Category Archives: Climate

Subatomic ambitions

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NB Power’s thoughtful CEO, Gaetan Thomas, is probably right to downplay the possibility of building a second nuclear power plant in New Brunswick. At the moment, such a massive project doesn’t make much economic sense.

As he told the Telegraph-Journal in an interview the other day, “I’ve had some discussions with the province. I know that our premier is favorable to the idea, but at this stage, there is no business case yet.”

Still, if the Gallant government wants to resuscitate the province’s ambitions to become a Canadian energy hub, other options are available and are becoming increasing practical and attractive.

Some months ago, Clean Energy Canada found that spending on the clean technology sector in amounted to $10 billion in 2015. That was the second-best performance on record. Said the group’s executive director, Merran Smith, in the report: “We’re living in a new era of political resolve to tackle climate change. . .Spending on clean energy will likely grow again in the years ahead.”

Intriguingly, Clean Energy noted, spending on the sector in Atlantic Canada last year jumped by 58 per cent to just about $1.2 billion. Given the region’s relatively small population, that result compared favourably to Ontario’s $5.3-billion investment in renewable energy in 2015.

Now, rip a page from a recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency. It found that the sector “employed 7.7 million people, directly or indirectly, around the world in 2014 (excluding large hydropower). This is an 18 per cent increase from the number reported the previous year. In addition, IRENA conducted the first-ever global estimate of large hydropower employment, showing approximately 1.5 million direct jobs in the sector.”

Moreover, “The 10 countries with the largest renewable energy employment were China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, France, Bangladesh and Colombia. . .The solar PV industry is the largest renewable energy employer worldwide with 2.5 million jobs, followed by liquid biofuels with 1.8 million jobs, and wind power, which surpassed 1 million jobs for the first time. The employment increase extends across the renewable energy spectrum with solar, wind, biofuels, biomass, biogas and small hydropower all seeing increases in employment.”

What this should tell us is that there is a good life beyond fossil fuel without complicated benefits of nuclear energy. Of course, none of it will be easy. As the IRENA report notes, “In the coming years, renewable energy employment growth will depend on the return to a strong investment trajectory, as well as on continued technological development and cost reductions. Stable and predictable policies will be essential to support job creation. Finally, in a year when negotiators aim to carve out a global climate agreement, the broader policy framework for energy investments will also move to the forefront.”

Then there is the Donald Trump factor. He’s on record as a climate-change sceptic and his determination to speed up the clock on coal-fired power plants could present a competitive disadvantage to Canadian sources of renewable energy, especially in export markets. Sustainability costs money; and the return on investment is more often a long-term proposition for governments.

On the other hand, back in 2015, the CBC reported that NB Power would encourage small-scale green energy. At that time, Keith Cronkhite, NB Power’s vice-president of business development and generation said, “The beauty of community energy projects is that they would enter into a power purchase arrangement with NB Power. The revenues that we would pay toward those projects stays within New Brunswick and that’s an important part of any renewable program.”

Hope, it seems, does spring eternal.

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Real action on climate change

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We can debate the merits of New Brunswick’s new climate action plan until we raise the amount of hot air in the atmosphere to dangerously toxic levels. But, in the end, we are forced – some of us kicking and screaming – to agree that as government proclamations go this is a pretty good one.

Sure, it lacks specificity on what to do with the coal-fired generating station at Belledune (apart from acknowledging a phase-out sometime between 2030 and 2040). And it makes no promises on precisely which form of carbon pricing scheme it intends to adopt (an outright tax or a cap-and-trade system).

But where it falls short in some areas, it compensates in others – a fact that has not escaped the attention of normally arch critics of the provincial Liberals. “The premier needed to go the first minister conference with a good pan in his pocket and he’s got it,” said David Coon, leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick, last week. “It’s a plan he can put on the table alongside the ones the premiers of Ontario, Quebec and Alberta have put together – it is in that league.”

Others, of curse, are not so sure. After all, no one in politics gets a free ride in the plaudits department. As Kevin Lacey, regional spokesperson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation told the Telegraph-Journal, “No matter what mechanism they choose to price carbon, it will be borne by the average worker who will end up paying the costs. A carbon tax is another in along line of cash grabs by this government. First the HST hike and now this carbon tax will make it harder for working families already struggling to make ends meet.”

