The Round-Up: November 17th 2006

Wind and solar power catch a stiff breeze

Here's another stereotype about oil-rich Alberta you can toss out. Renowned for its governmental resistance to the Kyoto Protocol, Wild Rose Country actually leads the nation in wind-power generation. And next spring, the community of Okotoks, south of Calgary, will be home to North America's first solar neighbourhood.

The Canadian solar- and wind-power industries have grown remarkably in the past few years, thanks to increased energy demands from a growing population and booming economy, as well as rising fossil-fuel costs and fears about climate change. Even slow-acting provincial and municipal governments are seeking out these green technologies.

In fact, wind-generated energy is the fastest growing renewable power source, according to Industry Canada. In 2005, the wind-energy industry added 240 megawatts of capacity. By the end of this year, it expects to add an additional 700, and the national total will be 1,218 megawatts, primarily in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, PEI and Nova Scotia.

While wind serves only 370,000 Canadian homes now, energy consumers can expect more to come. The previous Liberal federal government provided incentives to the industry that caused rapid growth in the past four years but, since last April, the Conservatives have made no funds available for additional wind energy projects.

Association for the Debunking of Peak Oil & Gas, Part I

Recently, CERA announced that amid "expanded popular discussion of a theory that a peak in world oil production will soon be reached," it is releasing a "new analysis." CERA's new analysis concludes, "The Peak Oil theory is a simplistic model based on flawed logic and incomplete data that has consistently produced inaccurate forecasts." Actually, CERA's "new analysis" is not all that different than its old analysis, as we shall see. But sometimes, there is a market for old wine in new bottles.

Trusts vow to keep fighting tax plan

A coalition of small and medium-sized income trusts are still determined to change Ottawa's recent proposal to tax income trusts, saying the legislation will rob them of their ability to access capital and stifle Canadian businesses growth.

Executives from the Canadian Association of Income Funds told The Globe and Mail Thursday they want to meet with Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to discuss options, such as grandfathering existing trusts.

"No, we don't believe this is a done deal," said George Kesteven, an executive at Calgary-based PrimeWest Energy Trust, of the proposed changes. "There are better ways to get this done."

China Energy Watch: Allure of Oil Sands Hard to Resist

Canada's vast reserves of oil sands make it the promised land for countries worrying about their energy security, but a slow start by Chinese companies in breaking into the market has left them struggling to catch up with foreign rivals.

China is targeting oil sands - a mix of sand and a tar-like ultra-heavy crude called bitumen - to satisfy its long-term oil demand that the International Energy Agency predicted last week would hit 15.3 million barrels a day by 2030 on the basis of current policies.

China sets sights on Canadian uranium

The federal government is launching a fresh campaign to sell Candu nuclear technology to China, but the Chinese government seems to have a stronger interest in acquiring Canadian uranium to fuel its own, homegrown reactors.

New date for coal plant closures: 2014

Ontario's coal-fired power plants may not be closed until 2014.

A report to be released Wednesday by the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) pushes the closing date of the province's four coal-fired plants back substantially from the previous projection.

The McGuinty Liberals made an election promise to close all four of the province's coal-fired plants by 2007. Ontario later pushed the time frame back for two of the four plants to 2009.

But now the OPA says the province may need a backup source of electricity, in case replacement generation or transmission facilities aren't working in time.

If anyone has seen the news, you'd note that approx 2.5 million people can't drink the water here in Vancouver and about 80,000 were and are possibly still without power in surrounding areas.

I know this is nothing at all like Katrina or other tragedies, however, I thought I would share the absolute surreal sensation it is to find oneself helping friends find water in a major city of a 1st world country.

I say friends because thanks to the advice of Drummers here at TOD and LATOC - my supplies of both water and power were secured long before.  

As many know, the westcoast is receiving record rain and the watersheds that feed the city are basically overwhelmed.

The water advisory came out around 3ish and by 5, the shelves were empty in every store.  Not Safeway, not IGA, not Shoppers, not London Drugs, not even Costco had any water left to sell.  This was not reported by the MSM.

We have all seen similar, though more extreme variations of this phenomenon in the likes of Katrina -people falling on stores like locusts- however it was not until yesterday, that I could fully appreciate the repercussions of a woefully unprepared, just-in-time populace pressed into a moderate crisis over the most basic of commodities.

And the forecast calls for more rain.

It's good to hear you had water put away. Brings a nice, literal meaning to 'saving for a rainy day'.

I hope your supplies are good for a week, though it's anyones guess if that's how long it will take the turbidity to settle. Once the overland flow has got out of the rivers and creeks feeding Lake Capilano, the turbidity should settle to 'acceptable' levels within a couple of days. The ground will be completely saturated though, so more rain soon will delay this desirable event.

Several interviewees on the TV news I've been watching said they'd not seen anything like Wednesday's storm hit their community before. We can't attribute the event to global warming but we can say that GW makes an event like this more likely. Unfortunately, I think we can expect more of the same.


