Volume 5, Number 2
Mass Transportation how do we get there from here?
Mass transit is a perennial prescription for fightingéclimate change, grid lock, and smog, for developing better urban design, and for safer roads. Yet Canada is the only OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) nation that does not invest in urban public transit.
The federal government currently supports four public transit demonstration projects, but has no ongoing support for public transit. The combined support for urban transit from federal and provincial governments in Canada is only about 4% of operating and 11% of capital costs.
Canadians invest more than $3.1 billion on transit operating costs. According to the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) nearly $2 billion or 63% comes from rider fares a larger proportion than any other country. The rest, an estimated $1 billion in capital costs, comes mostly from municipalities.
A CUTA survey of urban transit capital needs suggests Canada should invest $13.6 billion between 2002 and 2006. Present municipal and provincial sources have budgeted only $4.8 billion. A federal program providing $1 billion in a matching infrastructure fund with provincial participation could meet the needs of Canadas urban transit systems.
The federal government should ensure the fund does not merely replace funding withdrawn by the provinces or municipalities. The money should be earmarked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by:
The federal government has set aside $3 billion over three years to support infrastructure programs and argues that this includes funding for transit. This amount is inadequate and causes transit projects to compete with water treatment, sewer and other urgently required projects across Canada. It does not ensure transit projects will lead to greenhouse gas reductions nor will it require integrated transportation plans.
If Canadians are to meet Kyoto targets, and the next set of deeper reductions, we must invest now in affordable, well-designed mass transit.
For more than a decade, the Sierra Club of Canada, transit workers, the Canadian Urban Transit Association and the House of Commons have supported the sensible idea of making employer-provided bus passes a nontaxable. Yet, the federal government continues to refuse to create this simple program.
The evidence from the US is clear. Employer-provided nontaxable bus passes has created up to 25% more new transit riders and more use of transit by existing riders.
Under the Canadian Income Tax Act, employer-provided parking and employer-provided transit passes are considered taxable benefits. According to CUTA, Revenue Canadas interpretation of the Act and tax preferences in the Act allow many if not most employees to receive free parking as a benefit without paying income tax on it. As many as 80% of car driving commuters receive subsidized parking.
The US has used the tax-exempt bus passes to promote transit ridership for two decades. Costs were controlled by limiting the types of employers allowed to provide the benefit and by requiring that the benefit be new compensation and not a conversion of exisiting salary. The program originally allowed $15 to $21 a month in 1984. It was increased to $60 in 1993 and $100 in 2002. The restrictions on employer eligibility have also been lifted, making the program available to all employers. In San Francisco, the expanded program resulted in an increase in participation from 3% to 27% of companies in 2001.
US employers get a tax deduction for the bus pass, and save on payroll taxes. Payroll taxes are the most demonized by Canadian business which regularly calls for their elimination. It is also less expensive for an employer to offer the pass. To provide an employee with enough salary to purchase a $100/month pass could cost as much a $2000 a year.
You win some . By Elizabeth May
In a brilliant piece of political stratagem, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer of California introduced legislation removing the drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from George W. Bushs larger energy bill before the Senate. As Bush launched the invasion of Iraq on March 19th, Senator Boxers bill passed (48-52). Eight Republicans voted to protect the Refuge, while four Democrats voted with Bush. Meanwhile, another bill promoting development of the Arctic Refuge passed in the House on April 20, (by a vote of 247-175). That places two incompatible pieces of energy legislation in the House and Senate. They are (at this writing) yet to be reconciled.
The hope for protection of the Arctic Refuge continues to ride with the Senate. Thanks to those of you who wrote letters to support our Caribou Commons Campaign (featured in our last issue)!
The threat of open-pit strip-mining for coal near Jasper National Park, the Cheviot Mine, resurfaced recently. Fortunately, the developer, Fording Coal Partnerships, announced on April 2, that it will not develop the mine after all. The Cheviot Mine has provincial approvals to proceed, but no federal approvals. We continue to work to ensure that the critical grizzly habitat of the Cardinal River Valley is protected. The Ontario Teachers Pension Fund is invested in Fording Coal. We are seeking their support to obtain permanent protection of the Cardinal River Valley and Jasper National Park.
