Saturday, October 30, 2010

Montreal's Green Lifestyles - Transit System Named Best in North America

On the heels of having the city's transit system named the best in North America by the American Public Transportation Association, Montreal has launched a new green living handbook. (link to online English version)

Montreal won the transit award for a number of reasons, chief among them the highest efficiency/lowest cost per passenger mile of all the transit systems on the continent.

The green living handbook is called "Consume Differently" and builds around a theme of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Valorise". There's also a guide to "Eco-Centres", reuse centres and other facilities around the city's communities. Also a blurb on the championship transit system itself, where the conversion of the entire fleet of buses to biodiesel is described:

Since June 2008, STM buses have operated
with biodiesel, a fuel made from non-fossil
materials, which generates considerable en-
ergy savings without harming the environ-
ment. Did you know that not all types of
biodiesel fuel are beneficial to the environ-
ment? The STM was very careful in selecting
a biofuel, known as B5. Now used by all the
fleet’s buses, it is manufactured from recy-
cled cooking oil (80%) and animal fats
(20%) rather than oils derived from com-
mercial grain crops like corn.

Did you know that the STM burns nearly 50
million litres of fuel annually to operate their
buses? The use of B5 biodiesel has cut CO2
emissions by about 4,000 tons, or the equiv-
alent of 800 fewer vehicles on the roads.

 Montreal's "Bixi" bike borrowing / exchange program has also been very successful and is worth checking out. The Bixi system has already spread to several other cities, including London, Boston, Ottawa, Toronto, Washington D.C. and others.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Foolproof Titles to Have a Viral Hit on Youtube, Twitter or a Blog

Titles of videos that would go viral on Youtube via the petro / corporate promotional machine:

* How raising the minimum wage hurts the poor

* Why education is usually unnecessary, even harmful

* The Truth: Oil Burning Cools the Planet

* Free Trade Means Farmers Can't Plant Seeds They Grow Themselves

* Many Chemicals Are Beneficial in Organic Farming

* The Cost of Having a Baby Should be 50% of a Minimum Annual Salary

* No Doubt About It - Christianity is the Only True Religion

* Bicycles Are a Communist Plot

* More Smoke in the Atmosphere has a "Carbon Filter" Cleaning Effect

* Once the Coral Dies Off it will Come Back Stronger

* Super Patriots Love Working for Low Pay

* Science is Only One Man's Opinion

....and so forth...

Have a try! Take a Chance!

The beauty of it is, the content doesn't matter! Nothing in the article or video has to make sense. We have seen ample proof that anyone could write anything under any of the above titles and you would have millions of instant subscribers.

Ever Vigilant Moose Jaw Saved from Invasion of Evil Halloween Spirits

A Halloween fundraiser involving an unholy seance was canceled in Moose Jaw following intervention of local pastors.

“We don’t think a séance is what the people of Moose Jaw want to be associated with,” said a pastor.

Moose Jaw MLA Deb Higgins says she didn't hear a single complaint about the Halloween event, but area Sask Party MLA Warren Michelson insists the calls wouldn't stop coming into his office.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Painful Failure of Swedish Red - Green Alliance : Is There a Message for Canadians?

Some remarkable political parallels have developed between Sweden and Canada.

Now that Prime Minister Harper has taken to routinely, and falsely, labeling the opposition in the House of Commons "your (Ignatieff's) coalition", it may be worthwhile to look at the results of what Sweden called its Red - Green Alliance.

In Sweden's recent election, the formal centre-left alliance lost a tad more ground to the centre-right alliance, which remains at the helm of a minority government. The big news was the emergence of the "Sweden Democrats", the far-right, anti-immigration party to win 20 seats in the 350-odd-seat Riksdag.

One difference with the situation in Canada is that the far-right in Sweden remain relative pariahs, outside of the governing alliance, instead of being entrenched at the core of the ruling party, as the hardline Reform-Cons are in Canada's minority government. No one's fooling themselves though.. Not likely that the Sweden Democrats will be voting with the left to topple the government anytime soon.

Where the situation is remarkably similar to Canada is that, even though Sweden has proportional representation, where parties with a minimum of 4% of the popular vote are able to win seats in Parliament, much of the political landscape breaks out similar to ours.

