Toot Toot: Long cast as mushy sidekicks, beans finally get the spotlight

Behold! The era of the bean is here.

It took a few decades, but after a long while waiting on the sidelines, beans are having a moment. They may have to share it with kale and cauliflower—but for any legume that ever felt forgotten, chilly, or unwanted on a child’s plate, the data today show there’s something to live for. Over the last five years, bean and lentil consumption in the US increased by 73% to a combined 14.5 pounds per capita.

Beans have notoriously played supporting roles on dinner plates, cast as a food to be tolerated or choked down in the name of healthfulness. US children gave legumes such poor reviews that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in June 2018 created a whole web page devoted to creative ways to try and get kids to eat their beans. “Many kids hate the mushy texture of beans,” the global organization stated. Their bad reputation has been immortalized in children’s literature, too: In 1993, author Rita Schweitz published “I Hate Lima Beans.” That specific bean variety was pummeled again in 2001, when Dan Yaccarino published “The Lima Bean Monster.”

But the era of the spurned bean appears to have ended—at least for now.

Much of the recent enthusiasm around legumes has coincided with the ascendance of the health and wellness sector in the US. Bean-based flours have been developed to replace wheat flours for some breads, bean powders can be found across a range of products marketed for their high protein content, and plant-based meats based on beans are in vogue. In 2016, the foodservice insights firm Technomic released a report showing that vegan options on menus in the US increased by 71% between the start of 2015 and end of 2016, and they often included beans.

So what kinds of beans are getting the most attention?

Not the kinds you typically find in stews and chili recipes, such a red beans, butter beans, or Great Northern beans. In fact, the biggest driver of legumes aren’t those hearty stalwarts, but a few that the US Department of Agriculture classify as “other”—including black beans, small red beans, pink beans, cranberry beans, garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas), black-eyed peas, and all other dry edible beans.

A closer look at those revealed three standoutslentils, black beans, and especially chickpeas.

According to the food market research firm Farmlead, the demand for chickpeas in the US has increased from around 47,000 tons to well over 200,000 over the last decade. And domestic production is having a tough time keeping up with rising consumption. In 2017, for instance, more than 58,000 metric tons of chickpeas were imported into the US—up 27% from the year prior. Mexico and Canada are the biggest foreign suppliers of chickpeas for the US.

So where are all those chickpeas going?

For starters, chickpeas are extremely versatile. The liquid from the bean has proven—like eggs—to be a good emulsifier. The bespoke condiments brand Sir Kensington’s got its start using the liquid from chickpeas as an egg replacement in its plant-based mayonnaise. It’s also been used in cocktails. At-home viral garbanzo recipes have cropped up, too—Alison Roman’s now-famous chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric stands out.

And, of course, the country’s appetite for hummus has skyrocketed. It became so popular that Pepsico in 2008 bought a 50% stake in Sabra, a well-known hummus brand. Some hummus makers in the last couple years have even tried to expand into controversial dessert-themed hummuses.

It’s not just boom times for chickpeas. Chefs are contributing to the popularization of beans, too, adding them to their recipes and menus in creative ways that appeal to the public. And The Washington Post‘s food editor, Joe Yonan, just published a cookbook devoted to beans that has been described as “the perfect cookbook for this moment in beans.”

This new bean era won’t likely alter the public’s attitude toward legumes indefinitely. Trends come and go. But for one of the world’s longest-serving and hardworking proteins, it’s a well-deserved moment to soak up some spotlight.  SOURCE 

How India’s Silicon Valley is using tech to tackle traffic

Bangalore is the world's most congested city, but car-sharing and scooter-hire apps could help cut traffic.

Bangalore is the world’s most congested city, but car-sharing and scooter-hire apps could help cut traffic.

London (CNN)Imagine being stuck in traffic for 243 hours, equivalent to just over 10 days. Rush hour commuters in Bangalore, a city in southern India, spent around that time in traffic last year.

The city has the worst congestion in the world, according to the 2019 TomTom Traffic Index, overtaking Mumbai, which held the title for the previous two years.
Bangalore’s rapid expansion as India’s tech capital is partly responsible. The number of cars on the roads has rocketed from 1.4 million in 2000 to more than 8 million in 2019.
But tech could also provide the solution, as startups have sprung up to break the gridlock.
Bangalore's scooter rental start-up Bounce is booming, recently valued at $500 million.

Take Bounce, a Bangalore-based scooter-hire company with a fleet of more than 17,000 electric and gasoline vehicles in its home city. Customers can rent a scooter via its app for as little as 14 rupees (19 cents) an hour.
Founded in 2014, Bounce now operates in more than 30 cities in India with both a docked and dockless model, where you can pick up or drop off the bike anywhere in the city. It claims more than 120,000 rides are taken on its scooters in Bangalore every day.
In January, the startup received a fresh $105 million in funding, taking its overall capital to more than $200 million, Varun Agni, its CTO and co-founder, tells CNN Business. This led to its latest public valuation of $500 million, he adds.
While the initial motivation behind Bounce was “democratizing the commute” and providing affordable access to mobility for all, one major byproduct has been a reduction in traffic, says Agni.
Four in 10 users start or end at a subway station, he says. “This has a massive impact on reducing traffic and congestion,” as it encourages people to use public transport rather than using a car for the whole trip, he adds.
It also has an impact on the environment, especially as the company introduces more electric scooters to its fleet; by the end of the year, at least half of its vehicles will be electric, says Agni.

Cutting cars and carbon emissions

Transportation is the biggest source of harmful emissions in Bangalore, according to air quality research group Urban Emissions Info.
Quick Ride, a carpooling company also founded in Bangalore, aims to create a sustainable commuting option while cutting the number of vehicles on the roads, reducing fuel consumption and minimizing CO2 emissions, the company tells CNN Business.
It estimates it has saved 90,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions since its founding in 2015, equivalent to that emitted by 19,000 passenger vehicles in one year.
Using its app, drivers connect with passengers on the same route and fill their empty car seats. Quick Ride’s system allows them to share the cost of the journey using fixed per-kilometer charges and it manages the payments through user accounts, removing the need for cash exchanges.
It operates in nine cities across India with a total of 3.5 million users, almost a third of which are based in Bangalore. The company says it has raised a total of $15.5 million in funding.
Heavy traffic in  Bangalore.

