Vanishing Science: The Disappearance of Canadian Public Interest Science is at: http://www.pipsc.ca/portal/page/portal/website/issues/science/vanishingscience
The January 28 meeting of the Global Advisory Group of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy considered a draft paper concerning fracking. The paper, prepared by the Cornell Global Labor Institute states, “This paper has been prepared to assist unions and their close allies who wish to better understand the impacts of shale gas drilling, or ‘fracking’, and want to develop a position or approach to fracking that protects workers, communities and the environment…” It is an extensive review of the core issues driving anti-fracking activism, and the current activities of social movement groups and unions (chiefly in the U.S. and Canada, but also in Europe and Argentina). It highlights the pro-fracking position of the AFL-CIO Building Trades union in the U.S. and the anti-fracking statements of Canada’s Unifor and CUPE. About Unifor and CUPE, the paper states: “their perspective on fracking combines a social movement approach that prioritizes solidarity with other movements but it is also grounded in a pragmatic approach to Canadian energy policy involving the use of their natural resources in ways that are responsible and beneficial for the Canadian economy as a whole”.
In a separate document, the Trades Union Congress of the U.K. reiterated its 2012 position in its February 13, 2014 presentation to an Inquiry of the House of Lords into shale gas. It encapsulates two competing interests of trade unions on the issue: the TUC “… wishes to focus on two issues of concern…the need for reliable forecasts of economic and employment benefits; and setting the highest standards for occupational health and safety at work”. It follows up on the TUC policy statement which is based on the precautionary principle and effectively calls for a moratorium on fracking.
Although water consumption and contamination were the initial concerns of anti-fracking activism, the TUED paper states that recent scientific research reveals that methane (the major component of natural gas) is “34 times stronger as a heat-trapping gas than CO2 over a 100-year time scale, and 86 times more powerful over a 20-year time frame”. Reinforcing the TUED summary, a new paper published in Science in February analyzed more than 200 technical publications examining methane leakage in the natural gas industry, and by expanding the focus to include the production and delivery stages, the authors conclude that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is underestimating the amount of methane emitted in the United States by about 50 percent.
The TUED draft paper argues that natural gas can no longer be promoted as a “bridging” fuel towards a lower carbon energy system, and it is no longer appropriate for the fight against shale gas production to be led by local groups at the level of local government. The paper calls for a “global conference sponsored by one or more global trade union bodies”, [to] “work towards a common trade union approach, with the ‘precautionary principle’ as a point of departure”. The paper concludes by proposing a draft resolution for a global moratorium.
TUC press release regarding the House of Lords Inquiry into Shale Gas is at: http://www.tuc.org.uk/node/119642
“Methane Leaks from North American Natural Gas Systems” by Brandt et al. in Science (Feb. 14, 2014) is available at: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/343/6172/733.summary?sid=7f1c6729-6268-488d-9c49-88bdd0b553a1, or summarized in “Study Finds Methane Leaks Negate Benefits of Natural Gas as a Fuel for Vehicles”, (New York Times, Feb. 14) at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/us/study-finds-methane-leaks-negate-climate-benefits-of-natural-gas.html?_r=1
For those involved in community-level action in Canada, see the February publication by the Council of Canadians, The Fractivist’s Toolkit, at: http://www.canadians.org/publications/fractivists-toolkit
The worst drought in recorded California history will take a severe toll on the regional and American economy, particularly in the agricultural, fishing, tourism, and even energy industries. The drought, which President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack have linked to climate change, may result in an $11 billion loss in annual state revenue from agriculture according to the California Farm Water Coalition. Farmers may be forced to fallow up to 500,000 acres of land during this year’s planting season, threatening some with bankruptcy and endangering the livelihoods of the 117,000 Californians who work in farm production, processing and transportation. While the wine industry and its associated tourism is suffering, livestock farmers may be taking the hardest hit as parched pasture is replaced with expensive imported feed. In the highly fertile Central Valley jobs directly related to agriculture comprise nearly 40% of employment. Previous droughts have seen unemployment in some towns skyrocket as high as 45%, while the 2011 to 2012 drought took an estimated $50 billion toll on the American economy as a whole.
The availability of hydroelectric power, the state’s cleanest and cheapest energy supply, has also been adversely affected. The state’s salmon population could be severely affected, particularly if legislation from four California and Oregon senators is passed that would allow more water to be diverted to farms. The bill would contradict EPA regulations that protect fish stocks in the Bay-delta estuary. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the regulations themselves sustain thousands of jobs associated with the fishing industry and preserve water quality for regional farmers.
