Put the Billionaires on a Rocket to Mars

Away with them. Like they tell us, it’s a chance to save Earth.

Nikiforuk-Mars-Colour.jpg

Sky’s the limit! Just three billionaires, (from left) Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, now possess more wealth than the bottom half of US households. Illustration by Christopher Cheung. Jeff Bezos photo via Wikipedia, public domain; Bill Gates photo via WikipediaCC BY-SA 2.0; and Warren Buffett photo via WikipediaCC BY-SA 2.0.

The world has an intractable problem: in 1990, billionaires had amassed $118 billion in wealth.

Today, they hoard a treasure trove of more than $3 trillion.

Meanwhile, the number of billionaires has grown by nearly 40 per cent over the last five years.

Billionaires are not only proliferating faster than the coronavirus, but they are concentrating the globe’s money supply like there is no tomorrow.

The globe’s 2,153 billionaires, for example, now have more wealth than half the world’s population — that’s 4.6 billion ordinary Earth dwellers.

Just 22 male billionaires have more money than all the women living in Africa. That’s more than half a billion people.

At this rate, billionaires will own everything and everybody in a couple of years.

Billionaire oligarchs already dominate global affairs so totally that a Swiss financial firm publishes a yearly report on their escapades.

Every day, billionaires intervene in elections, fund political parties, run for office, dominate another continent or make more merchandise we don’t need.

When billionaires aren’t telling us how to live, they fly in their private jets to Davos where they pretend to fix the world’s problems.

Apparently only rich people with money and jets can fix things.

In Davos, billionaires, signalling virtue like a host of Vestal Virgins, utter a lot of rich clichés, like solemnly intoning that problems made by technology can be solved by technology — with the help of generous billionaires.

Meanwhile, a whole bunch of digital billionaires are trying to manage and manipulate us like rats in a lab with algorithms as addictive as Oxycontin.

At one time, you could depend on populists to rise up periodically to overthrow the rich and restore some balance to the world, but the billionaires have outflanked us.

They now lead and fund populist movements promising “to drain political swamps.” Talk about a “win-win” for billionaires.

Others rich guys like George Soros and David Koch think they can solve the world’s problems with money, which, incidentally, is pretty much how Judas thought about the world.

We could rise up against the world’s billionaire 0.000027 per cent the old-fashioned way with guillotines and pitchforks, but I have a more modest solution: let’s just send them to Mars.

Billionaires not only like rockets, but they are crazy about Mars and really want to go there in a bad way. I think many of them are also getting the heebie-jeebies here on Earth.

You can understand why. The damned plebs are anxious and awash in debt; the economy has lost its mojo; some populists actually want to tax the rich; and then there is that damnable thing called climate change.

Most of us can smell gunpowder in the air.

One hundred years ago, no rich person in their right mind would have ever thought of going to a Red State, let alone a Red Planet, but things have changed.

Every billionaire worth their salt is selling off their yacht or extending their longevity to buy a rocket.

That’s right: rockets have become the new yachts.

The billionaire President Donald Trump understands the new rocket frenzy.

He notes that “rich people like building rocket ships and sending them up,” and it’s OK with him.

And Trump wants the moon to serve as a launch pad for Mars. “I said, ‘Hey, we’ve done the moon. That’s not so exciting.’ So we’ll be doing the moon. But we’ll really be doing Mars.”

Do Mars, Trump. Do.

The billionaire Elon Musk figures that people, well really rich people, now have two choices.

They can stay on Earth and walk wide-eyed into “an inevitable extinction event” and lose their fortunes.

Or they can “become a spacefaring civilization, and a multi-planetary species.”

That’s how hopeful the billionaires are today. In any case, they really want to get off the planet.

Jeff Bezos, the chief of Amazon, wants not only to go Mars but “everywhere” in space in one of his shiny Blue Origin rockets.

He can afford to, because Amazon doesn’t pay any federal taxes.

He also thinks all “heavy industry will be moved off-planet” and that Earth should be zoned “residential” for non-billionaires.

Let’s send Captain Picard Bezos to Mars before the Earth runs out of merchandise to sell on Amazon.

Make it so.

Musk, who has already put a Tesla roadster into space because he could, plans to establish a colony on the Red Planet by 2050.

I say let him. But make it a colony for billionaires with electric cars only. I don’t care if he calls it Club Musk or Club Red.

Now here comes a really funny part: the Nazi rocketeer Wernher von Braun (who went on to lead the U.S space program) predicted in his book Project Mars, a “technical” case for going wrapped in a 1950s sci-fi novel, that the red planet would be governed by 10 technocrats and their leader would be called Elon.

I am not making this shit up.

Igor Ashurbeyli, a Russian billionaire and rocket scientist, wants to create his own nation in outer space called “Asgardia.”

It will have its own government, currency, calendar and something we don’t have on Earth anymore — a justice system.

Go Ashurbeyli. The Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who founded the fashion retailer Zozo, hopes to make it to the moon on one of Musk’s SpaceX rockets.

Maezawa will probably look pretty fashionable on the journey wearing a Zozo body suit.

Bye, bye Maezawa.

Mark Zuckerberg, the whining billionaire who broke a lot of democratic things with Facebook, doesn’t want to go to outer space (at least not yet), but is sending spacecraft to its far reaches.

He wants to be the first to get aliens on Facebook.

So let’s send the violator of our privacies to the Red Planet. I’m sure he will find a lot of friends there.

Bon voyage, Zuckerberg!

Now let me declare my bias, because I obviously have one.