Companies including consulting firm Capgemini (CAPMF) have partnered with Quick Ride to encourage employees to carpool, as part of their corporate sustainability strategy.
More than 70% of employees signed up to Capgemini’s #CAReToShare campaign in 2019, and since the start of the program in 2017 they have clocked up more than 33 million kilometers in carpool journeys, the company says.
“This program was launched with the dual objective of making the daily commute for our employees more convenient, while trying to ease the pollution plaguing our cities,” Vijay Chandramohan, senior director of India’s corporate real estate services for Capgemini, tells CNN Business.
“Cities in India are growing at an exponential rate,” he says. “There is tremendous pressure on the city roads, leading to increasing traffic snarls and commute time resulting in frustration and loss of productivity.”
Lucky the city’s startups are on hand to help. SOURCE

 

Radical Changes Urged for Huge E.U. Farm Program

A planned overhaul fails to adequately protect the environment and support small farmers, a group of scientists said.

Farmers in northern Poland. Europe’s farm program has sidelined small farmers and supported practices that have led to global warming, erosion and the loss of biodiversity, a group of scientists said.

Credit: Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

Europe’s $65-billion-a-year farm program needs to change radically if it is to protect the environment and support small farmers, a group of European scientists said in a paper published in the journal “People and Nature” on Monday.

The 21 authors of the paper said a planned overhaul of Europe’s farm policy is inadequate. They said policymakers must stop paying farmers based on the acres they cultivate and instead reward environmentally friendly practices such as organic farming or agroforestry. The scientists also asked the European Union to cut off subsidies that encourage livestock farming, which is linked to a rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

“Billions of euros of taxpayers’ money are about to be poured down the drain,” the scientists said in a statement.

A new Green Deal plans to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. Last week, the European Commission outlined ​plans to make the deal legally binding for all member states.

But the package will not reform farming because it has adopted old policies and repackaged them as climate-friendly measures, the scientists said.

“The climate measures are unjustifiable. There is nothing in there,” said Guy Pe’er, a German conservation biologist and the leading author of the paper.

“The commission is taking a step back backward,” he said.

Mr. Pe’er has collected signatures from more than 3,600 scientists and researchers on his website supporting the paper’s findings.

The scientists said that Europe’s farm policy has sidelined small farmers and supported practices that have led to global warming, soil erosion, land degradation and the loss of biodiversity. Subsidy programs that could have curbed the damage have been paltry and underfunded.

Last year, a New York Times investigation showed the disconnect between Europe’s green image and its farm policy, which has caused lasting environmental damage and left visible pockmarks across Europe. Decaying algae release deadly gas on some beaches in France. Farm runoff has helped expand dead zones in the Baltic Sea. And farmland emissions of greenhouse gas are on the rise.

The farm subsidies program accounts for nearly 40 percent of Europe’s budget, making it one of the biggest in the world. It is riddled with corruption and self-dealing, especially in eastern and Central Europe, where leaders have diverted money to underwrite their governments or companies, the Times investigation found. Attempts to change the system or make it more accountable have failed partly because its biggest beneficiaries are in charge of setting policy.
Corruption plagues the farm subsidies program, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of Europe’s budget.
Credit: Akos Stiller for The New York Times

For all the documented problems, leaders in Brussels have shown little interest in overhauling the policy. In January, the top European agricultural official promised to introduce anti-corruption measures in response to the Times investigation but did not provide any specifics.

And the new farm policy, which is being negotiated this year, will continue to use the land-for-money formula that favors those who own vast tracts. The formula has long been criticized for creating a modern feudal system in which small farmers can barely make a living.

Nearly a third of the payments go to “greening measures” designed to reduce emissions, preserve grassland and save wildlife. But commission officials have acknowledged that this has failed to accomplish much.

Under the new rules, member states will have more control over how much they invest in environmentally friendly measures. But critics say this is likely to encourage countries to opt for the easiest, “light-green” options because the policy does not have a clear scale to measure their successes or failures.

As long as policymakers in Brussels operate behind closed doors, small interest groups will have more influence on the outcome, according to Mr. Pe’er.

“This is really a power game,” he said.

 

Mr. Pe’er said that policymakers ignored research on the farm policy’s impact after spending “loads of money” on it.

“The scientific community is there to help,” Mr. Pe’er said. “But for that, they need to listen.” SOURCE

RELATED:

Action needed for the EU Common Agricultural Policy to address sustainability challenges

Bioplastics 101, ultimatum to wireless carriers: CBC’s Marketplace cheat sheet

Newsletter: Consumer and health news you need from the week

This cutlery is made from the compostable and recyclable plastic PLA. However, most municipal organics programs will not accept compostable plastics and most recycling programs won’t accept them either, so they typically end up in the landfill. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Miss something this week? Don’t panic. CBC’s Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need.

Want this in your inbox? Get the Marketplace newsletter every Friday.