California Seeing Brown where Green Used to be” in the New York Times is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/14/us/california-seeing-brown-where-green-used-to-be.html?_r=0
“Punishing Drought has California Fearing the Worst” article from the Globe and Mail is available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/punishing-drought-has-california-fearing-the-worst/article16650342/
“Drought Forces California Farmers To Idle Cropland” article from Reuters available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/02/06/usa-drought-california-idUSL2N0LB00U20140206
“California, Orgeon Senators Introduce Drought Relief Legislation” from Senator Feinstein available at: http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=e7668832-d0be-4329-a30f-d1e5e47863aa
“California Drought: Gov. Jerry Brown proposes $687 million Aid Plan” from the San Jose Mercury News is available at: http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_25181590/california-drought-aid-plan-set-687-million-plan
The U.S.-based Solar Foundation released its annual National Solar Jobs Census for 2013 on January 27 followed by the State Solar Jobs Map on February 11. According to the Solar Foundation there are now 142,000 workers employed in the solar industry. Employment has increased by 24,000 jobs since 2012 nationally, a growth rate of almost 20% (compared to a rate of 1.9% for the economy as a whole). Employment growth in the coming year is estimated at 15.6%. The average solar installer earns between $20.00 (median) and $23.63 (mean) per hour – comparable to skilled electricians and plumbers in the U.S. Wages for production and assembly workers averaged $15.00 (median) to $18.23 (mean) per hour, slightly more than the national average for electronic equipment assemblers.
California continues to lead the U.S. in the number of solar workers at 47,223. And on Feb. 13th, after more than 3 years in construction, the world’s largest solar thermal energy project went live in California: the Ivanpah Solar Electricity Project, a joint effort between NRG, Google, and BrightSource Energy.
We have no comparable measures for the Canadian solar industry. The latest report appeared in November 2013, from the Renewing Futures research project, which assessed the capacity of Canada’s skilled workforce to meet the labour needs of all electricity-related renewable energy systems, including solar. It estimated that there were 41,000 employees in the entire renewable electricity sector in Canada in 2012. The latest labour market survey conducted by the Canadian Solar Industries Association was published in 2009.
A summary of the Renewing Futures reports appeared in the November issue of Work and Climate Change Report at: https://workandclimatechangereport.org/2013/11/22/a-strategy-for-growth-for-human-resources-and-training-in-renewable-electricity-sectors/
Canadian Solar Industries Association is at: http://www.cansia.ca/market-intelligence/labour-force-market
Press release regarding Ivanpah is at: http://www.brightsourceenergy.com/ivanpah-achieves-commercial-operation#.UwIxw4Uz33V
Women in Renewable Energy (WiRE) is a new group, launched at the 2013 CanWEA conference, with the aim to highlight, enhance, and expand the role of women in the renewable energy sector in Ontario. WiRE is taking over from the Greater Toronto Chapter of Women of Wind Energy (WoWE) and is led by women working in diverse sectors of the clean energy economy, including the engineering, legal, insurance, technology, environmental assessment and services, permitting, project and business development fields. WiRE focuses on advancing the knowledge base and professional development of its members and conducting community outreach.
Future initiatives will likely involve connecting women who work in the sector with students and others not currently involved in renewable energy. Related organizations worldwide include: Women in Renewable Energy Scotland and Women in Renewable Energy Hawaii. WoWE also continues to connect women working in wind energy through local chapters across North America.
See Women in Renewable Energy website at: http://womeninrenewableenergy.ca/; “New Ontario Organization is Advancing the Role of Women in Renewable Energy” Blog post at the Alternatives Journal website at: http://www.alternativesjournal.ca/community/blogs/renewable-energy/new-ontario-organization-advancing-role-women-renewable-energy.
Women of Wind Energy website is at: http://www.womenofwindenergy.org/;Women in Renewable Energy Scotland website is at: www.wirescotland.com/; Hawaii Women in Renewable Energy website is available at: http://hawaiiwire.org/.
On January 29th, recommendations were announced by the parties of the Joint Solutions Project, comprised of the forest companies operating in the Great Bear Rainforest (Western Forest Products, Interfor, Howe Sound Pulp and Paper, BC Timber Sales and Catalyst) and three environmental groups (ForestEthics, Greenpeace and Sierra Club of BC). Highlights of the 82-page document include: an additional 500,000 ha to be set aside for conservation; a harvest level consistent with a “viable forest industry”; changes to landscape planning that better account for old growth, cultural values, key wildlife habitat and riparian zones; and a legal and policy framework for implementation. The recommendations will be considered by the province of British Columbia and the Nanwakolas Council and Coastal First Nations, who are the decision-makers in the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement, and in consultation with 12 other First Nations. The Joint Solutions Project was established in 2000 and the Great Bear Forest Agreement was reached in 2006.
See the ForestEthics press release at: http://forestethics.org/news/forest-companies-and-environmental-groups-deliver-joint-recommendations-great-bear-rainforest. The B.C. government press release is at: http://www.coastforestconservationinitiative.com/pdf2014/2014FLNR0005-000099.pdf.