Bounty Bay Sierra Club of Canada wins one for public participation
We were successful in our application for judicial review of a permit for an intensive mussel aquaculture project granted by the Minister of Fisheries under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. Mr. Justice Pierre Blais of the Federal Court Trial Division granted the request to quash the permit. The case was well argued for Sierra Club of Canada by Michelle Higgins and Jacqueline Scott of Patterson Palmer, Halifax (not pro bono, mores the pity.).
The facts, in a nutshell, are these. Bounty Bay wished to place the largest mussel aquaculture project in North America in a small, sheltered harbour, St. Anns on Cape Breton Island. Local residents, Sierra Club of Canada, and a strong citizens group, Stewards of St. Anns Harbour, were concerned the 1,200 acres of mussels on ropes, covering over 35% of the harbour, would cause so much contamination by mussel feces as to de-oxygenate the harbour, destroying other life forms and leaving a smelly polluted mess.
The court challenge was based on two grounds: 1) that by agreeing to the proponents demands that their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be labeled as copyrighted and the property of their consultants, AMEC, and Bounty Bay, with extremely limited distribution, the Minister denied SCCs rights to comment on the EIS; and 2) that on the face of the record, given voluminous deficiency statements and a conclusory and inadequate response from the proponent, the Minister did not have the minimum factual basis to have granted the permit.
The judge found that SCCs rights to participate were denied by having the EIS only available for viewing (but not copying) in 5 locations near Baddeck, Nova Scotia, with no copy available in Ottawa. Due to persistent efforts, SCC had been able to obtain a copy from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) (the Agency in turn had difficulties obtaining the EIS for us), but we were only given the document with two weeks remaining in the comment period. The judge agreed with us that this was not adequate time. To our surprise, he went on to rule that this breach had been remedied by a closing line in the letter from the Minister in which our request for an extension was denied. The Minister had written that we were welcome to send any other comments. I had not read this closing note (in the body of a refusal to give us time to have the document reviewed by scientific advisors) as a real opportunity.
The judge found that a second breach in the rights of public participation warranted quashing the permit. This was in the failure to place the Screening Report, prepared by the departmental staff for the Minister, in the public domain and the failure to allow the public to comment. It had been completed four days before the permit was issued. It is on this ground that the permit was quashed.
In very interesting comments, the judge considered our second ground. He all but said the Minister should not have issued the permit, as there was nothing on the record on the impact of the project on navigation. But since the permit was quashed for the violations of our rights of public participation, he wrote that he need not decide on this point.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans then followed the judges order by releasing the Screening Report. But, once again, our rights to public participation are being given short shrift, as we are given less than 30 days to review it. At the same time, Bounty Bay and DFO have appealed the decision.
We will vigorously defend the decision we won at the Trial Division. This case sets an important precedent and provides several important opportunities to expand rights of public participation. We are reviewing the Screening Report against a tight deadline. Our experts are poking it full of holes. Enough, we hope, to stop a dreadful project.
You lose some
In January 1997, SCC took a principled stand for the integrity of the environmental assessment process by filing a Federal Court challenge against the Chrétien Government. In November 1996, it approve a $1.5 billion loan guarantee to grease the sale of two CANDU reactors to China. In contravention of a plain reading of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), the decision was not subject to any environmental review. In a late night Cabinet meeting in November of 1996, an emergency amendment to CEAA had been passed to ensure that any mega-project receiving federal funding outside of Canada would be exempt from review. In all the years I have worked in Ottawa, no behind-the-scenes deal had yielded as many leaks, as many civil servants disgusted by political expediency trampling environmental requirements. We filed our action for judicial review naming the Ministers of Finance and International Trade, both of whom had had to sign off on the $1.5 billion loan guarantee which was granted to the Export Development Corporation (EDC). EDC, in turn, raised money on the international money market on the strength of the guarantee, to give $1.5 billion to the Chinese nuclear agency for it to use to pay AECL. Bottom line: if China doesnt re-pay the loan, Canadian taxpayers lose $1.5 billion. It was the largest external loan in the history of Canada and it received no environmental assessment, nor any other review for accountability.
