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7 things everyone knows about energy that just ain’t so (2013 Edition)

7 things everyone knows about energy that just ain’t so (2013 Edition).

by Kurt Cobb, originally published by Resource Insights  | TODAY

Mark Twain once said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” And, there are many, many things that the public and policymakers know for sure about energy that just ain’t so.

That list is very long indeed and getting longer as the fossil fuel industry (which has little interest in intellectual honesty) continues its skillful manipulation of a gullible and sometimes careless media.

Pinocchio in a parade http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1916MomusPinocchio.jpg

Below I’ve listed seven whoppers that it would be charitable to call misleading. Longtime readers will recognize that I’ve addressed them before in various pieces. But I thought that it would be useful to review the worst of the worst of 2013 as the year ends.

Here are seven things everyone knows about energy that just ain’t so:

1. Worldwide oil production has been growing by leaps and bounds in the last several years. Oil companies (with governments following suit) have cleverly redefined oil to include something called natural gas plant liquids (NGPLs) that you might surmise actually come from natural gas wells. These include propane, butane, ethane, and pentanes. The new definition also includes biofuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.

This mishmash is sometimes referred to as “total liquids,” but more often “total oil supply.” This redefinition, however, depends on something that just ain’t so, namely, that NGPLs and biofuels are 100 percent interchangeable with oil. There is some interchangeability, but the volume is relatively small. NGPLs make up just 10 percent of total liquids. I’ve seen investment research that asserts that probably less than one-fifth of that (equivalent to about 2 percent of total liquids) can be directly substituted for oil, primarily in petrochemical refineries. That portion could grow, but only with extensive and costly retooling of the refinery industry, a move that seems risky with U.S. natural gas production stalled (see below).

Now, the central problem with including NGPLs as part of the oil supply remains that they have only a very limited ability to be used as transportation fuel which is the main driver for oil consumption.

Moreover, the energy content of NGPLs is around 65 percent of oil per unit of volume. Ethanol has about 66 percent of oil’s energy, and biodiesel has slightly more than crude oil, but somewhat less than the diesel it is meant to replace. We must also consider all the energy including oil that goes into growing, harvesting, transporting and processing the crops that are feedstocks for biofuel refineries. Some studies show that more energy goes into making ethanol than ethanol produces when burned in an engine.

Despite these well-known facts, the industry and government continue to count NGPLs and biofuels in barrels right alongside oil as if they were all equivalent.

Ethanol and biodiesel do directly substitute for some motor fuels. But there are upper limits on what we can produce and use. We are near those limits with ethanol unless engines change to tolerate higher concentrations of ethanol. Moreover, neither ethanol nor biodiesel can be used for the wide variety of purposes that crude oil can.

It turns out that 2005 was an inflection point after which supply growth for both total liquids and oil proper slowed considerably. With all this in mind, let’s look at the actual numbers which come from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

 Total Liquids:

 Growth from 1998 to 2005: 11.7 percent

 Growth from 2005 to 2012: 5.7 percent

 Oil Proper (Crude Oil Plus Lease Condensate):

 Growth from 1998 to 2005: 9.9 percent

 Growth from 2005 to 2012: 2.7 percent

You can see that the real oil supply (crude oil plus lease condensate) has been growing at just over one-quarter the pace it did in the previous seven years–even with record prices, record investment and the wide deployment of new extraction technologies. Slowing growth coupled with skyrocketing demand in places such as China and India has put a lot of upward pressure on oil prices. It’s one reason oil prices remain near record highs based on the average daily price of Brent Crude, the world benchmark.

In 2011 the average daily Brent Crude price was a record $111.26—which was followed by another record in 2012 of $111.63. The price in 2013 through December 26 has averaged $108.52.

2. U.S. natural gas production continues to grow by leaps and bounds.This claim is even more misleading than the first one. It’s true that natural gas production has grown in the United States in recent years due to the exploitation of gas trapped in deep shale deposits, deposits that new technology called hydraulic fracturing is now making accessible.

