NS Green Party Shuts Down

15 06 2016

Nova Scotia’s Green Party folds because of inactive membership

N.S. Green Party leader Brynn Nheiley was the party's last leader.

N.S. Green Party leader Brynn Nheiley was the party’s last leader. (Twitter @Urban_Leaves)

The Green Party of Nova Scotia has shut down, blaming an inactive membership and no leadership candidates for its end.

Brynn Nheiley, who was the party’s interim leader and who ran in the 2015 federal election, announced the decision on the party’s website. She said a political party “cannot exist without an active membership.”

“This is something that we have continuously expressed, particularly over the last eight months. But we cannot force people to engage. Nor can we continue to operate without the active engagement of our members,” she wrote Tuesday evening.

“It’s a sad day for the executive, as we announce to you that, with no one having stayed the course, or stepped forward for the leadership of the party, we are no longer able to function.”

Nheiley said the executive had built the party up to the point where it once had a paid leadership. But support fell away.

She said if someone wants to start a new Green Party in the province, the old one would help them.

Nheiley placed the blame at her own feet as leader.

“While several people have come forward to aid the party, I was not able [to] successfully harness this new energy and these new ideas, nor did I effectively reach out and communicate with those who have always supported the ideals of our party. I’m sorry for not showing the best of what we are,” she wrote.

She said they hope to repay those who have paid their 2016 membership dues.

The Green Party website shows a number of vacancies. (Greenparty.ns.ca/)

NB Media Coop: Imagining Urban Fredericton

14 06 2016

 Imagine Fredericton

Imagine Fredericton will officially launch on June 14, 2016, 6:00pm to 8:00pm, at the Fredericton Convention Centre. The public is invited to learn about the initiative and share thoughts on the city’s future.

Now that the dust has settled on the recent municipal elections, and our city has a new mayor, we can focus a bit on what future vision our city needs.

Mike O’Brien and his council have set about the task with a new project, Imagine Fredericton.

Imagining how our city is changing also requires reckoning with how the world is changing, and how the business models of large urban and suburban landowners have run their course (the Irving family are Fredericton’s largest, but there are other families with sizeable holdings).  In light of social, cultural and economic changes—to say nothing of climate change—these business models need revision, and the city needs to play a role in the transition.

Like other parts of New Brunswick, Fredericton faces significant challenges. A declining birthrate, out-migration and lack of immigration make our economic problems even larger. Unemployment in the province remains stubbornly high, three percentage points higher than the national average of 6.9% in May, and youth unemployment is the highest in Canada.

Moreover, our economic woes are compounded by a lack of economic diversification and the weakness of our urban spaces.  Economic growth over the last generation has been concentrated in metropolitan areas.  New Brunswick doesn’t have one.

Both main provincial political parties seem stuck catering to the business interests who have benefited from lower tax rates and cheap land prices on the outskirts of our three major cities—thus undermining forces that might have created metropolitan areas over the last 40 years.

Moreover, in Fredericton, much of the last generation has been wasted catering to landowners at the city’s edges. One of the main strategies of wealth accumulation for rich New Brunswick families has been to blow cities outward through municipally-sanctioned suburban sprawl.  This has been at the cost of more complete communities and denser and more efficient developments closer to neighbourhood services and historic centres.

In addition to playing money-games at the edges of our cities, our province’s most powerful families seem unanimous that job creation will come by doubling down on old industries. Debates about jobs seem to focus especially on oil and gas projects like the Energy East pipeline and fracking, or one of the world’s largest open-pit tungsten mines.

Boosters say these projects will generate jobs.  No doubt, they will.  But they will not fix our bigger problems. The jobs they might create are few and almost all temporary jobs.  Moreover, they will create fewer jobs than their new economy and new energy alternatives.

What is needed is diversification, which has always been a problem for our province.  One reason is our skills deficit for the new economy, arguably more important than our fiscal one.  Our university participation rate is 21%, well below the national average of 28%.  The rate is even worse for young men, who have taken advantage of well-paying jobs in Alberta’s oil patch over the last decade and a half.

The skills needed for new economy jobs are often different than those in the oil patch.  And since Northern Alberta oil will have to stay in the soil for Canada to meet its climate change commitments, many of the workers who can currently rely on jobs in Alberta need new opportunities in new industries – and therefore, they also need education and training opportunities (including through our community college system) that we must provide and plan for collectively.

New projects like the Energy East pipeline and the Sisson open-pit tungsten and molybdenum mine actually threaten more jobs – new economy jobs – than the old industries will ever generate, since they create geographic spaces that new economy entrepreneurs seek to avoid.

Our politicians should seek to avoid creating these spaces.

The national context for new economy jobs is also significantly changing.  Toronto and Vancouver have become global cities, and their transnational real estate markets are changing in ways we do not yet fully appreciate.

