Politics Blogs - Blog Top Sites Blog Flux Directory Green Assassin Brigade: May 2007

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lead poisoning, that explains a lot

Apparently the water at Queens park is tainted with lead. A quick search showed me that while lead poisoning is more damaging to children, in adults it has the following effects.

"In adults, lead can increase blood pressure and cause fertility problems, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, irritability, and memory or concentration problems. "

This has obviously been a problem for a while,

High blood pressure, I've seen a lot of red faces and bulging veins in question period.

Fertility problems, I don't know about this but we can certainly hope they can't breed.

Nerve disorders, irritability, memory or concentration problems,
most certainly apparent .

It's obvious the whole lot of them need to be sent away to a long term convalescence home where they can rest, rehabilitate and learn a nice trade like knitting.

What this definitely proves is the House of Commons must have much more lead contamination than Queen's Park.Recommend this Post

Monday, May 28, 2007

I've had enough of China!

China has given us many wonderful things in it’s time, noodles, Kung Fu movies, fire crackers, and at least two or three other things, but damn I’ve had just about enough of them!

An article from the CBC tells how Chinese inspectors found 20% of toys and children’s clothes fail safety inspections.

You’ve go to be kidding, 20% of the products failed Chinese standards! That would that be like 50% or 60% failures by our standards.

This is a nation that trades unfairly, artificially pegs is currency, buys natural resources around the world but refuses to sell strategic materials to the west. China refuses to acknowledge human rights, still allows virtual slave labour, ads chemicals and toxins to food to stretch their profit. China turns a blind eye to the infringement of intellectual properties, patents, copy rights, produces substandard fake products and sells them back to us. China has even been accused of counterfeiting prescription drugs, including malaria drugs destined for Africa. Last year there was even a fake baby formula scandal.

Not only that but China is building coal fired generation plants at breakneck speed with little concern for scrubbers or ensuring the cleanest coals are burnt. Next year China will surpass the U.S. as the number one greenhouse gas emitter and yet we gave them a by on Kyoto.

I for one am disgusted with China first and our Government second that they even allow the import of anything from China. Each time we buy a domestic item we know it was ethically produced with cleaner energy, safer workers, higher standards and controlled pollution. Each time we buy an item from China we abrogate our obligations to be good world citizens and prove ourselves to be hypocrites on topics such as human rights, global warming, and pollution. I don’t know about you but I’ve had it with China and will do my best to boycott their products. I call on the government to ban the importation of food and children’s products as a first warning that we do care how our consumer goods are created.Recommend this Post

Friday, May 25, 2007

Baird is a waste of skin!

So far Baird has produced a useless green plan that is pro oil and totally incapable of letting Canada achieve its Kyoto Commitments. He's also cooked the books while pricing Kyoto. Then he made a statement that he had the economy to worry about not just the environment.


He's the Environment Minister, he has no obligation to worry about anything but his own portfolio and considering the job he's doing he needs to worry about that a lot more.

His job is to meet Kyoto and not lie about the cost. His job is to focus on his portfolio and hold the biggest polluters to task.

But instead he’s gone one step further and has given Irving Oil a sweet heart exemption from environmental assessment. Irving Oil will now be allowed to build a refinery without any environmental study other than for its pier. As one of the dirties industries around, Big Oil should get no breaks

This man is a total failure as an environment minister and must go.

Then again, the whole government has proven a failure so why stop at Baird?Recommend this Post

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Greens support riding the Rails

Today the Green Party of Canada called for a major upgrade in Canada's rail system including dedicated tracking to accommodate both freight and passengers, a return to full national rail service and high speed rail links on main traffic corridors.

The Greens have once again shown they actually have a clue what is going and in the world and how to prepare for the challenging times ahead. Global warming, pollution, road congestion, and peak oil are all important issues to which a plan like this speaks.

Peak oil is going to make trucking, personal driving and the maintenance of asphalt roads prohibitively expensive in perhaps as little as a decade. As the status quo becomes too expensive railroads will become a far more efficient way to ship goods and people.

Pollution and green house gases will both be reduced by building a good rail system and even more so if the high speed links are made with electric trains instead of using diesel electric locomotives.

The new roads needed to absorb today's traffic are expensive to build and most likely an exercise in futility. Vehicle ownership numbers are destined to drop as peak oil pushes less affluent drivers off the roads in the coming years. The move is already on as transit rider ship is grows even at today’s prices. Once we hit European fuel prices car ownership will fall.

Today's rampant building of more infrastructure for the car culture will be seen as a monumental waste of resources in hindsight.