But, it turns out that the rate of production of these wells declines rapidly, and the numbers suggest that raising the overall U.S. rate of production is going to be very difficult and expensive. In fact, since January 2012, monthly U.S. marketed natural gas volumes have been nearly flat despite a more than doubling of natural gas prices from their April 2012 lows. The average monthly volume in 2012 was 2.11 trillion cubic feet (tcf). For 2013 the data are only available through September, but the average through that month was 2.12 tcf. It’s doubtful that the average will change that much when the final three months of the year are included.

The easy shale gas has been extracted. Now comes the hard stuff. We may already be on the shale gas treadmill.

3. There is enough natural gas under the United States to last the country for 100 years. This claim requires that you first do bad math on the numbers even the perpetrators of this falsehood provide. The number turns out to be 90 years using their figures and 2010 U.S. natural gas consumption (while assuming, improbably so, no growth in U.S. natural gas use for the next 90 years).

But even that number vastly overstates what we are likely to get out of the ground for it includes estimates of probable, possible and speculative technically recoverable resources. Now, just because something is judged to be technically recoverable does not mean it will be economically recoverable. And, if it is further labelled possible or speculative, it seems foolish to base our public policy on such resources as if they were proven to exist and were ready to extract.

Shale gas expert Art Berman suggests we focus on the probable resources category and assume generously that 50 percent of those resources will actually get turned into reserves. (Keep in mind that no resource is ever exploited to 100 percent and usually only to a fraction of that. Also, resources are what are thought to be in the ground based on sketchy evidence, while reserves are what the drill bit proves are actually there and, more importantly, amenable to extraction.) Based on these assumptions, the United States has about 550 tcf feet of probable and proven reserves which means that the country has a likely supply of about 23 years (again, assuming, improbably so, no increase in the rate of consumption during the entire period).

Since Berman made those calculations, some of the probable resources have moved into the reserves category. But, the outlook has not really changed because this was expected.

4. The United States is about to become the world’s largest oil producer. This claim depends on the same sleight-of-hand being used to inflate worldwide oil production numbers as noted above: the inclusion of NGPLs and biofuels in the production numbers. The United States has been furiously drilling natural gas wells in the last few years and has increased its supply of NGPLs greatly. The production of crude oil proper has also been growing for essentially the same reason natural gas production grew: the deployment of hydraulic fracturing techniques and horizontal drilling to extract previously inaccessible deposits of so-called tight oil.

The results have been impressive, lifting U.S. production of crude oil proper (crude oil plus lease condensate) from 5.2 million barrels per day (mbpd) in 2005 to 6.5 mbpd in 2012. The latest available monthly production results are for September 2013 and put U.S. crude oil production at 7.8 mbpd.

But, it seems unlikely given the very steep production declines that existing tight oil wells experience–about 40 percent per year–that production will be able to scale that of the world’s number one and number two oil producers.

Russia currently produces 9.9 mbpd of crude oil proper. Saudi Arabia produces 9.8 mbpd. Both numbers come from the EIA.

Could the United States produce more crude oil proper than these countries in the near future? Since we cannot know the future, anything is possible. But, consider that the United States has gotten most of the easy tight oil. Now, it must begin to rely on extraction of the hard-to-get oil. That oil will come out at a slower rate.

Meanwhile, the tight oil wells already drilled will continue to decline at colossal rates and their output will have to be replaced before any increase in production is possible. Trying to increase oil production under these circumstances can be likened to running up a down escalator since the declining production of existing wells cancels out much of the production from newly drilled wells.

If the United States were to attain the number one spot some day, it would be hard to maintain given the high production decline rates cited above.

5. The United States is on the verge of energy independence. This canard takes advantage of the lack of public awareness about U.S. energy resources. The country has long been self-sufficient in coal. This has never been an issue. It has also been nearly self-sufficient in natural gas, importing a little over 15 percent of its needs (almost all of it from Canada) from 1991 through 2011 according to the EIA. That percentage has trended down recently as U.S. production has increased. But the U.S. supply of imported natural gas was never in danger due to political disruptions or wars in faraway unfriendly countries.