What has been called the ‘Manhattanization’ of Toronto has created an affordability crisis that is changing the relationship between Canada’s major cities and its hinterland. A growing number of young, knowledge workers, looking to start their own businesses or remain independent in boutique-style firms can no longer afford to do so in Toronto or Vancouver unless they are wildly successful or born with silver spoons.  This will become a competitiveness issue for Canada’s economy.

While the suburbs remain relatively affordable, millennials and baby boomers mostly do not desire to live there anymore—family life and social life have changed in the last generation.  Instead, they are seeking out older, downtown neighbourhoods in Guelph, Waterloo, and Hamilton, neighbourhoods like those now priced out of reach in downtown Toronto.

These cities too are rapidly becoming cost prohibitive, but have the advantage of being a short drive from major clients in Toronto.  Why not here, a short flight away?

New Brunswick’s cities can offer the same urbanism that attract knowledge workers at lower cost, but historically we have lacked the economic opportunities to be a major draw.

A number of factors now change this.  The Internet is one—more workers are working remotely from their clients, often from lower cost locations, including here in Fredericton.  There are other factors too, notably the casualization of the workforce and the shift in career trajectories that make it difficult to sustain urban living inside the real estate bubbles of global cities.

In many respects, these changes make New Brunswick cities much more attractive for their livability and amenities than they have ever been before. We could actually attract skilled workers from other parts of the country.

Just one problem: we lack urbanism, and urbanism is what is hip.  Prospect St. is not hip anymore.  Yet we are still building Prospect Streets—e.g. Knowledge Park, Bishop’s Dr., Two Nations Crossing, etc.

Talk to any young Frederictonian working in Knowledge Park.  Almost all say they would prefer to work in a downtown neighbourhood where they could walk or bike to work (yes, even in the winter).

The alternative is to dump the old suburban model—and sorry to those families like the Colpitts, Birds and Irvings who will lose money on land at the city’s edge, at least for now.

What we need is a new urban vision to provide the critical infrastructure that will foster new industries and start-ups, as well as opportunities for further specialization in internationally competitive university programmes.

We also need to work together as a city, and with developers, to foster neighbourhoods, and not simply a collection of dense condo developments, as has occurred around Brookside Mall or on Lian Street.

The density built in the mid-town area will transform Fredericton in ways that people have yet to fully appreciate—if it is planned properly.  It offers opportunities for renewed urbanism, which was sapped by the modernist project of Prospect Street and the suburban malls of the 1970s.

This is the way the winds are blowing.  There are other global social changes afoot that also militate in the direction of massive urban transformations, particularly related to the post-carbon transition.

If we catch the wind with our sail, we might get far.  But we will have to face the failure of some of the traditional wealth accumulation strategies that rich families in our region have followed.  It remains to be seen whether these families will be on board, but surely, they must realize that the status quo has run its course.

Matthew Hayes is a professor of sociology at St. Thomas University and a former mayoral candidate.  His 2012 campaign focused on ideas for Fredericton’s future.

Bloomberg: No Golden Age of Gas

14 06 2016


-1x-1.pngThe World Nears Peak Fossil Fuels for Electricity

Go to URL for animated video on how electric cars spell the real end of the age of oil:



Coal and gas will begin their terminal decline in less than a decade, according to a new BNEF analysis.

1. There Will Be No Golden Age of Gas

The way we get electricity is about to change dramatically, as the era of ever-expanding demand for fossil fuels comes to an end—in less than a decade. That’s according to a new forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance that plots out global power markets for the next 25 years.

Call it peak fossil fuels, a turnabout that’s happening not because we’re running out of coal and gas, but because we’re finding cheaper alternatives. Demand is peaking ahead of schedule because electric cars and affordable battery storage for renewable power are arriving faster than expected, as are changes in China’s energy mix.

Here are eight massive shifts coming soon to power markets.

Since 2008, the single most important force in U.S. power markets has been the abundance of cheap natural gas brought about by fracking. Cheap gas has ravaged the U.S. coal industry and inspired talk of a “bridge fuel” that moves the world from coal to renewable energy. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

The costs of wind and solar power are falling too quickly for gas ever to dominate on a global scale, according to BNEF. The analysts reduced their long-term forecasts for coal and natural gas prices by a third for this year’s report, but even rock-bottom prices won’t be enough to derail a rapid global transition toward renewable energy.

“You can’t fight the future,” said Seb Henbest, the report’s lead author. “The economics are increasingly locked in.” The peak year for coal, gas, and oil: 2025.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance

2. Renewables Attract $7.8 Trillion

Humanity’s demand for electricity is still rising, and investments in fossil fuels will add up to $2.1 trillion through 2040. But that will be dwarfed by $7.8 trillion invested in renewables, including $3.4 trillion for solar, $3.1 trillion for wind, and $911 billion for hydro power.