I don’t hate billionaires. I just don’t appreciate their abuse of power and their demonic obsession with money.

Jacques Ellul, a radical Christian that no self-respecting billionaire would ever read, thought money acted like a strange power that invaded the soul and enslaved the heart.

It replaced God’s spirit in every person with absurdities and cruelties.

He thought the only way to deal with the problem of money was by giving it away and treating it profanely.

Now get this: the scriptures identify “the rich” as people who think they don’t need God’s help. That probably explains why most billionaires act like gods and tweet like rock stars.

One more thing. I come from a long line of Norwegian and Ukrainian peasants.

A peasant defines wealth the old-fashioned way: it’s all about family and friends and a good piece of Earth. If you are loved and believe in the Tao or God, you are wealthy even if you have holes in your shoes.

One of my heroes is Emiliano Zapata, a rebel peasant leader from Morelos, Mexico. He refused to sit on the presidential throne in Mexico City in 1914, because that’s not why he fought for the poor. “We should burn that chair to end all ambitions,” he said. Nobody listened to Zapata.

A military man later betrayed Zapata for, you guessed it, money.

Now I know I am writing heresies here. I’ve read the propaganda on the rich: they worked hard at building their hedge funds and earned their money and we should worship them. Billionaires obviously have long-term vision and are determined risk takers while the rest of us are just no-good shirkers.

Without billionaires, goes the propaganda, we’d have no running toilets or high-tech gadgets to distract us from the proliferation of billionaires. Companies run by billionaires, of course, make more money than other companies. And blah, blah, blah.

The billionaire Bill Gates says banning billionaires would be a bad idea because “the amount you would gain would be much less than the amount you would lose.”

But I disagree. I lived well without Microsoft or a smart phone. A billionaire didn’t invent the flush toilet, or penicillin for that matter. In fact, I can’t really think of any problem a billionaire has really solved.

And no billionaire, no matter how much he or she celebrates themselves, will ever be as valuable as a man or woman who cares for a sick child, or a parent crippled by a stroke, or a friend beset by dementia.

So let’s send the world’s billionaires — all 2,153 of them — to Mars before we have a trillionaire problem.

Oh, did I forget to mention that the billionaires have to leave their wealth and their art collections behind?

It is really important to travel light on a flight to Mars.

To be serious for a moment, Wernher von Braun thought life on Mars would be hunky dory.

The colonists would live a subterranean existence and eat microscopic algae. Opportunities for “body repair and brain filling stations” would be readily available, and billionaires just love that kind of talk.

Nobody living on Mars would get nostalgic for Earth, wrote von Braun, thanks to “the standardization of all ideas and desires.”

And what more could a billionaire ask for?

Unist’ot’en Solidarity Brigade, March 2: Callout for ongoing support

Despite a widespread media narrative spreading incorrect information, NO agreements have been made on the Coastal Gas Link Pipeline, and the call for solidarity actions remains firmly in place! Message to Supporters”As Canada and BC have proposed an agreement to recognize Wet’suwet’en title on our unceded lands, Coastal Gaslink and the RCMP continue to violently trespass against our will.

A message to our supporters:

This is not over. We want the RCMP and CGL off our lands.

This proposal from BC and Canada is long overdue, following decades of denial of Wet’suwet’en rights and title after the 1997 Delgamuukw-Gisday’wa court case. Our ancestors proved what we have always known – that these lands belong to the Wet’suwet’en – and thanks to thousands rising up across so-called Canada, the government is forced to acknowledge this.

We need to keep the pressure on.

The proposal will be reviewed by our clans, and decided upon by our nation in our bahtlats (feast hall) in accordance with Anuk nu’at’en (Wet’suwet’en law) in the coming weeks.

Stay strong. #Wetsuwetenstrong

#ShutDownCanada #ReconciliationIsDead

Callout for Solidarity: http://unistoten.camp/alleyesonwetsuweten

Gidimt’en Call to action: www.yintahaccess.com

Donate to Gidimt’en camp: https://www.gofundme.com/f/gidimt039en-strong
Video update from Unist’ot’en

Video update from Unist’ot’en

“Keep the Pressure on!

We will not be intimidated!”

Solidarity actions have continued at pace with new rail blockades going up across the country today, longstanding blockades remaining in place, and Indigenous youth hitting one full week of occupying the BC Legislature!

The widespread media misinformation that a deal on the pipeline has been reached is likely to have an impact on how people understand ongoing action. Please help get the truth out that no deal on the pipeline has been reached and the call for solidarity remains in place!

More public actions and educational events are planned around the country and this Wednesday students are organizing a nation wide walk out in Solidarity with Wet’suwet’en!

Keep the pressure on! Gidemt’en spokesperson urges Wet’suwet’en solidarity movement to not let up!

20 min Interview with people holding down the Kahnawake Rail Blockade

New  Nerail Blockade in St’at’mic Territory Today

Find or post a walkout near you!

And use this walkout organizing toolkit

New rail Blockade in St’at’mic Territory Today

Callout from Tyendinaga Mohawks

“We need your help building a village. Donations of infrastructure to do so are much appreciated; tents, cots, sleeping bags, flashlights, tarps, tables, chairs etc. Onkwehonwe, allies and supporters are invited to come and join the Wyman Rd. village to stand with the people of Wet’suwet’en and Tyendinaga who face oppression at the hands of CGL, CN the RCMP and the OPP. It’s takes a village to stop genocide.

You can order supplies from our Amazon wishlist here: realpeoples.media/wishlist

Monetary donations can be emailed to tyendinagadonations@gmail.com. Cash donations are not accepted at the camps, no other entity has been authorized to collect donations on behalf of the Tyendinaga Mohawks.