Eighteen months into the case, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), a Crown corporation receiving massive taxpayer subsidies, decided it too should be part of the SCC legal challenge. Perhaps AECLs interest in the case was piqued by a leaked Record of a Cabinet meeting from the spring of 1997 in which, it was reported, the Cabinet reviewed the planned financing scheme for a possible sale of CANDU reactors to Turkey. It was proposed that EDC be given a loan guarantee for $1.5 billion an identical scheme to that used for China. The Cabinet discussion turned to the possibility, raised by the Sierra Club of Canada law suit, that this money laundering without environmental review was illegal. In the Cabinet session, the Department of Justice advised that the governments case was not strong and that SCC might win. Cabinet decided that if Turkey bought CANDUs it would run a shadow assessment which it could then attempt to convert to a public review, if SCC won the case. In the event, Turkey decided against going nuclear.
AECL was granted intervener status with party-like rights, meaning that is would use its very deep pockets pockets so deep they might be a good place to put the tons of high level nuclear waste for which there is no known disposal plan to drag SCC through as many preliminary procedural matters as possible. The reasons were transparent: we had a strong case and delays meant it could get the reactors built, while trying to bankrupt SCC through a lengthy court battle.
AECL insisted on cross-examining me for three days on my affidavit. (My favourite question: were we being funded by AECLs competitors?) AECL insisted it needed to introduce evidence of environmental review in China, but could only introduce such information if it was confidential and could never be referenced by the lawyers or the judge. Since our case was about the requirements under Canadian law, whatever occurred in China was irrelevant. The idea that the courts should bow to Chinas totalitarian government and deny Canadians access to environmental information from China was repugnant.
Here, perhaps, we made a big mistake. It seemed a non-controversial point that AECL should not be able to introduce irrelevant information from China and enforce a code of silence in Canadian courts. We said no.
AECL appealed to the Federal Court Trial Division. The Trial Division agreed with SCC. AECL appealed to the Appeal Division, which also agreed with us. AECL appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court ruled that AECLs right to a fair trial outweighed our Charter Rights and the interests of Canadians in an open court. It also ordered costs against SCC for all three court actions.
So, we owed AECL over $70,000. We were years from having the case heard and AECL refused to allow the next procedural step for the hearing of the case on its merits, until we paid over $70,000 to a Crown Corporation which last year received over $200 million in direct subsidy. The reactors in China are nearly completed; one has already gone critical. The EDC Act has been amended (in what insiders refer to as the Sierra Club amendment) to include a rather feeble environmental assessment process.
AECL offered to drop its right to the $70,000 if SCC dropped the case. It is a source of great sadness for us to relinquish our right to have the issue heard on the merits. It has been more than six years; with our own court costs so far at well over $10/,000, and giving up is something we never do.
In this case, however, the national board of SCC believes we could not risk bankruptcy to fight a case that could still be delayed by AECL for years. We have dropped the court challenge. AECL has dropped its demand for costs. And a political scandal is removed from any possibility of exposure in the courts.
SCC wishes to thank our legal team. Franklin Gertler of Montreal took the case in January of 1997 and stayed with it. He was joined by Tim Howard of Sierra Legal Defense Fund. Both lawyers put a great deal into the case and we appreciate their highly professional commitment.
If nothing else, the case draws attention to the extreme obstacles to raising matters in the public interests in Canadian courts. It also underscores the need for a complete review of AECLs financing, its questionable record of overseas sales, resulting in nuclear proliferation, and for a full national debate about the merits of nuclear energy and its stranglehold on public process.
And sometimes you just keep fighting
Oil and Gas Development
Offshore oil and gas issues on both coasts are heating up. In B.C., Premier Gordon Campbells Speech from the Throne promised an up and running oil and gas industry in BC within ten years. The current moratorium is to be lifted to achieve his vision, even though there is no active interest from any oil and gas companies in getting into the B.C. offshore. Campbell clearly does not want to let the facts get in his way. Sadly, at the federal level, Minister of Natural Resources Herb Dhaliwal is prepared to help. Dhaliwal has convinced the federal Cabinet to open the door to the lifting of the moratorium with scientific studies of the issue in relation to the marine environment off B.C.