Already, in many regions, the lifetime cost of wind and solar is less than the cost of building new fossil fuel plants, and that trend will continue. But by 2027, something remarkable happens. At that point, building new wind farms and solar fields will often be cheaper than running the existing coal and gas generators. “This is a tipping point that results in rapid and widespread renewables development,” according to BNEF.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance

The pink stuff on the top of this chart is new this year. It represents flexible capacity—technology, primarily large batteries for the home and grid, that smooths out the peaks and valleys inherent in wind and solar power. By 2028, batteries will be as ubiquitous as rooftop solar is today.

3. Electric Cars Rescue Power Markets

In this discussion of peak fossil fuels, the focus is on electricity generation, not transportation fuels. For cars, peak oil demand will take a bit more time. But the sudden rise of electric cars is on the verge of disrupting oil markets as well, and that has profound implications for electricity markets as more cars plug in.

In fact, electric cars couldn’t come at a better time for developed economies. Take Germany, where increases in efficiency mean that without electric cars, demand for electricity would be headed toward a prolonged and destabilizing decline. Electric vehicles will reverse that trend, according to BNEF.

The charts below show the soaring demand for battery capacity for cars and the difference that EVs will make to power demand worldwide. The adoption of electric cars will vary by country and continent, but overall they’ll add 8 percent to humanity’s total electricity use by 2040, BNEF found.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance

4. Batteries Join the Grid

Renewable energy and electric cars create a virtuous cycle of demand growth. Unlike fossil fuels—where a surge of demand leads to higher prices—with new energy technologies more demand begets more scale, and that drives prices lower.

The scale-up of electric cars increases demand for renewable energy and drives down the cost of batteries. And as those costs fall, batteries can increasingly be used to store solar power.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance

5. Solar and Wind Prices Plummet

The chart below is arguably the most important chart in energy markets. It describes a pattern so consistent, and so powerful, that industries set their clocks by it. It’s the beautiful math of declining solar costs.

The chart is on a logarithmic scale, so the declines are even more profound than at first glance. For every doubling in the world’s solar panels, costs fall by 26 percent, a number known as solar’s “learning rate.” Solar is a technology, not a fuel, and as such it gets cheaper and more efficient over time. This is the formula that’s driving the energy revolution.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Wind-power prices are also falling fast—19 percent for every doubling. Wind and solar will be the cheapest forms of producing electricity in most of the world by the 2030s, according to BNEF.

6. Capacity Factors Go Wild

One of the fast-moving stories in renewable energy is the shift in what’s known as the capacity factor. That’s the percentage of a power plant’s maximum potential that’s actually achieved over time.

Consider a wind farm. Even at high altitudes, the wind isn’t consistent and varies in strength with the time of day, weather, and the seasons. So a project that can crank out 100 megawatts of electricity during the windiest times might produce just 30 percent of that when averaged out over a year. That gives it a 30 percent capacity factor.

As technologies continue to improve and as project designers get smarter about their placement, the capacity factors of renewables are increasing. Here’s a watercolor plot of wind power capacity factors over time. Some wind farms in Texas are now achieving capacity factors of 50 percent, according to BNEF.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Improving capacity factors make renewables more attractive. But capacity factors of gas and coal plants are also changing. Once a solar or wind project is built, the marginal cost of the electricity it produces is pretty much zero—free electricity—while coal and gas plants require more fuel for every new watt produced. If you’re a power company with a choice, you choose the free stuff every time.

As natural gas and coal plants are increasingly idled in favor of renewables, their capacity factors will take a big hit, and lifetime cost of those plants goes up. Think of them as the expensive back-up power for cheap renewables.

7. A New Polluter to Worry About

China, the biggest and fastest-growing polluter, became a major global environmental concern over the past few decades. But that perception is changing fast. China’s evolving economy and its massive shift from coal to renewables mean it will have the greatest reduction in carbon emissions of any country in the next 25 years, according to BNEF. That’s good news for the climate and is a significant change for the global energy outlook.

But that leaves India, which is emerging as the biggest threat to efforts to curb climate change. India’s electricity demand is expected to increase fourfold by 2040, and the country will need to invest in a variety of energy sources to meet this overwhelming new demand. India has hundreds of millions of people with little or no access to electricity, and the country sits atop a mountain of coal. It intends to use it.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance

8. The Transformation Continues

BNEF’s outlook for carbon dioxide emissions has improved significantly over the past year, in spite of cheap fossil fuel prices. The shift to renewables is happening shockingly fast—but not fast enough to prevent perilous levels of global warming.