If you do not wish to support Amazon you can ship items to, or drop them off at:

Bear Medicine
c/o Tyendinaga Mohawks
5403 Old Highway 2
Shannonvile,
Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory
K0K 3A0

OR

Smoke Signals
c/o Tyendinaga Mohawks
255 Highway 49
Desoronto
Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory
K0K 1X0

Xinca Parliament and Maritimes Guatemala Breaking the Silence Network Solidarity Statement

We support and stand in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders, who are resisting the incursion of the Coastal Gaslink (CGL) pipeline on their unceded territory.

We – Xinka people and Xinka Parliament in Guatemala – have been engaged in a similar struggle against the Escobal mine, in opposition to the BC-based company Pan-American Silver (previously Tahoe Resources) in our territory. Through numerous municipal consultations, we’ve voiced our opposition to the project. For defending our territory, our people have been met with violence, including murder and the shooting of peaceful protesters, military occupation, threats, intimidation, as well as criminalization.

We know full well the risks faced by Indigenous land defenders when state forces and the legal system are mobilized in defense of resource extraction. We’ve seen this throughout Guatemala and we’re seeing this today in Wet’suwet’en territory.

Love and Rage,
Unist’ot’en Solidarity Brigade

Kahnawake residents weigh in on whether to maintain rail barricade

Rail service was briefly disrupted Monday afternoon by separate blockade in Pointe-Saint-Charles

The rail barricade has been up since Feb. 8 in Kahnawake, on Montreal’s South Shore. (Diana Gonzalez/Radio-Canada)

Residents of the Mohawk territory of Kahnawake, south of Montreal, are mulling over whether to maintain a rail blockade that’s been up since Feb. 8.

Community members attended a meeting at a longhouse in Kahnawake Monday evening. Media were not permitted to attend.

“There’s a lot of thought and consideration being given to these next steps,” Kanen’tó:kon Hemlock, a spokesperson for the longhouse, said Tuesday morning.

“There’s no definite deadline, but people do definitely feel that a decision does have to be made soon.”

The barricade in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs crosses a Canadian Pacific Railway line and has disrupted both freight and commuter service.

A Quebec Superior Court judge issued an injunction against the Kahnawake blockade last week, though authorities have not yet enforced the order.

This flag flew above the blockade which was dismantled by police in Saint-Lambert last month. (Radio-Canada)

 

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are opposed to a pipeline project that would run through their ancestral territory in northern B.C.

Their opposition sparked protests across the country after RCMP officers arrested several people in Wet’suwet’en territory last month.

Over the weekend, Wet’suwet’en chiefs and representatives of the federal and B.C. governments announced they had reached a draft agreement concerning some of the issues involved in the pipeline dispute.

The tentative deal reportedly addresses Wet’suwet’en demands for rights and title recognition, but not the pipeline itself.

Kenneth Deer, a Mohawk elder serving as a spokesperson for the activists at the blockade, said they want to speak with Wet’suwet’en chiefs before deciding what to do next.

“It’s a big decision to decide to take down the barricade or not, and they want to make sure they have everything before they make that decision,” Deer told reporters at the barricade on Sunday.

Protesters stood on CN Rail tracks near Wellington Street in Montreal’s Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood, Monday afternoon, before leaving. (Radio-Canada)

Via Rail, Exo service briefly blocked

Monday afternoon, a small group of masked protesters briefly disrupted passenger and commuter rail service in Montreal.

Around 20 protesters stood in the rain for several hours on CN Rail tracks near Wellington Street in Montreal’s Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood.

They left after a sizeable police presence assembled nearby.

Via Rail, which uses the CN tracks, said the protest delayed some departures and arrivals.

Service was also temporarily delayed — out of safety concerns — on a separate commuter line that connects Mont-Saint-Hilaire to downtown, according to Exo.

Last month, CN applied for and received an injunction to dismantle barricades on its tracks within the province.

Police used this injunction to disperse protesters who had set up a barricade on CN tracks in Saint-Lambert on Feb. 21. SOURCE

Mi’kmaq-designed software helps communities see how climate change could impact them

Software uses 3D modelling and environmental data to simulate effects of floods, wildfires

‘When you actually see the water at a particular height around the base of a house, that can sort of commit them to action,’ said 3D Wave Design co-founder Noah Stevens. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

Mi’kmaq-designed software that blends 3D modelling, laser scanning and environmental data is being developed to help communities in the Atlantic region prepare for the potential catastrophic results of climate change.

The online application, developed by 3D Wave Design, a Nova Scotia-based 3D animation and communications company, allows users to simulate conditions like storm surge, inland flooding and wildfires, using real environmental, meteorological and laser scanning data.

The simulations play out over 3D representations of real communities and use accurate geographic measurements, which could help communities plan for the worst.

“We can give them the ability to raise and lower water levels … allow them to set fires and control the wind speed and  direction, to see what’s at risk,” said 3D Wave co-founder Barry Stevens, a member of Acadia First Nation in Nova Scotia.

WATCH | Mi’kmaq designers create software that blends 3D modelling, laser scanning and environmental data 
Mi’kmaq-designed software that blends 3D modelling, laser scanning and environmental data is being developed to help communities in the Atlantic region prepare for the potential catastrophic results of climate change. 3:01

Stevens said being able to visualize what could happen to a community as a result of climate change can shape a person’s commitment to prepare for it, or stop it. It’s a perspective he’s had since he was young, he said.

