County Sustainability Group County Sustainability Group Position Papers

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CSG position papers


Wind Truth HERE

Wind Energy in PEC - CSG’s Position: Part 1 of 2

Part 2 HERE

January 26, 2012

Part One discusses factors that complicate public acceptance of wind energy in PEC.  Part Two will explain why the County Sustainability Group strongly supports wind energy.

We live in a complex world where specialists provide services, food, mechanical things and the energy flows that enable civilization.  To a large degree, however, the directions societies take are generally guided by emotions rather than logic. If choice “A” is unpleasant or brings anxiety and “B” sounds comforting, some choose to believe any argument that supports “B’.  Psychologists tell us it’s just human nature.

The renowned cosmologist Carl Sagan put his finger on the dangers of specialization when he said:  “We've arranged a global civilization in which the most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster.” 

Sagan’s disasters include: global-warming/climate-instability, mass species extinctions, diminishing water tables, unnatural chemical cocktails in air and water and natural habitat loss from massive human population growth/sprawl.  Scientific specialists publish warnings to wake up voting adults.  These “alarm-raising messages” cause discomfort and so the implications of these messages are often rejected or ignored.

These disasters result from two centuries of compound growth in human population and accompanying resource consumption energized by fossil fuels and promoted under the highly popularized name of “economic growth”.   Economic growth became a holy grail so imbedded in the psyche of today’s governments that politicians (specialists in their own narrow smooth-talking field) tell us our future well-being depends on continued growth. Voters worry because they have been persuaded that tomorrow’s income and food depend on it.

Scientific logic indicates growth in human activity will soon end and then decline.  Although the cause could be any of the unfolding ecological disasters above, the end of growth is absolutely guaranteed by geological and economic realities showing supplies of easily recoverable oil have peaked and can no longer meet growth demands.  With oil energizing ~99% of the global transportation, a massive switch to renewable energy cannot fill the gap, especially when governments that do not/cannot accept the inevitability of negative growth.

The general public is an easy target for vocal special interest groups.  Smokers found comfort in tobacco industry’s denial of links between smoking and cancer.  Pro-growth think-tanks denying global warming cast doubt on inconvenient facts making many voters wary of corrective measures that may disturb their comfort zone: a comfort zone enabled by cheap energy-enabled growth of the past century.  But the scientists tell us that our comfort zone is melting as fast as the arctic ice cap, and that our children’s future will hold far less comfort than today’s voters enjoy. 

For many of us in PEC our comfort zone embraces pristine natural vistas marred only by comfortably familiar artifacts of human civilization including hydro and telephone poles/lines, roads, fenced fields, barns, silos, and growing numbers of human dwellings.

Adding wind farms to the mix disturbs our comfort zones. For some, pretending our comfort zones need not change trumps recognition of the dire need for Ontario to join a worldwide effort to reduce total dependence on fossil fuels.

Growth in use of fossil fuels is driving us towards inevitable changes that jeopardize the natural environment and our children’s future way of life. While we procrastinate in our futile efforts to deny the threat, our opportunity to steer our future is rapidly slipping away. We need immediate actions that will help facilitate and support us through drastic reductions in our fossil fuel consumption. Developing a huge capability to harvest energy from wind is an enormously important positive step.

Dire scientific predictions of massive human die-off will be will be accurate if responsible individuals within communities fail to separate the wheat from the chaff in today’s information flows, and reach beyond their comfort zone to enable the types of change their community is capable of.  PEC is located in one of the richest wind energy zones in Ontario.

Author: Don Chisholm , Member of County Sustainability Group


 

csg logoWind Energy in PEC - CSG’s Position: Part 2 of 2

The two greatest threats to the future of human civilization today are posed by Climate Change and so-called Peak Oil.  Both of these threats, although quite different in character, have closely related underlying primary causes, excessive extraction and use of fossil fuels/oil by humans. 

Climate Change [1] is the name we give to recent (within the past century or so) long term (lasting over decades, centuries or more) steadily increasing variations and instability in basic climate characteristics such as average atmospheric and ocean temperatures, rainfall and cloud cover, wind and ocean currents, ice cover etc.  These long term climate changes are being driven by steady upward trends in average global temperatures (global warming [2]), driven by rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases (esp. CO2) driven in turn by massive and growing combustion of fossil fuels by humans (primary root cause). 

Peak Oil is a concept that is commonly misunderstood.  The issue is not that the Earth is about to run out of oil, but rather that supplies of oil that can be cheaply and safely extracted are now declining. Peak Oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached. [3] This is a consequence of massive and unsustainable extraction of oil by humans (primary root cause).

The end of cheap oil puts civilization in jeopardy.  Climate Change jeopardizes not just human civilization but the global ecosystem of which human civilization is a small but dependent part.  Adverse consequences of Climate Change are already observed and are escalating.  They include: long term rising temperatures, redistribution of rainfall leading to floods, droughts, loss of arable land and increased desertification; disappearing glaciers and ice caps with consequent rising sea levels [4]; loss of trees and other plants with loss of food sources and habitat for animals and birds; ocean warming and acidification with consequent loss of reefs and fish habitat; extinctions and near extinctions of many animal and plant species including birds and fish [5]

Scientists believe that Climate Change and habitat loss are posing a very real threat of a mass extinction event similar to those observed in Earth’s historical record every hundred million years or so [6].  Avoiding such consequences (massive species extinction, civilization collapse) requires, among other things, drastically reducing our use of fossil fuels. This in turn requires accelerating deployment of clean renewable power generation alternatives and related infrastructure as an urgent priority in anticipation of the need to switch over. 