Without additional policy action by governments, global carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector will peak in the 2020s and remain relatively flat for the the foreseeable future. That’s not enough to prevent the surface of the Earth from heating more than 2 degrees Celsius, according to BNEF. That’s considered the point of no return for some of the worst consequences of climate change.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance

BNEF’s report focuses on fundamental economics: price, demand, supply. It includes climate-related policies that have already been set into action but doesn’t make any guesses for new policies beyond those. It also doesn’t include any jumps in technology that aren’t clearly already under way.

That could be heartening for people concerned about climate change, because if there’s one thing that energy markets have shown in the past decade, it’s that there will be more surprises to come.

Before it’s here, it’s on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE


Schooner Katie Belle arrives in Halifax under full sail

11 06 2016

Hand-built schooner Katie Belle arrives in Halifax under full sail

Hundreds of people gathered on the Halifax waterfront Saturday afternoon to greet the crew of the Katie Belle.

Hundreds of people gathered on the Halifax waterfront Saturday afternoon to greet the crew of the Katie Belle. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

The crew of a wooden schooner hand-built by cousins in Stewiacke, N.S. capped off their first voyage by crossing the Bluenose II under full sail in St. Margarets Bay this weekend.

“The wind was right on our bow … doing eight and a half knots, skipping across the waves,” crew member Chester Gourley said.

“We were all hooting and hollering.”

Homecoming celebration

Hundreds of friends, family members and people from the Colchester County area gathered along the Halifax Harbour Saturday afternoon to greet the Katie Belle as the crew marked their return to Nova Scotia.

Cousins Evan and Nick Densmore spent five years building the 24-metre wooden ship, which they tested along the Eastern Seaboard this winter.

Evan Densmore said, as they approached the dock, he was amazed to see so many familiar faces, including many from his hometown who followed the project over the years.

“It’s like the end of a dream,” he said following a ceremony on the waterfront.

“It’s quite a good feeling when I bring my ship, all in one piece, all the way back home.”

Sea trials along the U.S. coast

The crew departed Saint John bound for South Carolina in March. They spent more than a month in Charleston, installing the jib and main sail and testing the vessel under sail.

Evan Densmore said the boat never failed them, but there were a few grisly moments.

The longest stint at sea was seven days. On the way south with four people on board, they took turns manning the helm 24 hours a day, guiding the ship as it didn’t have autopilot.

“It took us 16 days to get down there, you’re pretty worn out. I lost about 15 pounds on the way down, it was cold too,” he said.

Not always smooth sailing

Gourley says the reality of living on the ship quickly replaced the romance he’d imagined when he set out.

“People were losing their teeth, losing their cell phones, losing their lunch,” he said.

Stewiacke boys

But the journey came with its high points too. At one point, they anchored off Ellis Island in New York in the middle of the night, waking up to a familiar silhouette.

“They woke up in the morning with their tea and there in the fog and there was the Statue of Liberty,” Gourley said.

“There’s Stewiacke boys on a Stewiacke-built boat. If that isn’t what the Ivany report is supposed to do, I don’t know what is.”

cousins on the Katie BelleEvan Densmore, left, and Nick Densmore wave goodbye as their schooner set sail from Parrsboro, N.S., in February. (Tommy Strutz/Facebook)

Proving it’s possible

Gourley says he hopes the Katie Belle continues to be an example of what’s possible in Nova Scotia.

“You wouldn’t believe the amount of people that thought those two men were crazy,” he said.

“I hope government officials, businesses, just the common workers see that this can happen. Just put your head down and do it.”

Statement from Green Party David Coon on World Oceans Day

8 06 2016

 Fredericton – David Coon, Leader of the Green Party of New Brunswick and MLA for Fredericton South, issued the following statement in recognition of World Ocean’s Day:

“We must remember that our over-dependence on fossil fuels is not only destabilizing our climate, but the resulting carbon pollution is acidifying our ocean waters right here in New Brunswick. Unabated, this could pose a risk to the health of our lobster fishery in the long-term,” said Coon.

One third of all carbon emissions are absorbed at the ocean surface and converted into carbonic acid, creating a more acidic environment for marine life. Federal fisheries scientists have already recorded increased acidity in both the Bay of Fundy and the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence over the last 75 years.

“As a member of the Legislative Assembly’s SeIect Committee on Climate Change, I am looking forward to hearing from commercial fisherman and coastal community residents about steps we should be taking to reduce carbon pollution,” said Coon.  “They are already experiencing the intense weather, changing currents, rising water temperatures, costal erosion and changes in marine life behaviour caused by overloading our environment with carbon pollution.  The prospect of acidifying ocean waters is chilling,” said Coon.