“When I grew up I had a trap line, I hunted and fished … I was very much an outdoors person,” he said.

“I knew something was happening even before this climate change became a formal thing. Now I’m asking, why aren’t people taking this seriously? Why is there no action?”

Seeing the effects spurs action

“Typically most people are visual learners,” said co-founder and programmer Noah Stevens, Barry Stevens’s son.

“When you actually see the water at a particular height around the base of a house, that can sort of commit them to action. And also, if they’re looking at areas of interest that are being impacted, [they] can think about plans for mitigation,” he said.

Noah Stevens said the unique part of the software is the interpretation and simplified visual translation of all of the complex data.

‘I knew something was happening even before this climate change became a formal thing. Now I’m asking, why aren’t people taking this serious? Why is there no action,’ said 3D Wave Design Co-founder Barry Stevens. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

 

He uses reference points gathered by aircraft-mounted laser (or lidar) technology, layers it in a 3D space with satellite imagery, and then programs the conditions of water, wind and fire.

“We take all of the engineering studies and reports that have been done, we read it, we digest it, we put it back in the application,” Noah Stevens said.

The application, which he said can operate on most average mobile and desktop devices, also incudes links to emergency preparedness resources and educational material.

“Knowing that our technology and our application could help people mitigate the effects of climate change and understand the risk that’s involved makes me really happy, because it helps people actually do something about it instead of just talk about it.”

Barry Stevens said the company is working with Acadia First Nation and Nova Scotia coastal municipalities to enhance emergency measures and preparation for storm surge. SOURCE

 

Wet’suwet’en chief says he’ll withdraw support for pipeline if his people turn against it

Chief Dan George says he wants all Wet’suwet’en members to vote on the Coastal GasLink pipeline

Protests in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline continue to take place across the country. (Evan Tsuyoshi Mitsui/CBC)

A Wet’suwet’en elected band chief says his continued support for the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline depends on what his people want — and if they turn against the project, he’s willing to pass up its possible economic benefits.

Burns Lake First Nation Chief Dan George was asked what he would do if the Wet’suwet’en remain opposed to a pipeline on their land.

“I’d have to agree with them because that’s the decision that all the members made,” George told CBC News.

George said the question of community support for the pipeline should be part of expected discussions among Wet’suwet’en members on a tentative agreement reached over the weekend between hereditary chiefs, Ottawa and the B.C. government.

That tentative agreement on land and title rights has not been made public; Chief George has yet to see it. The proposal needs to be ratified by the Wet’suwet’en Nation for it to be final.

WATCH | Chief Dan George explains his position:
Wet’suwet’en Burns Lake First Nation Chief Dan George, who is in favour of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, says he is prepared to ask his constituents to vote again on the project. 1:17

“We need to come to a Wet’suwet’en solution together … The whole nation should come together and discuss both the agreement and the pipeline itself,” said George, whose band is one of five Wet’suwet’en First Nations that have signed deals with Coastal GasLink.

“Who’s for and who’s against? Every Wet’suwet’en member should be involved one way or another. It started out from the Wet’suwet’en people and the Wet’suwet’en people need to fix it.”

George said he doesn’t want the fate of the natural gas pipeline to rest solely in the hands of a few hereditary chiefs.

Figuring out how to get all the Wet’suwet’en members together to sort out of the pipeline dispute won’t be easy, George said, adding he still wants everyone to have a say.

“Hopefully, we can come to some sort of mutual decision together,” George said. “How are we going to get everyone involved since half of our people live off of reserve and half of our people live on-reserve?”

None of the hereditary chiefs responded to CBC’s requests for comment by deadline.

But one of them, Chief Woos, has said that the tentative agreement between the chiefs and the federal and provincial governments represents an important milestone in recognizing the rights of the hereditary leaders over their traditional territory.

“This is where it starts,” Woos said. “The duty to consult as well as the rights and title.”

George said he wishes he could have been part of last weekend’s high-level discussions between hereditary chiefs, B.C. Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Scott Fraser and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett.

George said there needs to be more work done to strengthen the relationship between elected band and hereditary chiefs.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader Chief Woos, also known as Frank Alec, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser address the media in Smithers, B.C. The senior government ministers have been negotiating with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs since Thursday. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

 

“Going to the hereditary chiefs and creating that governance system and working together would’ve probably benefited all of us,” George said.

There has been little communication between the hereditary and elected band chiefs, said George, even though the 1997 Delgamuukw Supreme Court of Canada decision paved the way for the construction of a collaborative governance structure.

Delgamuukw acknowledged the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en peoples’ title over their land, and recognized a hereditary governance structure and the names of hereditary leaders.

“It’s been 25 years since Delgamuukw and they have not asked us to come to the table and create that governance system …” George said. “We are working in silos.”

A lot at stake

George also said he doesn’t believe the hereditary chiefs have any mandate to take a position on the pipeline because the project went to a vote in his community and the majority of members supported it.

“Those were my marching orders,” George said. “Same with the hereditary chiefs. They have to follow what their clans tell them.”

If the pipeline doesn’t go ahead, George said, his community could lose out on funding that is helping to revitalize Indigenous languages and culture.

Despite police intervention and calls for the blockades to come down, demonstrations in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ cause continue across the country.

“I think it’s hurting our country and it’s hurting all of our First Nations because it’s starting to cause discrimination against us,” George said.

“We’re going back 20 years in time. A lot of our children in school are getting discriminated against and it’s got to stop.”

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde issued a statement on Monday calling for continued respectful dialogue.