So, it turns out that energy independence really means oil independence. On this count the country is still very far away from independence despite recent gains in domestic oil production. For the most recent week ending December 20, the United States’ net crude oil imports were 7.5 mbpd. The country would have to nearly double its rate of domestic crude oil production to meet its current consumption needs. That seems very unlikely given the production dynamics discussed above for tight oil which is where nearly all the growth in production is currently taking place.

6. The United States has 250 years of coal left. This claim keeps getting recycled even though a 2007 National Academy of Sciences study concluded that there was no basis for making such a claim. It suggested that the United States might have 100 years of coal left (assuming, improbably so, there would be absolutely no increase in the rate of consumption over that period). But, the report concluded that no comprehensive study of U.S. coal resources was currently available. The truth is nobody knows how much coal is left in the United States, nor how much of that might actually be accessible.

7. Peak oil is a myth. Peak oil is the idea that oil production inevitably reaches a maximum rate and thereafter begins an irreversible decline. It does NOT mean running out, but rather that production declines over time. It turns out that peak oil is actually an empirically demonstrated reality for every oil well, every mature oil field, and now for the majority of oil producing countries in the world. Those who tell us that peak oil is a myth can only be engaged in propaganda rather than a search for the truth. Ironically, many of them cite the upturn in U.S. production as “proof” that peak oil is a myth, forgetting that U.S. production peaked more than 40 years ago.

Oil is a finite resource and so, the real debate is over the timing of peak oil production for the world as a whole. Some say the peak is nearby. Others say it is two or three decades away. But no credible expert says that there will never be a peak.

The cases for and against a near-term peak would be difficult to relate in detail here. But, it’s worth noting that the optimists have been consistently wrong about prices and supplies in the last decade, and those predicting a near-term peak have been much closer to the mark.

That doesn’t mean that the peak must be nearby. But it suggests that the models and assumptions of the optimists are badly flawed.

There are so many other misconceptions about energy which remain that it would take a dozen seven-item lists just to begin to address them. But, I offer these seven as a starting point for a clearer and more honest discussion of our energy future in the coming year.

 

2013 in Review: The Worrying Trend of Internet Shutdowns | Electronic Frontier Foundation

2013 in Review: The Worrying Trend of Internet Shutdowns | Electronic Frontier Foundation.

2013 in ReviewAs the year draws to a close, EFF is looking back at the major trends influencing digital rights in 2013 and discussing where we are in the fight for free expression, innovation, fair use, and privacy. Click here to read other blog posts in this series.

Prior to January 2011, national or regional Internet “blackouts” were mostly unheard of.  Although the Maldives,NepalBurma, and China all preceded Egypt with this innovation, it was the shutdown initiated by former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak that set a new precedent and garnered global media coverage.  Since then, SyriaLibya, and even San Francisco’s BART police have “pulled a Mubarak.”

But in 2013, Internet blackouts became de rigeur for embattled governments: In August,Burma experienced a week of disruptions, the cause of which remains unclear. In Egypt’s North Sinai region, telephone and Internet networks were—according to a report from Mada Masr—intermittently shut down in September in the midst of military operations targeting militants there. In Sudan, where a brutal government crackdown in September on protests over fuel subsidy cuts resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people, authorities cut off Internet accessin an apparent bid to stop the demonstrations. In October, Renesys reported that the Iraqi government had tried but failed to shut down the Internet. And more recently, Renesys spotted a 45-minute national outage from North Korea, for which the source was unclear.

The Syrian Internet has seen numerous outages throughout the year, some of which appear to be politically motivated and others of which may be structural.  In October, Aleppo was without Internet for 17.5 hours, while in early December, the entire country’s Internet went down for a few hours.

Politically-motivated Internet outages are certainly trending. For governments, they pose an all-too-tempting way of stifling speech and keeping order during periods of protest or unrest, but as the BART telecommunications shutdown in San Francisco demonstrated, they can also prevent urgent communications from getting through and therefore may not be worth the risks they pose, even to the most despotic of regimes.

