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Monday, February 2, 2009

Looking for Green in the 2009 Canadian Budget

It's taken me a few days to sink my teeth into the new budget brought down by the Harper government on Tuesday. If I was going to dig through and insist on finding a lot of green, I might be at this for a while longer.

Different news sources have played the report one way or the other, but the general consensus is that the budget either falls very short or seems to miss the point. Perhaps all that face time with Elizabeth May didn't do Stephen Harper much good after all.

On the side of falling short, there was little or no new funding for research into climate change. Unlike Obama's ideas for the future, less than 5% of Canada's stimulus spending was directed at anything related to clean energy. In a large country that is sparsely populated, we should be seeing (or failing to notice due said large area) hundreds and thousands of wind farms all across our country. I'd like to see the math that shows how a pipeline from Northern Alberta is more cost-effective than a power line from a turbine farm in as remote a location. (Don't get me started on the cost-effectiveness of Alberta's tar sands...)

On the side of missing the point, Harper's team points to two items in particular as being the best options for Canada: nuclear power and carbon sequestration.

Harper must have a renewed faith in AECL or just doesn't care about the long term. Either way, I don't disagree that nuclear power is an option that should be considered over continuing our blind dependence on oil, but let's see some options and plans for dealing with the resulting waste. Maybe this is the "shovels in the ground" people are talking about.

Carbon sequestration is also a good idea, but compelling businesses to account for their carbon emissions through long term storage is only a small part of what we have to do. It doesn't address the emissions themselves. We should be looking at alternative energy sources that don't produce carbon to be captured then sequestration technology can be used to reduce the mess that is already there.

Consider this simple analogy: You hire a painter to paint your dining room. It's a four day job. On the afternoon of the fourth day, you notice that he's slopped paint all over your hardwood floor except for one corner which is yet to be painted. Thus you put a drop cloth down in that corner.

When all is said and done, that corner won't have any paint spill, but the rest of the room is a mess and the painter still has an awful technique.

The drop cloth is carbon sequestration for new emissions.

The one point that I will give the 2009 budget is the home renovation stimulus package. As you know, my whole project is about making my home more energy efficient and cost-effective. With about a year left to take advantage of my ener-guide retrofits, this stacking incentive could help out a lot. I just hope it is used by most for this very purpose and not for installing fancy new water-sucking bathrooms or pesticide-sucking lawns.
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