Still, the mantra of this government – and, now, every other across the land – is that greening the economy and economic development are not mutually exclusive concepts. As some costs and prices increase, new opportunities for business and job creation emerge. Says Premier Gallant in the statement that accompanied the plan last week: “This will help us combat climate change in a way that respects New Brunswick’s economy, challenges and opportunities.”

In fact, the document is refreshingly declarative on the subject of environmental relief and economic development. “The provincial government will design and implement a clean-technology acceleration strategy that: Builds on early-stage innovation research, development and demonstrations (RD&D); accelerates clean technology commercialization; fosters greater clean technology adoption; and enhances connections and collaboration between business market needs and research expertise to accelerate the development and use of clean, low-carbon technology solutions.”

It will also “Create the conditions for growth and job creation in the areas of clean technology, products and services related to climate change in all sectors such as housing, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, energy efficiency, renewable energy, information technology and transportation.

It will “Support a culture of innovation to pursue economic opportunities presented by our changing climate such as tools and approaches to adaptation developed in New Brunswick that are marketable elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, it will “Work with the tourism and recreation sector to pursue new opportunities presented by our changing climate and to promote New Brunswick as a world class destination. . .(and) take advantage of the large financial opportunities that exist through reducing energy costs and the potential for reinvesting the savings into New Brunswick’s economy.”

Naturally, there will come a time when this government – should it persist into a second term – will be held to account for its promises of greener pastures and jobs. But for now, the plan to get us there appears both prudent and possible.

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Strange days, indeed

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It’s difficult to gauge the measurable effect of Donald Trump’s recent election win on the natural world as 30 centimeters of wet snow descended on Moncton nearly a month before the official start of winter. But maybe the legendary Eastern cougar knew something we didn’t more than a month ago.

According to a CBC report in late October, “Several people in the Tracy (New Brunswick) area have reported seeing and hearing what they believe is a cougar prowling in their yards over the past two weeks. Four households have heard and seen what they describe as a large cat with long tail, and tawny coat, sitting in their yards making separate loud, disturbing yowls and screeches.”

Said one Holly Whittaker: “It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. And there he was and it was kind of scary knowing I had a cougar outside my bedroom window. It was beige colour, very big. He had a very long tail and he just went strutting down the road. I’ve looked online and seen pictures of them. I know it wasn’t a bobcat or a lynx, he had a very long tail.”

Naturalists have dismissed theories that the big feline is making a breeding comeback in the province. It’s more likely, they say, the cats – probably exotic pets that have escaped their captivity – are travelling north from the United States. There’s no word yet on whether they self-identify as Democrats or Republicans.

We know that fish don’t vote so it’s hard to parse the circumstances surrounding the following, as reported last week in the Annapolis County Spectator in Nova Scotia: “Cindy Graham was walking her dogs Nov. 25 on the beach at Griffin Cove just west of Seawall and found that beach littered with herring. Joan Comeau was bird watching in Sandy Cove the same morning and saw herring on the beach there and under the wharf.

“Dead and dying herring has been washing up on the shores of St. Mary’s Bay for a week or more, from the head of the bay at Marsh Road in Marshalltown, as far west as Gilbert’s Cove on the mainland and Sandy Cove on the Neck.”

Said Department of Fisheries and Oceans detachment supervisor Gary Hutchins: “We expect to have some kind of determination of what, if anything, is wrong with the fish by the first of week.” The newspaper piece added that Hutchins “said a DFO biologist in Digby had made a quick examination of some affected herring but was not able to identify a cause for what is happening.

Roland LeBlanc, a researcher with the Salmon River Salmon Association has also had time, before heading to sea on a research trip, to cut open a herring and was not able to find the parasite Cryptoctolye lingua in that one fish.”

Meanwhile, as the CBC reported, following the Trump victory in the United States, “The Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website crashed around 11 p.m. on (election day) due to what a department spokesperson called ‘a significant increase in the volume of traffic.’ Since then, the department has confirmed that visitors from the U.S. accounted for half of that surge. . . Toronto-based immigration lawyer Heather Segal told CBC News that she has had American inquiries about relocating to Canada during the election campaign.”