“The draft agreement between the Wet’suwet’en and federal and provincial ministers is a positive step as it addresses the fundamental issue in this matter — First Nations rights and title over their lands and territories,” Bellegarde wrote.

“This could lead to the long overdue work of breathing life into the historic Delgamuukw decision. Only the Wet’suwet’en can determine if they support this proposed agreement and they must be given the time and the space to do that.” SOURCE

Don’t buy new, fix the old: The repair business is booming

‘Repair cafés’, new businesses seek to serve waste-conscious consumers

Anita Neufeld brought a broken tape deck to Repair Café Toronto to be repaired. She’s also training to become a ‘fixer’ there. (Doug Husby/CBC)

We’ve all heard the phrase, “They don’t make things like they used to.”

Now a growing number of eco-minded Canadians are deciding that just won’t do. Coffee makers, lamps, toasters and kettles can often be fixed instead of tossed into the trash when they stop working.

“A lot of things these days break quite easily,” says Wai Chu Cheng, the co-founder of Repair Café Toronto, a non-profit organization with 800 volunteers on call, eager to teach people how to fix household items. “People aren’t sure they can repair it themselves, and we show them how.”

The Repair Café holds monthly gatherings, where not only small appliances and other household goods get fixed, but also clothing that needs patches or mending.

When the Repair Café started seven years ago in Canada, there was only one chapter, in Calgary. Now Cheng says there are 47 similar Café organizations in cities across the country providing the same type of services — free.  More are coming; Cheng says she’s been getting calls from community groups who want help to set up their own, local repair group.

The cost of replacement has always been a motivation to have things repaired, but nowadays Cheng says climate and waste concerns are driving a surge in interest, particularly with young people.

A technician with Mobile Klinik works on a customer’s broken phone. (Marc Baby/CBC)

Anita Neufeld came to a recent Repair Café with a broken tape deck. “The main reason for me to fix things is to be able to reuse stuff and keep it out of the landfill.”

Make it last longer

For-profit companies are also on top of the trend. Tim McGuire is CEO of Mobile Klinik, a chain of 80 stores that repair mobile devices in malls and Walmart locations across the country. He points out that the chain was recently ranked as the 12th fastest growing company in Canada, with plans to have 200 locations coast to coast within the next three years.

“There are a lot of people that would like to get more years out of an electronic device, rather than putting it into a landfill,” he says.

Michael Coteau, a Liberal member of the Ontario Legislature, introduced a private member’s bill last year that would have required manufacturers to make DIY repairs easier. The Conservative majority promptly voted it down. (Keith Burgess/CBC)

 

McGuire says it’s not uncommon for manufacturers to advise consumers to buy a new device, instead of having an old one fixed. But it appears many people are loath to incur that expense or to contribute to Canada’s waste situation.

“If you go back two years, the average phone lasted about two and a quarter years. Now customers are keeping their phones for over three years, and we see that continuing to increase every year,” he says.

Planned obsolescence

At a recent Repair Café event, some of those in attendance blamed manufacturers for building devices with “planned obsolescence” in mind, in order to boost sales.

“They’re made to be broken,” says Paul Magder, one of the co-founders of the Toronto chapter. “They’re made to be thrown out, to make money for the manufacturers. That’s their business model.”

Magder, who once worked in the manufacturing sector, says it’s all about cost. “They use plastic parts, cheap parts and then they break. If they have to use metal parts it’ll be more expensive, but then it will last longer.”

Consumers, however, are highly price-sensitive, and manufacturers focus on keeping prices as low as possible, in order to compete.

Manufacturers say repair is risky

In a statement provided to CBC News the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers cautions, “An untrained or uncertified person performing a repair may not be aware of or understand how to ensure an appliance continues to meet the various safety standards required to keep Canadians safe.”

Many Canadians, tired of living in what some call a ‘disposable society,’ are learning how to repair their belongings, instead of tossing them in the trash. (Doug Husby/CBC)

 

Michael Coteau is a member of the Ontario Legislature who introduced a private member’s bill last year, proposing a requirement for manufacturers to make parts and repair instructions widely available. But as a Liberal-sponsored bill, it was promptly voted down by Ontario’s Conservative majority government. SOOURCE

“My father is a washing machine repairman,” says Coteau. “That’s what he’s done his whole life. As consumers, as Ontarians, as Canadians, we need to make sure that as we move along in this age of advancement in technology, we have control of our devices.’

Coteau points out that the European Union parliament is on course to pass “right to repair” legislation, specifying the number of years a manufacturer must make reasonably priced parts available, among other measures to promote repairability in appliances. In addition, 20 American states are considering similar legislation, according to the Washington-based Public Interest Research Group.

Industry groups push back

But Coteau says that shortly after he tabled his bill, a delegation from the tech industry arrived in his Queen’s Park office. “It was a whole industry group, and they came in and sat down to make a counter argument to the right to repair movement, saying that it was dangerous for people to open up their products.” The group also made an argument about compromising intellectual property.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable,” says Coteau. He’s considering reintroducing his bill.

But many Canadians aren’t waiting for legislation or for manufacturers to act. They’re helping each other at events like the Repair Café gathering in Toronto.

“I have a pair of probably 20-year-old jeans that are being repaired,” explained Brian Brenie, as a fixer showed him how to patch his favourite denim. “They’re so comfortable, I just can’t get rid of them and I don’t want to throw them away, so I always come to the Repair Café to get these types of things done.”

Charmaine Iding came to the Café to get her phone fixed, and got a necklace restrung while she was there. “The real problem is in design where they don’t make things to be fixed — they make things to be obsolete, so people will keep consuming. That is the real problem.”