This article is part of our 2013 Year in Review series; read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2013.

 

Does Canada’s stance on climate change constitute moral negligence?

Does Canada’s stance on climate change constitute moral negligence?.

How could the media report, with apparent pride, Canada’s military and civil contributions to humanitarian rescue efforts in the Philippines while ignoring our nation’s commitment to ensuring that present disasters are mere prelude to greater future catastrophe?


Tifón Haiyan-Yolanda en Filipinas (Erik de Castro – Reuters) – mansunides/flickrcreative commons

A brief to the CBC and select Members of Parliament
It was several days before media reports and commentary on the havoc caused by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines finally began to acknowledge a possible connection to anthropogenic climate change. While no single hyper-storm can be positively attributed to human disruption of the global climate system, climate models predict that extreme weather events will increase in frequency and violence. Unprecedented natural maelstroms like Haiyan provide empirical evidence that the models are likely correct.
What continues to be almost entirely missing from media analysis is Canada’s role in all this, particularly the moral dimensions of the nation’s current economic development policies and those of several provinces (e.g., BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland).  The facts are that:
1) on a per capita basis, historically and at present, Canada stands among the world’s top greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters particularly of carbon dioxide (CO2). Canadians are therefore as responsible as anyone else on Earth for human-induced global warming. (To argue that as a nation our emissions are only 2-3% of the global total is specious, essentially a form of denial);
2) the Federal government and several provinces have hitched their economic wagons largely to petroleum, natural gas and coal development/exports. In short, the nation’s economic future is tied, as a matter of deliberate policy, to the country becoming a major exporter of potentially catastrophic climate change. (To argue that Canada’s shale gas and tar-sands crude is greener or more ‘ethical’ than the alternatives is laughably ludricrous.)
This is an extraordinary state of affairs—would a thoughtful, well-informed, morally responsible people intentionally commit to an economic development path that will almost certainly contribute to accelerating climate disruption, global food shortages, ecological violence against the chronically impoverished, the physical displacement of hundreds of millions (billions?) of innocent people and generalized geopolitical chaos, possibly within their own lifetimes? (All of these things have been identified as likely outcomes of current trends in numerous graphic reports prepared by various high-level institutions ranging from national security think-tanks to the World Bank.) ;It is the more extraordinary because viable alternative economic development strategies are possible.
In this light, is it not time that we had a nation-wide adult conversation about just what is going on here? How could the media report, with apparent pride, Canada’s military and civil contributions to humanitarian rescue efforts in the Philippines while ignoring our nation’s commitment to ensuring that present disasters are mere prelude to greater future catastrophe? To remain in denial about Canada’s contribution to climate change constitutes silent defence of economic policies that will permanently disrupt natural systems, injure or kill millions of people, and undermine prospects for global civilization.
Canadian common law provides useful guidance in thinking this conundrum through. One may be found environmentally negligent as a result of unreasonable conduct that results in ecologically significant damage to another’s property or person. The law defines “unreasonable conduct” as doing something that a prudent or reasonable person would not do, or failing to do something that a reasonable person would do.  Fault may be found even in the case of unintended harm if it stems from unreasonable conduct.
The Criminal Code (Section 219) is even clearer that lack of intent to harm is no defence if the damage results from conscious acts performed in careless disregard for others: “Everyone is criminally negligent who (a) in doing anything, or (b) in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons” (where “duty” means a duty imposed by law). Indeed, “a person commits homicide when, directly or indirectly, by any means, he causes the death of a human being, by being negligent”. The fact that Canada is not the only offending nation would be no defence. All participating members are guilty of crimes committed by a criminal gang.
Of course, Canadian law does not apply in the international arena and, in the absence of a corresponding negligence framework, international law imposes no legal duty to act responsibly. That said, there is no prima facie reason why the behavioural standards we impose on ourselves as global citizens should not be as rigorous as those we accept at home under domestic law.
If human-induced climate change is the cause of death and destruction, is not Canada’s failure to reduce its CO2 emissions at least morally negligent? Does not the conscious pursuit of economic policies that actually exacerbate climate change display “wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons”, particularly so if alternative paths are available?
Point: Canada’s stance on climate change arguably constitutes gross moral negligence. In light of global change, our current economic development model is fatally flawed. The nation deserves a rigorous public discussion of both these issues in Parliament and in the national media. Without such debate, we cannot act like the thoughtful, well-informed, morally responsible people we hope to be.