A strong rail infrastructure is a necessity for any nation that wishes to flourish in an age of diminishing hydrocarbon fuels. Today however, North America is so far behind Europe it’s laughable.

In the same vain as today’s announcement I would also suggest:

Government investment in a company called Railpower technologies, a Canadian company building hybrid locomotives for rail yard work.

That Rail companies no longer be allowed to abandon track.

Abandoned track right of ways must be preserved for future us.

All Rail station properties must be maintained.

All new regional plans leave corridors open for future rail expansion.Recommend this Post

Monday, May 14, 2007

What the Conservatives don't want you to hear

Most of us heard last week that the Conservatives tried to muzzle a presenter at the Committee on International Trade as Irrelevant, when the Committee voted against the Conservatives and allowed Gordon Laxer to continue, the chairman and various lackeys stormed out declaring the session over. Not having the power to close the meeting unilaterally, the tantrum had no effect and the remaining members stayed to hear the entire presentation. Not only is this childish behaviour an embarrassment but it is a very real sign that the Conservatives have an agenda that fears the light of truth.

The following is the offending presentation in its entirety. This appears to be the scripted version of what he intended to say , I have no idea if he adlibs or went off script at any time but this is the gist. Read it and then ask youself why we would willingly sign onto agreements that sell our future energy security for short term gain?

Presentation on the SPP to the International Trade Committee

Gordon Laxer

Political Economy Professor, and The Director

Parkland Institute at the University of Alberta

May 10, 2007


Parkland Institute is an Alberta-wide research network at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. We are supported by over 600 individual members and dozens of progressive organizations. Parkland Institute conducts research and education for the public good.

My remarks are on the energy and climate change implications of the SPP.

Why No Energy Security for Canadians?

I don’t understand why Canada is discussing helping to ensure American energy security when Canada has no energy policy, and no plans or enough pipelines, to get oil to Eastern Canadians during an international supply crisis. Canada is the most vulnerable member of the International Energy Agency - IEA, yet recklessly exports a higher and higher share of its oil and gas to the U.S. This locks Canada into a higher share under NAFTA’s proportionality clause. Instead of guaranteeing U.S. energy security, how about a Canadian SPP – Secure Petroleum Plan for Canada?

While rising Canadian oil exports help wean America off Middle Eastern oil, Canada is shirking responsibility to Canadians. Rising Canadian exports are perversely leading to greater Middle Eastern imports for Canada.

We import about 40% of our oil - 850,000 barrels per day, to meet 90 per cent of Atlantic Canada's and Quebec's needs, and 40 per cent of Ontario's. A rising share, 45 per cent comes from OPEC countries, primarily Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Imports from North Sea suppliers – Norway and Britain –are shrinking (37 per cent).

Many eastern Canadians heat their homes with oil. Yet we have no plan to send domestic supplies to them. Why not? In which NAFTA country are the citizens most likely to freeze in the dark?

The National Energy Board’s mandate is to "promote safety and security ... in the Canadian public interest". Yet they wrote me on April 12: "Unfortunately, the NEB has not undertaken any studies on security of supply." This is shocking.

I asked the NEB about whether Canada is considering setting up a Strategic Petroleum Reserve under its membership in the IEA. The NEB replied that Canada "was specifically exempted from establishing a reserve, on the grounds that Canada is a net exporting country whereas the other members are net importers."

The IEA was set up by industrial countries in 1974 to counter OPECs boycotting power. The 24 members must maintain emergency oil reserves equivalent to 90 days of net imports. Only net-exporters are exempt. Canada shares this status with 3 other members.

Britain and Denmark have been net exporters, but set up strategic reserves, as required of European Union members. That leaves Norway and Canada. Norway doesn't need a reserve. Sensibly, it supplies its own citizens, before exporting surpluses.

Western Canada can’t supply all of Eastern Canadian needs, because NAFTA reserves Canadian oil for Americans' security of supply. Canada now exports 63 per cent of our oil and 56 per cent of our natural gas production. Those export shares are currently locked in place by NAFTA's proportionality clause which requires us not to reduce recent export proportions. Mexico refused proportionality. It applies only to Canada.

As well, we don’t have the east-west pipelines to fully meet Eastern needs. Instead, 5 export pipelines are planned.

Although we have more than enough oil and gas to meet Canadians needs, Canada is the most exposed IEA member. Meanwhile, the U.S. is doubling its Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Natural gas

Nor does Canada have a natural gas plan. At last summer G-8 meetings, Canada began negotiations to send Russian gas to Quebec. It is very risky. Recently, Russia cut natural gas exports to Ukraine and Byelorussia for political reasons.