In Atlantic Canada, on March 7, 2003, the Canada Nova Scotia Off-Shore Petroleum Board (CNSOPB) issued a dishonest news release, designed to create the impression that permits for seismic testing in the most biologically rich waters in Atlantic Canada had been granted based on advice from an ad hoc - - multistakeholder advisory group. Neither was true. The permits were not yet issued, and the advisory group had not recommended proceeding with seismic testing. SCC was represented on the advisory committee, along with fishermen and First Nations and others. CNSOPB had insisted that the two oil and gas companies involved also serve on the committee. As a result, the consensus report had no shared recommendations.
According to DFO, the areas in question, Sydney Bight and the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence are more sensitive and more diverse than Georges Bank which is under an oil and gas development moratorium. The coastal Cape Breton ecosystems see an enormous semiannual migration of over one million tons of animal life. The area still supports 25,000 jobs in fishing and fish processing and thousands more in tourism. In addition, the areas identified for seismic blasting are home to the endangered leatherback turtle, and many species of whales, several identified as at risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. The oil companies plan to protect whales and the leatherback turtle is to blast them with seismic until they move away. They call this ramping up a mitigation measure. SCC thinks it is harassment and illegal under the new Species at Risk Act.
Please write, phone, email or fax the following:
The Hon. Herb Dhaliwal,
Spring is sprung.
(Variously attributed to Anonymous, Spike Milligan, Ogden Nash)
Spring has sprung time for renewal. Sure
The one constant with Spring is its renewal the earth awakens from its hibernation and explodes with colour and life.
The earth gets renewed, and so do memberships.
Enlist your family and friends. This Spring weve made it easier and more fun than ever. Launched in May. Im pleased to announce the Sierra Club of Canadas Membership Drive with fabulous prizes like major trips across the country to met either Robert Bateman (West) or Farley Mowat (East) for generating new memberships. (See page 7 for more details.)
This is not a direct-mail membership drive; it is a grassroots event that encourages members to get involved to promote and strengthen the Club and have fun too.
Unlike many non-profit organizations, the Sierra Club of Canada has intentionally stayed away from the direct mail marketing approach to membership development. Direct mail (or junk mail) is an expensive, wasteful and environmentally degrading way to generate new members and raise money. The number of trees that have to be ground into pulp to produce the letter, brochure, order card and return envelope is horrific, especially considering that the average North American household receives over 550 pieces of junk mail each year. While some recent mailings have been printed on recycled paper, most of the paper stock used has a low post-consumer content. Please note that this newsletter, as with all Sierra Club of Canada publications, is printed on 100% post-consumer fibre.
So, in order for us to continue living our values, we need your help. Sign up three new members (or more) and you could win. And we definitely win!
In 1980, I sold my car to pay a particularly bad phone bill run up during my only bid for elected office. A few of us had organized a dozen or so activists to run for parliament in what we called the small party. I ran against the then Deputy Prime Minister Allan J. MacEachern, creating a small ripple of anti-nuclear and pro-environment questions when he mingled with his adoring voters. It was in pre-Green Party days and we ran in seven provinces with a shared platform based on E.F. Schumacher and Small is Beautiful. It was also in the days before e-mail. Keeping our election process coordinated required using long distance a lot. It seemed fitting that one result of the effort was that I should be car-less. It also proved to be no inconvenience as I was moving to Halifax to start law school where, unlike the rural roads of Cape Breton Island, there would be bus service.
Since then, I have rejoiced in not owning a car. I know I have saved tons of money, even with the occasional car rental, and more than occasional taxi when time was too short or a route too convoluted for the bus. My daughter has grown up in a car culture without ever having known what it is to have a car in the drive. I have always chosen where I live to be close to bus stops, within walking distance of shops. We have been particularly lucky in being walking distance from her schools. Once, when she was about seven years old, I picked her up after school, with a friend coming for the first time to our house for a sleepover. As we started along the road, her new friend asked, Where is your car? My daughter answered, We dont have a car. Her friend wasnt thrown by this. Where is your van? she asked. We dont have a van, answered my daughter. What do you have? her friend asked, a note of alarm creeping into her voice. I was delighted as my daughter answered, We have our feet. Now her friend was properly panic-stricken, How far away is your house?!