SOURCE

“My father is a washing machine repairman,” says Coteau. “That’s what he’s done his whole life. As consumers, as Ontarians, as Canadians, we need to make sure that as we move along in this age of advancement in technology, we have control of our devices.’  SOURCE

 

Climate change could add around $100 billion to costs of extreme weather

Image result for Climate change could add around $100 billion to costs of extreme weather

LONDON (Reuters) – Climate change could add around $100 billion, or more than 20%, to the global cost of extreme weather events such as floods, heatwaves and droughts by 2040, research from Cambridge University showed on Wednesday.

The findings come from the university’s Climate Change Business Risk Index, which uses climate modeling data to quantify extreme weather event risks and their potential to disrupt business operations and supply chains globally.

Average direct costs of around $195 billion a year could rise to $234 billion by 2040, the report said, an increase of $39 billion a year at today’s values, with the remainder taken up by indirect costs such as those from supply chain disruption.

Andrew Coburn, chief scientist at the Centre for Risk Studies, said companies were struggling to get to grips with the long-range weather forecasts and how their businesses would be affected by the transition to a low-carbon economy.

“Accurately quantifying this kind of information on business-relevant timescales will help businesses plan for their increased exposure to heatwaves and other climate-related risks,” the researchers said in a statement. SOURCE

Shell Exploring World’s Largest Green Hydrogen Project

Oil major joins a feasibility study that could lead to gigawatts of Dutch offshore wind being built purely for the manufacture of green hydrogen.

Eemshaven is the focus of plans for a green hydrogen cluster in the Netherlands. (Credit: Groningen Seaports)

Eemshaven is the focus of plans for a green hydrogen cluster in the Netherlands. (Credit: Groningen Seaports)

Oil major Shell has started feasibility work on what would be the largest green hydrogen project in the world.

The plans would see 3 to 4 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity established in the North Sea by 2030 purely for the manufacture of green hydrogen. Electrolyzers will be based in Eemshaven, along the northern coast of the Netherlands, and potentially offshore as well.

The project could be expanded to 10 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2040 dedicated to green hydrogen production.

Shell Netherlands, Dutch gas grid operator Gasunie and the port of Groningen are the founding partners of the NortH2 project, with the trio looking for others to join the consortium during the one-year feasibility study. They hope to develop a “European Hydrogen Valley” cluster.

Gasunie will develop the network infrastructure required for the storage and distribution of hydrogen.

“This project offers opportunities throughout the entire hydrogen chain,” said Marjan van Loon, president-director of Shell Netherlands, in a statement.

“In order to realize this project, we will need several new partners,” van Loon said. “Together we will have to pioneer and innovate to bring together all the available knowledge and skills that are required. The energy transition calls for guts, boldness and action.”

Critical to a zero-emissions pathway

Shell already has a 20 percent stake in a consortium building around 730 megawatts of offshore wind off the coast of the Netherlands. The country’s next 700-megawatt auction is scheduled for April this year.

The Netherlands has an offshore wind target of 11.5 gigawatts by 2030. If the NortH2 plan comes to fruition, more than a third of that capacity would have to be contracted exclusively for green hydrogen production.

Shell previously told GTM that subsidy support would be beneficial for the build-out of the green hydrogen economy. Research by Wood Mackenzie analyst Ben Gallagher indicates that power prices of $30 per megawatt-hour and aggressive utilization rates would be needed for the electrolyzers to be competitive with existing hydrogen production methods.

In the joint statement announcing the collaboration, the trio added a caveat: “NortH2’s partners anticipate that the initial project phases may require European and national grants available for the decarbonization of energy.”

The outline document of the EU’s trillion-euro Green Deal framework highlight “clean hydrogen” infrastructure and research as priority areas.

Hydrogen is considered an essential component for any credible pathway for industrial nations to reaching net-zero emissions. The Netherlands has previously proposed a 95 percent emissions reduction target, with debate on a national net-zero goal ongoing. A Dutch carbon tax, that would cover emissions from producing hydrogen using methane, is expected to reach €125 ($137) per ton of CO2 equivalent emissions by 2030.

Dutch research organization TNO estimates that 1 ton of hydrogen produced from methane leads to 10 tons of CO2 equivalent.

By 2040, NortH2 could be producing 800,000 tons of green hydrogen, making the carbon tax savings a €1 billion opportunity in 2040, even if the carbon tax rate remains unchanged from 2030.

The market for green hydrogen

The initial plan is to deliver the hydrogen to industrial users in the Netherlands and further afield in northwest Europe.

Gasunie has already installed a 1-megawatt electrolyzer and is working with SkyNRG on a proposed 20-megawatt electrolyzer in nearby Delfzijl. That will use green hydrogen to manufacture renewable methanol as a jet fuel replacement.

Chemport Europe, in Groningen, is responsible for 15 percent of the Dutch chemical industry’s output.

The U.K.’s Drax biomass power plant, together with Equinor and National Grid, is planning the addition of carbon capture and storage and hydrogen manufacturing. The hydrogen would be pumped along the Humber estuary, a major industrial hub.

The global market for hydrogen (of all types) is currently 70 million tons. According to electrolyzer manufacturer ITM Power, only 1 million tons are used for energy rather than as an industrial feedstock. As well as being used for transport and heat, hydrogen can also be converted back to electricity.

