A little learning is a dangerous thing

A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring

-Alexander Pope

I was very frustrated when the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario came out with a position against wind turbines. Specifically, he's against turbines in Important Bird Areas. 

Here's what boggles my mind. Windows are killing 22 million birds in Canada each year. House cats are killing half a billion birds in North America each year. Power lines kill birds. Cars kill more birds. Oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico kill 200,000 birds a year. And that's when they're not spilling oil all over bird habitats (I'm looking at you, BP).

Wind turbines do kill birds. They kill about 2 birds a year. In Canada, there's about 5500MW of wind turbines, or about 3000 turbines. So, we're talking about 6000 bird deaths a year.

Let's put that in perspective. For every bird killed by a turbine, 3,600 are killed by a window. The big problem is that fossil fuel plants, and nuclear plants, will kill birds too. Both directly, and as a result of negative effects on climate. And when you have big generating stations, like you do with nuclear, you have big power lines. Big power lines kill birds.

And this doesn't even touch on the fact that climate change will be devastating to bird climates. That's part of why the Audubon society has come out in favour of wind turbines.

I'm not writing this to be against nuclear, or coal. I'm just curious why the Environmental Commissioner would come out against a clean, renewable source of energy like wind. Even just in Important Bird Areas. If he wanted to really help birds in those areas, perhaps he should come out against windows in important bird areas.

So, do wind turbines kill birds? Yes. But wind turbines also provide us with part of the key to a carbon-free energy mix. And that's going to be better for all of us, birds included. Let's not just learn a little, let's think about it in a bigger context.

David Estill

Posted by gmaurice on October 04, 2012 | Permalink

Is energy policy in Ontario a ship without a rudder?

It’s going to cost Ontarians $180 million to move a gas-fired power plant from Mississauga to Lambton County.

This is, according to the Energy Minister Chris Bentley, because the governing provincial Liberals were “listening to the community” when they made that 2011 decision.

I’m a huge advocate of renewable energy. That said, take a drive through the country, and you’ll see the “Stop the wind turbines” signs all over. Does the precedent of the Mississauga gas plant decision mean that any community that doesn’t want a generation facility of any type in their community will get its way?

So perhaps a few larger generation stations that are out of the way will work in this plan. However, Bruce Power failed to meet its commercial operation milestone. This gives the ratepayers of Ontario a chance to save upward of $500 million.

Are we going to reward failure, or take bold action?

Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals campaigned in 2011 on green energy jobs and the feed-in-tariff program they introduced. In stark contrast, the Progressive Conservatives said that if they got into power, they’d cancel the program.

The Conservatives said they’d cancel it in part because they didn’t have a handle on the economics of energy in this province, but also because it took too many powers away from the community.

So on one hand, the Liberals are stripping power from a community. On the other, they’re moving plants because a community doesn’t want it, at a heavy cost to all Ontarians. We want to control energy prices, but it looks like Bruce Power will get its payday despite not living up to its side of the bargain.

And the green energy jobs? They’ve been leaving the province in droves, since the feed-in-tariff program has been more or less stalled since last October. It looks like the Liberals gave the Conservatives their wish, and haven’t been accepting applications in the program, which in turn has been driving investment elsewhere.

Big bills to pay for moving gas plants. Green energy jobs leaving the province. And nuclear reactors that aren’t producing on time. This is what Bentley’s Ministry of Energy has accomplished. It’s like they’re a rudderless ship, reacting to problem after problem, instead of leading us forward.

We deserve better.

We deserve a government that listens to us, yes, but that has the courage to stand up for its convictions. We need to choose a path toward clean, renewable energy. And toward keeping jobs and innovation in our province. We have a choice. Let’s move forward.

David Estill is president and CEO of Estill Energy Inc., a Guelph- based company that installs solar systems for businesses and residences in southwestern Ontario.

Article originally published in the Guelph Mercury, guest column, July 13, 2012


Posted by gmaurice on July 16, 2012 | Permalink

Bus Terminal Good, Omnibus Bad

It seems like there are a lot of "Buses" in the news these days.

First off, here at home, the new bus terminal is being opened on Sunday. I'm not an urban planner, so it's hard for me to comment on the location, but it's nice to see a commitment to transit. And they're using LED lights at the terminal, which is forward thinking too.

Then there's the omnibus budget implementation bill, bill C-38. This is not to be confused with the omnibus crime bill.

So what is an omnibus bill? It's a bill that covers a lot of different, and often unrelated bills. Omnibus is from the latin, and means "For everything".

The omnibus budget bill does help implement the budget, but it also changed over 60 different laws. From the Parks Canada Act, to the Canada Marine Act, to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. What do these acts have to do with implementing the budget?


Really. Which is why the NDP wants to have the bill split out into smaller, more manageable parts. The bill as it stands comes in at 425 pages. Elizabeth May is pretty sure she's one of the only MPs to have read the entire thing, because it's so convoluted.

Large bills like this can be problematic for many reasons. One is political. Say I introduce a bill that had two parts- one that decreased environmental oversight, and the other that offered a tax break to low income families. You might be against the bill because you want stronger enviromental oversight. But if you vote against it, I can say you voted against a tax break for low income families. 

Another reason is practical. Seriously- try to read this bill. It's very convoluted. As one MP once said: "In the interests of democracy, I ask how can members, represent their constituents on these various areas when they are forced to vote on a block of such legislation?"

That was Stephen Harper. Again, if only politicians would listen to themselves, we'd be better off.

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Posted by Dave Estill on May 16, 2012 | Permalink

Canada Pulls Out of Kyoto - what a shame.

I like to get my news from a few different sources, but one of my favourites is from the BBC. The last few days have had Canada in the headlines, and not in a very friendly light. "Canada under fire over Kyoto protocol exit" reads one headline. As well we should be. I was very disappointed when I heard the news we would be leaving.

So, what exactly is Kyoto, and why did Canada decide to leave?

The first part of the question is pretty easy. It's a binding protocol that is going into it's second stage, the goal of which is to reduce global carbon emissions. The basic idea is that you look at your carbon output in 1990, and aim to reduce carbon output, on average, by 5.2% from those levels. It's got compliance and recording mechanisms built into it, and also includes a fund to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

So, why did we leave?

Perhaps it's because we're one of the worlds biggest carbon dioxide emitters. And we have the single biggest industrial emitter of carbon on the planet in the Tar Sands in Alberta. Our addiction to dirty oil would mean we've got to make a lot of big cuts in other places to hit our targets.

Peter Kent, the minister of the environment, has said that it would cost $1,600 per person in Canada (or a whopping 13.6 billion dollars) to comply. I can't seem to figure out where he's getting this number from, or in what time frame we'd need to make those payments.

Either way, we're the only country to remove ourselves from Kyoto, and as such, we're sending a clear message to the world: We don't care about climate change, we care about getting all the oil we can from the tar sands.

And that's a shame. We should be at the front of this, innovating, and showing the world it can be done. Instead, we'll watch from the sidelines.

If only Peter Kent would listen to his own words from 1984, perhaps we'd be in a better situation. For now, take a minute to write your MP, sign a petition, or put it out there on facebook and twitter. The Green Party supports Kyoto fully, and I support it too.

Posted by Dave Estill on December 14, 2011 | Permalink

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