Of course, as Mr. Trump has said, climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China on the rest of the world. So, we shan’t look there for explanations. Suffice to say the days, already strange, are getting stranger all the time.

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Cap and fade

It was never going to be a winsome decision, but the federal government’s determination to impose some form of carbon pricing on the provinces is proving to be the first great test of the proposition that when it comes to both the environment and economy, one can have one’s cake and eat it too.

As Nova Scotia’s, Newfoundland and Labrador’s and Saskatchewan’s environment ministers stormed out of a meeting convened last week to explain the Trudeau government’s determination to unilaterally impose a framework that would exact a $10-per-tonne price on carbon beginning in 2018 – a levy that would increase by $10 per tonne each year until hitting $50 per tonne in 2022 – New Brunswick’s man on the ground shrugged sanguinely and, in effect, declared, “Hey, no big deal”.

Repeating his government’s oft-sung melody on the subject, Environment Minister Serge Rousselle trilled, “Any price on carbon brought forward by our government will be revenue neutral. And we learned from the Trudeau government that all the money received from this province will be sent back.”

That money could, by some estimates, amount to as much as $800 million a year, depending on the mechanisms the Province uses to fulfill its climate-change obligations to Ottawa. But, says Premier Brian Gallant, not to worry. “If we in New Brunswick are to get any type of monies from a price on carbon, we would reinvest that money right away. It would very be investments that would spur economic growth and a green economy. . .We agree with a lot of what is happening with the Trudeau government. They have focused on growth and they’re focused on making sure our economy is sustainable and that we transition to a low-carbon economy, which we agree with as well.”

Still, the devil is in the details. The degree to which a carbon tax – or, alternatively, a cap and trade system – properly addresses the larger problem of greenhouse gas emissions depends entirely on the technological savvy of any given province. Put another way: Are we, in New Brunswick, ramped up to pour the money clawed back from polluting industries into cleaner ones? Or will taxpayers simply be left holding bag of good government intentions – again?

On paper and in theory, the World Bank says there’s plenty of evidence that carbon pricing works. “A price on carbon helps shift the burden for the damage back to those who are responsible for it, and who can reduce it,” it notes on one of its many web pages. “Instead of dictating who should reduce emissions where and how, a carbon price gives an economic signal and polluters decide for themselves. In this way, the overall environmental goal is achieved. The carbon price also stimulates clean technology and market innovation, fuelling new, low-carbon drivers of economic growth.”

Moreover, it observes, “Some 40 countries and more than 20 cities, states and provinces already use carbon pricing mechanisms, with more planning to implement them in the future. Together the carbon pricing schemes now in place cover about half their emissions, which translates to about 13 per cent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions.”

What this observation fails to clarify, however, is that where carbon-pricing plans appear to achieve the desired results, they do so as a result of many years of coordinated implementation schemes engineered by both governmental and private-sector players. In New Brunswick and, indeed, the rest of Canada, we do not enjoy the luxury of time.

We may, one day, have our cake and eat it too. But, for now, the taste will be bittersweet.

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Towards a “carbon-lite” future?

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As the government of New Brunswick’s Brian Gallant earnestly attempts to deliver the spirit, if not yet the reality, of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s climate-sensitive, clean-technology economy, the obvious question is: How will the former make nice with the latter without dismantling what remains of the provincial economy?

Certainly, the speculation mills now grind. According to a Brunswick News Inc. report earlier this week, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters is now questioning the motives of the provincial government concerning gas taxes. “I think a lot of people were wondering,” said the organization’s New Brunswick vice-president Joel Richardson.

“A gas tax wasn’t even part of the (provincial budget) conversation. . .I think it was off the table because the provincial government was in collusion with the federal government to wait until (the) Paris (climate) talks happened and Vancouver happened and then gas taxes are going up.”

All of which points to a public policy framework that is likely to become every bit as fraught with controversy as was the recent tussle over hydraulic fracturing. Then again, how could it be otherwise?