Why import natural gas, when we could be self-sufficient and energy independent?


Those are official U.S. goals in its 2001 National Energy Policy - NEP. Domestic ownership too – remember Congress blocked a Chinese takeover of Unocal. The US didn’t draw up a continental security plan in 2001, but a national one, as Mexico has, like we should. Most countries have similar national policies.

No one is fooled by SPP talk that ‘North American energy security’ is anything more than US energy security.

I don’t advocate copying the U.S. on all energy policies - finding ‘their’ oil under someone else’s sands – Middle Eastern, and Alberta’s tarsands.

Strategic petroleum reserves help short-term crunches, but not long-term ones. Eastern Canadians’ best insurance is to restore the rule before the Free Trade Agreement - no energy exports before 25 years of ‘proven’ supply, not ‘expected’ supply.

The SPP is taking us in the wrong direction:

Quickening environmental approval of tarsands exports

More LNG terminals in Canada dedicated for U.S. export

Bringing in temporary Mexican workers without permanent resident rights

Paradigm Shift

Instead, Canada needs a paradigm shift to face the new realities:

security trumping trade – means that energy security for Canadians trumps NAFTA

climate change – The production of tarsands oil, ¾ of which is exported, is the single biggest contributor to our rising greenhouse gases. This is the gassy elephant in the living room everyone pretends not to see. Instead, we need a moratorium on new tarsands projects. Then, cut consumption to reduce carbon emissions.

NAFTA's proportionality clause – You won’t convince Canadians to cut fossil fuel use, as we must, if it means that whatever we save is exported to the U.S., the proportional requirement rises, and tarsands carbon emissions remain unchanged.


Instead of the SPP Canada needs a new energy security and conservation strategy. Canada has a NEP - No Energy Plan. It is not helping Alberta or other producing regions. The people of Alberta, the oil and gas owners, receive pitifully low royalties and other economic rents. Alberta and Norway have similar amounts of oil and gas, yet Alberta’s Heritage Fund was started in 1976 and has 12billion US. Norway started their fund in 1996 and has 250 billion US. Much of tarsands oil is shipped out raw without upgrading in Alberta.

Canada must do a national energy strategy differently – as a partnership with the producing provinces and territories. The 1980 National Energy Program had good goals - energy sufficiency, independence, Canadian ownership and security, but it was unilaterally imposed.

A new federal-provincial plan must raise economic rents in all their forms so producing regions can use the funds to transition to a post-carbon economy. Otherwise, in a generation, Alberta will become, not the rust belt like the U.S mid-west, but the fossil belt.


No SPP before public hearings, bills before Parliament, the consent of Canadians.

No export of raw bitumen

no environmental sacrifice zones in northern Alberta

Higher economic rents

Get a Mexican exemption on proportionality

Finally, a new SPP – Secure Petroleum Plan for Canadians.

Recommend this Post

Never enough!

Occasionally I see or hear someone who says, I've cut back as much as I can. For most of these people cutting back means new light bulbs and perhaps caulking their windows and considering a more efficient car 5 years from now when they need to purchase again. This article from BBC shows the extremes some people will go and what cutting back really means.

I'm not saying everyone can or should go this far but a detailed look at how austerely some people can live is important to show the "I've already cut back" crowd that there is lots of room for more improvement.

Would you switch everything off and rely on natural light to save the planet?

It's the only answer for the families going to extreme measures to cut emissions.

Most families get up in the morning, switch on the lights and start their ablutions. The Robinsons do not.

The Robinsons get up, leave the lights off and open the curtains a crack so some light gets in but little heat escapes.
This is the world of "carbon rationing".

The term may fill some people with horror - conjuring up images of wartime austerity measures and queues for bread and sugar.
For others it may suggest green fundamentalists forcing us to swap our central heating for woolly jumpers and run our cars on chicken dung.

A recent poll suggested only 28% of Britons thought the idea of setting mandatory limits on individuals' carbon emissions - raised by Environment Secretary David Milliband - was socially acceptable, even though most feel lifestyle changes are needed to reduce the impact of climate change.

But the term does not trouble Peter Robinson, and dozens like him around the country who have signed up to voluntary groups whose aim is to substantially reduce the CO2 their members are releasing into the atmosphere.

These Carbon Rationing Action Groups advise their members, known as Craggers, on how to minimise energy use.
The Robinsons have eagerly set about finding ways to cut their personal energy use, many of which have also proved financially beneficial.

"It's only when you stop and start looking that you realise that you do waste a lot of energy, not out of spite or just being lazy or anything, it's just your normal lifestyle," Peter says.

