The War of 1812 is long forgotten.
Few other than history buffs and students know much of the series of bloody battles which pitted what is now Canada against its southern neighbor. Those included the slow slaughter of Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend by then-Col. Andrew Jackson or the Battle of Bladensburg during which British forces captured and torched Washington, D.C.
Now Canada is good buddies with the United States. The country mostly surfaces in the news as being the source of Justin Bieber or, energy-wise, for its rich oil sands in the Athabasca-Wabasca, Peace River and Cold Lake reserves in Alberta. Estimates vary but Oil Sands InfoMine puts the recoverable deposits at about 170 billion barrels, placing Canada just behind Saudi Arabia. That oil is being extracted at a rate of about 1 million barrels a day and is expected to grow to about 4 million barrels by 2020.
Canada’s energy rep
Canada’s hardly known for its energy efficiency or its embrace of renewables like solar, wind and geothermal. Just ask activist and author Bill McKibben, one of the chief opponents of the Keystone Pipeline, which would send all that “tar” sands oil to the Gulf Coast.
But that could change. On June 21, 2012, Environment Canada and the U.S. Department of Energy released the second part of an ambitious plan outlining how the two countries will jointly advance clean energy technologies. The effort has possibly the least sexy name in clean energy history, dubbed the “U.S.-Canada Clean Energy Dialogue Action Plan II,” or CED for short.
The plan renews a 2009 commitment between the United States and Canada to work together on carbon capture and storage technologies, clean and smart electrical grids and clean energy research and development. It also places “a greater emphasis on energy efficiency.”
A shift in sentiment?
Peter Kent, Canada’s minister of the environment, hailed the move from Rio de Janeiro where led the Canadian delegation at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. “It is our hope that the transformation of our economies and our joint work will identify clean energy solutions that will contribute to making sustainable energy a reality for all,” he said.
Tyler Hamilton, a columnist with the Toronto Star, underlines the importance for his country of increasing clean energy investment in a piece about the pro-sustainability stand by the Paris-based International Energy Agency. IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven calls for bold policies that radically transform the world’s energy systems and says: “If significant policy action is taken, we can still achieve the huge potential for these technologies to reduce CO2 emissions and boost energy security.”
An IEA statement that the alternative is the potential of “locking in high-carbon infrastructure” appears to irk Hamilton. “That’s what many people are worried about, and not just environmentalists,” he writes. “They know that the decisions we make today will have a profound impact on the quality of life of our children and their children tomorrow.”
Hamilton says certain Canadian cabinet ministers may deem the move to embrace sustainability radical, but “most common sense folk would call it risk management.”
Big gains in efficiency
Canada’s policy direction — should it go even a pale green — likely will have a profound effect on the United States, especially in energy efficiency. Colder Canada can make tremendous progress on improving its existing commercial and industrial buildings and save energy.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recently released a report that amplifies the importance for utilities of improving building performance. The report, “Three Decades and Counting: A Historical Review and Current Assessment of Electric Utility Energy Efficiency Activity in the States,” says the initial concept that energy utilities should pursue electricity savings was a major departure from policies of the past.
“From these early roots, energy efficiency programs for electric utility customers have grown rapidly” to total budgets in 2010 of $4.6 billion for U.S.-based programs, the study says.
ACEEE says new policies and programs have driven down energy consumption, shown the environmental and economic benefits and demonstrated a “new era of energy efficiency… marked by continued expansion and innovation.”
Green gas in BC
That would be good for Canada, especially in light of the recent controversy caused by British Columbia Premier Christy Clark when she “redefined” three liquified natural gas plants in the northern region of her province as green energy. “This is consistent with our comprehensive natural gas strategy and it’s also consistent with our efforts to use renewable energy,” she said, according to Tamsyn Burgmann of the Canadian Press.
Gordon Hamilton of the Vancouver Sun reports that Clark’s ruling means “gas-fired power plants used to make LNG or to propel gas along pipelines will be considered green energy, a move that will enable the oil and gas industry to produce cheap electricity without compromising the requirements of the Clean Energy Act.”
All the more reason to focus on energy efficiency while that issue works itself out. Maybe renewables will get more attention, too.
In the meantime, Canadian businesses and local governments will likely be hiring energy managers, instituting energy audits and carrying out a number of energy efficiency-related savings programs.
Nothing says warm like efficiency
Say a guy in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, adds a premium efficiency heater, bolsters insulation, upgrades his ducting and eliminates all air leaks in his business. In addition, he installs other measures recommended by his energy auditors. His workers and customers feel the effects and say how great they are, especially when the thermometer dips to 40 or 50 below zero.
Changing attitudes and policies would work wonders to cut down the immense heating bills that many in more northern latitudes face every month. And lower operating costs can translate into additional profits (or continued existence) during tough economic times.
Anecdotes of successful retrofits and programs in the land of the maple leaf will leak down south, and that would benefit both regions.
Bob and Doug
So, eh? The reason I got into this post had very little to do with anything serious. I just had Bob and Doug McKenzie on the brain. I blame it on Canada Day. That devolved into thinking about Geddy Lee joining the two comedians on the song “Take Off” and wearing woolies in the winter.
Cold is something I’m very familiar with. Now I’m a pro at dealing with extreme heat, too. And I’ll tell you, I’d take the cold any day. Maybe not 40 below. That just bites any way you look at it.
Bob and Doug of SCTV fame had their streak of popularity. One skit involved a game of beer hunter. They did drink a lot of beer. But anyway, here’s a bit.
Seeing as it has been 200 years since that little dispute between the States and former UK territories, it’s possible this next era will be one of prosperity and clean air. Sounds like a good reason to fry up some backbacon.