouse gas emissions continue to be a major point of discussion for contemporary Olympic Games and Rio de Janeiro has been drawing attention to its emissions since its original bid. When it comes to making big statements about energy use and emissions, it helps to make a big splash.
image RAFAA architecture and design
March 29, 2010
According to Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption ratings for the 2010 model year, of the 1,024 cars listed, it’s the Toyota Prius (not withstanding a recent recall of 2004-2009 Prius models and 2010 Prius models). Prius has held that position since 2007.
The Prius emits 1,748 kilograms of CO2 per year and consumes 760 litres of gasoline in doing so. The second-greenest car is the hybrid version of the Honda Civic, with emissions of 2,070 kilograms of CO2 per year and consumption of 900 litres of regular gasoline. Rounding out the top three is the Honda Insight with emissions of 2,162 kilograms of CO2 per year and consumption of 940 litres of regular gasoline. The Insight was the greenest car from 2000 to 2006.
Of course your results may vary, depending on how you drive and where you drive. These estimates assume an annual driving distance of 20,000 kilometres, 55 per cent of which are city driving and 45 per cent highway driving.
As one would expect, nine of the top ten green vehicles are cars. Only the Ford Escape is a special purpose vehicle (the new name for an SUV). Of the top ten vehicles, eight are hybrids. Only two, the Toyota Yaris ( ranked 10th) and Smart Fortwo (ranked 5th), are powered by conventional gasoline internal combustion engines. No diesel-powered vehicles made it to the top ten. In fact the diesels with the lowest CO2emissions are the Audi A3 TDI, Volkswagen Golf TDI Clean Diesel and the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Clean Diesel, all of which tied for 38th place with emissions of 3,132 kilograms of CO2 per year and consumption of 1,160 litres of diesel fuel. These cars were considered the greenest in 1999, prior to the introduction of hybrid technology.
|Car||Class||Power||Emissions (kg/CO2/year)||Consumption (L/y)||Base Price ($Cdn)|
|Ford Escape||Special Purpose||Hybrid||2,806||1,220||24,499|
So, we’ve covered green. What about affordable? Well, the reason these vehicles produce fewer emissions is that they consume less fuel. So there is a savings in operating costs. As well, there can be a savings in sticker price. Statistics Canada reports the average price of a new car in 2009 was $25,683. Adjusting for inflation of 1.86 per cent, that price rises to $25,770 in 2010. The average price of the top ten cleanest vehicles in Canada is $25,300. The least expensive are the Yaris at $14,750 and the Fortwo at $14,990, the only two non-hybrids of the bunch. The most expensive are the Lexus at $39,900 and the Altima at $33,398. Even the SUV comes in less than average car price.
On the other end of the emissions, consumption and price spectrum is the Bugatti Veyron which emits 10,166 kilograms of CO2 per year, consumes of 4,420 litres of gasoline and costs about $1.7 million, depending upon options, retailer may sell for less. Operating costs are steep as well. At its top speed of 407 kilometres per hour, the tires last about 15 minutes. However, there’s a built-in safety mechanism. At top speed a full tank of gas only lasts 12 minutes.
October 6, 2009
Idling cars are the devil’s greenhouse
Imagine, for a moment, that we lived in an ideal world. Apples and avocados don’t turn brown an hour after being sliced. You always get perfect radio reception, even in tunnels, and commercials tend to be of lower volume than the television show you’re watching.
Wheels to Winds
Part five of a five-part series
Let’s imagine how the combustion engine in your car would work in this world. First, you have your gasoline which contains your hydrogen and carbon. Then you have the air, which is full of oxygen. The oxygen in the air would convert all the hydrogen in the fuel into drinking water and all the carbon in the fuel into carbon dioxide. Let’s say that whenever these reactions occurred, a natural byproduct would be music. And all the nitrogen in the air would watch with vague interest, but opt not to get involved.
Now for a reality check. In the real world, the hydrocarbons in the fuel react with the nitrogen in the air as well. The end result after the oxygen and nitrogen comingle with the hydrocarbons is the following:
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx) which are precursors to ozone and components of acid rain.
- Hydrocarbons which are basically any of the fuel that doesn’t burn completely. Smog results when hydrocarbons react with nitrogen oxides and sunlight.
- Carbon Monoxide which is similar to carbon dioxide, except there is only one oxygen atom (CO) instead of two (CO2). This occurs when there is incomplete combustion, which happens periodically, and the fuel is only partially oxidized. As you may know, carbon monoxide can be lethal as it diminishes the amount of oxygen in the blood when inhaled. That extra oxygen molecule is very important when it comes to that whole breathing and staying alive thing that we always have to worry about.