The Green Party leader says Premier Brian Gallant must bring carbon reduction commitments to the First Ministers’ table that reflect the gravity of the consequences of unchecked carbon pollution for New Brunswick.   The Premiers are scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister on October to finalize a national strategy to cut carbon emissions in Canada.  New Brunswick’s Select Committee on Climate Change is scheduled to hold its inaugural meeting on June 16th and is expected to report to the Legislative Assembly prior to the First Ministers meeting.

Pour publication immédiate
8 juin 2016

Déclaration du chef du Parti vert sur la Journée mondiale des océans


Fredericton — David Coon, chef du Parti vert du Nouveau-Brunswick et député de Fredericton Sud a fait la déclaration suivante à l’occasion de la Journée mondiale des océans :

« Nous devons nous rappeler que notre dépendance excessive envers les carburants fossiles ne déstabilise pas seulement le climat, mais que la pollution par le carbone provoquée acidifie les eaux des océans ici même au Nouveau-Brunswick.  Sans changements, cela pourrait constituer un risque à long terme pour nos prises de homards, » fait remarquer Coon.

Un tiers de toutes nos émissions de carbone est absorbé par la surface des océans et converti en acide carbonique, créant ainsi un environnement plus acide pour la vie marine. Durant les soixante-quinze dernières années, les scientifiques fédéraux des pêches ont déjà observé l’augmentation de l’acidité de la baie de Fundy et du sud du golfe du Saint-Laurent.

« Comme membre du comité spécial sur les changements climatiques de la législature, j’ai hâte d’entendre les pêcheurs commerciaux et les résidents des collectivités côtières sur les actions que nous devrions mettre en œuvre pour réduire la pollution par le carbone, » affirme Coon.  « Ils subissent déjà les phénomènes météorologiques intenses, les modifications des courants, l’augmentation des températures de l’eau, l’érosion côtière et les changements de comportement de la vie marine causés par la surcharge de notre environnement par la pollution carbonée.  La perspective de l’acidification des océans est alarmante, » affirme Coon.

Le chef du Parti vert suggère que le premier ministre Brian Gallant devrait s’engager à introduire la réduction du carbone à la table des premiers ministres afin de souligner la gravité des conséquences d’une pollution débridée par le carbone pour le Nouveau-Brunswick.  Les premiers ministres prévoient se rencontrer en octobre pour finaliser la stratégie nationale de réduction des émissions de carbone au Canada.  Le comité spécial sur les changements climatiques du Nouveau-Brunswick doit tenir sa première rencontre le 16 juin, et devrait déposer son rapport à l’Assemblée législative avant la rencontre des premiers ministres.

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Climate Change, Pesticides Shift Lobster Populations North

1 06 2016


Warming waters from climate change off the Atlantic coast are driving lobsters further north than ever before, disrupting fisheries and – for some – perhaps changing a way of life forever.

While the southern New England lobster fishery has all but collapsed, fishers in Maine, Prince Edward Island and even further north are benefiting from the crustaceans’ movement.

“I’ve seen enough of the charts to say the water’s warming, and if that’s climate change, it’s happening. It is happening,” says Beth Casoni, executive director of the Lobstermen’s Association of Massachusetts.

Casoni estimates some 30 fishers still trap lobster in southern New England, down from hundreds previously. The impacted areas include Southern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York.

At the same time the lobster fishing in Maine and north has exploded. Maine is seeing historically high landings now, roughly five times higher than it was back in the 1980s and ‘90s.

It’s a similar story in P.E.I., where lobster landings have gone from a low of 17.6 million pounds in 1997 to a high of 29.7 million pounds in 2014.

Off of Nova Scotia, fishers are calling the 2015-2016 season one of the best in the last decade and estimate the lobster catch at 75 million pounds.

There have even been reports of fishers trying to secure lobster fishing licences in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence off of Quebec and Labrador – a cold-water region which previously hasn’t supported a lobster fishery.

Fisheries scientist Richard Wahle attributes the collapse of the southern New England lobster fishery to climate change and points to previous mass die-offs in Long Island Sound as a result of extreme warm temperatures.

During 1999 to 2000, the Long Island Sound die-off resulted in a 75 per cent drop in lobster landings.

“It’s important to take it all in,” Wahle says, “because when you look to the southern end of the species’ range, that’s where we see some signs of trouble. Those areas which have historically been at the southern end of the species range have really been seeing a collapse of the fishery.

“There are pretty strong signs they are related to climate warming: ocean warming, the onset of diseases like shell disease.”

Richard Wahle. Photo from Richard Wahle

Wahle leads a lab named after him at the University of Maine and is one of the leading experts on lobster population trends and settlement.

A 2015 paper Wahle co-authored in ICES Journal of Marine Science noted southern New England’s summer water temperatures surpassed a long-recognized 20 degree Celsius physiological threshold, causing the lobsters to shift north.

