It is worse than I thought. This story expands on the Downtown Business Improvement Associations rally to save the Parkade that I blogged about last week.
In preparation for New Wesminster’s Master Transportation Plan public consultations, I have been reading The transportation planning documents of other Cities. Yes, I really am that kind of a geek.
“Work toward the principle of no new added road capacity for vehicles passing through the City”
This really speaks to the UBE discussion. Clearly, the UBE was all about increased capacity for vehicles passing through the City. Come to think of it, this principle also places the discussion about the Pattullo Bridge replacement into context. Any plan to replace the Pattullo with a 6-lane structure will clearly violate this principle. It is also interesting that this principle stands in contrast with other ideas in the plan, such as the part under “goods movement” where one of the Key Actions is to:
“Encourage early implementation of the Stormont-McBride connector and the Tree Island bridge”
There is also a good guiding principle, also on page 3, on Cost management that sates:
“Increase user’ share of transportation costs, and decrease Taxpayers’ share of costs”
Which to me sounds like a pretty strong statement towards road pricing, and the tolling of the Pattullo Bridge replacement. In fact, on page 11, under Affordable Transportation Services, there is a long argument for moving towards ore of a user-pay principle for roads, including road pricing and tolling.
“My so-far uncancerous throat . . . is not at all the only organ with which I have blasphemed.”
Amen, Mr. Hitchens.
I opened up my analogue version of the Walrus and on page 28, there is “Patrick Moore, Ph.D, Environmentalist and Greenpeace Co-Founder” staring back at me from a glossy full-page ad extolling the environmental responsibility of the Alberta tar sands. His most recent shill for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers got me thinking it has been a while since I picked up his book. My seemingly endless review continues.
After much of the history and basic philosophy is dispatched, Moore’s book becomes a rather disjointed discussion of various environmental topics, and his “sensible environmentalist” approach to these issues.
His discussion of Energy starts with a rather nonsensical statement:
Motion requires energy, so without energy, time would stand still. (pg. 204)
Which reminds me of the Calvin & Hobbes comic where Calvin thought time had stopped, but it turned out his watch battery had died, but I digress.
His rather lengthy dismissal of most sustainable energy sources can be summarized into a few points: they are untested, unreliable and would require huge government subsidies to compete with what we have.
In many ways these very expensive technologies [wind and solar energy] are destroying wealth as they drain public and private investment away from more affordable and reliable energy-generating systems. (pg. 221)
I’m not sure how putting money into sustainable infrastructure constitutes “destroying wealth”, in fact I’m not even sure what “destroying wealth” means. He mixes this with even sillier arguments: solar panels are made of aluminum, and that takes energy to produce! How sustainable is that?
This is mostly preamble to his long argument about the wonders of Nuclear Power. Before I get too deep into it, I need to point out that I am not a reflexively “anti-nuclear” environmentalist. I think nuclear energy probably has a role in responsible energy policy, if it can be done safely with appropriate accounting for its waste streams. Those are, admittedly, very big “if”s.
I remember my first experiences writing reports and proposals in my life as a Consultant working for a major engineering firm. After interpreting some data, I wrote something along the lines of “the source of pollutant X cannot be determined”. My boss chuckled when reviewing it, and said “in Engineering, we never tell the client something cannot be done. It can always be done. We just need to outline for them the costs related to doing it, and they can decide if it should be done.” I asked what we do if the request really is impossible, and he remarked something along the lines of “impossible just means the technology isn’t there yet. So we budget the cost of developing the required technology”. I came to learn this is how engineers think. Bless them, the sorry bastards they are.
But along those lines, I do believe nuclear energy can be made safe (it is already way safer than getting energy from oil or coal), it is a question of costs and developing the appropriate technology. At this point, we have to decide whether that is a good investment in our money, or if the alternatives make more sense for our investment dollars.
However, this is where Dr. Moore’s argument falls apart. There hasn’t been a new nuclear plant built in the United States in decades, but it isn’t due to no-nukes fear mongering or radiation risks or a lack of political desire as Dr. Moore suggests, but due to something much more banal: economics.
Simply put, Nuclear Plants are too expensive to buildand too expensive to maintain. Currently, there is no business model to produce nuclear power capacity. Without significant government subsidies, like the ones Moore decries for truly sustainable energy alternatives like wind, geothermal and solar, there would be no nuclear industry at all. The people holding nuclear plants back are not environmentalists, they are accountants.