The Belgian port of Ostend is planning a 50-megawatt electrolyzer, again powered by offshore wind, which it will then pair with a hydrogen-fired power plant demonstration project in 2022. The primary objective is to smooth out differences between Belgium’s marine renewables supply and power demand. SOURCE

10 Predictions for the Solar and Storage Market in the 2020s

Batteries will be standard with virtually every new solar system installed in the U.S. by 2025, the author predicts.

Branding and reputation will be increasingly important in the energy storage market.

Branding and reputation will be increasingly important in the energy storage market.

All-in-one systems will be the new normal

1. Lots of storage

Batteries will be incentivized or mandated for practically every new solar PV system across the U.S. by 2025. As more homeowners and businesses deploy PV systems to reduce their electricity bills and ensure backup power, simple net metering will increasingly be replaced by time-of-use rates and other billing mechanisms that aim to align power prices with utility costs. We already see these trends in California and several states in the Northeast.

2. System costs will increase with the shift toward batteries

Solar systems with batteries are going to be about twice as expensive as traditional grid-direct installations, so in that sense, we will see actual costs increase as the mix shifts toward batteries. But while system costs will go up, we need to be careful to parse the actual equipment and soft costs from the consumer’s cost net of tax credits and incentives. Equipment costs for batteries and other hardware are generally flat to slightly down.

3. More battery and inverter packages from the same brand

Since the battery represents the dominant cost in an energy storage system (ESS), inverter companies will increasingly offer branded batteries. In turn, inverter companies packaging third-party batteries will eventually make way for savvy battery companies that can package the whole system.

4. Energy storage systems treated like heat pumps and air conditioners

California’s new Title 21 requirements make solar PV systems standard issue, and we can expect a future update to do the same for energy storage. By then, builders will be able to choose the ESS line they want to work with, and the whole process will look almost exactly like it does for home mechanical appliances like water heaters and HVAC systems. The only question will be whether the ESS is packaged with solar panels or kept separate.

Standards will evolve

5. Reputation will matter — a lot

The lack of meaningful industry metrics in energy storage creates an environment where branding and reputation become important, since users have little information beyond messaging and word of mouth. Long-term, this will create a barrier to entry for new battery startups, so expect fewer total players once a handful of brands emerge as high-confidence choices.

6. New safety standards and code requirements catch up to technology

Last October, the National Fire Protection Association published the first edition of the NFPA 855 code, which establishes an industrywide safety standard for energy storage systems. Test standards, including UL 9540, and UL 9540A, as well as building and electrical codes, such as the National Electrical Code (NEC/NFPA 70), International Residential Code and International Fire Code, are already being updated to harmonize with NFPA 855. The upshot is that kilowatt-hour capacity limits, siting and protective equipment requirements are becoming standardized and more accessible for both installers and inspectors to understand and apply.

All things will remain technical

7. Real automation and optimization software will outpace flashy interfaces

Third-party owners have specific PV fleet-management needs and often have proprietary software that their ESS needs to interface with daily. IEEE 2030.5 and related standards will help facilitate this need. Local installers have little in the way of hard requirements, but they and their customers will expect systems to be easy to install and operate.

In the long term, we’ll see real automation and optimization rather than the data-palooza common today. Many interfaces report too much data, and simplifying systems to hide irrelevant data will be necessary to avoid alienating the more mainstream consumers.

8. Still waiting for vehicle-to-grid

While V2G is not primarily a technical challenge, some manufacturers like Nissan and Honda have made significant headway. The challenge is more procedural than technical. V2G applications will take off when vehicle manufacturers and interface providers come to terms with how and when an electric vehicle’s battery is used for grid services or backup and how that impacts the EV’s warranty.

There’s also a consumer confidence problem to overcome, especially for those relying solely on their EV for transportation. We’re more likely to see “second-life” EV batteries repackaged for stationary storage — which is much easier to manage than trying to use the battery in the car.

9. AC and DC coupling will both be around for the foreseeable future

Given the latest National Electrical Code requirements for rapid shutdown, as well as the fact that module-level systems (e.g., Enphase and SolarEdge) represent the majority of installed systems, AC coupling is the clear choice for existing system owners to add batteries.

AC coupling will enjoy at least a temporary boom in popularity as people with existing PV systems seek to add storage. However, most advantages of AC coupling are for retrofits, and the majority of new systems will enjoy lower costs and better performance via DC coupling. DC coupling is arguably going to become more dominant once the PV-only retrofit market is saturated.

10. Battery pack voltage will increase dramatically

A century of lead-acid battery dominance has entrenched 48 volts (DC) as the standard battery system voltage. Systems with voltages up to 1,000 VDC are deployed using standard lead-acid cells, but it is only practical for engineered commercial and industrial or utility systems.

The Ohm’s law tradeoff between current and voltage pushed the EV industry, which needs to reduce weight and cost everywhere it can, to quickly migrate to high-voltage battery packs using 3- to 4-VDC lithium-ion cells. Similarly, the stationary energy storage industry is adopting higher-voltage battery packs to reduce the cost of battery inverters. Since conductor losses increase and decrease exponentially with current, higher battery voltages also enable better system efficiency.

The decade of the 2020s will ring in the age of mass solar-plus-storage solution deployment, allowing businesses and residents to tap into renewables more efficiently, protect against outages, save money and live more sustainably. SOURCE

Canadian businesses rush to plug a gap in electric-vehicle charging: Don Pittis

There’s money in pumping volts as traditional gas stations face disruption

A car at the 2020 Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto is refuelled by an Ivy Charging Network station. Like other disruptive technologies, electric charging will challenge the existing industry. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

The relatively small number of electric vehicles you see on the road today masks what many experts say is a disruptive revolution coming to the business of refuelling our vehicles.