- Carbon Dioxide which is a greenhouse gas, a leading cause of climate change.
- Water which is, unfortunately, no more than a fine, warm mist at this point, so you can’t really drink it.
Aside from exhaust emissions described above, keep in mind that there are also emissions that result from refueling your car and simple fuel evaporation that occurs on hot days, causing the gasoline to slowly evaporate. Needless to say, this is certainly not ideal.
Now, let’s take a giant step back and look at how many greenhouse gases result right from the beginning, when the bitumen is extracted from the oil sands, to the end, when the fuel is burned in your car. A common description of this more thorough way of looking at oil sands emissions is ‘from wells to wheels’. People have been known to say that oil sands greenhouse gas emissions are three to four times higher than conventional crude oil. This figure does not take into account the full lifecycle of oil sands, from extraction and processing through to combustion of its refined products.
According to recent research on full life-cycle emissions released by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), oil sands emissions are five to 15 per cent higher than conventional crude oil like Saudi light, or California heavy oil. The reason for the major difference in these averages is because 70 to 80 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions from all refined products are emitted by us when we drive.
Of course, people are reluctant to take responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions. But once you realize that you have a pretty big piece of the emissions pie, there are things you can do to make it smaller, such as:
- Walk or bike. You don’t need to drive to get to your friend’s house, especially if they live next door.
- Buy a hybrid or fuel efficient car. Sure, they come with their criticisms, but they’re a step, or rather a drive in the right direction.
- Safe hypermiling like lessening cargo, not breaking or accelerating suddenly and not idling. Remember the old saying: idling cars are the devil’s greenhouse… er… something like that…
- Avoid wrong turns by preplanning trips or using a GPS system. Not only do you help the environment but you get to be not lost, which is always nice.
Of course, that doesn’t mean industry shouldn’t do its part to reduce emissions either. Even five per cent composes a significant amount of emissions. The general consensus seems to be that reducing emissions in the future will rely heavily on technology, technology, technology.
David Layzell from the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy says that future oil sands technologies will likely fall into one or more of the following four categories:
- Mechanical – focuses on finding more creative ways to efficiently separate oil from sand (Layzell hints that there are already proprietary projects in the pipes).
- Thermal – focuses on how to extract more bitumen using less steam, and therefore less energy to create the steam. Another approach in this category is using cleaner energy to power the in situ process. Gasification of petroleum coke, a byproduct of many oil sands operations, is also an interesting alternative since the CO2 stream that is created can be captured and stored relatively easily, thereby eliminating atmospheric emissions.
- Chemical – has two approaches, mainly in the in situ category of oil sands extraction. One is using solvents instead of energy intensive steam to lessen the viscosity of the bitumen so it can flow to the surface. The other using nanocatalysts that transform the oil into a lighter crude before it is pumped to the surface.
- Biological – This approach uses bacteria to metabolize the oil and convert it into methane, leaving behind toxic sulphur and nitrogen compounds. The methane can then be extracted in a way similar to less carbon-heavy natural gas.
For an idea of what the oil sands industry is doing right now to reduce its impact on the environment, visit www.canadasoilsands.ca. Click on the section ‘what we’re doing’ to get an idea of the initiatives industry is voluntarily undertaking to reduce its impact on air, land, and water, as well as its effect on nearby communities. The website also provides a forum for Canadians to discuss oil sands issues.
Finally, as we all line up to accept our ownership of this unsavory emissions pie, let’s take a quick look at what the government is doing. The Government of Canada has its Turning the Corner Plan which aims to reduce greenhouse gases by 20 per cent of 2006 levels by 2020. Also, Environment Minister Jim Prentice recently announced that Canada would be implementing tough emissions laws to match those imposed in Washington under the vigorous American Clean Energy and Security Act. In addition to that, both the Government of Canada and the Alberta government have been known to foot some of the bill for research and development of new, emissions-reducing technologies such as carbon capture and storage.
Of course, the solutions discussed above for consumers, industry and government are not an exhaustive list. Saving the planet seems to be, at times, a daunting challenge that leaves many people wondering if their actions make a difference. But don’t let that take the wind out of your sails. You’ve seen the power of the ripple effect in the ‘waves to wells’ story and the power of individual perseverance and innovation in the ‘wells to wheels’ story. The’ wheels to winds’ story is about you and me, and the how small decisions can have huge affects on the environment, the economy and the world around us.
This is as much a story about how we power our lives, as it is one about the power we each have as individuals. We determine the ending.
June 26, 2009
Have you heard? The economy is bad. So it’s time to tighten the belt, cinch the purse strings, stretch our dollars. Except wait—what about climate change? Sure it sounds good when we’re fat and happy, but what happens once the economy turns sour? Many countries are choosing to commit to the environment despite tough economic times.
