Latest posts in Science Matters
With oil prices plunging from more than $100 a barrel last summer to below $50 now, the consequences of a petro-fuelled economy are hitting home — especially in Alberta, where experts forecast a recession. The province's projected budget surplus has turned into a $500-million deficit on top of a $12-billion debt, with predicted revenue losses of $11 billion or more over the next three or four years if prices stay low or continue to drop as expected. Alberta's government is talking about service reductions, public-sector wage and job cuts and even increased or new taxes on individuals. TD Bank says Canada as a whole can expect deficits over the next few years unless Ottawa takes money from its contingency fund.Continue reading »
It sometimes seems people in the mining and fossil fuel industries — along with their government promoters — don't believe in the future. What else could explain the mad rush to extract and use up the Earth's resources as quickly and wastefully as possible?Continue reading »
Abundant, cheap fossil fuels have driven explosive technological, industrial and economic expansion for more than a century. The pervasive infrastructure developed to accommodate this growth makes it difficult to contemplate rapidly shifting away from coal, oil and gas, which creates a psychological barrier to rational discourse on energy issues.
The ecological and true economic costs of energy use force us to scrutinize our way of living. And because our infrastructure doesn't allow us to entirely avoid fossil fuels, we must face the contradiction between how we should live and constraints against doing so.
I recently travelled across Canada with David Suzuki Foundation staff, from St. John's to Victoria and up to Yellowknife, joined by friends and allies along the way. Besides our Blue Dot Tour evening events featuring some of Canada's best-known musicians, writers, artists and thinkers, we also took part in many community events and discussed environmental stewardship and treaty rights with Indigenous people.
We visited places that lack access to clean water in a country that boasts having an abundance of the cleanest water in the world. We met people trying to protect their communities, wildlife and habitat from fossil fuel development and pipeline projects. We joined more than 1,000 people in Toronto for a celebration of local food, music and nature during the Homegrown Park Crawl. We took part in nature-themed scavenger hunts with schoolchildren.
There's no free ride when it comes to generating energy. Even the cleanest sources have environmental consequences. Materials for all power-generating facilities have to be obtained and transported, and infrastructure must be built, maintained and eventually decommissioned. Wind turbines take up space and can harm wildlife. Hydro floods agricultural land and alters water cycles.
That's why conservation is the best way to reduce energy-consumption impacts. Reductions in energy use and investment in energy-efficiency technologies are so significant that the International Energy Agency refers to conservation as the "first fuel".