Use jug to collect hot water in shower for shaving
Open curtains a fraction instead of switching on light
Walk or cycle to school/work

"Our lifestyles were very energy-rich whereas now... there are things you can do in your life that don't stop you having a really nice time... but you can still make really substantial savings.

"It's not draconian, you're not leading the life of a monk, it's just stuff that's really easy to do."

The 36-year-old school administrator may not think it is draconian but there are some who would raise an eyebrow at the prospect of using only the upstairs bathroom during the hours of darkness and relying on ambient light from streetlamps.

But Peter has been an enthusiastic "cragger" since joining his local Crag, in Worcester last year.

Though he, his wife Sarah, and children Jacob and Molly, have been actively trying to reduce their carbon footprint for some time, he believes being members has helped to focus their minds on the task in hand.

"Being involved in the Crag... has really made a difference - monitoring how you produce your carbon... is what really has driven me and enabled us to look at what we do, how we live our lives, make those savings," he says.

Currently at least 23 groups throughout the UK
Each group sets individual targets, but most going for 4.5 metric tons per person for 2006/7
In some Crags, a financial penalty for those who exceed limit
Aim is to reduce personal footprints by about 10% a year, to achieve a 90% cut by 2030

It is easy to see the Robinsons as driven. They do not watch television, but for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment. Their children are allowed to watch DVDs at the weekend but the brightness control has to come down.

Developing habits is the key, Peter says. He described how he once visited a prison with a group of psychology students.

"One thing you notice there is that each time any of the prison staff went through a door they would close it and lock it, it becomes second nature. And when I started going round at home turning lights out it reminded me of that routine."

Most of the family's savings have come from using less heat (turning it off altogether from April to October and restricting its use at other times), less light and turning off electronic equipment at the wall. Peter has also pledged not to fly this year.
He says they reduced their personal carbon emissions from 12.7 metric tons in 2005 to 10.9 in 2006, well below the national average.

He is hoping savings this year will have knocked another 10% off their emissions by December.

Financial penalties

Frustratingly for him, his local Crag has not offered any guidance or reduction targets. But in nearby Hereford one of the first groups to be set up recently finished its carbon "accounting" for the year April 2006 to April 2007.

It set a limit of 4.5 tons per person. Some Crags have elected to impose financial penalties for those who exceed the limit, but Hereford decided not to.

Carpenter Steve Ball, 36, who joined Hereford Crag last year, found a combination of his car use and a flight to Slovenia had pushed him well over the limit to more than seven tons.

But although he had never previously calculated his footprint, he believes changes he has made have already cut deeply into his emissions - for instance, converting his car to run on a biodiesel mix and resisting regular calls by friends to fly off to Tallinn or Prague.

Like Peter, Steve has taken small steps across the board - like using a small motorbike for some journeys or insulating his converted loft.

He plans to insulate his floor as well, but his dream is to build afresh.

"Renovation is quite a hard thing to do, to make an old house efficient energy-wise, but I'm looking into building a new house," he says.

Both Peter and Steve have made massive changes and are prepared to go further. But they both seem wary of the Crags' ultimate aim - to reduce personal carbon emissions by 90% by 2030, which the movement says is necessary to avoid dangerous and potentially runaway climate change.

"We would struggle as a family to get 90% cuts," Peter says.
"If it's do-able, then great idea," says Steve. "We can strive for it, but whether or not it's realistically possible I don't know."

One thing is sure. If anyone can do it, it's the Craggers.

While it is lacking on total details of their austerity, it's amazing that people would join a private organization that will finacially fine them for not reducing enough. So when you think to yourself I've done my share, I've cut back enough, you'll know better. Don't even look at it as just working to lower Green House Gases, look at it as training yourself in the realities that Peak Oil will force upon us. Those who learn how to live this way will be better readied, mentaly, physically and finacially for any number of possible lifestyle changes or emergencies.

Once again I will recomend to anyone who is unsure of the real impact of global warming and or Peak Oil to pick up the book, The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunst, there is a link to it on the side bar. I've found it worth reading more than one time so I bought it, but when discussing lowering our impact I would be remiss if I failed to say it was a best seller, so you might find it somewhere else used or certainly at your local library.Recommend this Post

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Don't let the assholes get you down, there are answers!

In a week where there is nothing but recrimination and political garbage are being strewn about, I thought It would be good to read about alternatives to our problems rather than denying them or refusing to act because of over inflated costs. In my desire to have a small farm and go off grid I've looked a numerous building styles and there are options out there that suit our needs to reduce energy use , are suitable for our climate and that will make a difference regardless of what Assholes like John Baird say!

