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How "Green" Is The Federal Stimulus Package?


It's hard for supporters of Prime Minister Harper to grasp how a call for a $15 billion cut to spending during the election turns into a $40 billion stimulus package, and big deficit. Polls show most Canadians think it's about keeping power. However, if this helps restructure Canada so the economy is more ecologically sustainable, something good could come of it. So, what do we find? Energy policy remains our biggest challenge; however, only $2.4 of $40 billion stimulus over two years is allocated for this. Half goes for "green infrastructure", primarily for retrofitting and energy efficiency, which is always good. A closer look shows nothing to reduce massive greenhouse gases (GHGs) from transportation, through expanding public transit.

The remaining $1.2 billion, for "green energy", is a pittance compared to the $54 billion Obama allocated. ($6 billion would be required to match the U.S.) And most of U.S. spending is for renewable energy, which will immediately reduce GHGs, so it seems Obama is serious about tackling global warming. Not so in Canada. Though called "green energy", the spending goes to sustain the non-renewables which create GHGs and radioactive wastes. $400 million goes to help the oil industry develop its controversial carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. There's even a hint of further corporate tax write-offs. The powerful Alberta tarsands lobby has clearly succeeded in getting Harper to help lower its costs to remain profitable during theeconomic downturn. Another $350 million goes to the already heavily subsidized AECL, mostly to develop its Advanced Candu Reactor (ARC), which the private company Bruce Power is proposing along the North Sask River.

And what of the renewables? They are absent! Harper's stimulus package didn't even extend the Eco-Energy Program that has provided 4000 MW of renewable, mostly wind, capacity since 2007. (This is equivalent to four large nuclear plants.) As one of the highest inland wind regions in Canada, and with wind providing more than five times the employment as nuclear, Saskatchewan communities would have benefitted from this program.

Independent research consistently shows renewables are the most cost-effective way to "green energy". One recent Stanford study compared the pollution if all U.S. vehicles were fueled with electricity from coal, nuclear or wind. Coal (even with carbon capture) created at least 60 times, and nuclear 25 times, the carbon footprint of wind. With a father who was an accountant for Imperial Oil, and Harper's first Calgary job in Imperial Oil, I realize the Prime Minister has "oil in his blood". So, when his government funds carbon-capture or nuclear and ignores renewables in its "green energy" stimulus package, we'll just have to learn to become colour blind, or see a brownish green.