This small exchange, and the little girls shortness of breath during a ten minute walk, made me realize what an insane thing it is to be car-dependent. The papers are full of stories of obese children in the U.S. and Canada, of soccer moms who need an SUV, of smog and asthma not to mention the routine death and dismemberment on our highways due to our reliance on cars. We are paving farmland, draining wetlands, bisecting neighbourhoods and sprawling and mall-ing our world to accommodate a hunk of metal propelled by a small pollution machine. Yes, if I lived in Cape Breton near my family in our village of forty-two people, I would unapologetically own a car. But, for the vast majority of Canadians, car ownership is a choice. Yet, it is widely viewed as a necessity.
So while Sierra Club of Canada campaigns for better fuel economy (CAFE standards), lets not forget to increase the merry band of us who walk, cycle, bus, take the subway, streetcar anything but that maniacal, suicidal, homicidal piece of future junk, the family car.
A dream born in Kenya has grown to a cross-Canada cycling and speaking tour.
The Otesha Project was created to +mpower Canadian youth to adopt sustainable lifestyles. Partnered with the Sierra Youth Coalition, it believes there are alternatives to a consumer society, and that we all have the power to improve our world. The word Otesha which means reason to dream in Swahili underlines that we begin to BE the change we wish to see.
The Otesha Project education programs involve emotional multi-media presentations, skits, games, and interactive workshops for all age groups. They re-evaluate our daily choices to reflect the kind of future we'd like to see, rethink what we really need, and show how to conserve resources, and vote with our dollars.
This year, 18 passionate youth from all over Canada will spend six months cycling from Victoria B.C. to Cornerbrook, Newfoundland, stopping in over 100 youth venues. A donated Honda Civic Hybrid that will model green technology in action will also supporû the team. We use modes of transportation that model sustainable alternatives and challenge others to choose transportation that reflects the kind of air they would like to breathe and the state of the global ecosystem they would like to experience.
ýe founded the Otesha Project while travelling in Kenya. Our experiences overseas overwhelmed us with the inequity between the life of North Americans and the lives of many Kenyans. Much of what we considered necessary became irrelevant, and we could no longer justify spending money on souvenirs, or other activities while we were there. Money could mean so much more.
ýe looked for solutions that we could apply ourselves. We started making conscious choices towards the world we wanted to see and had a dream to empower youth to make a difference, starting with themselves. On Feb. 16th, 2002, on a sunny day in Kitale, Kenya, the Otesha Project was born.
Since then we have talked to over 1,000 youth directly, and over 5,000 online. Our team hopes to reach at least 40,000 more over the next year. With the help of the Sierra Youth Coalition, we have networked with hundreds of youth across the country to start a movement of simplicity, personal responsibility, and most importantly, ACTION!
Jessica Lax and Jocelyn Land-Murphy
Minister Anderson Endorses Sierra Club of Canada Stand
Environment Minister David Anderson has voiced agreement with the Sierra Club of Canadas position on subsidizing new car plants and said subsidies should be tied to environmental standards for the cars. He is only one minister however, and the federal government is considering subsidizing the construction of a new car manufacturing facility in Windsor, without a policy in place to make sure the cars made plant will be fuel efficient.
The situation has intensified since the Ontario government (which maintains it doesnt believe in subsidizing business) has already announced $800 million for a new car plant. The car companies are pointing to Mexico and southern US states that are prepared to offer billions in subsidies to attract car plants. Traditionally Canada has relied on its pool of skilled labour, solid infrastructure and universal health care to attract investment in car plants. Support through training grants and roads has also been provided.
Industry Minister Alan Rock is responsible for industrial development including providing subsidies to car makers. Last year he set up a special committee of manufacturers and unions to advise his department. No environmentalists were invited to particilate. The Sierra Club of Canada approached Mr. Rock with solid arguments for linking environmental standards for cars with subsidies for new plants. It is critical that criteria be developed soon because he is considering a request from DaimlerChrysler for money to build a plant in Windsor, Ontario.
According to a 2002 study commissioned by Natural Resources Canada and the US Department of Energy, it is economically and technically possible for DaimlerChrysler and other car companies to produce the next generation of vehicles to a much higher environmental standard. In fact, DaimlerChrysler is already producing two versions of its popular minivan in Windsor. One version meets the higher emission standards of California; the other for Canada and other US jurisdictions is a more polluting version.
Is Canadas commitment to reduce greenhouse gas real or not? Without fuel efficient cars we wont make the Kyoto target. We wont get fuel efficient cars if we subsidize the gas guzzlers.