Plant-based? Compostable? What you need to know about bioplastics

Bioplastics are plastics that can be:

But many of them are still ending up in landfill. In this week’s episode of Marketplace, we looked at myths around compostable plasticRead more

This cup is made from PLA, a compostable, plant-based bioplastic. But not all bioplastics are biobased and not all of them are biodegradable. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Some Canadian insurance companies stop covering coronavirus-related trip cancellations

Two major Canadian travel insurance providers — Manulife and TuGo — will no longer reimburse new customers who need to cancel their trips due to the coronavirus outbreak. Both companies told CBC News the virus is now a “known” issue and therefore cancellation coverage no longer applies — as it’s designed for unexpected mishaps. Travel insurance broker Martin Firestone says he believes other companies will likely follow suit, to avoid the huge costs that could arise as the coronavirus spreads globally. Read more

A display board shows a cancelled flight arrival from Wuhan at Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing on Thursday. (Mark Schiefelbein/The Associated Press)

Liberals give Telus, Rogers, and Bell 2 years to cut wireless prices by 25%

Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains says the government expects Bell, Telus and Rogers to reduce the cost of their 2 to 6 gigabyte data plans by 25 per cent within the next two years. That would mean offering a talk, text and data plan costing less than $40 monthly. If they don’t comply, Bains say the government will step in. Read more

The federal government is giving the Big Three carriers just two years to cut their prices. (Collage/ Canadian Press)

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

Many of us find it’s easier to buy new these days than to repair old appliances. But that has a strong environmental impact, and many eco-minded Canadians are deciding that just won’t do, and starting to learn how to instead fix their broken appliances, like coffee makers, lamps, toasters, and kettles. They’re doing so at places like the Repair Café in Toronto.

Last week, Marketplace looked at “Right to Repair”  legislation and why some consumers are pushing for major companies to supply the parts to let them fix appliances on their own. Read more.

Are your major appliances breaking down faster and more frequently than ever? We investigate why it’s so tough for many of us to find an affordable fix. And we follow four Canadians with different busted appliances (dishwasher, fridges, washer) to see if a veteran repairman can save their machines, or whether they will get trashed. 22:30

What else is going on? 

Apple will pay up to $500 million US to settle slow iPhone lawsuit
Apple Inc. has agreed to pay up to $500 million US to settle litigation accusing it of quietly slowing down older iPhones as it launched new models, to induce owners to buy replacement phones or batteries.

Cannabis drinks have been legal for over two months in Canada — so why aren’t they on the shelves? 

Producers are delaying the rollout and revising expectations for weed beverages.

Fears of coronavirus contamination prompt coffee chains to temporarily ban reusable mugs
Starbucks, Second Cup and Tim Hortons are temporarily forbidding customers from bringing their own reusable mugs because of fears that they could help spread the coronavirus.

The latest in recalls 

This week on Marketplace

Exposing composting myths with Makda Ghebreslassie

Over the last year, Marketplace has investigated the overuse of plastic packaging at some of Canada’s top supermarket chains. A year later, we revisited Loblaws, Sobeys, Costco, and Walmart and found evidence of a growing industry, bioplastics.

 

One of the bioplastics we came across in our supermarket search was compostable plastics. The team found compostable plastics, including bags, cutlery and coffee pods on many store shelves.

As the plastic pollution problem deepens, interest has grown for alternatives to conventional plastics, such as bioplastics packaging, an industry that is expected to grow to $10 billion over the next few years.

But watch what Marketplace discovered about compostable plastics and what’s actually happening when you put them in your green bin.

Stick around for a bonus feature on this episode. We have an expert microbiologist ready to hand out some tips to keep you germ-free the next time you travel on a plane.

Watch this week’s episode and catch up on past episodes of  Marketplace anytime on CBC Gem. SOURCE

 

Emissions from power generation take biggest fall since 1990

Wind, solar grew 15% last year, but need to do that every year to hit Paris targets

The Dave Johnson coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the morning sun in Glenrock, Wyoming, in July 2018. Emissions from power generation fell two per cent last year, the biggest fall since 1990, reports the think-tank Ember. (J. David Ake/The Associated Press)

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the power sector fell by two per cent last year, the biggest fall since at least 1990, owing to reduced coal usage in Europe and the United States, a study showed on Monday.

Coal-fired power generation fell by three per cent globally, also the largest fall since 1990, research by independent climate think tank Ember showed. The drop in Europe was 24 per cent, driven by a switch to renewables, while U.S. coal-fired generation was down 16 per cent because of more competitive gas.

Ember@EmberClimate

BREAKING: Record fall in global coal generation in 2019

Our out today includes:
⚡️Analysis: 70 pages of graphs & insights
⚡️ data: 200+ countries, 2000-2019
⚡️Interactive dashboardhttps://ember-climate.org/project/global-power-2020/ 

View image on Twitter

Overall, the decline in coal use last year and shift toward renewables was helped by factors such as cheap gas, nuclear plant restarts in Japan and South Korea and slowing electricity demand, the report said.

A disused coal-fired power station is destroyed via controlled explosion in Castrop Rauxel, Germany, in February 2019. Coal-fired power generation fell by three per cent globally in 2019, the largest fall since 1990. (Leon Kuegeler/Reuters)

Coal use needs to fall faster

Coal generation needs to fall by 11 per cent a year to keep within a warming limit of 1.5 C, the more ambitious of two targets set by the UN’s Paris Agreement on climate change.

“The global decline of coal and power sector emissions is good news for the climate, but governments have to dramatically accelerate the electricity transition so that global coal generation collapses throughout the 2020s,” said Dave Jones, lead author of the report and electricity analyst at Ember.

“To switch from coal into gas is just swapping one fossil fuel for another,” he said.

Wind and solar power generation rose by 270 terawatt hours, or 15 per cent, last year, but need to maintain that rate every year to reach Paris climate goals. (Darren Staples/Reuters)

 

Wind and solar power generation rose by 270 terawatt hours, or 15 per cent, last year. That growth rate would need to be maintained every year to achieve the Paris climate goals.

The report examined data covering 85 per cent of the world’s electricity generation and used informed estimates for the remaining 15 per cent.

Last month the International Energy Agency said that global CO2 emissions from power production flattened last year as growth of renewable energy and fuel switching from coal to natural gas led to lower emissions from advanced economies.  SOURCE

State of local emergency declared after train hits propane tanker in southern Alberta

Propane from the truck leaked and the hamlet has been evacuated

A CN Rail train collided with a propane truck in the hamlet of Swalwell, Alta., Monday afternoon. (Kneehill County)

The hamlet of Swalwell in southern Alberta was ordered to evacuate, and a state of local emergency declared, after a train collided with a propane tanker truck.