That creates a “scenario whereby coastal southern New England will no longer be a hospitable nursery to the American lobster in the coming decades,” the researchers wrote.

“You’ve got to think of it not so much as a case of lobsters are packing their tents and moving north, as much as they’re more successfully repopulating every year in the northern locations relative to the southern location,” Wahle says.

Every year lobsters produce eggs which hatch as larvae. The larvae spread out over large distances, ranging over hundreds of kilometres. As they settle into their nursery habitat along the coast, their survival is higher in the northern waters now.

The larvae are surviving in areas such as the Bay of Fundy, which historically has been colder than what is comfortable for the crustaceans. According to Wahle, in the south the nursery habitat is moving away from the warmer shore water and into somewhat deeper water.

But offshore the habitat isn’t as good, without the rocks for shelter they would find closer to shore.

A Wahle Lab film about lobster larvae. Video from YouTube

In the Gulf of Maine, since 1980 the temperatures have been rising on average at the rate of one degree Celsius every 40 years. But in the last decade that’s changed. Consistent with global warming, the temperatures are now increasing at a rate of one degree about every four years.

As the temperatures rise, so do the incidences of shell disease. Wahle describes the latter as a “nasty looking disease” with dramatic effects on the lobster’s exoskeleton. It’s a bacterial infection that dissolves the shell, pitting it and rendering the lobster unpalatable for sale.

In its most severe forms, the disease can cause blindness, prevent the lobster from molting – when it sheds its exoskeleton – and interfere with its hormonal system. In the latter case, the disease causes the molt to occur right when it shouldn’t. For example, an egg-bearing female might suddenly cast off its skeleton, taking the eggs with it.

The disease is present in some 30 per cent of the harvestable size lobster caught in southern New England, Wahle says.

Malin Pinsky, an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources at Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences in New Jersey, calls the northward movement of lobsters over the last five decades dramatic. In that period of time, the crustaceans has shifted more than 273 kilometres northward.

Pinksy studies how climate change impacts coastal marine species and fisheries. “We’re seeing these kinds of effects across a wide range of marine animals, everything from fish to crabs to lobsters.”

The environmental and economic movements of the northern migration doesn’t only have evnrionmental and economic impacts. It could also affect international relations, Pinsky said.

He pointed to the so-called mackerel wars of 2010 to 2014. Those took place between a number of European Union countries and Iceland after warming waters sent the mackerel closer to Iceland in search of more hospitable temperatures.

A spat over the fish and fishing boundary disputes led to trade sanctions, tariffs and other economic measures.

Climate change or pesticides?

Robert Bayer isn’t as certain that climate change is effecting the lobsters. Bayer is a professor of animal and invertebrate science at the University of Maine and executive director of the Lobster Institute, a U.S.- Canada group that carries out research and education.

Bayer contends that the collapse of the industry south of Cape Cod may be partially caused from temperature changes. But he says if you look at a map, that’s where the megalopolis of all the major cites are grouped together and that pesticide run-off from lawns, golf courses and roads are a likely culprit.

“I think that’s probably just as important as climate change, water temperatures.”

But Wahle doesn’t buy that theory. “I think the jury’s still out on that,” he says.

While Wahle says the link in temperature is circumstantial, he calls it “strongly circumstantial” noting strong correlations between prevalence of the shellfish disease and the temperature.

Wahle says pesticides may be a factor and that many are hormone disrupters, but he asks why in New England did shell disease suddenly appear in 1997, going from almost nothing to impacting 30 per cent of the catch.

“I’m not aware of any evidence that pesticides started to become more widely used at that time, but we do know that it [shell disease] came… after eight years of well above average temperatures in Southern New England.”

Oil and gas development another risk for lobster

While the lobster’s migration north might be a good thing for Canadian fishers, if climate change doesn’t get the crustacean, oil and gas development just might.

Corridor Resources wants to develop an offshore oil and gas field known as Old Harry, a field approximately 30 kilometres long and 12 kilometres wide in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 80 kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador and partially in Quebec’s waters.

But fisher associations oppose the development. Leonard Leblanc of the Gulf of Nova Scotia Fishermen’s Coalition based in Cheticamp, Cape Breton, said Old Harry is a current concern of theirs.

Leblanc says the Gulf is ice-covered most years and in the event of a well blow-out with oil spewing under water, it would be impossible to clean up because the oil would be trapped under the ice. The gulf’s swirling currents would also disperse the oil widely, leaving no area safe from pollution.

Ecojustice and the Sierra Club Canada Foundation have also both protested the development. Sierra Club described the gulf as “too precious to be placed at risk by oil and gas development.”

For its part, Corridor has characterized the risk of a blow-out as low and says the “majority” of the invertebrate fisheries are located 25 kilometres away from the edges of the project area and outside the “Predicted Maximum Extent of Oil Plume Trajectory in Relation to Exploratory Licence 1105.”