To qualify for the grand prize Tour Draw, sign-up at least three new members. For every three friends you recruit, your name will be entered once into the Tour Draw. Persuade three friends to join of give three gift memberships to qualify if you recruit six new members, your name will be entered twice. There are also prizes for members who recruit the most new memberships, including a top prize of a VIA trip to any destination in Canada. There are exciting prizes for the runners-up for the most new memberships, including a $1,000 Tilley gift certificate, and more.
Canada made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emission to 6% below 1990 levels. To meet this commitment, we must improve our transportation system, especially since more than 20% of our emissions come from cars and trucks. Investments in public transit and in more efficient passenger cars make sense.
Car manufacturers know how to improve fuel efficiency, but lack enough motivated customers to buy those more expensive models. The federal government must not only pass regulations to force the deployment of efficient technology, but also provide financial incentives to buyers of fuel-efficient cars. These cars, in the short term at least are more expensive, and providing the proverbial carrots will encourage the expansion of this market.
First of all, buyers of hybrid gas-electric cars must spend $4,000 to $6,000 more, which takes years to recover through savings on gas. As a result only a few thousand of these cars have been sold in North America. The US government offers a $2,000 tax cÚedit to the purchasers of these cars. Meanwhile the Canadian government only distributes pamphlets and provides car ratings on fuel efficiency. A few provinces provide a rebate as an incentive, but it is not enough.
The Sierra Club of Canada has called upon the government to create a fee-bate
Secondly, we have to recognize the importance of car manufacturing to the Canadian economy and the need to ensure that cars continue to be built. To do that the federal, provincial and municipal governments should buy only super efficient vehicles to foster the market, and provide inducements to car companies to build plants to assemble super efficient cars.
Supporting the Sierra Club of Canadas transportation campaign can be:
1. Drive as little as possible. Try to walk, bike and ride the bus before getting behind the wheel. If you have to drive to work, organize a carpool. Split the responsibility and make the commute a social occasion.
2. Write your member of parliament and tell him/her that their predecessors who voted for the Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act were right and now is the time to bring the law into force. It was passed in 1981 but not proclaimed because the motor vehicle industry agreed to comply voluntarily with the requirements.
3. Make recreational visits to new car dealerships and ask to test drive the most efficient car they have. Take it for a spin and talk constantly about the environment, climate change, and air pollution so you need a vehicle that is super efficient and meets California emission standards. View this an opportunity to do public outreach by retraining car sales people.
Will Ethanol Replace Gasoline?
The first sector to demand money for Kyoto was the ethanol producers. A couple of dozen Liberal backbench Members of Parliament held a press conference in January 2003 to demand $400 million from the federal government to expand Canadas ethanol industry. This is a very steep price to pay for a small reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
There are ethical, environmental and technical concerns with ethanol. Tax dollars may not even be needed if the federal government decides to use regulation to achieve its goal of having 34% of gasoline contain 10% ethanol by 2010.
üuels containing ethanol can reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks if the ethanol is produced in a sustainable way. Most of the ethanol produced comes fermenting grain corn (US and Ontario) or sugar (Brazil). The push for federal funding is coming from the corn producers who are seeking to create a new market for their products. In the US, subsidies for ethanol are disguised agricultural subsidies so Canadian producers are looking for similar help.
The traditional method uses corn or cereal grains. According a Climate Action Network (CANet) paper, federal studies indicate that the net energy gain, taking into account energy used in the production of the crop and the ethanol production process, is about 1.7 units of energy production for 1 unit of energy input. A somewhat lower ratio
ü by-product of this process is a protein-rich animal feed. Some alcohol manufacturing plants use it to sustain intensive agriculture farms in order to make themselves profitable. There is concern that a large number of these plants could disrupt the pricing of animal feed or lead to even more intensive agriculture operations with the attached environmental implications to rural communities.
The CANet paper also discusses two other methods fermentation of lignocellulosic materials and gasification of lignocellulosic materials neither of which is commercially used yet. Iogen in Ottawa is developing the fermentation method with major investments from PetroCanada and Shell International. The method uses hay, corn stove or other waste portions of crops. Iogen says it will be ready to build a commercial plant in a year or two.