With that in mind, I'll share this article with you I found on BBC.

Harvesting houses for the planet
By Patrick Jackson BBC News

Buildings are expected to feature as a crucial area for energy-saving in the UN's third report on climate change this week.

Encamped on the edge of London's docklands development, a bazaar of corporate stalls is pursuing the green pound in Britain's ever-hungry construction industry.

Production of concrete, that staple of modern building, alone accounts for up to 10% of man-made greenhouse gas, US scientists believe.

Then there is the energy spent on shipping the materials, and finally the power needs of the finished buildings.

Yet with a bit of clever substitution and sourcing, and some deft adjustments to the existing housing stock, environmentalists believe that CO2 emissions could be reduced anywhere in the world.

House of straw

If the number of "green" consultancy companies at London's Think 07 trade fair is anything to go by, environmentally-friendly architecture is becoming big business in the developed world.

Among the items on display are designer energy-saving bulbs and an ingenious-looking tube for piping daylight from your roof into your house's darker rooms.

Most tangible of all, at an event dedicated to the UK's property and construction industries, are the wood fibre and cement building-blocks stacked in one corner.

Sustainable rotation crops like hemp are the cost-effective future of building, according to Tom Woolley, a professor of architecture at Queen's University Belfast.

One hectare of land can produce enough hemp stalk to build a house, he told the BBC News website, and using about 12% of the UK's set-aside land, you could grow enough hemp to build the 200,000 new houses the country needs. Then you have the fibre and oil for other products.

He picks out the Eco Depot in York, a new city council building, as a good example of green architecture, pointing to the straw bale panels used for its walls and its "breathable" lime render.

Its "low-impact" design means the need for heating or cooling is minimal, he says.

With existing buildings, he believes that the crucial thing is to improve insulation, for example with a mixture of hemp and lime on old brick buildings, a technology used in France.

Solid sea and sand

Home to 80% of the world's population, the developing world has access to less than 20% of the world's construction materials, according to figures from the UN's industrial development agency (Unido).

Unido's technology promotion unit seeks out cheap, energy-efficient construction technology and introduces it to some of the poorest regions on Earth, suggesting novel ways of using local materials to cut the financial and environmental costs still further.

"The owners of the technologies often do not know how to market them while those looking for the technologies don't know where to find them," Vladimir Kozharnovich, the unit's programme manager, told the BBC News website.

"We seek to provide people with technological options which can be adapted to their specific environment."

In Herat, Unido has planned a model village of 100 energy-efficient homes, designed by Indian and Chinese architects in consultation with the local authorities.

The homes each cost a projected $3,500 and are equipped with bathroom, toilet and solar-powered electricity. Building costs are reckoned to be 30-50% cheaper than existing dwellings.

However, the plan is at a standstill while Unido awaits approval from the donor, Japan. Slow donor approval is a common problem, Mr Kozharnovich says, but already he is working on a new, similar Afghan project, this time for the province of Baghlan, with EU funding.

Unido promotes Indian portable brick factories as one answer to cheap construction materials. Another project, now under discussion with Namibia, is a Russian technique for manufacturing building blocks out of sand and seawater.

"The precision is very good - it's like Lego," says Mr Kozharnovich.

"It is a proven technology which cuts production costs five-fold, and can be used in both hot and cold regions."

One example of Unido's hi-tech thinking about sourcing local materials is in Botswana, where the agency has proposed melting locally available basalt as a replacement for expensive imported steel rods in concrete buildings.

Unido, Mr Kozharnovich stresses, does not seek to change local architecture, but to find more efficient ways of using local materials which will be acceptable locally.

It could, he says, mean a traditional timber frame with non-traditional wall panels made of wild grass.


Prof Woolley notes that unfired mud brick (adobe) technology has taken off in the US, dispensing with the energy used in firing traditional clay bricks.

Sun-dried bricks were a mainstay of construction among the indigenous peoples of the Americas for thousands of years, and go back centuries in Africa, an example of the return of a trusted old technology.

One modern trend Tom Woolley bemoans in the UK is what he says is over-emphasis on green energy creation.

"Somebody has very cleverly got the vast majority of politicians and the public to think that sustainable buildings is about sticking extremely expensive renewable energy equipment on the roof of the building, which is actually the last thing you should be doing," he says.

"The first thing is to reduce the demand and produce buildings which are breathable and well insulated and airtight."

The architecture professor admits that pioneering projects with organic materials can be expensive but confidently expects that the costs will fall once the new technologies go mainstream.

Tom Woolley's latest book, Natural Building, is out now.Recommend this Post