Sweden's old, established flagship party is the Social Democrats. Similar to Canada's Liberals, the SDs have won the majority of elections since the late 1800s and have been largely responsible for shaping the country that Sweden is today. In losing power in 2006, the Social Democrats polled their lowest total ever at 36%, still leading the polls but fighting off challenges from all sorts of smaller parties with names like "Moderate", "Liberal", "Christian Democrat" and "Centre", as well as the Greens and the "Left" Party.

With the Greens apparently on a roll, the politico powers that be looked at the 2006 results and decided that together, the Left, the Greens and the SDs should have a great chance of surpassing the others.

Turn the clock ahead to the September 2010 general election. Surprise! Even with the radical, isolated far-right unexpectedly siphoning off almost 6% of the vote from the Centre-Right Alliance, the Red-Green Alliance still failed to live up to its potential. And the SD dropped even further, to a historic low 30%. Pundits are full of explanations as to why these events have all unfolded in this way.

There are many differences, of course, between this situation and the Canadian experience. One of the most prominent differences is that the Social Democrats in Sweden, roughly the equivalents of our Liberals (at least for the sake of this discussion), have become strongly rural-based. Our Liberals, obviously, are urban based.

Anyway, now the experiment has been called off and the Red-Green Alliance has dissolved in Sweden.

Can Canada's centre-left profit from the Swedish experience? Will they?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Campbell to Scrap B.C. School Boards Tonight?

A Vancouver school trustee has told the Vancouver Observer that there is speculation B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell may announce the scrapping of local elected school boards at his public address tonight. If this is true, today will be as dark a day as democracy has seen in British Columbia.

Mike Lombardi, a trustee from the Vancouver board of education, said he has heard from a number of sources that the new model will closely mirror the health care structure that Campbell initiated in 2001.

After appointing George Abbott as the new Minister of Education Monday, the move is expected to be another one of Campbell’s bold moves towards centralization and privatization, according to Lombardi.

Who knows? maybe this is the type of nonsense they preach at Bilderberg?

Granted, this idea has been floated elsewhere than in B.C. For one, the former leader of Quebec's Action Democratique party, Mario Dumont, had thrown this concept out there. Not that many people took it seriously.

What is awful sketchy is that a premier hovering at somewhere around 8% in the polls would bring in such an extreme, anti-democratic measure.

Canada Has a Glut? of Clean Energy - Yet Madness Rules Utilities

Fascinating to read on The Sir Robert Bond Papers a breakdown of Danny Williams' breakdown of the status of the Lower Churchill hydro development.  Even more interesting, a (year-old!) report about five years of secret negotiations between Hydro Quebec and Newfoundland over HQ taking on an equity role in the Lower Churchill with NL setting aside redress over the original Churchill Falls deal.

Awash in Green - ergy?

These reports are just more confirmation that the energy situation in Canada is baffling, convoluted, incomprehensible and just completely fried..

1. Apparently Canada has a massive excess of clean green energy. So much so that a lot of it isn't even developed. Even though it is safe, clean and relatively easy on the environment in many or most cases.

Committing to Overpriced Energy

2. Yet for some as yet unexplained reason, Ontario and B.C. are entering into electricity contracts like there's no tomorrow, committing to paying out huge sums that vastly exceed going market prices for utility power, and Alberta, of course, continues to go hogwild, producing the dirtiest energy in the world .

If you don't believe #1 - then why is it that scads of undeveloped hydro potential remains untouched in remote parts of Labrador and Quebec? One reason is supposedly because Hydro Quebec and Newfoundland are both worried about throwing a dam power sale and having no one show up. And, both parties seem to be jealous about protecting whatever angle they have (or would have or hope to have or dream to have) at selling electricity in the U.S. market.

Water Taps Behaving Like Flamethrowers

Meanwhile, back in the Q, exploration companies are falling over each other to stake out claims in the Utica shale "gaz" biz. This is the whole hydrofracturing blitz that's going to occur below all the sweet farmland in the lower St. Lawrence. This, despite the fact that miffed residents of upstate New York and Pennsylvania are having loads o' fun posting videos of their water taps behaving like flamethrowers... and searching on Google for places to get their water tested.

You fracking betcha.