With some claiming as many as 80 per cent of conventional gas stations could be driven out of business in 15 years, Canadian companies are at the forefront of figuring out how to profit from the coming transformation of the business model for how we get a fill-up.

And as with the effect of previous technological disruptions on such firms as Kodak or former music titan PolyGram, unexpected innovations mean there is no guarantee that established players will retain their dominant position in a market where all the rules have changed.

The increasing number of battery-powered offerings at last week’s Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto and the many more in the pipeline hint at an energy transformation fuelled by climate change and startling advances in electric-vehicle tech, meaning the recharging business is now playing catch-up.

Growing demand

Repeated studies have shown there are not enough chargers even for existing demand, said Colleen Kaiser, who researches the electrification of transport for the Smart Prosperity Institute, a Canadian think-tank studying market-friendly sustainability.

On a life-cycle basis, studies have shown electric vehicles are already cheaper than their internal combustion equivalents, and competition and better technology is beginning to push prices down.

Experts say that will inevitably push EV sales up.

“What we are starting to see is the more progressive oil and gas companies are now looking at themselves as providers of power to fuel transportation,” said Kaiser, pointing to Canadian oilsands giant Suncor, which has already begun to install electric chargers at its Petro-Canada gas stations.

Conventional gas stations may be on the way out once people recharge at home, but the global Canadian company Couche-Tard, which operates under the name Circle K outside Quebec, is a leader in exploring innovative EV strategies. (Don Pittis/CBC)

 

But as with previous technological disruptions, Kaiser said new growth in the EV-recharging business is not simply a matter of replacing gas pumps with electrical outlets. Perhaps the most significant change in the business model is that the many people who currently go to the service station for a fill-up will be able to recharge at home or at work.

As Kaiser says, if we had gas pumps at our houses, we wouldn’t be using gas stations, either.

Among the many other complications is having enough power in the right locations. A bank of EV chargers in full use demands as much power as an office building, Kaiser said, and that kind of juice might not be easily available — especially in remote areas where chargers are needed.

Even if people switch to EVs as quickly as some forecasts suggest, there will still be decades of demand for conventional fuelling stations, as existing vehicles gradually wear out and are replaced by electrics.

End of the retail fuel era

Research by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) suggests that the world faces “the end of an era in fuel retail” as gas stations begin to disappear. According to the authors’ calculations, many traditional gas stations simply won’t make enough money.

“In a market environment in which electric vehicles (EVs), autonomous vehicles and new mobility models take off rapidly, up to 80 per cent of the fuel-retail network as currently constituted may be unprofitable in about 15 years,” reads the report.

But that doesn’t mean everyone is suffering. Paradoxically, even as existing service stations face a future profit challenge, new entrants are rushing to figure out ways to make money from a shortage of electric-charging points.

Analysis of Kodak’s collapse after the arrival of digital photography helps show why business disruption by technological change can be perplexing.

For instance, Kodak did not stubbornly refuse to make digital cameras. Instead, as digital imaging took off, the advantages the company had created with massive investments in the world’s best film technology suddenly became a liability, and nimble specialists in electronics and software crowded into the digital photography space.

Experts now say something similar has happened in the automotive business, as electric engines wipe out years of competitive advantage by German carmakers in sophisticated internal combustion mechanics.

A recently installed FLO fast charger in Calgary, operated by Canadian company AddÉnergie. The company says it can’t keep up with demand. (Mike Symington/CBC)

 

Whatever the future of conventional gas stations, Travis Allan, vice-president and general counsel at the EV-charging system FLO, said that his company’s system of electric fast chargers is an expanding business.

FLO, which just announced a deal to install charging points at Canadian Tire stations across the country, is owned by the award-winning Quebec-based startup AddÉnergie.

As well as building out a charging network, the 10-year-old privately held firm — listed in one business directory as an “application software” company — makes charging hardware for home and commercial use. It is also an expert in the software needed to regulate the electricity flow and bill customers. And the company is expanding its business into the U.S., including through a recent deal with electricity giant Consolidated Edison.

While Allan agrees that EV owners will charge at home when they can, he said there are many reasons besides long journeys why people will want access to public chargers.

In urban cores with street parking, such as New York and Montreal, for example, there’s a need for street-level charging. Car-share vehicles, ride-hailing companies, plus the eventual arrival of self-driving vehicles will also contribute to commercial charger demand. SOURCE

The Norway experience

There are reports that the Quebec-based convenience store and gas station company Couche-Tard, which operates under the brand name Circle K around the world, is using its subsidiary in Norway to lead the way in global research on how to continue to profit in the new world of EV charging.

Even at existing gas stations, studies show the associated convenience stores are a bigger source of profit than fuel sales. Couche-Tard is exploring the best way to offer services to a captive audience of customers waiting for their vehicles to charge.

Another new entry into the business is the Ontario-based Ivy Charging Network, currently installing 163 chargers at more than 70 locations across the province. A private business owned jointly by Ontario Power Generation and electricity distributor Hydro One, Ivy will effectively be drumming up business for its parent companies by making it easier to use electric vehicles, said Ivy co-president Theresa Dekker.

“Ontario’s electricity system is very, very clean, and so it just makes sense to use our clean electricity in the province to help support increased adoption of electric vehicles and increase use of the product,” said Dekker.

As with other electrical utilities across Canada and around the world, the business urge to sell more product means there will be market pressure to find ways to keep pumping volts — even if conventional gas stations eventually disappear altogether.