Transitioning traditional economies to a “carbon-lite” future is extraordinarily tricky business. On the other hand, it can be done. Consider, for example, Finland, which the CleanTech Finland website states, “tops the  that ranks the greenest countries in the world. Finland is followed by Iceland, Sweden, Denmark and Slovenia.

“EPI ranks the performance of 180 countries on high-priority environmental issues in two areas: protection of human health and protection of ecosystems. The index is created by Yale and Columbia universities along with the World Economic Forum. EPI is constructed through the calculation and aggregation of nine categories that include more than 20 indicators: agriculture, air quality, biodiversity and habitat, climate and energy, fisheries, forests, health impacts, water and sanitation, and water resources.”

The 2016 report says that “Finland’s top ranking is mostly based on country’s societal commitment to achieve carbon-neutral society that does not exceed nature’s carrying capacity by 2050. The report indicates that Finland has actionable goals and measurable indicators of sustainable development. Finland performed well especially in the areas of health, water categories, air quality, and climate and energy. In the forests category, measuring tree cover loss, Finland has its lowest ranking.”

Finland’s experience suggests that only a concerted effort to coordinate and impose specific measures on the New Brunswick economy will effectively align the province with Ottawa’s climate-change targets and policies. Is one of these measures a gas tax or some other clutch of responses?

Mr. Richardson has a point when he notes that the best way to change people’s behaviour is offer them incentives for doing so.

Still, whatever approach eventually surfaces, a new type of logic must begin to take root here. If we can’t quit fossil fuels altogether, and we soon won’t be able to live with them as we do today we should stop thinking about them as commodities to burn and begin to appreciate them as strategic assets to employ in the effort to build a largely clean, broadly renewable future?

In other words, if we train ourselves to use them as inputs for new manufacturing technologies that more effectively capture and distribute in-situ wind, solar and tidal sources of energy, we might just start the long, arduous process of diversifying the economy.

Use them to power research into cleaner forms of short- and long-range transportation systems. Use them to, in effect, evolve away from them as anything but the necessary evils they are for advanced research and development and clean-technology commercialization.

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Squaring the circle

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Psychologists define cognitive dissonance as the ability to suspend disbelief in two or more fundamentally contradictory positions – sort of like a juggler who never drops the ball and, so, never faces the gravity of common sense.

I, for example, may be an ardent environmentalist even though I drive a gas-guzzler that gets lousy mileage because it’s easy on the old bank account. I happily park my tank and fill it too.

In the absence of any proof of sentience among this planet’s non-human residents, we naked apes are nature’s primo practitioners of cognitive dissonance – none better among us, perhaps, than politicians.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with provincial premiers to discuss the federal government’s plans to hasten the Canada’s transition to a low-carbon, clean-technology economy. Prior to the conference, regional leaders evinced broad consensus on the priorities: It looks good on paper; let’s see how we can make this work. In less time than it takes to change the oil in an SUV, however, the typical fault lines emerged.

Reported the CBC on the eve of the first ministers’ gabfest in Vancouver on Wednesday: “There are more than a few bruised thumbs and discordant notes already. Indigenous groups have complained the invitation list was not wide enough, while Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has levelled a series of broadsides at the federal Liberals’ promised carbon pricing.

“When asked about potential tensions Wednesday, Trudeau responded. . . ‘I expect that premiers and indeed all representatives are going to do the job they were elected to do, which is to stand up for their communities, stand up for their regions and ensure that we are working together in ways that grow the economy right across the country while protecting the environment. There is little substitute for sitting down and actually rolling up our sleeves and working together.’”

Yeah, how’s that working out for you?

Half way through the conference, the Prime Minister intimated, rather darkly for a putatively ‘sunny ways’ leader, that however the premiers decide, the feds will impose its own pricing structure on carbon.

Meanwhile, as if oblivious to the climate-change winds that are beginning to blow around the world, the New Brunswick government is agitating for its own offshore energy accord with Ottawa. In fact, according to one news report in Brunswick News, “Energy Minister Don Arseneault said during budget estimates for his department that about $300,000 is being dedicated this year to hire consultants and research the geological data required to lay the groundwork for securing an offshore accord.”

Here’s how the good fellow justified the decision in an interview with reporter Chris Morris: “Everyone around us has an accord. Quebec is on the verge of signing one. We have to watch that very closely, because we have to protect our territory as well. It doesn’t mean that tomorrow we would have offshore drilling and whatnot, but we want to protect our territory.”