Luv Those "Free Mining" Principles

Well, you can't really blame the Quebec prospectors for luvin' it. Given that oil and gas in Quebec still falls under the venerable "Mining Act", which, under "free mining" principles, allows exploration on a "first-come-first-served basis", with license holders obliged to pay annual "rent" of $2.50/hectare. Based on that the rental cost of the rights to explore 1 million hectares would be about $2.5 million, seemingly a far cry from what is being spent by industry in western Canada.

In fact, B.C. has raked in over $3 billion since 2008 from auctioning off exploration rights for its own shale gas motherlode. Maybe that's why B.C. figured they could afford to pay $825 million for a 1/3 share of the Waneta Dam. Which is an astronomical amount to pay, especially when you consider that the original deal for Hydro Quebec to buy N.B. Power - lock, stock and 15 hydro, coal and diesel generating stations, was $4.75 billion.

Now What is NB Power Gonna Do?

Which brings us to the whole Hydro Quebec N.B. Power non-buyout fiasco. Rejected by New Brunswickers for all the wrong reasons. Officially, ultimately declined by Quebec for the bogus reason that it would be "too risky".

Geo-Thermal Ignored

Why, amidst all these other conundrums, does geo-thermal energy get so little serious play?

Why does none of this make any sense?

Coveting Enron

Besides the fact that corporate vultures are circling everywhere around this ecosystem, eyes glazing over with greed at the thought of somehow, some way, setting up another Enron.

Do we chalk it all up to petty regional jealousies?

Is there any light at the end of the tunnel for a sane energy plan in Canada?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BP and Major Euro Polluters Funding U.S. Senate Climate Deniers and Tea Partiers

A report released yesterday by the Climate Action Network Europe has revealed that heavy-polluting European corporations are big financial supporters of U.S. Senate climate change deniers and climate legislation opponents.

The report, drawing on analysis of publicly available information fingers such large European emitters as BAYER, BASF, Solvay, Lafarge, BP, GDF-SUEZ, Arcelor-Mittal and EON, for their active support of denier campaigns. In 2009, these seven corporations' GHG emissions were roughly equivalent to that of the entire country of Belgium. 

In the European context, it should be noted that these same companies argue that Europe should not do more to fight global warming until the U.S. starts to act.

The Climate Action Network Europe is a coalition of 130 European environmental and development NGOs working to fight dangerous climate change.

Monday, October 25, 2010

U.K. Gov't Contemplates Selling Off Public Forests

One would think that the meager scatterings of forest that persist in Britain would be cherished and treasured as much as anything on that small island.

Apparently not. Seems the coalition government is putting together a "strategy" for unloading 150,000 hectares of public forest and other lands to developers, which would net the government a laughably unimpressive £250m at current prices.

According to one set of figures, the U.K. is home to 2.8 million hectares of forest, about 12% of the country's total area. Painstaking efforts over the past few decades have resulted in gains of forested land in Britain by 5,000 - 20,000 hectares per year.

Friday, October 22, 2010

CETA free trade with Europe "Colonizes Canada" for Corporations - National Farmers Union

The dawning of such a day was foretold by Lewis Caroll... when a farmer can no longer save and plant, give away, trade or sell, a seed he has grown himself, and this is called...

FREE TRADE!! in... the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which is currently being negotiated, and being given carte blanche by the MSM to fly under the radar.

The NFU has pretty much dedicated its website to opposing this deal.

National Post Goes Bananarama

When traveling, I have often marveled at the sad situation prevailing in some countries, where basic freedom of speech is negated as journalists are forced to serve as pawns or conduits for purveyors of hate, lies and partisan political manipulation.

One look at the front page of today's National Post tells me that Canada has now joined the group of countries who tolerate and facilitate trash journalism to flow with impunity.

Next thing you know our leader will be some guy riding around in a jeep with gold chains and ammo belts hanging around his neck.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Caution: Potash Debate Contains Corrosive Lyes

So, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Walls has done the right thing and determined that the sale of Potash would not be of net benefit to the province and therefore his government is asking the federal government to disallow the sale to BHP of Australia.

Unfortunately and predictably, the federal government has not done the right thing. Prime Minister Stephen Harper saying he doesn't think Potash needs to be "protected" from foreign takeover. He termed the situation as, “a proposal for an American-controlled company to be taken over by an Australian-controlled company.”