“Avoid the area. Evacuate immediately. Follow the directions of local authorities,” an information alert issued 4:33 p.m. Monday read. The alert was updated to a state of local emergency at 9:18 p.m.

The collision happened at 2:55 p.m.

Traffic was blocked at Township Road 302 and Railway Avenue.

CN Rail said propane from the truck leaked out but no goods from the train, which was carrying freight containers, spilled.

There were no injuries or fires immediately reported, CN Rail said. Both fire crews and CN police were on scene.

“Both vessels of the propane truck have been impacted. The severity of the leak is unknown at this time, but due to the nature of the product every precaution is being taken,” a news release posted to Kneehill County’s website read. “Please continue to avoid the area.”

Kneehill County stated that fire department members went door to door to ensure residents left safely and that around 100 people were displaced.

County Reeve Jerry Wittstock said it’s not unusual for trains to derail in the area, but that this is the most serious incident of the kind he’s seen.

Wittstock said around 68 homes are located in the hamlet, and some homes are near the railroad tracks.

Evacuees were being asked to register at a reception centre set up in the cafeteria at the Prairie Bible Institute, 350 Fifth Avenue North in Three Hills, Alta., as they would not be able to return home overnight. The reception centre would be open until 10 p.m., and those requiring accommodations after that time were asked to call 1-866-443-5541.

The county said there would be a further update at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Swalwell is located about 90 kilometres northeast of Calgary. SOURCE

Analysis: Biden vs. Sanders: Comparing the candidates on how their policies would affect Canada

A side-by-side comparison of what the Democratic presidential contenders would do on trade, climate, defence

U.S. presidential candidates Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden brush hands during a debate in South Carolina last month. Both want to negotiate new trade deals involving Canada, but they have different visions on trade. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Canada could be right back at the bargaining table with the United States, once again negotiating a new trade agreement after having barely just completed the last one.

If a Democrat wins the White House, it’s a strong possibility.

Now that the race is down to two main contenders for the Democratic nomination, it’s easier to do a side-by-side comparison of the potential policy outcomes for Canada.

One major implication involves trade policy, as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have both made clear they would like to negotiate new international commercial arrangements.

That’s where the similarities end. Because the candidates have strikingly different views on international trade, and have different deals in mind.

Some issues of importance to Canada are obviously tough to predict — such as how a presidential hopeful would respond to a global crisis like coronavirus.

But on several issues of consequence to Canada, Sanders and Biden have made their views crystal clear.

“The good thing is all the candidates are familiar,” said Chris Sands, head of the Canada Institute at Washington’s Wilson Center.

“You’ll see the issues coming.”

Sands said that whoever wins this election, from whichever party, that person’s policies will be better known to Canada than Donald Trump’s in 2016, or even Barack Obama’s in 2008.

Here’s how the Democratic candidates’ views on trade, energy, climate change, and military cooperation might affect Canada.

Trade: Biden

Biden’s goal — make America a Trans-Pacific signatory again. The former vice-president has made clear he would seek U.S. participation in the deal formerly known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was a centrepiece of the Obama trade agenda. After U.S. President Donald Trump cancelled the deal, Canada and 10 other countries joined on without the U.S.

In a Democratic debate last year, Biden was adamant: “I’d renegotiate,” he said. Biden cast it as a matter of American leadership, in an effort to ensure that free-market countries, and not China, write the global trading rules of the 21st century.

CNN

Joe Biden on whether he would rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal: “I would not rejoin the TPP as it was initially put forward. I would insist that we renegotiate pieces of that.” https://cnn.it/2K7b4K4 

Embedded video

Sarah Goldfeder, a former U.S. diplomat posted in Ottawa during the original TPP talks, says the dairy details would be a simple copy-and-paste from the update to NAFTA. A Biden presidency would also restore predictability to the World Trade Organization, said Goldfeder, who now works at Earnscliffe Strategy Group in Ottawa.

There would be one major long-term consequence for Canada if the U.S. re-enters the trans-Pacific pact. It would effectively cancel one of the most controversial aspects of the new NAFTA deal — the so-called sunset clause. Canadian officials spent months resisting the clause, which requires countries to start renegotiating the deal every few years, under threat of the agreement being cancelled in 16 years.

A new TPP would validate a strategy privately mapped out by some Canadian officials, who urged colleagues to just accept the sunset clause. Their rationale? The new NAFTA might only be a temporary deal, a brief stopgap to keep trade flowing through the Trump era. Should Biden enter the trans-Pacific, now known as the CPTPP, it would likely entrench a trading arrangement without a sunset clause.

Sanders adresses supporters at a rally in Columbia, South Carolina, on February 28. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Trade: Sanders

Sanders would not rejoin the TPP. In fact, Sanders celebrated its original demise at the hands of Trump. The deal Sanders wants to renegotiate? The new NAFTA, known in the U.S. as USMCA.

In a speech to the Senate, Sanders complained that USMCA doesn’t mention climate change. Specifically, he lamented that it lowered trade barriers on the diluent products that help oilsands bitumen flow through pipelines.

“It makes it easier for fossil fuel companies to bring tar sands oil into the United States through dangerous pipelines like the Keystone XL,” Sanders said.

Sanders wants the deal changed in other ways that would put him at odds with the Canadian government: He wants more scope for Buy American laws. Sanders has also frequently called for country-of-origin labelling, so that meat from foreign livestock would be labelled as such in grocery stores.

One U.S. trade expert who has discussed the new USMCA with Sanders, said his opposition to the deal goes beyond his comments on climate change. Sanders also maintains the labour provisions are too weak to keep jobs in the U.S., the expert said.

Suncor’s base plant with upgraders in the oil sands in Fort McMurray Alta, on Monday June 13, 2017. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Energy and the environment: Biden

When asked at a South Carolina rally what his top priorities would be as president, Biden said the Paris climate accord was top of his list. He vowed to rejoin it on Day 1 of his presidency.