Reference

1. For example, Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies argues that even a 2.5 Celsius degree warming could produce massive nonlinear events in the ecosphere that would give rise to massive nonlinear events in society. [Note that te are currently headed toward a four C° increase in global mean temperature.] “The flooding of coastal communities around the world, …has the potential to challenge regional and even national identities. The internal cohesion of nations will be under great stress, …as a result of a dramatic rise in migration and changes in agricultural patterns and water availability. Armed conflict between nations over resources, …is likely and nuclear war is possible…” (CSIS 2007). One co-author remarked at a press conference that rich countries could go through “a 30-year process of kicking people away from the lifeboat as the world’s poorest face the worst environmental consequences.”
CSIS. 2007. The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Climate Change. Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington.

 

Implementing the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe | Neptis Foundation

Implementing the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe | Neptis Foundation.

Implementing the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe
Has the strategic regional vision been compromised
Author(s): Rian Allen and Philippa Campsie
October 2013
  • Built boundary and settlement area boundary
  • Amount of land designated for development, by single- and upper-tier municipality
  • Forecast growth and land planned to be urbanized, 2001-2031

Executive Summary

In 2004, an Ontario Government discussion paper raised the alarm about the consequences of the low-density outward growth that had characterized the 1980s and 1990s in the region surrounding Toronto:

If we continue to consume land for urban development at the rate we have been for the past three decades, we will jeopardize the financial, social and environmental factors that make the region so attractive to new residents and new economic growth. Business-as-usual development will consume 1,000 sq km of primarily agricultural land by 2031, an area twice the size of Toronto.[1]              

In 2006, the government introduced Places to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe to change the pattern of development in one of the fastest-growing metropolitan regions in North America. Many studies had shown that the low-density, car-oriented development that prevailed in the 1980s and 1990s would, if continued, lead to worsening traffic congestion, a widening infrastructure deficit, increasing environmental degradation, the loss of high-quality farmland, and other negative consequences. The policies of the Growth Plan were meant to prevent or mitigate these outcomes.

This study, the first comprehensive review of the Plan and its outcomes to date, paints a picture of an innovative, award-winning plan under pressure and behind schedule. There are also questions about whether the many exceptions made to the provisions of the Plan, the lack of consistent methods in municipal land budgeting, and uncoordinated implementation will, in the end, achieve the Province’s original regional vision. Are there lessons to be learned from the adoption of the Growth Plan to date that can inform the ten-year review of the Plan due to take place in 2016?

KEY QUESTIONS AND FINDINGS

What did the research focus on?

When the Growth Plan became law in 2006, municipalities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe were required to bring their official plans (the policy documents that shape and control local development) into conformity with the policies, forecasts, and targets in the Growth Plan. Neptis researchers studied these official plans, focusing on the adoption of three key elements of the Growth Plan:

Allocation of population forecasts: The Plan forecast growth in population and employment in the region to 2031 and allocated that growth to the 21 upper- and single-tier municipalities up to 2031; Amendment No. 2 extends those forecasts to 2041.

Minimum intensification targets: The Growth Plan requires that by 2015, 40% of all new residential development occurring annually must be located within existing built-up areas; some exceptions to this requirement are allowed.

Designated Greenfield Area minimum density targets: The Growth Plan requires that future development on currently undeveloped land be planned to achieve a minimum density of 50 persons and jobs per hectare combined by 2031. The density is to be determined at the level of single- and upper-tier municipalities. Again, the Plan allows for some exceptions to this requirement.