Harper's statement is, of course, completely false - Potash is 49% Canadian-owned and 38% U.S. owned.

Aside from the sheer stupidity of selling out control over a strategic resource that is located in Canada, that we need in Canada, and that we already control in Canada, there are other problems with this deal that might be overlooked.

One of the more corrosive ones could be the specter of the federal government going directly against the expressed wishes of a province, over an issue that is so tightly woven into the provincial fabric. Potash is produced and consumed in Saskatchewan - not in Ottawa. Aside from the obvious negative consequences for the Conservatives in Saskatchewan, this issue could also be brought up as an example and used by anti-federalists in other provinces, particularly in Quebec.

After all, if the Conservative Premier of Saskatchewan, a province loaded with Conservative MPs, cannot trust the Conservative Prime Minister of Canada, then probably no one can. Oh yeah, we already knew that.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

De l'eau qui brûle - Water on Fire in Upstate New York

One of innumerable examples on the internet. This video shows a Vietnam vet in a town called Candor in upstate New York who started getting gas in his water a few years ago. Apparently it started after some drilling activity in his area. And the most anyone will tell him is that he should drill a new well.

One must exercise discretion. No doubt it would be possible to stage this type of a video. Just the sheer number of these burning tap water videos out there makes you wonder. However, it would seem highly unlikely that they are all faked.

Meanwhile, a hearing has been set "to stop wells" in the Delaware River Basin watershed in upstate New York and neighbouring Pennsylvania. These hearings will occur Dec. 13-17, 2010.

There is little doubt that Canadians would have much to gain from following these events more closely. These hearings concern shale gas in the Marcellus Shales, which is a different deposit than the Utica Shales that are currently being explored in the region between Montreal and Quebec City. New York and Quebec do share a border, though, so the proximity is cause for concern, especially if there are serious issues in New York.
Canada is on the verge of embarking on massive shale gas exploration both in Quebec and British Columbia, as well as elsewhere.
B.C. has reaped billions in exploration rights sales. $404 million was raised at auction in B.C. just a few weeks ago. In 2008 B.C. raised $2.26 billion from land sales tied to the shale gas industry.

Alberta and Saskatchewan are also raising billions in land rights sales, much of it also for shale gas plays. The amount Quebec has raised by selling shale gas exploration rights has not been readily found on the internet. However Quebec does not as yet have specific legislation to govern oil and gas extraction, so it fall under the "Mining Act", which under "free mining" principles, permits exploration on a "first-come-first-served basis", with license holders obliged to pay a "rent" of $2.50 per hectare per year. Based on that the rental cost of the rights to explore 1 million hectares would be about $2.5 million, seemingly a far cry from what is being spent by industry in western Canada.

The high price of the land auctions in the west though raises the question: when corporations have anted up billions to pay for exploration rights, what are the chances of any environmental or safety issues actually stopping the process?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

U.K. Prunes Green Bank, Will Demo Carbon Capture

It looks like the U.K. is backing off on the hoped for "green bank" and will instead be creating a fund for green projects. While it had been speculated that the government might create a full-fledged bank with a mandate of funding green projects, the Treasury wants it to remain as a fund, kick-started with £2bn.

It has also been reported that a substantial portion of the £2bn has already been allocated to existing or previously approved projects. The decision was protested today by Greenpeace activists who scaled the Treasury building this morning at 6 a.m. and hung a banner that reads: "Remember George, green bank = new jobs."

Several other green initiatives were announced by the Dept. of Energy and Climate Change, including £1 Bil for a carbon capture and sequestration demo project and £400 Mil for renewable heat incentive for small-scale projects such as ground-source heat pumps. The DECC had apparently sought £2 Bil for the CCS project to bury carbon emissions

Monday, October 18, 2010

Canada's G8 Reputation and Self-Image Higher than Our "U.N" Ranking

According to the Reputation Institute, Canada has ranked second in the world for 2010 in terms of "international reputation" and third in terms of "self-image". Sweden and Australia respectively ranked first in the two categories.

To calculate the international reputation, the general public of G8 countries (excluding citizens of the country rated) were polled to assess the reputation of 39 selected countries. These assessments were based on 11 attributes arranged in three categories, "effective government", "advanced economy" and "appealing environment".

