Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Rabaska and Energy Requirements, Past and Present

The sun rose at 7:27 this morning, and I think the cereal I ate on the back porch will probably be my last breakfast outside this season: I was shivering so much I could barely hold the spoon. Despite near-record high temperatures on the weekend, the season seems to have changed definitively.

It’s about time, which brings up two points. The first is the recurrent one of climate change: this is the latest I’ve been able to breakfast while looking at my garden, and north of Montreal no killing frost has yet arrived even though it’s 18 days past the average date.

The second is the question of how we’re going to get out of this climate change mess. This morning’s
Le Devoir has an interesting story about a study done by Patrick Déry, a consultant for two environmental groups in the Saguenay region. He says that past experience in Canada, Quebec, Germany and elsewhere suggests that increasing the supply of natural gas will not, in itself, bring about a greenhouse gas-fighting shift to it from the more-polluting heating oil. There may be a relative change on a short term basis, but if the supply increases the only result will be an overall increase in fuel consumption. Better to regulate what fuel is used, to provide incentives—as the Germans have done —to shift toward green energy sources, and to cut back consumption tout court.

This of course is not what the current Quebec provincial government wants to hear as it prepares to give the final green light to a liquid natural gas port at Lévis, down river from Quebec City. The Rabaska project has friends in very high places, notes L
e Devoir’s Louis-Gilles Francoeur, even though to build it may require abrogating Quebec’s laws protecting agricultural lands from acquisition by foreigners: the Rabaska consortium includes Gaz de France.

The irony, of course, is that Rabaska originally was a large canoe used by First Nations around here, and later by the voyageurs when the energy expended all came from muscle power. Those guys didn't eat Cheerios for breakfast...

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