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Category: Energy and Environment

Doug Mader on transforming our energy system

It is my view that our province should increase investment in both wind generated and solar generated electricity much faster than is currently being planned. There are many places where wind farms and solar generators of various types could be built with little or no significant affect on humans or the environment. Neither of these electric generation types would be in production all day every day since the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. However, Saskatchewan is blessed with a great deal of both and already has a strong hydroelectric sector already in place. All three of these generating systems get their input energy free since the sun supplies them all, and all three produce essentially no greenhouse gasses. For too long Sask Power has used hydro electric energy as first choice for its base load because once the dam and generator is built it has the lowest production cost per kilowatt hour.
I would suggest that once sufficient solar and wind capacity is built it should replace hydro as base load source and hydro should be used as the battery (backup system). Extra energy not needed at the time could be used to pump water into reservoirs built on high locations to add to the hydro backup system or even as a rural local base system in some places. It is my belief that fossil fuels must be phased out on the planet. Global warming is real and we are already late at mediating it. For Saskatchewan, we now have a large supply of former oil industry unemployed workers, many of whom have already got mechanical and building skills. I would like to see the province pay them to be trained to build and operate wind and solar facilities so that they could build our solar and wind farms and would have a sustainable full time job operating them thereafter.

Our province has for far too long depended far too much on revenue from natural resources like petroleum, potash, and mining ores and diamonds. These activities have over the years yielded a lot of financial return but there does not exist today a fund which has been set aside so that the inevitable swings in revenue from this type of economy could be weathered and a different type of economy developed. It is a fundamental principle of investing that wealth should be diversified for stability. Natural resource deposits are by definition unsustainable so it is a given that our provincial governments over the years have been short sighted in managing the economy of the province. It is essential that we get serious about diversification and that means there needs to be establishment of business of new and different types in this province.This would mean a whole new mindset for creating and envisioning new paths to follow for the province. That in turn requires a group of young people with different methods and creative ways to view and do things.

Further to this point , In my view this would demand a change in how our education system deals with the very brightest and talented of our school system children, particularly when they are in their grade twelve graduating year. For many years our province has lost the majority of them to other locations mainly because other universities offered much larger incentives for them to get further education. I would suggest that our universities offer more to get students enrolled here at home. If the offer included a guaranteed research job to them after graduating in return for living and working here for a set number of years, I believe the results would lead to what I describe above. This is an elitist program, but real innovation is seldom done by those of us who are just average, in my opinion. With our small population, just a few bright ideas could get us started. One Bill Gates might solve our economy for us all.
I hope that what I have written will be seriously considered by our government. I am aware that it would require going further into debt, but I believe that doing these two major things would fairly rapidly correct that situation.

Phil Johnson on an Ecologically-friendly Carbon Capture

Saskatchewan people are per capita the largest producers of climate changing greenhouse gases in Canada, and consequently nearing the top in the world. At the same time, the fertility of our agricultural lands is being degraded through large-field mono-cropping, over-tillage, and the heavy use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These current conventional agricultural practices play a significant role in the creation of greenhouse gases, and in the destruction of valuable carbon sinks.

Carbon sinks include the soil, pastures, wetlands, and forests. In a healthy condition, through photosynthesis these environments will naturally remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, convert it to carbon, and hold it in the plants, trees and soil. Carbon is essential for healthy plants and soil. The key is that these environments must be conserved and enhanced.

I think it would be transformative if the province took a more ecological and socio-economic perspective on the capture and storage of carbon. Its current Carbon Capture and Storage facility is expensive, and the carbon is used by Cenovus Energy to flush more oil from the ground and consequently add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Instead, we should look at our soil, forest, and wetland resources in a different way. If we conserve and enhance them, rather than till, poison, clear-cut, and drain them, they will both remove carbon from the atmosphere, and retain valuable carbon in the soil and in trees and plants.