Biden’s climate plan would also push other countries to ramp up their Paris commitments. He would restore Obama-era cooperation with Canada on Arctic issues, by blocking Trump’s move to allow oil and gas leasing in the Arctic. He also promises to work with Arctic Council members, like Canada, to extend that drilling moratorium globally.

Biden’s platform also calls for a 100 per cent clean-energy economy and net-zero emissions by 2050. It would also seek to spend $1.7 trillion over 10 years on green technology.

Biden has criticized Canadian oil. When asked in a New York Times editorial board interview why he condemned Chinese pollution, but not Canadian oil, Biden said he also opposed “what Canada’s doing, in terms of the pipelines and the dirty crude they’re sending south on us.”

Biden was part of the Obama administration that originally blocked the Keystone XL pipeline. But his name is notably absent, however, from the list of candidates who have vowed to reverse Trump’s approval of the still-incomplete pipeline.

Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, speaking at a Sanders campaign event in Las Vegas on Feb. 20, 2020, says his climate policies would not only move off fossil fuels faster, but would be politically smarter too. (Alexander Panetta/CBC News)

Energy and the environment: Sanders

Sanders is far more aggressive on the issue — blocking Keystone XL is just a start. Sanders does not want oil shipped; he wants oil executives punished. His Green New Deal plan calls for criminal and civil suits against oil executives for damage caused by climate change — inspired by the penalties against the tobacco industry.

Sanders wants to ban U.S. imports of oil, of which Canada currently ships more than 3.5 million barrels per day to the U.S. He’d also end new federal fossil fuel infrastructure permits and ban fracking.

To ease the transition to a green economy, he says he would guarantee five years of fossil fuel workers’ current salary, housing assistance, and job training or pension payments.

Speaking at a campaign event before the Nevada caucuses, Canadian journalist and author Naomi Klein, a Sanders supporter, said — unlike other candidates — Sanders grasps the urgency of the climate situation.

“Bernie’s the only one who actually recognizes that … we need to move faster.” She said his across-the-board approach would not only yield more results — in her estimation, it would actually get more public support than more mainstream policies like carbon taxes and cap-and-trade systems.

In this Monday, May 27, 2019, photo, NATO forces attend the graduation ceremony of Afghan National Army soldiers from a training program in Kabul, Afghanistan. Biden and Sanders have quite different takes on U.S. military adventurism. (Rahmat Gul/The Associated Press)

NATO and defence: Biden

Biden calls NATO the most effective political-military alliance in modern history. He says he’s troubled by growing authoritarianism around the world, and by democratic backsliding within NATO itself. Biden said he wants to bolster NATO members’ commitment to democracy.

He even released a campaign ad featuring Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other leaders at a NATO summit having a laugh when talking about Trump.

Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330)

The world is laughing at President Trump. They see him for what he really is: dangerously incompetent and incapable of world leadership.

We cannot give him four more years as commander in chief.

Embedded video

Biden has criticized Trump for constantly threatening allies, as he presses them to increase military spending. “NATO is not a protection racket,” Biden said while campaigning in Iowa.

“Biden is a traditional NATO guy,” Sands said. “He’ll ease up a bit on the browbeating [of allies] over defence spending — but not by much.”

Biden went to Ottawa and had a friendly meeting with Trudeau in December 2016, shortly before Trump took office. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

NATO and defence: Sanders

Sanders is a frequent, decades-long critic of U.S. foreign military adventurism. Yet he shares some of Biden’s views on the merits of the international alliance.

“I believe in NATO. I believe that the United States, everything being equal, should be working with other countries in alliance, not doing it alone,” Sanders recently said on 60 Minutes.

Sanders has even said he would take military action under various circumstances — like protecting Americans, preventing Iran and North Korea from obtaining nuclear weapons, intervening in a humanitarian crisis, or protecting Taiwan from Chinese invasion.

Sanders has also made comments in the past illustrating that American frustration with other countries’ military spending goes far beyond Trump, and his predecessor Obama, and spans the entire U.S. political spectrum.

In a 2016 debate, Sanders said he would “not be embarrassed” to tell allies that “you’ve got to put up your own fair share of the defence burden.”

Even if Sanders rarely talks about military issues, Goldfeder said it’s a safe bet any secretary of defence he appoints would keep up the pressure for allies to spend on defence.   SOURCE

Crude price plummet raises spectre of spending cuts, job losses in Canadian oilpatch

‘This is one of the biggest shocks we’ve seen in the last 40 years,’ analyst says

The downturn in oil prices hammered Canadian energy stocks on Monday, with the S&P/TSX capped energy index down more than 27 per cent. (Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press)

Plunging oil prices landed with a giant thud in Canada on Monday, sending tremors across the oilpatch and raising the spectre of spending cuts, production cuts and job cuts.

The collapse was triggered by a severe double whammy — fears the spread of COVID-19 could trigger a global recession and an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The immediate consequences were grim.

The benchmark price for North American oil, West Texas Intermediate, initially fell by the most in one day since the 1991 Gulf War, before eventually settling at $31.13 US per barrel, down $10.15 US, on Monday.

“This is one of the biggest shocks that we’ve seen in the last 40 years,” Jeremy McCrea, an analyst with Raymond James, said early Monday.

The global benchmark, Brent crude, closed down 24 per cent at $34.36 US a barrel.

Canadian energy stocks were also hammered, with the S&P/TSX capped energy index down more than 27 per cent.

Now, the country’s oil and gas sector — like others worldwide — is weighing the fallout and trying to assess the potential repercussions if prices stay this low for months to come.

The energy sector accounts for more than 11 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product.

WATCH: Drop in oil prices another blow for Alberta ​​​​​​:

Alberta’s struggling economy was dealt a devastating blow with a major drop in oil prices on Monday. 1:48

 

Market watchers have already warned that the most vulnerable companies will be those carrying too much debt, have high operating costs and limited access to funding.

