Governments, media and industry use ‘low-carbon economy’ frame to continue business as usual.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier John Horgan celebrating LNG Canada’s investment decision as an investment in the low-carbon economy. They’re missing a critical point: we need a zero-emissions economy. Photo: BC Government Flickr
In a recent Vancouver Sun column describing the introduction of enabling legislation for the Shell LNG Canada project in the B.C. legislature, Vaughn Palmer ends with these words:
“The finance ministry reckons that even with the estimated $6 billion in relief over 40 years, the province would still reap $22 billion in revenues over the same period. Without the project, returns would, of course, be zero.”
It’s a compelling comparison. With the project we can pay for schools, hospitals and poverty reduction. Without it, we have nothing.
Yet it is fallacious, a comparison promoted by Big Oil and adopted by most governments. It takes our minds off alternatives.
The correct comparison is between revenues generated from $40 billion invested in fracking and fossil fuel production versus revenues generated from $40 billion invested in renewable energy, such as solar, wind and thermal.
Two similar-sounding phrases lie at the heart of this issue. One has gained predominance, the other relegated to the margins of climate change discourse. The first is “low-carbon economy,” an economy in which even fracking and liquefied natural gas have a role. The second is “zero-carbon economy,” an economy in which no more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. In this second framing, the goal must be an economy fuelled entirely by renewable, non-carbon-emitting sources. MORE
© ADRIAN WYLD,MIGUEL MEDINA,SEAN KILPATRICK/AFP/Getty Images/ Bill Morneau and Justin Trudeau in happier times
Now if only he can keep his job in the fall election.
Up in Canada, the Trudeau government’s new budget includes C$ 300 million to provide a C$ 5,000 incentive toward the purchase or electric or hydrogen-powered cars that cost under C$ 45,000. According to the budget:
Transportation accounts for about one quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, mainly coming from gas- and diesel-powered cars and trucks. The future of transportation lies in the increased use of zero-emission vehicles—cars and trucks powered by rechargeable electric batteries or hydrogen fuel cells. While these vehicles are not yet common in communities across Canada, they can provide a cleaner, more efficient way to transport people and goods and, over the long run, help Canadians reduce the everyday cost of transportation.
That is why Canada has set a target to sell 100 per cent zero-emission vehicles by 2040, with sales goals of 10 per cent by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030 along the way. By becoming an early adopter of this new technology, Canada will help the Canadian zero-emission vehicle market advance, making zero-emission vehicle options more readily available and affordable for more and more Canadians.
Now I could argue about the hydrogen
, but they will never cost less than $C45k so they are a moot point. The recognition that there are other forms of low-carbon transport, like subsidies for electric bikes and transit fares, would also be nice, but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth. MORE
“Disruption” is a term that tends to be used casually when attempting to describe an industry or technological change on the horizon. Although the term may be overused in many contexts, it is hard to formulate a better word to describe the looming disruption that is certain to emanate from the increased adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).
Because EVs have far fewer moving parts than an ICE engine (roughly 20 moving parts in an EV as opposed to over 2,000 in an ICE), the lifetime maintenance costs are cheaper for an EV as compared to an ICE vehicle. Because of this phenomenon alone, fleet-based companies are beginning to transition their fleet vehicles from ICE to EV-based technologies. For example, last year, IKEA announced that they will transition 100% of their home delivery fleet to EVs by 2030.
As transformative as this coming transition will be on the automotive industry, its impact across the energy industry will be hard to overstate. Most directly, the decrease in demand for refined gasoline will have ripple effects across the traditional oil and gas business. Also, even though the “energy trade” of a gallon of gasoline for a kilowatt hour of electricity is not 1 to 1, there will certainly be a much higher demand for electricity (as a fuel source) and for power infrastructure (as a distribution network). Add on the expectation for fully autonomous driving (which is already being beta tested in many jurisdictions), and the disruptive impacts become even larger.
Ironically, many doomsayers predicted the looming death of the traditional electric utility due to the rapid increase of renewable energy, reasoning that the uptick in grid integration of wind and solar generation resources would damage utilities. Now, the automotive industry could end up being the knight in shining armor to save the electric utility business, which will have to build (and charge customers for) increased infrastructure and power generation capacity to meet increased EV demand. Since EVs will be dispersed throughout the grid ecosystem, it is expected that more demand for generation (namely, solar generation by day, and wind generation by night) will be needed as the most cost-effective marginal unit of electric generation. So although rooftop solar and wind generation was once viewed as a potential death knell to the traditional utility, the coming EV revolution could end up making utilities the largest renewable energy developers and proponents due to the same factor that will drive the trend towards EV adoption: money. MORE
You’ve been hearing a lot about the Green New Deal, but you’re wondering what it’s all about? If you want a quick and chatty explainer, check out this video put together by the folks at The Leap, a climate action group.
The Leap Manifesto predates the Green New Deal, but the group has eagerly taken up the mantle. Here’s the central core of the Manifesto:
We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the jobs and opportunities of this transition are designed to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.
We know that the time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us that this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer get us where we need to go.
Canada has become a member of a key intergovernmental agency that promotes the adoption of solar, wind, geothermal and other forms of renewable energy.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has described Canada as an “important market” for renewables over the long term. Ottawa has been in talks since at least early 2017 to become a member of the group, and on Wednesday, the government made it official. MORE