CBC radio was talking about water supplies selling out before shops could even get new deliveries into the store. It all seems quite surreal from the other side of the country. I agree that the just-in-time system may well lead to more incidents like this in the future. After all, if shoppers are prepared to come to blows over an insufficient supply of Tickle-Me-Elmo dolls at Christmas time, what will they do if food is ever in short supply.
  I was raised in hurricane country. As long as city water is clean and functioning fill up any spare containers. Go outside and get a bucket of flood water to flush toilets. And if its still raining just sit containers in the outdoor areas to harvest rain. Disinfect water with bleach or boiling for five minutes. Don't let the kids wade in the water and clean it off yourself, dogs and cats don't have their sewage treated and fecal coliform bacteria is a big disentery cause.
  The suns gonna shine in your back door someday!
Even though I don't live in a storm-prone area, I still don't trust city water supplies. Incidents like the Walkerton water treatment (or lack thereof) scandal or the accident at Camelford (in Cornwall, UK, where a chemical discharge into the municipal water supply caused a lot of chronic neurological problems) make me wonder about water supplies under the difficult conditions that could prevail in a few years time. My view of the future includes a global economic depression and maintaining a clean water supply under cash-strapped conditions may be difficult.

I bought a farm on well and septic, because I like to have what control I can over the essentials of my own existence. My well pump runs off my renewable energy system and I filter my water using the same kind of simple (low-tech, no moving parts, no power required) water filtration system that aid agencies use in the third world. They come in different sizes and mine is the smallest (The Big Berkey by British Berkefeld). There are different filters - black (activated charcoal) and white (ceramic). The white filters can filter tens of thousands of gallons and the black ones significantly less, although the black ones filter out more potentially harmful things. At $250 for the unit and $100 for extra filters, it's not an expensive option compared to almost all other water treatment possibilities.

Actually, CERA's "new analysis" is not all that different than its old analysis, as we shall see. But sometimes, there is a market for old wine in new bottles.

Not old wine really, just a new vintage of the same varietal. Every year brings a new crop of numbers to harvest. The winemaker continues to use the same production process but the flavour and aroma of his product depend on that year's weather, the skill of his assistants, and whether he's found a new source of grapes, err, numbers. CERA is like any commercial winemaker. Their product may not be to everyone's taste, but they've found a definite niche among the wine --  sorry, the oil lovers.

Like many TOD readers, I think CERA's view of a peak some time in the 2030's is too optimistic. But I'd prefer to think they're right because our political leaders show little sign of addressing the consequences of peak oil. Educating as many people as possible is the key enabler of better policy.

Shell and others looking at CO2 capture from oil sands

Shell has studied building a carbon capture facility at its Scotford upgrader east of Edmonton, which is being expanded to produce up to 155,000 barrels of synthetic oil a day. Shell is also part of a group of a dozen companies that has examined the feasibility of constructing a network that would collect carbon dioxide from upgraders, refineries and coal-fired power plants and feed it into a pipeline, either for use in enhanced recovery projects or for injection into underground storage.

The Shell executive said the companies are waiting for signals from the province and the federal government.

Not really a sterotype at all, more like a missed opportunity for the last 50 years by Albertans themselves.  Mountains followed by a plain of land makes great wind.  If Alberta is rich in anything, it's wind.  Only now have they looked around and noticed though.  And not locals either, just multinationals.  

Also our other oil rich province, Newfoundland, is also rich in wind and the #1 source in Canada.  Both would surpass Denmark who make about $2 billion a year in wind but neither is used.  Alberta in the West and Nfld in the East would bookend the country and help everyone.

But Alberta will be just as much in a sorry state post-anything.  With gas dwindling, the tar sands will dwindle with it.  Only then will Albertans see what's left, look around and notice that they've turned their province into a gigantic wasteland.  

At that point I wouldn't be surprised if the ranchers take back their land from the windmills and make it a local power source, away from the multinationals.  Too far fetched?  Given all the (free) water used to wash out the tar sands, when the farmers are in a drought no less, the times of Alberta are looking quite unstable in a peak oil view.

potential is high though for Alberta to transform out of the oil patch if they use their money now for alternative fuel investments.  This is what the multinationals are doing now, in spite of Alberta's view of itself.  So the sterotype mentioned is largely self made.

If the post-oil world is in deep depression, or worldwide currency collapse, the money would be lost so best use it now.  

Once the oil goes though, what would Alberta's relationship be with the rest of Canada?  The ecological disaster that is the tarsands will be impossible to clean up post-oil.  There are few railways and cities are far apart.  

Tough times ahead but not without potential.

I would say that Alberta is headed for a bust of epic proportions. The conventional oil and gas industry is in decline. Tar sands require huge amounts of natural gas, water and money, all of which are likely to be in short supply in years to come.

Making the most of what renewable energy reserves there are while there is still the money to do it sounds like a very good idea to me. Besides wind, Alberta should be thinking about developing biogas, biodiesel, geothermal, solar thermal, solar stirlings etc, but at the height of a boom they won't see the need until it's too late.