To determine the "self image" rating, the general public in 35 countries were asked to respond to the following questions in respect to their own country:

• “The country has a good reputation.”
• “I like the country.”
• “I admire and respect the country.”
• “I trust the country.”

The polling was conducted during the months of January and February, 2010, and the results released by the Reputation Institute Sept. 27.

As a point of interest, the U.S. placed 22nd in international reputation and 14th in self-image. Meanwhile, Portugal placed 19th in international reputation and 32nd, third-last, in self-image.

Follow-up question: Now that Portugal has bested Canada in the much ballyhooed recent international vote to win a spot on the United Nations Security Council, will we see a flip-flop in self-image next year?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Edmonton Might as Well Give Up Pipedream of Expo 2017

We get the point already.

With our government making enemies out of friends at every opportunity, Canada has succeeded in becoming a real international bad boy. The magic combo of being perceived as hardline anti-Islam, and greed-driven dirty oil producers simultaneously, gives just about anyone anywhere a free pass to disrespect our country and tell us to go flake-off.

A pretty sad situation. But, when you have signed commitments from 135 delegates to vote for you, and then only 78 of them follow through with their promise, then you know you are really unpopular. Time to change deodorants and schools, shave your head, move to a new city.

So, can someone tell me please, why are we spending anything at all on this?

Yes, this is a promo for the 2017 World Exposition, that Edmonton, of all places, is bidding on.

Excuse me, if Canada can't win an international vote that is supposed to be a lock, how is Edmonton going to win this Expo bid? Hello...?! People around the world know that Edmonton is tar sand city.

Yeah, but look at all the great publicity we get from Expo '67 in Montreal and Expo '86 in Vancouver eh. Right?

Oops, maybe not. According to the "historical" page of the Bureau International des Expositions, Canada's previous expos do not exist.

Don't get me wrong. I do think it is great for Edmonton to be putting forth an honest and I'm sure creative effort into the bid. I don't like spending outside of the country visiting other Expos and such. But, there's not that much wrong with paying local people to work on ways of presenting our country and the City of Edmonton, showing off perhaps some of our lesser-known qualities to the world. The work should be done, however, with an eye towards making the materials re-usable in the future. Because I don't think there is much hope of Edmonton winning any international popularity contests in the near future.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Arctic Biodiversity Sympsium Nov. 18-19 at Canadian Nature Museum

One of main events of the International Year of Biodiversity 2010 in Canada will be the Arctic Biodiversity Symposium, to be held Nov. 18-19 at the Canadian Nature Museum in Ottawa.

The symposium, one of seven in Canada listed on the IYB 2010 site, will include presentations incorporating findings gathered during the International Polar Year 2007-2008.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ajkai Timfoldgyar Zrt

On Oct. 4, 2010, a holding reservoir at an aluminum plant in Hungary burst, flooding three villages with toxic sludge and threatening to contaminate the Danube River... ...the sludge poured out at the Ajkai Timfoldgyar Zrt aluminum plant, owned by MAL Zrt, after days of heavy rain... ...after just the first day of the disaster, over a million cubic meters of the toxic sludge had escaped.... ...Greenpeace stated this was one of the worst disasters in Europe in the past 30 years and Hungary declared a state of emergency in three counties.

The highly alkaline sludge is a byproduct of the aluminum industry. The red colour is caused by iron content, one of a multitude of elements in this chemical soup.

Co2 Art partner Tatiana Iliina has created an abstract painting to acknowledge this tragic event.  It is possible to purchase this painting on Tatiana Iliina's online store.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Canada: Our Time To Turtle - Globe and Mail Hits Multiculturalism with Yellow Journalism

According to the Globe and Mail, we are now a nation living in fear of immigrants' "barbaric practices" where tolerance is a myth.

I find this article totally off the mark and very carelessly written, to give it the benefit of the doubt.

For example, the paragraph that begins...

The prevailing fear was that multiculturalism would provide cover for barbaric practices, such as...

"Prevailing fear"? excuse me? I haven't noticed fear prevailing anywhere, either in the '90s or now. Other than fear emanating from purveyors of fear.