Gasification is a new technology being pioneered in Sweden. Lignocellulosic materials such as bark and black liquor (a waste product from pulp mills) available in large supply, are catalytically converted to either ethanol or other fuel products such as hydrogen.
We need to study more closely all of these technologies, their economic and energy value and also their impact on existing agriculture and infrastructure. Ethanol will only make a small contribution to reducing emissions in the order of 2 of the 240 mega#onnes reduction required by Kyoto.
Car Free Day
by Dan McDermott
On September 22, 2001 the Sierra Club of Canada Eastern Canada Chapter (ECAN) organized North Americas first participation in the fast-growing global International Car Free Day event. With the logistical assistance from the City of Toronto and funding support provided by the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, Environment Canada and the Toronto Community Foundation, ECAN conducted a multidimensional event on a car free St. George Street in the heart of Toronto. Two nights earlier, 500 car free advocates packed the Bloor Cinema for an evening of film, speeches and discussion of the possibilities of a Toronto not dominated by cars.
Car Free Day 2002 saw ECAN expand Torontos participation to include 14 separate street closure events. Internationally, Car Free Day drew participation from over 1400 towns and cities in 38 countries. Within Europe, acceptance of Car Free Day has advanced to the point where the program is endorsed by the European Union, and over 300 cities have expanded the event to a full week of sustainable transportation activities under the banner of European Mobility Week. The United Nations has also set up a Car Free Day program to encourage car free activities in countries around the globe.
ECAN is now working to enlist the participation of other Ontario municipalities in Car Free Day events, while continuing to develop Torontos involvement in Car Free Day. ECAN Car Free Day Issue Chair Mike Noble is coordinating a substantial core of Club volunteers focusing on Toronto based events. Rick Czepita, who introduced the Car Free Day concept to the Sierra Club of Canada, is conducting outreach and communication with the expanded Ontario network of interested groups and individuals.
A working partnership of ECAN, the City of Toronto, the Toronto Atmospheric Fund and Environment Canada are now engaged in planning for Car Free Day 2003. This expanded collaboration is a positive and trend setting development. The Sierra Club of Canada is moving forward in very good company to show the way to the possibilities of urban life without cars. Today we are expanding the scope of Car Free Day. Tomorrow we will use this experience to create year-round car free realities.
Dan McDermott is director of the Eastern Canada Chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada.
For more information go to www.carfreeday.ca
To celebrate Car Free Day, open up your street to pedestrians. Close the road to traffic (dont forget to check if you need a permit) and open it up to street hockey, childrens games, a neighbourhood potluck, music, and a bike workshop.
At the end of the last oil crisis Canada passed this act which required car manufacturers to make their products more fuel-efficient. However, it was never proclaimed; the Minister accepted the vehicle manufacturers' voluntary commitment to meet and not exceed the required standards. The Act remained as contingency legislation.
US action created better efficiency
The US passed a similar law in the 1970s to force car makers to improve fuel efficiency. The law established CAFE or Corporate Average Fleet Economy and cars went from averaging 14.5 km per gallon to 48 km.
Unfortunately, the strong car lobby prevented the US from going further and the average efficiency of cars has been falling when we need to reduce emissions more than ever. The last time the fuel efficiency standards were raised in the US was 1985. In addition, car companies use a loophole that allows light trucks to escape the regulation. Light trucks were a very minor market segment in the 1970s but mini vans and SUVs, which are categorized as light trucks, now make up over 50% of the market.
Since then the public has become more aware of the importance of vehicle choices. While that awareness has not translated into action, the recent federal government paper on the future of transportation says it will continue to print pamphlets (what kind of pamphlets remains vague) and hope for a voluntary agreement with the car companies. The establishment of CAFE standards in the US on the other hand prevented hundreds of millions of tonnes of emissions.
Canada is clinging to the hope for a voluntary agreement even if events in California dont bode well for such optimism. In California, legislation was enacted to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from passenger cars and light trucks. The automotive industry responded by going to court, arguing that California doesnt have the right to force higher efficiency.
Hope lies in a joint effort
In the 1990s, efforts by the California legislature to leapfrog national standards were not always successful. The key to bringing about defacto harmonized national and international fuel efficiency standards is to encourage other states and countries to join with Californiaparticularly jurisdictions in the Great Lakes Basin. It would benefit more than the environment.