Australia has the highest per capita levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has set some lofty targets, planning to cut emissions by between 5% and 15% by 2020. He is also requiring industrial polluters to bid for government licences to emit carbon, which would cover 75% of Australia’s emissions.
27 countries of the European Union recently committed to reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2020, compared to 1990 levels.
China has set targets to improve its energy efficiency, Brazil is tackling deforestation and Mexico has set new emissions goals.
Scotland recently raised a pint to Mother Nature by proposing an 80% reduction in the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and addressing burgeoning shipping and aviation emissions.
In the US, emissions have actually increased by 17% since 1990. President Obama has committed to reducing them to 1990 levels by the year 2020.
Developing countries such as Nigeria and South Africa are also making efforts to cut their countries’ emissions by 20-30% over the next 10 years.
If leadership is about having vision and prospering in times of adversity, there are many countries which are blazing a new emissions reduction trail.
January 21, 2009
The Conservatives in Ottawa are more determined than ever to engage the United States in pursuing coordinated energy and environmental policies which could evolve into contributing much-needed energy stability in what Environment Minister Jim Prentice calls “a very volatile world.”
He set out his priorities in a speech to the Canadian Council of Chief Executives in Toronto the morning of Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th U.S. President, welcoming much-anticipated American re-engagement in multilateral climate change negotiations.
Prentice reiterated the minority administration’s desire for “an effective multilateral climate change agreement for the years ahead.” The key elements would be joint action on greenhouse gas emissions and a transition to “a larger and cleaner supply of both fuel and power.” It wouldn’t be easy because various “actors and interests” influence how much progress each federal government can achieve.
He said the Conservatives’ target of a 20% reduction in emissions from 2006 levels by 2020 is “ambitious but achievable” unlike the previous Liberal government’s unfulfilled Kyoto Protocol commitments.
As expected, the starting point remains an intensity-based performance standard rather than what Prentice called “a so-called hard cap-and-trade regime” but the latter would eventually become the order of the day as Canada gained more experience and as the international policy environment evolved.
“A cap-and-trade system will be insufficient alone to get the job done,” Prentice said. “We will need some other common instruments – like a shared target for low carbon power generation, a common bio-fuel mandate, common fuel efficiency standards, and potentially a common low carbon transportation fuel standard for North America, a standard that would seek to reduce the carbon intensity of transportation fuels into the future, based on emissions measured over the complete lifecycle of various fuels from production site to the tailpipe.”
The current economic downturn underscored the importance of avoiding anything which would exacerbate matters. “We will seek to ensure that federal policies are coordinated,” he said. “We want federal climate change regulations to work in tandem with tax, technology, tariff and other policies to promote timely domestic investment and offset weak U.S. demand.” He also stressed the importance of coordinated and harmonized federal-provincial policies.
A bilateral deal also meant a concerted move to reduce North American dependence on “foreign” oil. “Energy insecurity is the large and growing gorilla in the room,” Prentice said, noting that whereas the U.S. imported only 10% of its crude oil just four decades ago, it now imported 60% and faced the prospect of that rising to 80% by 2020.
“Smart grids and conservation, renewable fuels and power . . . are all important, but in an `80/20′ world, they will represent only the `20′, at least until the 2020s. It is the other 80% we have to worry about. In Europe, the `80%’ of energy insecurity means oil and natural gas. And here in North America, with our substantial natural gas reserves, the `80′ means oil.”
Prentice underscored Canada’s role in the “American energy equation” as the main U.S. source of crude, natural gas and electricity and as “an indispensable supplier” to the northern tier states.
“We’re not just a supplier; we’re a partner. . . . We have the capacity to play an even larger role in the North American energy solution. We’re the only nation in the world outside the Persian Gulf region with substantial proven oil reserves; we’re the best way to get Alaskan gas to southern markets; and we’re a country with substantial untapped natural gas deposits and clean hydropower potential – an obvious way for many border states to reduce their reliance on coal-fired power.”
January 6, 2009
Canada, as a signatory nation to the Kyoto Protocol, is obligated to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 6 per cent below 1990 levels. This is supposed to have happened by, well, now: from 2008 – 2012. No one is pretending that’s possible.
What’s the dilemma? Canada signed Kyoto as a single entity, but the reality is when it comes to energy and emissions, the federal government only has so much authority. Energy is famously, indeed even notoriously, within the purview of provincial governments.
If Canada as a whole is to even approach its Kyoto targets, all ten provinces must chart their own courses. Can it be done? It can in Quebec, where David Suzuki, among others, note with admiration and glee that the province has achieved a fourth consecutive year of reducing emissions.
