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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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