“Keystone XL and the Tar Sands: Voices from the Front lines” (Feb. 4) at: http://www.thenation.com/blog/178224/keystone-xl-and-tar-sands-voices-front-lines, includes a profile of Alberta Chippewa activist Eriel Deranger and her comments to the Tar Sands Exposed Tour in Boston and outlines the Chippewa First Nations arguments and actions against Keystone XL.
According to an article at the Trade Unions for Energy Democracy website, five U.S. unions are on the record as opposing Keystone XL, while the Laborers’ International Union (LIUNA) and the AFL-CIO Building Trades support it. See “U.S. Unions Still Divided On Keystone XL Pipeline” at: http://energydemocracyinitiative.org/u-s-unions-still-divided-on-keystone-xl-pipeline/.
From researchers at the University of Toronto, a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on February 3 finds that emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) from tar sands operations may be two or three times higher than previously reported in official estimates if fumes coming from tailings ponds are included in measurements. A summary of the study is at the CBC website at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/oilsands-air-pollutants-underestimated-researchers-find-1.2521134. The full article, “Evaluating Officially Reported Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Emissions In The Athabasca Oil Sands Region With A Multimedia Fate Model” is available at: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/01/29/1319780111.
“Profiling Oil Sands Mixtures from Industrial Developments and Natural Groundwaters for Source Identification” appears in Environmental Science and Technology Article ASAP (Jan. 21, 2014); an abstract is available at: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es500131k (full text available for a $35 fee). The Edmonton Journal summary is at: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/health/Federal+study+confirms+oilsands+tailings+found/9530481/story.html.
From the industry point of view, a study by consultants IHS CERA was published in January reporting focus group discussions by the oil sands multinationals in Calgary in summer 2013. The report projects that the oil sands’ contribution to Canadian GDP could reach $171 billion in 2025, with total contribution to employment in Canada reaching 753,000 jobs by 2025.
See Oil Sands Economic Benefits: Today and in the Future (Jan. 2014) at: http://www.ihs.com/pdfs/OSD-2013-Economic-Benefits-Jan-2-2014.pdf.
CBC reported on February 6th that since 2012 the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) “has conducted additional review activities focused on political activities. Audits are being conducted in addition to our regular audit activities, and will include charities from across the entire spectrum of charitable activity”. Chief among the targets are environmental groups, including Environmental Defence, the David Suzuki Foundation, Tides Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, the Pembina Foundation, and Equiterre and the Ecology Action Centre. If the CRA determines that an organization has directed more than 10% of its resources to political activities, the organization loses its status as a “non-profit”, and would be subject to taxation, and its donors would lose the ability to claim tax exemptions for their donations. According to Inside Climate News, the audits were triggered by complaints from a group called Ethical Oil, which was co-founded in 2011 by Alykhan Velshi after he left a job in the government of Stephen Harper. Mr. Velshi has since left Ethical Oil and is now the director of issues management for Prime Minister Harper.
A February 2014 report from C40, a leading climate action group that links megacities around the world, captures the importance of cities as climate actors. The report highlights the unique potential held by cities where innovations in efficiency and technology are more forthcoming, threats to economic and public wellbeing are often felt more immediately, and leaders have enough local power to respond effectively. The report indicates that mayors worldwide are already doing twice as much to build resilience and reduce emissions than they were in 2011. Nearly half of the 63 major cities surveyed used local green development funds to finance climate action commonly furnished through property, municipal, and local business taxation. Cities that reported addressing climate change as part of economic development commonly did so through the green manufacturing, green infrastructure, and clean technology sectors. The full report is available at:http://www.c40.org/blog_posts/CAM2.
The report was accompanied by the appointment of former mayor of New York and President of the C40 Board of Directors to the position of UN envoy for Cities and Climate Change. Michael Bloomberg pledged to harness the global mayoral power to raise political will and bring “concrete solutions” to the 2014 Climate Summit. Bloomberg, whose contributions in New York included rebuilding aging water mains and creating energy-efficient buildings, asserted that cities are “forging ahead” as progress at international levels stalls. The UN news release on the appointment is available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp/story.asp?NewsID=47055&Cr=climate+change&Cr1#.UwaSNIXPxkW. The Guardian coverage including Bloomberg’s reaction is available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/05/michael-bloomberg-world-leaders-climate-deal.
According to a new report from the National Municipal Adaptation Project (NMAP) large Canadian cities are keeping pace with the global trend and have climate action plans. However, 65% of smaller communities have no plan in place despite the fact that many have already faced damage from flooding or extreme rainfall in the last ten years. The report is available at: http://www.localadaptation.ca/results-of-the-nmap-survey-of-local-governments.php. An online library of climate change adaptation policies from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities is available at: http://www.fcm.ca/home/programs/partners-for-climate-protection/program-resources/municipal-reports.htm.