McCrea said the situation will be a test of companies’ financial health.

“The question is who has …  the staying power and the balance sheets to make it through this disagreement that those countries have,” McCrea said.

In the near term, he expects companies could reduce their capital spending plans by 30 to 40 per cent. Oil production could also come down very quickly.

It’s unwelcome news for an oil and gas sector that has had its share of struggles in recent years, whether its pipeline bottlenecks or a glut of crude that spurred Alberta to curtail oil production in the province.

Further decreases in Canadian production might actually relieve some pressure on the pipeline network. But Monday’s news won’t ease current anxiety around the oilpatch, still stinging from thousands of jobs losses in recent years.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Monday that his government’s priority would be protecting jobs and the economy.

But when crude prices drop and stay low, oil companies feel the financial squeeze. For some companies, the pressure point might be $45 US a barrel. For others, it could be in the $30s.

“The Canadian sector really starts to feel the pain under $40 a barrel,” said Peter Tertzakian, executive director of the ARC Energy Research Institute in Calgary.

“But, I emphasize, it’s not just Canadian oil and gas companies. This is a global industry.”

Specialist Glenn Carell, right, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Monday. Stocks went into a steep slide Monday on Wall Street as coronavirus fears and a crash in oil prices spread alarm through the market, triggering the first automatic trading halt in over two decades. (Richard Drew/Associated Press)

 

Indeed, some commentators see the new price war as a way to target U.S. shale oil producers, which are already facing greater investor scrutiny after spending big on aggressive growth in recent years.

Canada’s oilpatch, on the other hand, enters the fray leaner, more efficient and innovative than five years ago when oil prices hit the skids. In many ways, the Canadian sector is “battle hardened,” Tertzakian said.

“We, here, have really been innovating quite significantly, on average, and are better positioned than we were in 2014 to weather this,” he said. “But that’s not to say that under $40 is going to be easy to take.”

The most important, and most difficult, question to answer is how long will this situation last.

When it comes to the dispute between Russia and Saudi Arabia, at least there’s some history to lean on.

Tertzakian said price wars — regardless of the industries involved — have four phases: the declaration of war, the weeding out of high-cost participants, capitulation and, finally, a return to normal pricing.

“Every company is different, but under $40, we see certainly a lot of a lot of strain,” said Peter Tertzakian, executive director of the ARC Energy Research Institute in Calgary. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

 

He doesn’t expect either side to surrender for probably a quarter or two, but no one can know for sure.

Reuters reported the world’s top two oil exporters each have war chests of around $500 billion to weather economic shocks and are making bullish noises about their stamina as they square up.

Moscow said on Monday it could withstand oil prices of  $25-$30 US per barrel for 6-10 years. Riyadh, meanwhile, can afford oil at $30 US a barrel, but would have to sell more crude to soften the hit to its revenue, according to Reuters sources familiar with the matter.

The impact of the coronavirus might even be more difficult to predict, with stresses on the health-care system, consumer behaviour, trade and the global economy. All those things will affect oil consumption, as demonstrated by the steep drop in oil demand in China so far.

The International Energy Agency said this week that it expects global demand to drop this year for the first time since the financial crisis in 2008/2009.

As Alberta’s premier, Kenney, said Monday, “We are in uncharted territory.” SOURCE

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ExxonMobil ‘tried to get European Green Deal watered down’

The European commission stopped short of proposals to phase out combustion engine vehicles and has plans to consult on whether to include vehicles in its carbon-pricing scheme. Author: User Minesweeper on en.wikipedia / CC BY-SA/3.0

The US oil firm ExxonMobil met key European commission officials in an attempt to water down the European Green Deal in the weeks before it was agreed, according to a climate lobbying watchdog.

Documents unearthed by InfluenceMap revealed that Exxon lobbyists met Brussels officials in November to urge the EU to extend its carbon-pricing scheme to “stationary” sources, such as power plants, to include tailpipe emissions from vehicles using petrol or diesel.

Green groups believe this would be the least effective way to disincentive fossil fuel vehicles, and would rather allow countries to set their own emissions standards and targets for road emissions.

The move appears to be an attempt to stall the rollout of electric vehicles by keeping a lid on the cost of driving a traditional combustion engine vehicle running on fossil fuels. The European commission stopped short of proposals to phase out combustion engine vehicles and has plans to consult on whether to include vehicles in its carbon-pricing scheme.

Edward Collins, a director at InfluenceMap, said the document “represents yet another evidence piece” of ExxonMobil’s long-term strategy of delaying climate action by focusing on “long-term technical solutions” to try to avert “decisive regulatory action” that is urgently required to tackle the climate crisis.

A Guardian investigation last year found that Exxon has spent €37.2m (£32.4m) lobbying the EU since 2010, more than any other major oil company, according to the EU’s transparency register. It revealed that Shell spent €36.5m and BP spent €18.1m lobbying Brussels officials to shape EU climate policy.

Exxon is also facing legal action in the US courts after accusations that it misled investors over the business risks caused by regulations aimed at addressing the climate crisis.

The lawsuit claims that Exxon scientists told the company’s management in 1977 there was an “overwhelming” consensus that fossil fuels were responsible for increasing the levels of carbon in the atmosphere that lead to global heating. In 1981, an internal company memo warned that “it is distinctly possible” that CO2 emissions from the company’s 50-year plan “will later produce effects which will indeed be catastrophic (at least for a substantial fraction of the Earth’s population)”.

Exxon’s latest lobbying efforts have surfaced after documents emerged earlier this year showing that BP successfully lobbied US policymakers to weaken a landmark environmental law to clear the way for fossil fuel projects to move forward.

