Saturday, October 25, 2014

Saturday Morning Links

This and that for your weekend reading.

- Geoff Stiles writes that instead of providing massive subsidies to dirty energy industries which don't need them (and which will only have more incentive to cause environmental damage as a result), we should be investing in a sustainable renewable energy plan:
(W)hereas countries such as Norway have gradually reduced...subsidies as their oil industry matured, at the same time maintaining one of the highest royalty rates in the world, Canada has allowed its subsidies to remain at a relatively high level while many provinces have actually decreased royalties on oil company profits.

There is a clear need to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. But this is only the first step. A second step is to develop comparable subsidies and incentive programs for renewable energy and energy efficiency, to stimulate development of innovative green technologies.
There are relatively few examples of true subsidies for green technologies or industries in Canada at the federal level. There is an accelerated capital cost allowance (ACCA), which in addition to covering fossil fuel technologies, also covers “investments that produce heat for use in an industrial process or electricity by using fossil fuel efficiently or by using renewable energy sources”; and there is a tax benefit enabling use of flow-through shares, by which expenses incurred during the development and start-up of renewable energy and energy conservation projects can be fully deducted or financed. Current federal policy, however, is to gradually phase out ACCA for all energy forms.

Several federal subsidy programs that supported clean energy investments have actually been discontinued by the Harper government. The popular ecoENERGY program that provided grants to homeowners towards energy efficient retrofits was discontinued in 2011, and the EcoEnergy for Renewable Power program that provided per kWh supplements for wind energy systems was ended in 2013.

Restoring these subsidies is crucial if producers of low-carbon technologies and energy are to compete in a nascent market and offer consumers a fair choice of energy sources.

There are plenty of ways to incentivize a green transition. Increasing innovation-focused grants to research institutions, universities and manufacturers in the green technology field through Sustainable Technology Development Canada for example; or expanding the use of green technologies and green power in government buildings, using weighted scoring systems which favour green options over conventional fossil fuel options in government supply contracts.

What we are short on is not ideas of how to transition to a green economy, but the political will to make it happen.
- Carlo Fanelli points out how Ontario's provincial government - like many others - has forced municipalities into costly and ineffective privatization schemes. And Ryan Meili contrasts the availability of MRIs in Saskatchewan and Alberta, and questions why Brad Wall would be eager to triple the wait times patients currently face in Saskatchewan just to allow profiteers to make more money.

- James Baxter and Rick Salutin both have serious doubts about the claim that Canada lost any innocence based on this week's tragic shootings in Ottawa.

- Meanwhile, CBC highlights the role that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau's mental health issues played in the shootings. And Jon Woodward reports on Zehaf-Bibeau's own confused - and rebuffed - attempts to get treatment.

- Finally, Ricochet and Stuart Trew both comment on on the importance of taking a reasoned and thorough look at what can be done to prevent future incidents. But to nobody's surprise, the Cons are refusing to let our security policy be shaped by anything other than Stephen Harper's political whims. And Stephen Maher is rightly concerned about what that means:
(T)here is little reason to have confidence that the Harper government will strike the right balance between our safety and our freedom.

It’s likely that Harper, Blaney and the people around them want to find that balance, but we’re left to guess at that, because the government’s recent record — in particular with the online surveillance bill — is of misdirection and stealth, hiding behind a smokescreen of disingenuous talking points.

There is reason to worry about this lack of forthrightness, the government’s mixed feelings about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, its attacks on the courts and its flirtation with anti-Muslim messaging.

It would be comforting if new powers are coupled with new oversight, as they should be.
But the record of this government is of moving in the other direction, toward less oversight, not more.

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