Friday, March 25, 2011

Do We Need An Election Now?

If we can rely on the polls from recent weeks, there is no certainty that the outcome of an election will return a parliament much different than what we have now. So why should we have an election? Many would say that we need to express our disapproval of the transgressions against parliament and the Canadian taxpayers by the Conservatives. Others say that these actions are not much different than committed by the Liberals during their terms in power. However those actions did contribute to a change in government.

The Green Party rejects this budget because it fails to address three deficits facing this country; the economic deficit, the ecological deficit and the social deficit. There are only tokens measures in the budget to keep up the appearance of addressing these issues. One may argue that an election will only delay these steps in the right direction. However, there are larger steps identified in the budget to be taken which lead in the wrong direction, especially on the economy, which is supposedly the Conservative’s strong suit.

The Conservatives want this election to be about the economy. I agree that it should be.

The corporate tax cuts in the budget are neither necessary nor helpful. Our corporate tax rates are competitive enough to attract investment and will mostly help corporations already making large profits. There are many businesses barely scraping by which employ many people but will not gain from these cuts. The budget did not end corporate welfare, especially the subsidies to fossil fuel companies which are among the most profitable in the world. Since the government has not fully revealed the costs of their prison expansion program, their tough on crime measures, the new fighter jets, and the corporate tax cuts, we cannot rely on the rosy projections in the budget.

The stimulus money will end soon and the economy may falter as a result. Had the stimulus been focused on cost savings then the benefits would have continued after the monies ended. Support should have been for energy efficiency projects rather than energy consuming projects. Repairing or replacing existing deteriorating infrastructure to reduce future costs would have been better than adding new infrastructure which add to government costs and eventually to taxes. Investments in the green economy reduce costs to government, industry, and families. They will help keep taxes lower, profits higher and the cost of living more affordable. This strategy allows for more public services, protects jobs and a better standard of life for all of us.

Do we need an election now? Yes. Even small improvements in our federal budget will make up quickly for the delays caused by the election. It’s time, vote Green.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Do We Make Progress To Reduce Climate Change?

The following was originally submitted as a letter to the Editor of the Sudbury Star. It has currently not been published.


Climate change has occurred ever since this planet has had an atmosphere. However the majority of the world accepts that the climate change that we are presently experiencing is dramatically different due to the actions of humankind. Extreme weather events in recent years and the related economic and human costs are certainly the result of climate change. These costs are devastating the economies of some countries and severely impacting others. That includes countries that send aide to help with major disasters. There is a growing recognition that these costs will eventually exceed the worst estimates of the costs of reducing greenhouse gases.

Over the last 200 years our activities have returned the carbon from fossil fuels back into the active carbon cycle to levels comparable to tens of millions of years ago. In the last 50 to 100 years the rate of dumping carbon into the atmosphere has increased dramatically. It is still increasing and will continue at an increasing rate because many developing countries are working hard to provide basic services to their citizens that we in the developed world take for granted.

We know what the problem is, we know the cause, and we know what needs to be done to at least reduce the devastating consequences. It is also clear that all countries have to be part of the solution. So why has the world community had so little success in agreeing to move ahead with the obvious solutions? Some believe that addressing carbon emissions will harm the already fragile economy. But many countries have shown that conservation and investing in the green economy has strengthened their economy. Energy efficiency reduces production costs hence improves global competiveness and protects against the inevitable rapid rise in energy costs.

Secondly, when you factor in the costs related to extreme weather events, it is much more economically wise to reduce carbon emissions than to pay for the consequences of not doing so. The United States and Canada seem to believe that refusing to commit to action before the major developing nations make stronger commitments will lead to progress. This has not worked, nor should we expect it to work. It is like asking these nations to slow the rate that they lift their poor out of poverty while we continue to enjoy our comfortable lifestyle and wasteful ways. Also Canada’s 2% of total global emissions gives us very little bargaining power with the developing world, given our relatively tiny population.

So what is an alternative? If we believe that the world must reduce GHG emissions urgently then any progress by individual countries can only help. We can encourage our industries to dramatically reduce carbon emissions through tax shifting and incentives and not penalties to avoid “carbon leakage” (Businesses leaving the country to avoid pollution penalties). Canada has already experienced “carrot leakage” (Businesses leaving to receive green economy incentives from more enlightened governments).

Canadians produces over four times the world average GHG’s per capita. There is ample opportunity to increase efficiency. A dollar spent on saving energy goes a lot further than a dollar spent on creating new energy. Canada can also financially support international programs such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation). The loss of forests is a major cause of increased carbon in the atmosphere.

Global warming has already greatly exceeded what was expected from previous ice age cycles. It will continue for decades after the world becomes carbon neutral. There will be many more disasters and much more human suffering. The sooner we make changes the better off we will all be. We have two choices: watch the degradation of the planet while we wait until all countries agree on a plan, or act on our own now to do all that we can.

Fred Twilley
Nominated Green Party of Canada Candidate, Sudbury Riding

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Saying it is Green Does Not Make it Green

It is obvious that the prices of all that we purchase, including food, are affected by the price of oil. Food production requires fossil fuels for farm machinery, fertilizer, transportation and processing. It is equally obvious that when agricultural products are diverted for fuel production that the supplies of food are decreased, the price of food rises. No one knows exactly how much the price of food has increased due to biofuel production, but it is certain that biofuels have a real impact. The grain required to produce 100 litres of ethanol (240Kg of maize) could feed one person for a year.

The actual burning of ethanol may be cleaner and greener than gasoline. However you must add the greenhouse gases (GHG’s) of farming, processing and transportation of corn and the distribution of the ethanol produced. The vast majority of the studies that I have read put the carbon foot print of ethanol from corn as close to or even greater than gasoline. The reduced supply of food with the price increases it causes has also lead to deforestation for agriculture which dramatically adds to GHG’s. Although indirect, this is attributable to biofuel production.

Biofuels need high fuel prices to be economic. Rising fuel prices lead to higher feedstock prices which are already rising due to increased demand. Presently biofuel programs survive due to subsidies, direct tax incentives, and loan guarantees. These use already scarce government funds. There is no good evidence that ethanol has led to lower fuel costs. If it was more cost effective we would not need mandated ethanol content in gasoline. The cost of reducing CO2 emissions with ethanol from corn is about $550/ ton which is 30 times the cost of purchasing CO2 offsets from the European climate exchange.

After objectively examining all of the direct and indirect effects of ethanol from corn and after reading countless studies, I have come to the conclusion that this technology is bad for the environment, bad for the economy and bad for all people especially the most vulnerable. Conservation is far more cost effective and beneficial for our economy and environment.