In the case of agriculture, there will have to be incentives. I propose that government develop contracts with farmers to sequester carbon. The amount of carbon sequestered can be measured, and the farmer would be paid based on the amount they have added and retained through more ecological practices. Farmers would also get the added advantage of healthier soil and healthier crops, which should improve productivity and income. We could look at Portugal’s soil carbon offsets program, begun in 2009, as a starting point. This program pays farmers for dry-land pasture improvement if they establish bio-diverse perennial grass/legume pastures to improve soil carbon and fertility, soil water holding capacity, and livestock productivity. The carbon sequestration part of this is one way in which Portugal is meeting its Kyoto Protocol commitments. The added advantage is that the new farm practices will result in more productive land and better bottom line for small farmers.

My proposal would go further than the Portugal example, to include improved forestry and wetland protections/programs. Of course, farmers, foresters and communities will require education and some convincing to change their practices. Financial incentives may be needed. Agri-business will lobby hard against such a program, seeing it as a threat to profits, since the chemicals it sells are incompatible with effective carbon capture and a healthy ecosystem. However, those farmers and foresters that do change would see considerable reward, and the rest of us could feel better about our reduced carbon footprint and much healthier environment.

Trevor Herriot on transforming agriculture

Globalization and industrialization have driven agriculture to the margins of Saskatchewan’s economic and cultural life, converting farming into an undervalued activity that provides the raw material for food processing and delivery industries that provide unhealthy food to fuel an overheated, profligate, carbon-emitting economy. One way to transform Saskatchewan, renew our commitment to our treaties, and begin to share responsibility for, and wealth derived from, the gifts of the land, would be to elevate the growing of good food—healthy for people and the land—to the status it deserves at the centre of a more sane, moral, and sustainable economy.

Saskatchewan has the agricultural land base, climate, and know-how to lead the world in renewing the economics and ecology of growing food in the temperate zone. With the right tax policy, land reform and a community-based approach to sharing at least a portion of the wealth that comes from the use of all lands, private and public, Saskatchewan could begin to change from systems that provide incentives for the unsustainable exploitation of land to systems that produce food, fuel, and fiber while safeguarding farm lands and natural lands for the benefit of current and future generations.

To create a more just and ecologically sustainable agriculture, we need to transform the way individuals and communities divide the costs and benefits of using land. How? First, by creating policy, community-enforced regulations, and economic mechanisms that share the value of land–both privately-owned and Crown lands–with the surrounding community; Secondly, by reversing systems that incentivize the depletion of local resources while increasing income inequality and driving up the costs of land; and lastly by supporting agricultural practices that re-connect people and communities to the land in ways that create both wealth and ecological wellbeing (healthy water and soil, carbon sequestration, biodiversity).

Iron and Earth on a just transition plan for energy workers

Over the summer we conducted our Workers’ Climate Plan in response to the federal governments National Climate Strategy consultations. We surveyed tradespeople and the public across the country to get their views on what a just transition for Canada’s future energy needs looks like and what is important to them when developing future energy policy.

The federal government has a responsibility to represent all Canadians in their future energy policies, and a responsibility to consider all possibilities to make a healthy, happier place not just for Saskatchewan but for the country as a whole.

These are the recommendations we made through our Workers’ Climate Plan Report based on the feedback we got, we think this is a plan all Canadians can get behind.

Our Three Energy Development Priorities:
1. Energy development must ensure continued job opportunities for Canada’s skilled
2. Energy development must be aligned with climate commitments and the goal of
nearing net zero emissions by 2050.
3. Build a thriving international export market of renewable energy products, electricity,
and services.

Our Four-Point Plan:
1. Build up Canada’s renewable energy workforce by rapidly up-skilling energy sector
workers through short term training programs and expanding apprenticeship
2. Build up the manufacturing capacity of renewable energy products through the
retooling and advancement of existing manufacturing facilities.
3. Position existing energy sector unions, contractors, manufacturers and developers
within the renewable energy sector through incubator programs and multi-
stakeholder collaboration initiatives.
4. Integrate renewable energy technologies and industrial scale energy efficiency
projects into existing non-renewable energy infrastructure.