Other stories below: Rio +20 shows little sign of living up to original Earth Summit; wind energy tax credit could be extended
Canada’s prime minister on Friday made his strongest comments yet in support of a proposed pipeline from oil-rich Alberta to the Pacific coast, saying his government was committed to ensuring the controversial project went ahead.
Enbridge Inc’s Northern Gateway pipeline, which is strongly opposed by green groups and some aboriginal bands, would allow Canada to send tankers of crude to China and reduce reliance on the U.S. market.
An independent energy regulator — which could in theory reject the project — last month started two years of hearings into the pipeline.
In remarks that appeared to cast some doubt on the regulator’s eventual findings, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said it had become “increasingly clear that it is in Canada’s national interest to diversify our energy markets”.
He continued: “To this end, our government is committed to ensuring that Canada has the infrastructure necessary to move our energy resources to those diversified markets.”
It is easy to be cynical. Back in 1992, more than 100 world leaders, including George H.W. Bush, showed up for the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It was a two-week mega-event that attracted huge attention, highlighted by the signing of two groundbreaking treaties on climate change and biodiversity and grand declarations about creating a future green and equitable world.
To put it mildly, the subsequent two decades have not lived up to the promises. George W. Bush effectively broke the climate treaty signed by his father, refusing to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol. Emissions have soared, resource plundering has intensified, nature is still on the retreat, the world has become less equitable, and climate change has gone from distant prospect to frightening reality. While the population bomb may be being defused, the consumption bomb is primed to destroy us all.
The 1992 Rio summit’s aspirations were left in the hands of a new body: the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD). You have probably never heard of it. That’s not a good sign, since the commission is now in charge of a new event, Rio+20, which is being billed as the next step in making the planet fit for future generations.
Members of the Colorado congressional delegation are calling to extend the wind-energy production tax credit as part of the payroll tax extension.
Eight members of the delegation, including Democratic Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennett, as well as Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis signed a letter to the chairmen of the conference committee.
Also included are Republican Reps. Cory Gardner, Scott Tipton and Mike Coffman. Coffman joined the other members of the delegation late Tuesday in their letter. The wind-energy production tax credit gives wind-energy farms a 2.2 cents-per-kilowatt credit on their taxes each year for the first 10 years and will expire at the end of the year.
In January Vestas Wind Systems, the largest wind turbine manufacturer, threatened to lay off 1,600 people if the tax credit is not extended. It has four manufacturing plants on the Front Range and employs 1,700 people in Colorado.
A green evangelical group won’t bow to conservative anti-abortion-rights leaders or Republicans who are pressuring them to stop casting support for new EPA pollution rules as a “pro-life” position.
The Environmental Evangelical Network (EEN) is under attack from the religious right over its campaign in favor of EPA’s new restrictions on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants – rules that EEN calls vital to protecting the health of the unborn.
Alexei Laushkin, an EEN spokesman, said in an interview Thursday that the group won’t back off the way it frames support for the rules issued late last year.
“We believe protecting the unborn from mercury poisoning is a consistent pro-life position,” he said. “An issue that impacts the unborn – that’s where we resonate as a pro-life organization.”
Cuba’s fledgling oil industry has for the first time dropped an offshore rig into the waters off the Florida Keys, a move that has U.S. officials and environmentalists warning that the island nation’s energy ambitions could come at the expense of the ecologically sensitive region at the tip of the Florida Peninsula.
“Cuba cannot be trusted to provide even the bare essentials to its own citizens and it certainly can’t be trusted to oversee safe and environmentally sound oil drilling only 90 miles off our pristine Florida coast,” said Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
Whether it is the Keystone XL pipeline, the Northern Gateway pipeline or securing an export market in China, the oil sands have dominated much of the recent energy discussions in Canada.
What might surprise many is that Canada is quietly emerging as a renewable energy leader, but it will take the same political focus currently being put toward oil sands to ensure we retain and grow the jobs that are being created in the country’s emerging clean energy sector.
In 2011 Canada was sixth in the world in wind energy installations, and as recently as November 2011, Ernst & Young ranked Canada as the eighth-most attractive country in the world for renewable energy in-vestment, ahead of some traditional leaders including Den-mark, Spain and Japan.
Despite having fewer than 35 million people, Canada has the sixth-largest electricity sys-tem on the planet, behind only China, the United States, Russia, Japan and Germany. Given the size of our electricity system, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Canada ought to be one of the leading markets for renewable electricity.