How much land has been set aside to accommodate growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe up to 2031 and how does that compare with what the government previously warned would be lost to urbanization?

The report provides the first complete calculation of how much land will be urbanized throughout the region by 2031. Neptis researchers found that little has changed as far as land consumption goes since the government carried out its original studies for the Growth Plan. That is, about 436,900 hectares will be urbanized across the Greater Golden Horseshoe by 2031. This number includes 329,800 hectares that were already urbanized when the Plan was adopted. Before 2006, about 88,000 hectares of land had been designated for further urbanization. As municipalities updated their official plans to conform to the Growth Plan, an additional 19,100 hectares of land were designated for urban expansion. Together the amount of land available for new development totals 107,100 hectares or 1,071 square kilometres. This is slightly more than the amount of land mentioned in the government’s own call to action in 2004.

Are municipalities meeting the targets set by the provincial government to promote compact growth and complete communities? Are these targets being translated into meaningful change in the way municipalities plan for growth?

Most municipalities have adopted the “minimum” targets of the Plan: an intensification target of 40% and a greenfield area density target of 50 people and jobs combined per hectare for undeveloped lands. Only two municipalities plan to exceed these “minimums” and many have been permitted to use even lower targets.

In other words, most municipalities and the Province itself are treating the “minimum” targets as maximum requirements. Many municipalities have set targets below the stated “minimum.”

Thus while some municipalities are following the requirements of the Growth Plan to promote intensification and denser development, others do not appear to be making significant changes in the way they plan for growth. Since the Plan includes neither incentives for municipalities to go beyond the minimum targets, nor penalties for those that fall short, this finding should not be surprising.

Moreover, the Plan delegates key implementation decisions to upper-tier municipalities, creating inconsistencies in the way they allocate growth and plan for infrastructure. Given the lack of clear guidelines on how municipalities should implement the Plan’s policies and battles over the language of the Plan at the Ontario Municipal Board, the adoption of the Growth Plan has produced a patchwork of different approaches to growth management across the region.

Although some variation in approaches is expected and necessary, given the diversity of municipalities in the region, there is no evidence that the observed variations relate to local needs. For example, intensification rates are lower for some larger more urbanized communities and higher for smaller, more rural communities.

Where is growth (new people and jobs) being allocated in the GGH and how does this allocation affect land consumption across the region?

A more troubling finding emerged when Neptis researchers looked at the way growth is distributed between municipalities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (known as the Inner Ring in the Growth Plan) and the remainder of the region (the Outer Ring).

The Neptis calculations show that nearly half of the land designated for urbanization across the Greater Golden Horseshoe is in the Outer Ring, outside the Greenbelt, even though the Outer Ring is expected to attract only one-third as many new residents and one-quarter as many jobs as the Inner Ring. What this means is that the Outer Ring municipalities, many of which do not offer transportation alternatives to the private automobile and do not have well-developed water, sewer, and other infrastructure, will be permitted to recreate the kind of low-density, car-oriented development patterns that have led to problems in the Inner Ring.

This outcome stems from the fact that the Growth Plan’s growth forecasts did not depart from prevailing historic trends in the distribution of total population and employment between the Inner and Outer Rings. (The Growth Plan does not directly allocate land for growth, but allocates population and employment forecasts to municipalities, which then translate those forecasts into land needs.) The forecasts did not direct growth away from the rural areas beyond the Greenbelt and towards the more heavily urbanized areas in the Inner Ring. Rather, the Growth Plan is allowing growth to continue outwards, at low densities, to the less urbanized parts of the region beyond the Greenbelt.

There is also the question of the Rural Settlement Areas, which requires further study. These 403 small villages and hamlets are located throughout the region, and include a total of 48,000 hectares on which development may take place. Little is known at present about how much of this total area is serviced and how much is already developed. While not intended to be a focus of development, Rural Settlement Areas will accommodate some growth, but it is not clear how this growth will be managed.

Is the region “running out of land for development”?