The Great Lakes Basin has been the centre of automotive manufacturing for 100 years. The economic engine that employs millions of American and Canadian workers will be hard hit by the trend to relocate manufacturing facilities to low-wage, under-regulated areas both in the US and abroad. To maintain investments in the region, there is demand for government subsidies and investment incentives but in the long run forcing manufacturers to produce more advanced fuel efficient vehicles will ensure the regions economic health.
If Canada and other states take similar action, significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved despite the lack of new US federal CAFE standards.
Strategically, the time to move is now
Right now, there is an opportunity for Canada, California, and the Great Lakes states to collaboratively shift car design trends around the world.
Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol on December 17th, 2002, and set out to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to six percent below 1990 levels. The key to reaching that target is to significantly improve the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks, which are responsible for about 20% of Canadas greenhouse gas emissions.
More than 2 years ago, the federal government said it would negotiate a voluntary agreement to improve fuel efficiency of cars by 25%." So far no progress. The automotive manufacturers have not made any commitments to improving fuel efficiency if anything they have been going in the opposite direction.
In Canada, car manufacturers also recently secured an exclusion from the planned domestic emissions trading system by threatening to curtail future investment in Canada. This is a key point. The auto industry receives exemptions from environmental regulations while continuing to demand incentives to remain in Canada. Industry Minister Allan Rock has established a special consultative committee with representatives from the companies and the unions to discuss how the federal government can help the Canadian auto industry continue business as usual. The Ontario government has announced close to $1 billion in subsidies for a new plant. Meanwhile, the public interest is being ignored. No consumer or environmental representatives have been invited to these sessions and press releases concerning the discussions have made no reference to environmental issues.
Is Canada falling behind?
The European Union ratified the Kyoto Protocol and is negotiating an agreement with car manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency in Europe. The Japanese government has also ratified and its domestic car industry is already producing more efficient vehicles. However, the US Senate rejected improvements to the US CAFE standards last year.
These international developments mean Canada will eventually have more fuel efficient vehicles; the question is whether they will arrive in time to help reach the Kyoto target date of 2012. And will any of these cars be built be built in Canada?
Given the belligerence of the industry toward the California legislation and the uncertainty around future investment, Canada is not in a good position to win voluntary concessions from the industry. We need to inject some new momentum into the public debate.
The federal government must be aware that this is not about more fuel efficiency: it is about the future of the car industry in Canada. Tiptoeing around the issue is shortsighted, and will ultimately hurt the competitiveness of Canada's auto industry. The federal government has the power to mandate the changes needed to encourage investment in Canadas car industry, but also lead to reduce emissions and cleaner air. What is lacking is the political will and the necessary public pressure on the industry the unions and government. Public pressure will not happen without the coordination and strategic thinking of public interest groups.
Where there is a will, there is a way
Government needs to be reminded of the similar events surrounding its regulation of effluent from pulp and paper plants in the early 1990s. Legislation requiring the plants to clean up forced investments that resulted in more efficient technology, not in the departure of the industry.
Canada has four powerful weapons in its arsenal to win the auto industrys compliance:
The Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption Standards Act was never proclaimed. A simple administrative action could activate the new regulations overnight. If the federal government showed resolve to use its authority, the industry would be forced to reconsider its position.
Canada is a good place to build cars
We have an educated and able workforce, significant infrastructure, and a tax and health regime that makes Canada highly competitive. There is widespread support, especially in Southern Ontario, for government incentives to the auto industry to achieve the Kyoto targets. Incentives could be connected to the production of fuel-efficient vehicles. These new investments would then place Canada at the forefront in automotive technology, thereby ensuring the long-term viability of our industry.
Public and worker support
The Canadian Auto Workers strongly support the Kyoto Protocol and could be enlisted to support new regulations. Similarly, environmental and consumer organizations could also be enlisted.
Not only is it environmentally necessary to achieve 25% better fuel efficiency; it is technically and economically possible. A recent report commissioned by the US Department of Energy and Natural Resources Canada suggests that a 30% improvement could be achieved at a cost of about $1,000 per vehicle, each of which would save close to $1,200 in fuel in its first four years on the road. These efficiency improvements can be made across the spectrum of vehicle types.