Leblanc says the lobster stock is healthy and reproducing at a rate higher than he has ever seen it reproduce.

But it will only remain that way if proper management of the lobster continues. “Lobster can provide for us as long as we take care of it,” Leblanc says. “If we don’t, we’re going to have a major problem.

“We’ve had the collapse of the ground fishery and that really hurt the East coast. I suspect the collapse of the lobster fishery would hurt even more, so we have no choice but to take care of it.”

Canada’s energy superpower status threatened as world shifts off fossil fuel, federal think-tank warns

30 05 2016

At left, an oil pumpjack in operation. At right, the Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant in Abu Dhabi. A federal government think-tank is projecting a fairly rapid shift toward renewables.

At left, an oil pumpjack in operation. At right, the Shams 1 concentrated solar power plant in Abu Dhabi. A federal government think-tank is projecting a fairly rapid shift toward renewables. (Left: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg, Right: EPA)

Canada’s status as an “energy superpower” is under threat because the global dominance of fossil fuels could wane faster than previously believed, according to a draft report from a federal government think-tank obtained by CBC News.

“It is increasingly plausible to foresee a future in which cheap renewable electricity becomes the world’s primary power source and fossil fuels are relegated to a minority status,” reads the conclusion of the 32-page document, produced by Policy Horizons Canada.

The little-known government organization provides medium-term policy advice to the federal bureaucracy, specializing in forecasts that peer a decade or two into the future.

The document was obtained by CBC News under an access to information request and shared with two experts — one in Alberta, one in British Columbia — who study the energy industry.

Both experts described its forecasts for global energy markets as more or less in line with what a growing number of analysts believe.

“It’s absolutely not pie in the sky,” said Michal Moore from the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy. “These folks are being realistic — they may not be popular, but they’re being realistic.”

Marty Reed, CEO of Evok Innovations — a Vancouver-based cleantech fund created through a $100-million partnership with Cenovus and Suncor — had a similar take after reading the draft report.

“You could nit-pick a couple of items,” he said. “But at a high level, I would say the vast, vast majority of what they wrote is not even controversial, it’s very well accepted.”

Caution advised in long-term pipeline investments

Given the time frames of a decade or more in the report’s forecasts, its language is couched heavily in “ifs” and “coulds.”

Its overall conclusion, however, urges caution when it comes to long-term investments in pipelines and other oil and gas infrastructure.

Such investments “could be at high risk of becoming economically unviable as prices in renewable electricity further decline,” it warns.

“At a minimum, this plausible future would suggest that governments ensure that the risks of further investments in oil and gas infrastructure be borne by private interests rather than taxpayers,” the report reads.

Renewables to become cheaper than fossil fuels

At the core of the report’s forecasts is a growing number of indicators that suggest growth in the world’s demand for electricity — particularly renewable-based electricity — will outpace other energy types, while the costs of its production and storage fall faster than previously believed.

The demand is expected to be driven largely by the emerging and rapidly urbanizing middle class in developing countries.

Wind and solar systems have the advantage of being “highly scalable and distributable,” the report states, making them appealing for communities of virtually any size, with or without an existing electrical grid.

Policy Horizons Draft Report

As a result, emerging economies in Latin America and Africa may follow a different development path than the West and “leap-frog” directly to renewables as a primary energy source in a relatively short timeframe.

“Although any individual country may lack the optimal conditions for every type of renewable electricity, all countries are likely to have at least one or more options to produce electricity from renewables that will be cost comparative or cheaper than generation by fossil fuels,” the report reads.

Reed said that trend is already beginning in some parts of the world.

“We just saw Saudi Arabia award a major solar contract at three cents a kilowatt hour. We just saw Mexico do the same thing … at five cents a kilowatt hour,” he said.

“You can’t bring on a new coal plant or natural gas plant at that price. You sure can’t build a new Site C hydro dam at that price.”

Electric cars to become ‘fully competitive’

Batteries and other forms of energy storage technology are also becoming cheaper and more capable, according to the report, making electricity a more versatile option for residential and commercial use — as well as for transportation.

The report states Tesla Motors has been producing lithium-ion batteries for both cars and homes at a cost of roughly $300 US per kWh, a price point the International Energy Agency previously predicted wouldn’t be possible until the year 2020.

“Battery manufacturers in Asia are building battery factories at similar scales to Tesla’s Gigafactory that will triple battery production by 2020,” the report continues.

“These economies of scale are expected to further reduce the cost of batteries to $150 US per kWh by 2020. At this price point, electric vehicles will become fully competitive with those powered by internal combustion engines.”

Tesla Marty Reed

From his vantage point, Reed said the shift in the automotive market is already apparent and the pace of change is only likely to accelerate.

