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A Couple of Ideas About Environmental and Rural Policy

Posted on December 15, 2011

On a recent Blog post by Kirsty Duncan MP, she asks us to share our views on how Canada can lead again on the environment.

I thought I would put my thoughts to a blog of our own and discuss a couple of ideas that I have had that span rural, energy and environmental policies that the Liberal Party of Canada could support.

I think there is a dichotomy between our energy policy and our environmental policy. Most rural people see themselves simply as the source for energy and urban centres as the primary need for energy. An upgrade to the electrical transmission system (or an upgrade to pipelines) would help in relaying the energy between the source and the sink.

However, I would like to see energy projects located nearer to where the population is located, but our choices of technology currently are limited.

Photo Credit: Air Products

One technology that I haven’t heard of locally is the conversion of waste generated by the urban centres, such as converting sewer gas and landfill methane, into hydrogen and electricity.

This is being done on a grand scale in Orange County California where their waste water treatment plant has been fitted with a tri-generation plant, converting sewage into hydrogen, electricity and heat:

We should be considering converting waste into energy that is nearer the population, and thus nearer to the usage of that energy. I would like to see these biogas converters for all landfills, as well as large livestock operations.

This would be helping our energy policy, as well as helping our environmental policy…

I am seeing a bit of push-back that is deepening the rural-urban divide because of the NIMBY syndrome pushing these energy projects into the rural areas (without any input to their locations in some cases), where they will not be the main users. This is increasing rural animosity of the urban areas.

All municipalities should be doing everything to reclaim their waste into energy that can be kept locally.

Bare minimum, they should be using reclaimed bio-fuels to fuel public transportation and supporting heating and cooling of their public buildings.

This only makes environmental and economic sense.

Fully funding the Green Municipal Fund is a great step in this direction.

If we are looking for a ‘grand project’ that the whole country could support, converting our waste into energy is one I would definitely support.

Another rural idea, that is also an environmental idea:
Another project I would like to see expanded is the Environmental Farm Planning Initiative.

During the election, we held a farm round-table discussion on what programs work and what what programs didn’t. One that stuck out in my mind is the defunding by the federal government of the Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) program even though it was considered to be highly successful.

EFP’s are assessments voluntarily prepared by farm families to increase their environmental awareness in up to 23 different areas on their farm. Through the EFP local workshop process, farmers highlight their farm’s environmental strengths, identify areas of environmental concern, and set realistic action plans with time tables to improve environmental conditions. Environmental cost-share programs were available to assist in implementing projects.

With over 35,000 participants since the program began in 1993, this internationally recognized program has been very successful in helping farmers adopt more environmentally sustainable practices and allowed for funding of these projects.

As of March 2009, cost-sharing funding has been stripped from this highly successful program and no further applications are being taken.

I would like to see the EFP program expanded to not only farmers, but all land owners (over a certain acreage). I am sure the environment is a concern for all land-owners and our government should support all local projects that help the protection of that land, and the environment.

The EFP’s can be used for rural land owners similar to how the Green Municipal Fund is used for cities, only on a smaller scale.

What do you think?
Join the conversation below…

Gary Martin

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  1. Richard said on

    I agree with much you say. Especially, rural verses urban, creating energy close to the need.
    Which makes rural solar and wind power seem senseless.

    But, I am not sure the Ontario model of “letting the free market ” decide, without municipality input, was a good policy. Having spotty solar panels, all over the rural landscape, seems to me, an inefficient way of producing power, especially when the creator of the power has to sell it and than, be required to buy it back.
    Windmill installations, which bring, there very real issues, for everyone, should not of been left to the free market, to install anywhere they wished, based, solely on their ability to fund the project.

    The absence, of an overall vision, is my main concern. You referral to various programs that functioned well, points to, that government intervention, is maybe a good thing, as long as the government has an overall plan to create the power required to run the “system”. The Ontario model seems so hap, hazard, in its design. Maybe the government has a master plan somewhere, but it is not evident, they do.

    1/ Nuclear power is our back up system. The back bone to the energy system. Designs are coming on line, that the nuclear system can vary their output to take some of the highs and lows out of the system. This is good for the expansion of solar, wind projects, other energy sources.
    But we should be trying to minimize the use of nuclear power as much as possible because of the “waste” by product. That’s where bio digesters could make a big dent. They do have the ability to produce power
    24/7. I don’t see the Japanese solution, of creating huge battery storage systems, as a “market” solution to a continuous power supply.

    2/ I agree with your suggestions of producing power from waste, but here again, we are not using an overall plan to get efficiencies. To many small plants, doing there own thing, with little consideration, on how to minimize “society ” problems. For example, ethane plants using up good food products to create energy, meanwhile, tons of food waste, non-consumable fibrous material, going to land fill or composed, creating methane gas into the environment.
    There are farm operations with government grants, creating power from animal waste, but sewage isn’t.
    Bio-sludge from sewage plants is being spread on fields, with much concern, if it, is even safe. But if it was mixed with, animal waste and plant compost, which had been run through a methane gas plant, the end product would be diluted, to such an extent, the ratio of heavy metals to tonnage would be much lower. Plus we gain all that energy.

    3/ There are acres and acres of large factory roofs, that could be collecting solar power. In my opinion all new factories and in 10 years, all factories, should be power neutral, to being, net producer to the power grid. These plants should be, their own self sufficient power source, using solar, wind and any other technology that gets them to be neutral.
    Larger users of water should be required to minimize there “load” on the “system” by collecting, re-claiming used water. The technolgy is there, government has to push the regulations forward.

    4/ The glass industry has the technology to gather power from these huge glass towers. The GTA could run their power needs from all those glass towers. The retro fit of existing towers would be to expensive but new towers should be encouraged to go down that road.

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