And, you know, whatnot.

Still, I wonder whether such provincial lobbying (and the $300,000 price tag assigned to it) would not be more productively deployed by hitching New Brunswick’s economic fortunes to the federal government’s most recent, eminent cause, which has almost nothing to do with developing traditional oil and gas resources, and almost everything to do with making the most of what we already possess to create a clean-energy, clean-technology society on the East Coast.

As Ottawa moves to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, provincial premiers nod compliantly even as their feet remain stuck in the muck of fossil fuels. Dissonance, it seems, remains cognitively, stubbornly us.

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Who needs a weatherman?

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Every year at about this time, I find myself unable to leave the weather app on my smart phone alone. I check it obsessively to determine what fresh hell will descend on southeastern New Brunswick just in time to ruin a planned trip to visit one my kids or, indeed, a largely unplanned getaway to a sunny destination.

For this reason, most winters here along the East Coast of Canada have been misery to me. Ruminating about what’s coming does nothing to ameliorate the dread of. . .well. . .knowing that the universe thinks weather apps, and those who trust them, are robotic idiots.

Exactly 12 months ago, my wife and I sojourned for 10 days in Charlottetown, tending our grandchildren while our daughter and son-in-law vacationed in Costa Rica.

“No problem,” I gamely offered to my beloved of 35 years. “My weather app says the days in these parts should be cold, but beautiful.”

“That’s good to know,” she who must be obeyed replied. “We are going to spend all of our time outside, making snowmen and snow forts with cups of hot chocolate to keep us warm.”

It sounded idyllic. And so, with visions of ice angels dancing in our heads, we hit the road from Moncton. Two days later, the news, courtesy of the CBC had this to say:

“People in Prince Edward Island are being asked by the province to stay home if possible today after a blizzard dumped a record 86.8 centimetres of snow at Charlottetown Airport on Sunday and Monday. The mainland was cut off from P.E.I. for more than a day and a half, as Confederation Bridge was closed at 4:50 p.m. Sunday and didn’t reopen until 7:20 a.m. Tuesday. General manager Michel LeChasseur told CBC News this may be the longest the bridge has been closed to all traffic since it opened in 1997.

Ahem. . .so much for my vaunted weather app. Still, I check it. I just can’t seem to help myself.

So it was the other day – whilst happily trolling through the long-range forecasts for Los Angeles; London, England; Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Guysborough County, Nova Scotia – I landed on Moncton.

There, I saw how gentle the temperatures would be in late February, how mild the predicted snowfall was. Then, I came upon a report for March 4: Thirty-five-to-forty-five centimetres of the white stuff with at least 15 more the following day. What?

I immediately phoned a tech-savvy friend and demanded an explanation.

“You know I actually have a job,” he began, alluding to the fact that he was at work and that I am a lowly freelancer who prefers to scribble in his “leisure suit” between bouts of weather-induced paranoia.

“Sure, sure,” I conceded, “but what do you make of this forecast? I mean, how can they know 14 days in advance what’s going to happen in my backyard?”

One word, he said: “Algorithms . . .The less snow that falls in any given winter, the more snow gets computer modelled and pushed to the end of the year. It’s math, boy, simple math.”

That, I protested, doesn’t make any sense. In fact, I declared, “It’s not fair.”

No, it’s not, he sighed. “Neither is the fact that you’re an idiot.”

I went back to my weather app and found that the forecast had changed again. It would be, after all, much milder and gentler. Crisis averted. Paranoia mitigated. All’s right with the world again. Thank you, weather app.

It’s funny how I never do this in the middle of summer.

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A fossilized vision of the future

 

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As the planet continues to warm, the battles lines in the debate over the causes continue to retrench and harden.

Where once climate science informed popular understanding about carbon dioxide emissions from human industry, and the effect these have had on average global temperatures over the past century, now this research is being hijacked by two diametrically opposed ideological camps bent on formulating fundamentally irreconcilable solutions to the present crisis.