Sounds more like ad nauseum repetition of same old same old.

So because of 9-11 and some ridiculous mythical "prevailing fear" (give me a break - LOL) we are going to start rethinking multiculturalism?

No. It's just that xenophobia is a tried and true rallying point for the fearful and the bullies, and serves as a convenient magnet to attract certain people to a political position that is totally against their own best interests.

The only thing new here is that up until now it isn't what the Globe and Mail has been most noted for.

And, by the way, spare us the "Canada: Our Time to Lead" jingoistic appeal to the patriotic among us. Just because your Stephen Brunt did hit a clear and rather genuine patriotic note with most Canadians in a CTV piece half a year ago doesn't give you any right to surf with your awkward and illogically constructed gibberish on his coattails.

At that, a possibly even better description of Canada was found in a Ben Mulroney interview of Donald Sutherland which, interestingly, disappeared off the internet leaving scarcely a trace within a couple of days or even hours after its first appearance at the tail end of the Olympics. In it, Sutherland said Canada feeds the wolf of generosity and kindness...

No, tolerance is still not a myth in Canada. Tolerance, not fear, does prevail. However my tolerance for crappy journalism is coming to an end.

Land Grab Situation Out of Control

Is it a stampede, a gold rush, a swindle or massive exploitation? The plain fact is that no one knows what is going on with the land grab situation around the world.

Land grab transparency is a necessity. And Canada should be included as well. 

The World Bank issued a report in September, but according to, the WB got the basis of their information from Grain's own affiliate, and then spent months sending researcers out in the field to examine the information gleaned from the pages of

"The veil of secrecy that often surrounds these land deals must be lifted so poor people don't ultimately pay the heavy price of losing their land," World Bank Managing Director, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, declared upon releasing the study. 

But doesn't give the World Bank too much credit on that one:

It's true. And she could have started by making available to the public all of the contracts and investor-state agreements that the Bank's study team was able to access in the course of this research.

And over all, calls the World Bank report "Smoke and Mirrors".

Among other recent land grab factoids: New Zealand recently scuttled (at least tempoarily) a Chinese takeover of its largest Dairy farm after a huge public outcry. New Zealand is planning to tighten controls on foreign land purchases.

But New Zealand is hardly among the most vulnerable countries. Many poor or developing countries, whether run by tin-pot dictators or just plain and simply desperate for cash, are easily persuaded to part with land in exchange for cash.

A "World Agriculture Investment Conference" held in London in September offered the following seminar topics and themes, among others:

* Identify the best agriculture opportunities from across the globe: Region by region case studies showing you the premium agriculture investment opportunities in Eastern Europe, Asia, South America, North America, Africa and Australasia
* Take advantage of agriculture investment strategies: Expert tips on the different ways you can get exposure to agriculture markets and the pros and cons of each investment strategy
* How your peers evaluate agriculture investment opportunities: Discover what a key investment group considers to be the ideal agriculture investment opportunity for a solid portfolio
* The practical side of agriculture investments: Proven techniques for selecting the right operator to manage your agriculture investment and how best to overcome cultural barriers
* Implications of regional policy, law and regulation: Discuss and debate local policy issues and the technicalities of differing legal structures and tax mechanisms to improve your investment decision making

There is also an increase in investment funds and pension funds getting in on farmland investments in the U.S.

With global population on the rise and tens of millions more hungry people today than there were just a few years ago, it is very tempting to buy into the notion of corporate ownership and management being more productive perhaps in a sense. But this comes at what cost? Displaced peasants and farmers, huge tracts of fertile land funneled into corporate holdings and planted with cocao, coffee, genetically modified rice or corn, ethanol crops... might as well be jello trees.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Legault Gathering Forces for a "Coup de réflexion"

It says here that rumors are circulating to the effect that ex-PQ Education Minister and one-time leadership favourite, François Legault is preparing, along with others, to launch a ~movement of reflection~ of the political persuasion, sometime around the middle of October.

It says here that a proposal (recently rejected by PQ youth as well as many commentators) from Michael Fortier to hold a Quebec sovereignty referendum every 15 years on a fixed date came flyin' outa nowhere.

It says here (in the more familiar columns of Chantal Hébert) that said 15-year proposal originated somewhere in the general postal code of the Legault group.

