Thursday, January 25, 2007

Prime Minister Harper fails high school chemistry

OTTAWA (CP) - Canada won't follow the Bush administration's lead in setting hard targets for reducing oil consumption, but will instead impose tougher emissions standards on the auto sector and other industries, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Just in case that isn't clear, Mr. Harper is indeed now more retrograde on the environment than President Bush:
Harper said he is considering imposing targets on industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.
The PM would like to believe that it is possible to reduce CO2 emissions without actually oxidizing less carbon. This is simply not possible. (Sequestration, a much-touted option for reducing CO2 emissions, is thus far either vaporware or more expensive than solar or wind.) Any high school chemistry student could correct the error in this logic, but apparently such wisdom isn't available to the Conservative caucus.

Just so we're clear, no, there's no comparison between carbon (a fundamental part of hydrocarbon fuels) and something like sulphur, which we have succesfully reduced our emissions of. You burn a hyrdocarbon, you oxidize hydrogen to water and carbon to CO2. The only way to reduce fossil-carbon emissions is to reduce our use of fossil-carbon sources. This means either efficiency or conservation.

The other aspect of Harper's denialism is equally illogical:
"President Bush's speech . . . when he talked about these things was really talking about it in the context primarily of energy security and the United States shortage of energy and their dependence on foreign supplies of energy," Harper said perching forward as he sat in his sun-filled Parliament Hill office.

"That's not a problem here. Canada is an emerging world energy superpower. We have an abundance of all forms of energy. We're an exporter of virtually all forms of energy."
Okay. Let's say for argument's sake that Canada's oil exports are so profitable to Canadians that, even accounting for the environmental and social ills it causes, we should encourage further development for export to the US. Doesn't it therefore follow that Canadians could use less and export more?

Think of it this way: It's almost always cheaper to not use a barrel of oil, than to use one. This means not using a barrel of oil domestically, and exporting that barrel instead, pays off twice. So yes, even if you're only interest is in promoting Canada's economy growth (environment be damned!) it still makes perfect sense to pursue all reasonable means to reduce Canada's oil consumption.

And that's not even considering the very real problems and dangers associated with relying on diminishing natural gas supplies for the tar sands. Note to Albertans: you can either keep exporting oil, or maintain the province's ban on nuclear power. Not both. What happens when Albertans are forced to choose between nuclear reactors and less oil production? I dunno, but I suspect the Green Party will elect it's first MP in Alberta. Mark me down on that prediction, someone.


North of 49 said...

Ok, John, you're marked, but I'm not so sure an experienced PR hand with a proper budget and a free hand couldn't sell Albertans -- enough of them, anyway -- on the wonderful benefits of nuclear power.

The best pitch might require some kind of flanking manoeuvre, along the lines of it being unmanly to be afraid of nuclear radiation -- after all, them Eye-Ranians are all gung ho for it, ain't they, and even facing down the US of A and all.

Dezakin said...

The best sell for the Albertans on nuclear power would be to truthfully tell them that they can choose between sudden massive economic implosion or nuclear process heat. When people are forced to decide with their own money, their decisions usually become far more rational.