In a word, no. Since the Growth Plan and Greenbelt Plan were established, representatives of the development industry have argued that the Growth Plan has constrained the land supply and forced up housing costs. The 107,100 hectares set aside to accommodate the forecast increase in population (estimated at 3.7 million people by 2031), shows that in fact, sufficient land has been set aside to accommodate population and employment at average densities similar to those that are typical today. If those densities were to increase, the current land supply would last even longer.

This finding has implications for the fate of the “Whitebelt” – the unofficial term for the land between the outer edge of the planned urbanized area around Lake Ontario and the inner edge of the Greenbelt. The Whitebelt consists of almost 46,000 hectares at present, most of which is located in the regional municipalities surrounding the City of Toronto. Although some observers have argued that this area should be made available for urban development immediately, the findings show that it would be premature to release any additional land for development before the 2016 review of the Plan.

Is the Growth Plan “working”?

Since the Growth Plan is not fully in place, it would be premature to speculate on its ultimate effects on development patterns. However, at this point we can say that it has been undermined before it even has a chance to make an impact.

In its five-year (2011) review of the Growth Plan, the Province stated, “Computer modelling indicates that the Growth Plan will help to curb sprawl. Comparing two future scenarios – one that assumes that the Growth Plan will be fully implementedand one that does not take the Growth Plan into account – suggests that the Growth Plan could help to conserve as much as 800 square kilometres of agricultural and rural land by 2031”[2] (emphasis added).

But the Growth Plan is not being fully implemented. Many municipalities (more than half of those in the Outer Ring, for example) are not intending to achieve 40% intensification or to accommodate 50 people and jobs per hectare in new developments. Certainly the Plan is not working in the sense that it has not protected the amount of agricultural and rural land that the government stated that it would like to conserve.

Looking ahead

The Province is required to undertake a review of the Growth Plan in 2016, the tenth anniversary of the Plan’s establishment. It is hoped that the conclusions in this Report will alert the Province and the upper-tier municipalities that there is still considerable work to be done to establish effective growth management in the region and avoid the negative consequences of dispersed, low-density development patterns.

In particular, the findings support the conclusion that more than simply land use regulation is needed to manage growth in a large and diverse city-region. At the time the Growth Plan was introduced, the Province identified fiscal tools as necessary complements to its land use policies. These included true-cost pricing for infrastructure and development charges that reflect the different costs of development in different locations. Other planning tools (such as revisions to development standards that act as a barrier to compact development) may also help ensure that the Greater Golden Horseshoe develops in a way that is consistent with the vision announced in the Growth Plan.


[1] Government of Ontario, A Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe: Discussion Paper, Summer 2004, p. 5.

QUESTIONS RAISED

What is the future of the Greater Toronto Region?

ALSO OF INTEREST

Canadian Corporate Profit Decline Approaching Recession Levels: TD

Canadian Corporate Profit Decline Approaching Recession Levels: TD. (source)

TORONTO – Canadian corporate profits have declined in five of the past six quarters and are now 16 per cent below their post-recession peak in late 2011, according to a study released Tuesday by TD Bank.

“This decline is not as bad as during the last recession, but it is approaching the performance Canadian firms saw during the U.S. downturn in 2000-2001,” TD economist Leslie Preston writes.

Key export-driven sectors like manufacturing and resources have seen the most weakness.

The resource sector’s corporate profit performance has followed closely with commodity prices, which fell last year and remain below a post-recession peak in set in early 2011.

“So far in 2013, generally higher commodity prices have helped drive encouraging growth in resource sector profits, although the sector is still in the red over the past six quarters as a whole,” Preston writes.

Manufacturers face competitive challenges, not only from a relatively strong loonie but also because unit labour costs have risen in Canada since the recession but remain flat in the United States, TD says.

Profits in more domestically-oriented industries have held up better, although they too have seen their pace of growth slow dramatically compared to the pre-recession period.

The study says the weakness in corporate profit can be seen in the way Canada’s equity markets have underperformed the United States since the lows seen in October 2011.