You wouldn’t know this from reading Moore’s book. On page 217, he decries Germany for subsidizing solar energy production to the order of $3 Billion, then, 33 pages later and seemingly unaware of the irony, Moore is extolling President Obama for providing more than $50 Billion in subsidies to Nuclear power industries. I guess you can’t “destroy wealth” by nuking it.
This pales in comparison to his silly arguments around radiation risk. I have written extensively on the poor understanding in the popular media of radiation risk, mostly around the unfounded local concern about impacts of Fukushima. Moore did not have the benefit of writing after Fukushima, but his argument around radiation risk is so Homer Simpsonian in it’s idiocy (and remember, I basically agree with him on Nuclear energy), all I can do is quote it verbatim from page 240:
…fire can be used to Burn down a City and kill Thousands of people. Should we ban fire for cooking and heating? Car bombs are made with fertilizer, diesel oil, and a car. Should we ban those three rather useful things? Guns can be used for hunting and for defending one’s country or for committing genocide?
Unfortunately, his argument for salmon farming is no more nuanced.
At this point no one is surprised, but somehow, the lack of surprise makes the disappointment stronger. After nine years of avoidance, denial, accusation, obfuscation and stupidity, Canada has finally taken the plunge. We walked away from an international agreement because we want to keep profiteering from our own irresponsibility, but don’t want to pay the toll for doing so. So much for being an honest broker; so much for solemn commitments to our international partners
To all the countries that took serious effortsto deal with greenhouse gasses? Suckers! To those who were exempted from reductions because your per capita output was a minuscule percentage of Canada’s? Get Bent! To those low-lying countries that will become inhabitable due to our insatiable
need to burn gas thirst for freedom of choice? Cry me a freaking river. This is Harper’s Canada now, so you can all suck eggs.
But hey! They said it was impossible, because of the Liberals’ lack of action. Let’s not mention that the Kyoto Protocol was ratified in 2002, and Harper took office in 2006. Today is 2011. The goals set out for Kyoto have until 2020 to be met. Yeah, the Liberals were asses for sitting on their hands for four years, but you had one more year than the Liberals did, Harper, and we are still 9 years from 2020. Time to stop blaming them for your failure.
Kent is an embarrassment, but he was sent to Durban to be an embarrassment, so I guess he did his job. He whinged that Canada only produces 2% of the world’s GHG, so countries like China and India need to take the lead. Of course, China and India were signatories in Kyoto, and would now be developing reasonable targets for reductions if the agreement had survived Copenhagen and Durban. Telling the truth was not Kent’s game plan, though. He showed up with a plan to roadblock the whole thing, then took his ball and went home. Blocked the other guys at the party from talking the girl, then broke up with her by text message after he got home. Jerk.
The fact Canada, with 0.5% of the worlds population produces 2% of the GHG isn’t his problem. The fact we are #6 in the world overall in total emmissions though we are the #10 economy in the world is not relevant. That we are in the top 10 per capita emmitters in the world per capita is a non-issue. Somehow, Greenhouse gasses are everyone else’s problem.
Tearing up international agreements and punitively punishing the worlds poorest countries? It isn’t Harper’s fault: it is China’s, or Africa’s, or Obama’s or Chretien’s, or David Suzuki’s for getting us in this mess in the first place. or so I understand from watching Sun News.
This is, without a doubt, the most shameful point in Canada’s formerly-proud history as an international leader in common sense and good governance.
I posted this picture last week as a bit of a joke, but it really isn’t that funny to people who try to use bikes to get about. The Internet is full of ridiculous images of bicycle infrastructure build in such a way that it completely fails as bicycle infrastructure. The blog Bike Snob NYC always has great photos of these types of things, but they can be found anywhere transportation engineers try to fit a bike lane on the side of a road built for cars.
“…designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities must be able to safely move along and across a complete street.
The New Westminster Environmental Partners held their Annual General Meeting last week. It was a good event, with a couple of guest speakers talking about Energy Resiliency, or the challenges and opportunities that we face going into a reduced-greenhouse-gas and post-peak-oil economy. The event attendance was O.K., but could have been better.true to various planning conflicts, the only date we could hold the event happened to be on the same day that New Westminster was inaugurating it’s new City Council, so A lot of the movers and shakers in town were up at City Hall. We still had representation for the City and a couple of the candidates from the last election in attendance, and a diverse group of people, many I have not seen at an NWEP event before, which was great to see.
New Westminster Environmental Partners will work with residents, businesses and government agencies within the city, to achieve environmental, social and economic sustainability in New Westminster through the identification of issues, education, public advocacy, the promotion of best practices and the implementation of effective projects.