It also says both in Hébert's column and in the Ecran Radar that the Legault group would fill a logical voter void, with Charest's Liberals down and all but out, and the PQ nevertheless unable to get much traction and PQ leader Pauline Marois barely more popular in polls than the beleaguered Charest.

It is speculated that the Legault group would be a right-leaning "rainbow" coalition bearing some resemblance to the Lucien Bouchard PCs.

Considering that Charest is also a former Mulroney-ite, it seems rather optimistic that there would be so much room in the centre-right in Quebec.

There's also speculation that a new third party tied in with Legault wouldn't have enough time to get organized prior to the next election, expected in about two years. So what is the plan? Try to swoop in after the next election and take over the Liberal's base?

And why is it that all the viable new parties in Quebec seem to come out of the right?

Pauline Marois Says PQ Would Demand Quebec Get 50% of Wealth from Shale Gas

The opposition Parti Quebecois has been insisting on a one-year moratorium on shale-gas drilling. Meanwhile, PQ chef Pauline Marois was telling youth delegates over the weekend that a PQ government would ensure that 50% of the wealth from the resource would come back to the province.

Easier to take things both ways when you're in opposition, eh!

Environmental hearings on the shale gas begin today in St. Hyacinthe, near Montreal. Critics charge that the hearings are restricted and will be dominated by industry promoters.

The PQ say that the Liberal government is too eager to embrace the new industry, having already issued 400 drilling permits, albeit only seven that have as yet resulted in exploratory holes being drilled.

Reports say that 11% of Quebec's energy consumption is natural gas and that it is all imported from western Canada or the U.S. and could likely be replaced by Quebec gas if the shale was developed. An estimated $200 million per year in extra revenue could go Quebec's way. Perhaps not to be sneezed at but hardly the "game changer" that has been touted.

Extraction of the shale gas requires horizontal drilling and bombardment of the shale with sand, water and chemicals to break the rock and release the gas. The process is in place in the U.S. in thousands of wells, however widespread complaints include reports of gas getting into the water supplies, and people lighting their water on fire. New York State has imposed a temporary moratorium.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Horse Power - "At the Service of Sustainable Development"

Is it a wave of nostalgia or a wave of what the future holds in store? Or is it just a fleeting rendez-vous with an old flame? In 60 or more towns and cities in France and elsewhere throughout Europe, garbage and recycling trucks are being replaced by horse-drawn wagons.

Collecte hippomobile
envoyé par sudotone. - Découvrez les dernières tendances en vidéo.

One of the reasons why horse-drawn routes are feasible in some of these towns and villages is that there are many streets that are almost impossible to navigate with a truck. Obviously, this would not be a factor in North America, so you really wonder about how this kind of a system could be competitive with the massive recycling trucks that pick up the huge blue boxes in which the contents doesn't even need to be pre-sorted. It's a far cry from the horse and wagon in the video, picking up a couple of empty wine bottles at each stop and still taking two employees plus the horse.   

Even the venerable European Draft Horse Federation isn't super optimistic, its president suggesting that draft horses aren't an economically viable substitute for combustion engines except in cases where motorized vehicles are for some reason unavailable.

The mayor of a town in Sicily, Castelbuono, which has also been experimenting with four-legged power, would beg to differ.

"Compared with €5,000–7,000 annual running costs for a diesel truck, an ass costs €1,000–1,500 and can live 25-30 years. A truck costs around €25,000, lasts around five years and can't reproduce," says the mayor, whose four asinelli have now produced 25 offspring, so he won't even be buying any more.

Equiterra, a French organization that promotes the use of work horses for all sorts of purposes from plowing fields to transportation, offers summer schools in using work horses and has an optimistic view of the potential going forward.

Another use I would see as possibly compatible in some parts of North America would be as a vehicle to pull landscaping crews and equipment around. Especially if it were a green landscaping service, with a cartload of manual equipment instead of the proverbial over-sized pick-up loaded with lawnmowers, leaf blowers and high-powered whipper snippers.

Then again, without delving into it too deeply, one would presume that a cycle-powered alternative would work as well as work horses in many situations. The horse would perhaps have an advantage in colder or wet weather and certain other circumstances.

Not to mention... portable fertilizer production!