On the one hand, the rising tide of environmental radicalism argues that the only way to save the world from ecological catastrophe is to abandon every mine and every drill. “Leave the carbon in the ground, where it belongs,” the mantra goes. “We must become clean and renewable; and we must do it now.”

It’s a nice, even necessary, idea. But it fails to recognize the essential truth about global society’s dependence on the stuff: It’s cheap and addictive. Virtually nothing we do or consume is unaffected by oil, gas and coal. Going cold turkey overnight is simply no option.

On the other hand, the burgeoning call for more drilling, more mining posits that fossil fuels are the glue that binds civilizations together. Without them, the argument goes, humanity will simply devolve into brutal clans forever warring over scarce resources; after all, internationalism is predicated on more or less equal access to the same suite of energy resources.

This, too, can be persuasive. Still, the reasoning also conveniently ignores the inconvenient truth of our shared predicament: Science indisputably proves that our time plundering the earth for cheap sources of energy is running out; sooner or later our industrial habits will make much of the planet uninhabitable.

In either scenario, the outcome is disastrously similar: millions will die and millions more will become economic refugees, merely waiting to die.

To avoid the coming zombie apocalypse, there is, of course, a third option: We could start using our minds (which are, I am reliably informed, in great abundance) and stop flapping our gums from the ramparts of our two fortresses of solitude.

If we can’t quit fossil fuels altogether, and we can’t live with them as we do today, then why don’t we stop thinking about them as commodities to burn and begin to appreciate them as strategic assets to deploy in the effort to build a largely clean, broadly renewable future?

In other words, use them as the feedstock for new manufacturing technologies that more effectively capture and distribute in-situ wind, solar and tidal sources of energy. Use them to power research into cleaner forms of short- and long-range transportation systems. Use them to, in effect, eliminate them as anything but the necessary evils they are for advanced research and development.

To some extent, this process is already underway in countries that maintain offshore drilling operations and yet pull as much as a third of their non-locomotive energy from clean, renewable sources.

Lamentably, it’s not underway in any convincing fashion in Atlantic Canada. New Brunswick may possess one of the world’s greatest wind resources, but its infrastructure woefully lags its renewable energy potential. Thanks to its high concentration of universities and advanced institutes, this province could become a living laboratory for this type of urgent research, the results of which might actually spark a durable, sustainable economic development boom with global consequences.

Naturally, this would require the sort of foresight, vision and collaborative determination we rarely witness in this province.

But without this resource available to policy makers, politicians, industry representatives, and environmentalists, our fossilized vision of the future is secure.

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Has spring sprung early?

Permanent winter for a Moncton events centre?

It has begun; that time of the year when Stockholm syndrome grips a goodly number Canadian citizens. The signs are evident and everywhere.

Faces change from warm and friendly to feverish and intensely cheerful. Backs bow, arms curl into chests, legs shift from side to side, heads bob up and down and to and fro. And then, as sure as Jack Frost is a minor demon with a major purchase on the souls of northern climes, the speaking in all-but-frozen tongues commences.

“Isn’t it great to see winter back once again? Why, I’m invigorated. I just can’t wait to pull out the old snow shoes, stay up till three o’clock in the morning shoveling ice from the intake valves of my natural gas furnace. I mean, it just doesn’t get any better than this. . .Am I right, brother? No, really, am I right, am I right, am I right? Heeeeeee haaaaaaaw!”

To be clear, Stockholm syndrome is that condition which one source defines thusly: “It’s a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors.”

It’s odd, perhaps, but to my knowledge, there’s no such thing as “San Jose syndrome” or “Florida Keys syndrome” or, heaven forbid, “Tahiti syndrome”. I guess the captives in those toasty, sunny locales are too busy sipping pina coladas to worry overmuch about the indignities they suffer at the warm hands of their captors’ beach-side massage therapists.

Poor saps. They know not what they’re missing in the “Arctic Riviera”: windburn, frostbite, couch-potatoitis, scrabble-mindlessness, cribbage-rot, and three-penny poker parlour games.

Up here in the Great White North, we know how to throw down a kitchen party when the mercury dips below the freezing point of iridium.

Now, naturally, the weather auguries declare that this winter will be one of the mildest and wettest on record in Southeastern New Brunswick. That simply means we take our card games outside as we rake the leaves of autumn in January. Oh what fun can we imagine in that eventuality?