ExxonMobil ‘tried to get European Green Deal watered down’

A spokesman for ExxonMobil said the company “complies fully” with the EU’s transparency rules and supports the Paris climate agreement. He added that Exxon, “like many companies”, had “a responsibility” to engage in a public policy dialogue that impacted its business. SOURCE

A Shell insider is behind LNG Canada’s disputed claim about reducing carbon pollution

Headlines of op-eds and sponsored content taken from Postmedia and the Canadian Energy Centre. Background image is handout photo of LNG Canada. Postmedia, Canadian Energy Centre screenshots, LNG Canada photo

A disputed environmental claim publicized by the fossil fuel firms backing a $40-billion liquefied natural gas project in B.C. can be traced back to a lifelong industry insider, who cautioned in interviews that his underlying calculations are “theoretical.”

Rob Seeley has been held up as an independent consultant who has demonstrated the green bona fides of natural gas coming from the proposed B.C. project, LNG Canada. The Coastal GasLink pipeline being built through unceded Wet’suwet’en Nation territory is meant to transport fracked gas to this terminal, where it would be liquefied, loaded onto ships and exported to Asia.

One particular claim by Seeley has taken on a life of its own. It appeared in a piece of sponsored content, or “advertorial,” that LNG Canada paid to have published in Postmedia’s Vancouver Sun in 2018. The claim has been quoted by everyone from federal Conservative finance critic and former cabinet minister Pierre Poilievre to pro-oil and gas websites including one run by Alberta’s energy “war room,” officially known as the Canadian Energy Centre.

Seeley’s claim is that if LNG Canada can ship liquefied natural gas from B.C. to China, and the Asian nation uses it to displace its coal-generated electricity, it would reduce carbon pollution by “60 to 90 million tonnes annually” — a stunning figure that is roughly equivalent to all of B.C.’s annual emissions.

This tantalizing piece of information would seem to underpin what both the federal Liberals and Conservatives have said in support of LNG Canada: that on top of the promised jobs and economic benefits, it could also help the environment. The Trudeau government is on board, chipping in $275 million to the project, while Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has blasted Coastal GasLink opponents.

But there’s a catch: Seeley’s heavily quoted figure represents a disputed conclusion about the benefits of natural gas, and he says he intentionally left out real-world factors in his calculations.

Other analysts point to the fact that natural gas exploitation releases methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas, while renewable energy sources are rapidly becoming cost-competitive with coal and gas in China. What’s more, the man behind the famous figure is not just a run-of-the-mill energy consultant. LNG Canada did not return a request for comment.

Rob Seeley appears in an advertisement from Shell Canada about exploiting oil in the oilsands. Wunderman Thompson Toronto screenshot

‘I was hired by LNG Canada’

In a series of interviews with National Observer, Seeley acknowledged that much of his career was spent with Shell Canada, the subsidiary of British-Dutch firm Shell that has the largest slice of the LNG Canada joint venture. Shell owns 40 per cent, Malaysia’s Petronas owns 25 per cent, Japan’s Mitsubishi and PetroChina own 15 per cent each, and the Korea Gas Corporation owns five per cent.

Seeley said he’s a chemical engineer with 40 years of experience in energy projects like gas plants and refinery retrofits, as well as oilsands development, and emissions management. At one point, he was even featured in a TV commercial for Shell. He retired in 2013 and moved into consulting — a year before the companies behind LNG Canada formalized their joint venture.

“I was hired by LNG Canada based on my experience and the leadership roles that I had held in my Shell career, including the role of general manager, sustainable development, for Shell Canada, which included greenhouse-gas management,” Seeley said. “Although I have not been directly involved in the article that you are referring to, (the) Vancouver Sun advertorial by LNG Canada, I have been providing analysis and advice to LNG Canada regarding GHG management.”

A disputed environmental claim that has been championed by pro-fossil fuel voices can be traced back to a lifelong industry insider, who cautions that his underlying calculations are “theoretical.”

Carol Clemenhagen@ottawaccarol

“…LNG…could reduce global GHG emissions by 60 to 90 million tonnes annually, equivalent to all of B.C.’s GHG emissions in a year…” 20 elected band councils approve. 5 hereditary clan chiefs don’t. http://business.financialpost.com/wcm/c65c5619-c6ed-4593-9f78-7d3e78d7dbff 

Philip Cross and Pierre Poilievre: Hey, woke folk: Coastal GasLink will help get China off coal

If protesters truly cared about the environment, they’d be demonstrating for projects like LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink, not against them

business.financialpost.com

Nor are these facts mentioned by Poilievre, who used Seeley or his consulting firm and the “60 to 90” figure in two op-eds promoting the benefits of natural gas: “Taxed green tomatoes” in the Toronto Sun on July 12, 2019 and “Hey, woke folk: Coastal GasLink will help get China off coal” in the Financial Post on Feb. 14, 2020, which he co-authored. Both newspapers are owned by Postmedia.

Nor are they mentioned in the Dec. 5, 2019 article posted on the website of the Alberta “war room,” titled “If you care about climate change, here’s why you should support Canadian natural gas.” Like the Poilievre articles, it just names Seeley and his consulting firm.

Another publication, the energy-industry-linked Canada Action, simply linked to the Vancouver Sun. And an article on the website of the Christian Labour Association of Canada union mentioned the “60 to 90” figure without reference to Seeley or his firm. Finally, the Conservative Party’s 2019 candidate for Ottawa Centre, Carol Clemenhagen, linked to Poilievre’s co-written article in a tweet where she also quoted the “60 to 90” figure.

It is possible Poilievre and the others did not know about Seeley’s background and his recent status with LNG Canada. “Taxed green tomatoes” links to an op-ed that Seeley contributed to the Vancouver Sun in June 2018 — six months before the LNG Canada-sponsored article appeared in the same paper — and that contains a version of the “60 to 90” claim. Like the advertorial, the op-ed does not mention Seeley’s formal associations with Shell or LNG Canada. Poilievre’s office did not return a request for comment.

B.C. Premier John Horgan tours the LNG Canada site in Kitimat, B.C. in January 2020. B.C. Government Photo

‘There’s a lot of sensitivities around it’

Seeley cautions that his “60 to 90” figure is not totally comprehensive. “I would call it a theoretical point or position,” he said.

