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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Canada's Stimulus

Air Date: Week of February 20, 2009

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Our northern neighbors have a stimulus package of their own. The 27 billion dollar Economic Action Plan also includes green initiatives. Michael Moore, senior fellow at the Institute of Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy at the University of Calgary has the specifics.

Transcript

GELLERMAN: President Obama’s first foreign trip was to Canada, The United States’ leading supplier of crude oil, most of it from polluting tar sands.

Canada has its own money problems, and a 27 billion dollar stimulus package that includes a green lining for the nation’s economic cloud.

To find out how green we turned to Michael Moore. He’s a senior fellow at the Institute of Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy at the University of Calgary.

MOORE: The most significant piece of the package is a billion and a half dollars for clean air and climate change initiatives and about four billion dollars spread over two years for so-called infrastructure stimulus, which we hope will include new transmission facilities. In addition, they’re adding up three hundred million dollars for home retrofits and energy efficiency and a significant amount of money – almost a billion dollars – for nuclear support throughout the various provinces that might be interested in it, including Alberta.

GELLERMAN: So the backing of nuclear power suggests that they consider that green?

MOORE: They consider it to be an alternative to the hydrocarbon-intense uses that we’ve had up here in the past. And it’s certainly intended in terms of the rhetoric to be a diminishment of some of the carbon dioxide generation that is represented by the existing fleet.

GELLERMAN: One of the largest single chunks of money – a billion dollars – is going for carbon capture, but that’s a totally unproven technology.

MOORE: The only real example we’ve got where it’s working in North America is in Wayburn in South Saskatchewan. But we’re convinced, at least in the laboratories here in Canada, that there is an opportunity to do it efficiently and cost effectively if we can find the storage sites that are close enough to the existing power plants where the majority of carbon’s being generated. We know, theoretically, that it works, we just don’t have large scale practical demonstrations of it yet.

GELLERMAN: Canada has vast oil sand reserves. Is there money in this stimulus package to support the oil sand industry?

MOORE: Not directly. There is certainly a great hit occurring in the oil sands right now, because of the lowered price and certainly a shift in the demand curve by consumers, but those resources are controlled by the province. The federal government doesn’t have much to do with that industry, at least under current circumstances.

GELLERMAN: What about renewable energy projects? Is there money in this package for supporting them?

MOORE: There’s not much money for renewable energy. In fact, the renewable support packages have dropped basically to zero in the current budget. We’re hopeful that that will turn around. There’s some evidence of that in the form of a grant that’s coming to the Geologic Survey of Canada that is going to provide some money for deep geothermal mapping. But right now the only other really attractive renewable industry that has enjoyed some support, the wind industry, has seen the equivalent of the production tax credit dropped just about to zero. It would appear that the federal government at this point just doesn’t see the value of the renewable contribution. Green industries are under-valued, in part because their capital costs are still high, but the full range of the benefits they provide are not added into the equation.

GELLERMAN: Professor Moore, I want to thank you very much.

MOORE: My pleasure.

GELLERMAN: Michael Moore is a senior fellow at the Institute of Sustainable Energy, Environment, and Economy at the University of Calgary.

 

Links

For more on Canada’s stimulus plan, click here

 

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