“You’re seeing literally hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars being invested by the automakers into electric vehicles,” he said.

“The Chevy Bolt came out this year and it’s got a 200-mile [320 km] range at a price point below $40,000. Tesla is the No. 1 selling luxury vehicle in the world now. This is happening.”

Challenges — and innovations — with ‘vast storage’

One criticism Moore had of the report was what he described as a tendency to “gloss over” challenges that still exist with renewable energy on a large scale.

“They just act as though the more renewable energy you build, the more people will use, and the more fossil fuel we’ll take offline, and we’ll all be better off — and it just doesn’t work that way,” the U of C professor said.

“Renewable technologies are not substitutable for fossil technologies one-to-one.”

Due to the intermittent output from solar panels and wind turbines, making a major shift to renewables would require “vast, vast storage technology,” Moore said, which adds to the cost and viability of such a change.

Reed, however, said there are various ways to tackle the problem, and solutions go beyond merely building better batteries.

“You certainly need an energy-dense battery if you want to have a car, but for electrification of the grid, you actually don’t need energy-dense batteries,” he said. “What you need are low-cost energy storage systems that meet the needs of whatever system you’re trying to build.”

As one recent example, he pointed to the Advanced Rail Energy Storage (ARES) project now underway in Nevada.


While a battery uses chemicals to store energy, ARES uses gravity.

The idea involves a network of rail lines built on a grade. On the tracks sit a fleet of train cars carrying heavy loads of rocks and gravel. The cars have electric motors and are connected to an electrical grid powered by wind turbines and solar panels.

When there is a surplus of energy from the grid, the train cars drive up the tracks. When the solar and wind output diminishes, the cars roll back down the hill, their electric motors acting as generators and supplementing the electrical output.

“It’s remarkably simple, inexpensive, and meets the needs,” Reed said of the technology.

Oil could lose ‘commodity status’

All of this doesn’t add up to the end of fossil fuels, according to the report, but it does suggest Canada should rethink the value and applicability of its natural resources as “demand for oil could peak sooner and decline faster than expected.”

One of the more extreme scenarios the report considers is a world in which the supply of fossil fuels exceeds demand for an extended period of time, which the authors say could lead to a loss of “commodity status” for oil, coal and natural gas.

“Rather than being price-takers from suppliers, consumer countries could become price-makers on different sources of oil as suppliers adjust pricing to maintain share of a diminishing and more discriminating marketplace,” the report states.

“Embodied carbon in the production of the fuel will likely be the first discriminator to be widely adopted.”

In other words, fossil fuels that produce more greenhouse gases in the extraction process may fetch a lower price, as buyers become willing to pay a premium for lower-emission grades.

This scenario was one point in the report that both Moore and Reed found implausible.

“I think that was a bit of a stretch,” said Reed.

“I see no evidence to support this notion that it’ll be bifurcated by environmental criteria. Consumer behaviour doesn’t lend itself this way.”

Moore said he can’t see that “happening any time soon,” as no market mechanism exists to attach these kinds of attributes to fossil fuels.

New minerals to be of strategic value

Moore did agree with the report’s forecast that oil will begin to be supplanted by natural resources of even higher value.

Those include lithium, rare earth metals and other key minerals required to produce batteries, photovoltaic cells and electric motors.

Rare Earths Michal Moore

The document notes Canada is lacking in such minerals, while Bolivia, Argentina and Chile hold some of the largest lithium reserves, and China and Brazil have nearly 60 per cent of the known reserves of rare earth metals.

The report even warns of the potential emergence of new cartels that could manipulate the market price of these valuable minerals.

“You’re likely to see some pretty big battles fought over rare earths,” said Moore, who noted Canada may have undiscovered reserves of its own.

‘Some oil is likely to remain in the ground’

While its relative value as an energy source may diminish, the report acknowledges oil “will still be a significant component of the global energy mix, at least in the near future.”

It says that “some oil is likely to remain in the ground,” but opportunities still exist for Canada to extract and sell petroleum from oilsands deposits, even under the extreme scenario of the market splintering oil into grades based on its relative carbon footprint.

Actual greenhouse-gas outputs of some Canadian oil resources “are lower than international reputation would suggest,” the report notes, making its viability as much a matter of marketing as technology.

Regardless of what happens in the energy sector, Reed expects oil will still be in demand for other purposes.

“Non-transportation uses of petroleum are growing quite rapidly,” he said, noting Alberta may be particularly well positioned to expand into the production of specialty agriculture chemicals that are derived from oil.

Moore said everything from asphalt to plastics to paraffin wax will guarantee a market, of some type, for petroleum, for decades to come.

“We’re going to need hydrocarbons for a long, long, long time into the future — just not necessarily as a primary fuel source.”

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