He explained that he arrived at the figure by examining the hypothetical amount of energy that LNG Canada would produce, and then calculated what would happen if it was all offloaded in Asia and all used for producing electricity, essentially acting as a replacement for coal.

He pulled in part from International Energy Agency numbers, as well as a lifecycle analysis that he worked on in 2014-15 for Pace Global Energy Services, a consulting firm owned by Siemens, the manufacturing conglomerate. The report was prepared for the Center for Liquefied Natural Gas, a trade association of producers, shippers and others.

Seeley said he stands behind his calculations. “It’s still a pretty good anchor number,” he said. “I think those numbers are still strong, and in fact I think if you took a theoretical position on gas versus coal displacement for power, the numbers are probably even bigger.”

But he acknowledged his figure was “presented in a range to allow for many uncertainties in this type of analysis,” and that “there’s a lot of sensitivities around it.”

Those “sensitivities” are real-world factors, such as the fact that natural gas drilling, processing and transport releases large amounts of methane, which is 86 times as powerful as carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 20-year period. A 2019 study in the journal Biogeosciences connected a rise in global methane levels since 2008 with the boom in fracking operations.

Scientists say this steep rise in atmospheric methane is jeopardizing the planet’s efforts to hold the global temperature rise to 2C above pre-industrial levels and slow the more extreme effects of climate change.

The oil and gas industry is the largest industrial contributor to methane emissions in Canada. The industry flares or vents methane into the atmosphere, and methane also leaks accidentally from oil and gas equipment. A 2017 peer-reviewed study in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics found that methane leaks from B.C.’s oil and gas industry were at least two and a half times higher than provincial estimates.

Wahiba Yaici, a research scientist at Natural Resources Canada, said that in a straight-up comparison between natural gas and coal, coal is clearly worse. Not only is it more carbon-intensive, it also releases particulate matter when it’s burned, as well as pollutants and heavy metals linked to asthma, cardiovascular problems and premature death.

Given that natural gas processing and transport releases methane, however, these sorts of comparisons are “exactly the challenge,” said Yaici, who studies how to reduce emissions from energy generation. She said converting systems to use hydrogen, which doesn’t emit carbon pollution, could be superior to either coal or natural gas.

Jinsheng Wang, another research scientist at Natural Resources Canada who studies unconventional oil and gas, confirmed that LNG could only result in less carbon pollution than coal if the methane emissions from increased natural gas exploitation were minimized.

Coal-to-gas or coal-to-renewables?

This minimization is exactly what Seeley is counting on. He acknowledged that accounting for methane is an important consideration, and the lifecycle analysis that he worked on does include an extensive description of methane leaks and how they can affect questions about carbon pollution.

But he also pointed to the Trudeau government’s commitment to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Ottawa has negotiated a draft deal with B.C. that would recognize its own methane regulations as contributing to that goal.

Foreign LNG-producing nations, like Nigeria, which signed a deal in December to boost its LNG output by over 30 per cent, won’t have such stringent regulations in place, Seeley warned.

“That’s the point that I’d really like to make. ‘Well, what about methane?’ or ‘what about this?’ or ‘what about that?’ — those questions are correct, they need to be asked. But Canada isn’t accountable for everyone else,” he said. “If we don’t develop our own highly-sustainable LNG, it just means more from Nigeria, Qatar and other places that really don’t have the same regulations. And so then we end up with carbon leakage.”

That’s not necessarily true, argued Keith Stewart, a senior energy strategist with Greenpeace Canada and University of Toronto part-time instructor who has worked on climate policy for almost 20 years.

Reuters reported last year that renewables are “set to compete on an equal footing with coal- and gas-fired electricity” in China, according to the country’s state planning agency. Wood Mackenzie Power and Renewables has also said the average levelized cost of electricity for solar and wind is already cheaper than gas in China, and will be competitive with coal by 2026.

“Natural gas is on balance better than coal, but I think that’s no longer the only choice,” said Stewart.

“A lot of these calculations were done when it was assumed that renewables were always going to be more expensive than coal. But now in many places it’s actually cheaper to build and operate wild and solar plants than it is to buy the coal to go into a coal plant.”

The Pembina Institute conducted similar research when it examined the pollution-saving claims of the former Pacific NorthWest LNG project. The think tank concluded that LNG from B.C. “would not only compete with carbon-intensive fossil fuels such as coal, but also with low- and zero-emitting sources of energy, including nuclear, hydro, solar, and wind.”

The most “likely scenario,” it found, is that B.C. LNG will actually “displace clean and renewable forms of electricity, resulting in a significant increase to global greenhouse gas emissions.”

LNG Canada did not return a request for comment as to why its advertorial does not disclose Seeley’s status, background, or “sensitivities.”

The ‘bridge to nowhere’

It is also not clear what the global gas market will look like down the road. Thanks in part to the fracking boom, the world is currently awash in cheap natural gas — so cheap that, in some places like the Permian basin in Texas, gas prices have fallen to negative numbers, meaning producers are paying others to take it off their hands. They are also flaring, or burning it off, at record levels.

Seeley acknowledged the difficulty of predicting gas demand. “Actual global greenhouse gas reductions from the sale of B.C. LNG to China would depend on the end use of the gas and what it will displace or replace,” he noted.

Over the past two years, he said, China has largely used LNG for industrial heat and for residential areas, as opposed to swapping it in to coal power plants, but this would still deliver 40 per cent lower emissions on a lifecycle basis.

In the end, Stewart argued, the issue boils down to corporations attempting to lock in fossil fuel emissions for decades by building large pieces of energy infrastructure, regardless of how much LNG might actually be in demand.

“Increasingly we’re seeing renewables coming in so cheap that if you’re investing in natural gas, you’re kind of blocking out renewables,” he said. “From Greenpeace’s perspective, we need to get off fossil fuels, and LNG is a bridge to nowhere.” SOURCE

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