In this, Quebec is by far Canada’s leader. Via measures as broad as carbon and petroleum taxes, a green fund, expanded public transit, even cutting highway speed limits, the province is showing Kyoto targets are possible.
The rest? Laggards?
No other provinces have so clear a vision as Quebec’s Climate Change Action Plan, enacted in 2006. Take Alberta, for example. Emissions have increased by 36 per cent since 1990, moving the province ahead of big, industrial Ontario for the “lead” in provincial emissions. Not per capita, mind you, but overall.
Alberta, for its part, says it’s impossible to compare apples to oranges. It shouldn’t be held accountable for producing the energy the rest of the world (and country) eagerly consumes. Whether that’s true or not is beside the point.
Quebec has demonstrated that real progress can be made in a short timeframe. Only two years since implementing its comprehensive (and rather ambitious) action plan, Quebec has seen measurable results.
November 28, 2008
When it comes to moving towards a low-carbon economy, to borrow a line from Former US President Bill Clinton, it’s the cars, stupid.
Vehicle transportation is the single-largest contributor of excess carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses. So any serious effort to counteract climate change must tackle the problem of emissions from vehicles. But how do you know what you are facing if you can’t quantify the problem?
That’s where Zerofootprint and Skymeter Corporation come in. The two companies have entered a partnership to measure vehicular greenhouse gas emissions. Toronto-based Skymeter specializes in data-services and billing-delivery metering services and Zerofootprint, as their name implies, facilitates reducing our collective footprint.
Their initial applications focus on highly accurate measurement of corporate and individual carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, combining GPS and carbon-measurement tools. The purpose of their tools is to quantify the vehicle carbon emission problem, the key to devising intelligent solutions.
One such solution is a simple one: encourage drivers to drive less. Skymeter proposes an incentive-based tolling system that offers drivers incentives to reduce driving. Drivers would be rewarded for reducing their emissions and energy consumption in the form of tax credits instead of punished with punitive taxes and user fees.
Victoria Regional Transit uses a similar method of changing driving habits. It promotes sustainable transportation with a monthly bus pass reward program. Monthly pass holders are permitted to claim a non-refundable tax credit on their income tax return for using a sustainable mode of transport.
It goes to show you that sometimes, the carrot works better than the stick.
November 7, 2008
A new study reveals that RVing is the travel mode of choice for eco-friendliness. The study compared the carbon dioxide emissions of a family of four traveling by RV and compared it to the emissions generated by other modes of transport, including driving your car or flying to your destination.
Conducted by an independent research firm, the study used a carbon calculator methodology developed by Conservation International. The study compared carbon dioxide emissions from vacations of 3, 7, 10 and 14 days in length. The study even factored in different makes and models of cars and RV for a fair comparison.
How can it possibly be that an RV which has the aerodynamic characteristics of a cardboard box possibly produce less greenhouse gas than your average car? Well, no. It doesn’t. But when you take a vacation, that’s not a fair comparison, unless you drive there and sleep in your back seat. If that’s the case, bravo.
Air travel, as most probably understand, generates more carbon dioxide for the same trip than RV travel. But hotel stays aren’t exactly carbon-neutral, either. That’s not to say you shouldn’t stay in hotels, just that like anything else, they have a footprint. Heating, air conditioning, laundry, restaurants, ice makers, room service; it all counts.
It seems when it comes to vacations, RV’s are number one. That’s the index finger, not the middle one.
July 31, 2008
Though air travel began with a very light carbon footprint, it’s since become a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention becoming vulnerable to fuel prices . Air travel doesn’t travel light, and the weight its begun to carry concerns both its airlines and customers.
Pitching lower fuel costs and higher efficiency speaks to two of the industry’s largest concerns. It isn’t surprising, then, that Bombardier’s recent announcement of its CSeries passenger planes is specifically geared toward addressing the cost of fuel and the impact of that fuel’s use. Designed to carry between 110 and 130 passengers in each plane, the line boasts 20 per cent less fuel use, and emits up to 20 per cent less CO2 and up to 50 per cent less nitrogen oxide (NO2).
But as the National Post’s finance section reported, fewer orders prove that the plane’s new features don’t necessarily make for an easy sell. Certainly, upgrades like “blended winglets” have been able to improve the efficiency of existing planes, and given the $46.7 million price tag of a new CSeries plane, airlines are understandably motivated to maintain their existing fleet first.
Buying the newer planes wouldn’t be the only way for an airline to nod to environmental concerns. Carbon offsets, now available for purchase withan airline’s tickets, are also designed to assuage the emissions released by air travel. Just another way to avoid leaving a carbon footprint in the sky.