Looking ahead, however, TD expects profit performance to show modest improvement over the coming quarters, led by the export and resource-oriented sectors, as stronger economic growth in the United States next year will help lift U.S. demand.

U.S. economic growth will be weaker than anticipated in the near-term because of the recent government shutdown, but TD expects that the lost activity will be recouped next year.

The bank says commodity prices should also improve, although further gains are likely to be modest, and domestic demand growth is also likely to be slow.

“Echoing the forecast for growth in the economy as a whole, corporate Canada should see better days ahead, but not a return to the heydays seen prior to the recession,” Preston said.

 

Muzzling of federal scientists widespread, survey suggests – Technology & Science – CBC News

Muzzling of federal scientists widespread, survey suggests – Technology & Science – CBC News. (Source)

hi-852-mask-labcoat-istock_000016777609smallThe union says the purpose of the survey was to “gauge the scale and impact of ‘muzzling; and political interference among federal scientists.”

Hundreds of federal scientists responding to a survey said they had been asked to exclude or alter information for non-scientific reasons and thousands said they had been prevented from speaking to the media.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which commissioned the survey from Environics Research “to gauge the scale and impact of ‘muzzling’ and political interference among federal scientists,” released the results Monday at a news conference.

The union sent invitations to 15,398 federal scientists in June, asking them to participate in the survey. More than 4,000 took part.

PIPSC represents 60,000 public servants across the country, including 20,000 scientists, in federal departments and agencies, including scientists involved in food and consumer product safety and environmental monitoring.

In recent years, there have been numerous complaints from scientists and the media about federal scientists being restricted from publicly talking about their research. Some complaints are being investigated by Canada’s information and privacy commissioner.

 

Bigger than that: (The difficulty of) looking at climate change

Bigger than that: (The difficulty of) looking at climate change. (FULL ARTICLE)

Late last week, in the lobby of a particularly unglamorous downtown San Francisco building, a group of passionate but polite activists met with a bureaucrat who stepped forward to hear what they had to say about the fate of the Earth. The activists wanted to save the world.  The particular part of it that might be under their control involved getting the San Francisco Retirement board to divest its half a billion dollars in fossil fuel holdings, one piece of the international divestment movement that arose a year ago.

Sometimes the fate of the Earth boils down to getting one person with modest powers to budge.

The bureaucrat had a hundred reasons why changing course was, well, too much of a change. This public official wanted to operate under ordinary-times rules and the idea that climate change has thrust us into extraordinary times (and that divesting didn’t necessarily entail financial loss or even financial risk) was apparently too much to accept….

Harper’s 5 Stages of Grief Over Climate Change | John McKay

Harper’s 5 Stages of Grief Over Climate Change | John McKay. (FULL ARTICLE)

The IPCC published an intensely detailed report on climate change last week. Even the 36 page executive summary is packed with detail, graphs and data all of which drives any reasonable person to the conclusion that climate change is real and largely driven by human activity. Consider its first conclusion: “Global mean surface air temperatures over land and oceans have increased over the last 100 years.”

There is no denying it, “we” have a problem. Admitting that you have a problem is probably the most difficult first step for a Prime Minister addicted to “bull horn diplomacy,” intolerance of dissent, and dumbed down public policy. Yet, even for PM Harper it is difficult to deny a 95 per cent certainty.

You have to have some sympathy for the Minister of the Environment who is obliged to maintain the Harper fiction regardless of the evidence and how foolish that it may make her look. To do so would be to acknowledge anthropogenic climate change and the fact that her government has done little to deal with that reality. That would be counterproductive to the PM’s efforts to secure approval for the Keystone XL pipeline. So, poor Minister Aglukkaq is left to dangle in the winds of non-sequiturs and contradictions….

Obama Declares War On Climate Change | Zero Hedge

Obama Declares War On Climate Change | Zero Hedge.

 

charles hugh smith-Counterfeiting Trust

charles hugh smith-Counterfeiting Trust.

 

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