We shall build great columns of maple keys, where once spirals of ice might have stood.

We shall garnish our hats with dead flowers from the garden, where once frozen carrots might have graced the noses of our snowmen in the sub-zero.

Under these conditions (say around March 14), the Stockholm syndrome will veer observably sideways.

“Isn’t it great to see spring back once again and so early this year? Why, I’m invigorated. I just can’t wait to pull out the old roots, stay up till three o’clock in the morning shoveling dirt into the new planting beds. I mean, it just doesn’t get any better than this. . .Am I right, brother? No, really, am I right, am I right, am I right? Heeeeeee haaaaaaaw!”

Over the past ten years, New Brunswick has endured federal faces that were both warm and friendly, both feverish and intensely cheerful. In the process, it has suffered the fools of office it elected to Ottawa.

Now, there are new gardeners in town, just in time for winter’s blanket of moody musing and discontent to fall. Now, though, there are new promises to keep, new vistas to explore.

Yes, it is great to see that political spring has sprung in Canada again after such a long political ice age of bleak despair for many.

Still, let’s remember in this new, ostensibly enlightened era that we, the people, are the captors of our own democracy; not the captives.

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Whither our energy future?

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When New England’s state governors and Atlantic Canada’s provincial premiers gather, as they are inclined to do every so often at a suitably picturesque venue along the northeastern seaboard of this continent – where they may gaze into each other’s eyes, which mirror their own – they most often talk of stronger trade ties, better cross-border relations and, of course, energy agreements, always energy agreements.

So it was earlier this month in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where the usual suspects assembled to conduct their usual business for their usual day. The evidence that these meetings produce anything truly tangible or productive is scant, but they do tend to generate good headlines.

Here, for instance, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant’s assertion that the province must push ahead on an export-oriented LNG terminal to handle all that natural gas in the ground he’s not pulling up around here (because, don’t you know, it could be perilous to his political health) ran above the fold in provincial newspapers.

What didn’t is a piece which postulates that New Brunswick is ideally suited to chart an entirely different course for its energy future and, possibly, for the entire northeast and rest of Canada.

So, then, here is that piece:

Almost nowhere in Canada does the wind blow more constantly and hard than it does along New Brunswick’s coasts. In fact, a wind map produced in 2007 by scientists at the University of Moncton definitively proved that steady breezes could support nearly all of this province’s in situ energy demands, and then some. Wind is, obviously, a zero greenhouse-gas-emission option. More than that, the research required to commercialize it would rejuvenate the high-tech manufacturing sector here, providing good-paying, year-round jobs to (at least) complement seasonal employment in traditional resources industries.

Similarly, almost nowhere in this country do the tides ebb and flow with greater power and regularity than they do in the Bay of Fundy. For decades, the western world has owned the ingenuity (if not always the technology or the will to develop it) to produce thousands of megawatts of clean, emissions-free power.

Scotland is, arguably the market leader. Last year, Edinburgh-based Atlantis Resources Limited announced that its “MeyGen, the world’s largest tidal stream development, has agreed terms for a funding package to finance the construction of the first phase of its ground-breaking 398MW tidal array project in the Pentland Firth, Scotland. When fully completed, the MeyGen project will have the potential to provide clean, sustainable, predictable power for 175,000 homes in Scotland, support more than 100 jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and deliver significant, long-term supply chain benefits for UK economy.”

Of course, if we don’t believe in Scotland, what shall we then say about Sweden? According to recent piece in The New Yorker by staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert, “In some parts of Europe, what has been called ‘conscious uncoupling’ (between gross domestic product and greenhouse gas emissions) is already well along. Sweden, one of the few countries that tax carbon, has reduced its emissions by about 23% in the past 25 years. During that same period, its economy has grown by more than 55 per cent.”

Oddly enough, the steam engine found its first industrial purchase in New Brunswick where in the early 18th Century it was modified to produce the timber that built the British navy.

Innovation was good enough for us then, when our political leaders didn’t simply gaze placidly into each other’s eyes; when they took a main chance and changed the world for the better at that time.

Now that we know better, will they change it again?

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