Monday, February 6, 2012

Greenpeace Knocks, part III

So, in this final episode of Greenpeace-induced ranting, let's focus on what, exactly, do we want to accomplish with all of this green energy?

Perhaps, like myself, you think that we need to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels. I think - I'm hoping - that this is really what Greenpeace is after. Yay! We agree on something!

This problem has different dimensions, and hence different solutions, in different locations. You cannot supply a single solution (ex. solar PV) that might work in one location (ex. North Africa) and expect to get it to work here in BC. This is what bothers me about Greenpeace; they're a bit "one size fits all", so that their "plan" distorts what I think should be our real priorities.

In BC, fossil fuels are overwhelmingly used in transportation. And, of course, we export a lot of coal (and will soon be exporting copious quantities of natural gas). There's some natural gas used for home heating, but this is small in comparison with fuel use of the transportation sector. Fossil fuel use has very little to do with our source of electricity, because our electricity is mostly already green. Contrast this with places like Alberta, where they burn a lot of coal to make electricity, so that getting rid of fossil fuels there must obviously involve alternative means to generate electricity. But that's not BC's problem. First and foremost, BC needs to "green" transportation. If we are going to have to subsidize anything, this should take priority over trying to encourage any "green energy" sector.

Now, we cannot "green" transportation by simply having drivers switch to (plug-in) electric vehicles. See my previous posts on this topic - the amount of energy we consume in driving ourselves and our stuff around is so large that we'd require 4 site C dams to keep ourselves rolling with current "business as usual". This is not a way forward.

(Points to consider: is it, then, a good idea to require gas stations to supply charging outlets? to require developers to install charging stations in all parking spots? to offer government rebates for plug-in vehicles?)

We need to rethink freight and personal mobility - and I mean reduce reliance on trucks and private autos. This is hard, and won't come cheap. There are many vested interests at play (the Port - thanks Pat J! , the trucking industry, the automobile industry, and commuters who have invested in homes in far-away suburbs with no public transportation in sight), and of course any new infrastructure requires fossil fuels to build. We need more public transportation (and not more roads or strip-malls). We need more alternatives like car-sharing. We need to redesign cities to be denser and workplaces closer - with the corollaries that we need to downsize our homes and to stop being so accomodating to cars - so that walking and cycling are viable alternatives. One way to finance some of this is to sell our fossil fuels, and to use the revenue to fund new (electric) public and freight transportation systems. Or, we can leave the fossil fuels in the ground, and find some other way to pay for the new stuff. Like road tolls! But pay we must.

And yes, as we change from moving ourselves around in personal tractors to electric mass transit, we may well need more electricity. So, unless we wish to drown more valleys, industrialize the landscape with windfarms, or go nuclear, we need to become much more efficient with our electricity use. We need to start using less electricity for home and water heating, by using (more expensive) technology such as heat pumps and solar preheating of water. Frugality will only happen when electricity becomes more expensive. Which will happen naturally as demand increases, without increasing the supply.

So you see, my priorities are rather different from those of Greenpeace, although we definitely want the same outcome.

1 comment:

  1. It is good to get a solution to a problem instead of saying rants. It will be an achievement if you solve something.