Wind power is the fastest growing source of clean renewable energy worldwide. [7] In PEC no other clean energy resource offers greater power generation potential than wind. The whole of the South shore and West coast of PEC are among the best locations in Ontario to harvest wind energy and make a major contribution to filling the energy gap that will be left by fossil fuels. [8]

Slowing/limiting Climate Change will yield massive survival benefits to humans and other species, including birds. Data from Wolfe Island has demonstrated that the impact of wind turbines on bird mortality (average less than one bird/turbine per month [9]) even in a major bird migration route represents no threat to the populations of the tens of millions of birds that fly that route each year. [10]To avoid bird migration routes would do more to threaten than benefit bird populations since it would mean forgoing most of the best wind resources in South East Ontario.

The Ostrander Point wind project represents a badly needed first step in breaking through the blockade that opponents have maintained against wind energy in PEC for a decade.  Waiting for better solutions in the future is an excuse for indefinite procrastination in our response to Climate Change, leading to unthinkable consequences [11].

Author: Rob Williams, Member of County Sustainability Group

References

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_change

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil

[4] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration “Global Climate Change Indicators” http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/indicators

[5] International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) - report of International Earth system expert workshop on ocean stresses and impacts (June 2011) http://www.stateoftheocean.org/pdfs/1806_IPSOshort.pdf

[6] “Biodiversity crisis: Habitat loss and climate change causing 6th mass extinction” http://indymedia.org.au/2012/01/22/biodiversity-crisis-habitat-loss-and-climate-change-causing-6th-mass-extinction

[7] REN21 “Renewables 2011 Global Status Report” http://www.ren21.net/REN21Activities/Publications/GlobalStatusReport/GSR2011/tabid/56142/Default.aspx

[8] Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources  “Wind Speed Map for South East Region of Ontario” http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/stdprodconsume/groups/lr/@mnr/@renewable/documents/document/197240.pdf

[9] TransAlta “Post-Construction Monitoring Report” for Wolfe Island (Dec. 16, 2011)

 http://www.transalta.com/facilities/plants-operation/wolfe-island/post-construction-monitoring

[10] Weir, R. D. “Observations and Comments on Bird Migration through the Kingston, Ontario, Area During Spring and Autumn”, KFN Workshop on Bird Migration, 8Th March 2011..

http://kingstonfieldnaturalists.org/events/2011migrationworkshop/birdmigration-kingston-ronweir.pdf

[11] International Energy Agency “World Energy Outlook 2011”, Executive Summary, p.2 http://www.iea.org/weo/docs/weo2011/executive_summary.pdf

 

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csg logoThe Proposal for a National Park on PEC's South Shore

CSG position papers

Background:


The County Sustainability Group is acutely aware of the dangers posed by human driven Climate Change and by our precarious dependence on a rapidly shrinking supply of cheap oil. To address both of these problems we believe it is urgent that we accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels towards a new energy infrastructure based on clean renewable energy sources.

We see wind energy as one of the critical components of that new renewable energy infrastructure and support the installation of wind turbines close to the south shore of Prince Edward County, one of the windiest locations in South East Ontario.

Concerns:

The proposal for a National Park on PEC's South Shore, at first glance, appears to be a harmless proposal that no-one would oppose. Unfortunately the devil is in the details. Among the details that concern us are:

• The proposal is being championed by the "Point to Point PEC Foundation" which, despite its impressive sounding title, comprises two cofounders (Richard Copple and Karen Hatchard) and has no membership (admitted to PEC Council by Ms. Hatchard). The "Foundation" only recently caught public attention when it ran a series of full page ads. in local newspapers just prior to the Ontario election cultivating opposition to the proposed installation of nine wind turbines at Ostrander Point. The ads. asked readers to choose between two pictures, one showing an aerial view of Ostrander Point as it exists now, the other showing a desolate landscape covered by a densely packed array of 35+ wind turbines. Despite the obvious bias and scare tactic in their ads. the "Foundation" claims that their results constitute an "independent" survey in which 94% of respondents opposed the wind turbines and supported the Park proposal.

• Progression of the National Park proposal through the various stages of approval that will be needed will take years but undoubtedly will be used as an argument to stall any further development of wind energy while the Park proposal is under active consideration by various levels of government.

• The South and West shores of Prince Edward County have the most favourable conditions in South East Ontario for cost-effectively harnessing clean wind energy. Establishing the South Shore as a National Park incurs a major risk that it would permanently block any use of the land for wind energy, either by explicit prohibition or by making the approval process for wind farms so bureaucratic and burdensome that it would amount to the same thing.

• We are conscious of the rapidly closing time window in which humans have an opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions and thereby reduce the devastating risks of runaway climate change. We believe that efforts to stall or block wind energy development in the name of protecting the natural environment are self defeating and wrong-headed.

• Blocking wind energy development will incur a significant loss of income for local farmers who are already struggling to sustain their farming businesses.

• The Park proposal involves other local penalties including likely loss of fishing rights for local commercial fishermen in Prince Edward County.

• Many more issues (e.g. property tax implications) need to be explored at the local level through opportunities for extensive public input before asking the residents to indicate whether or not they support the National Park proposal being progressed beyond the municipal government level. No such public input has been sought by the PEC Council yet it has already voted to "....support the idea, in principle, of Point to Point PEC Foundation's proposal..." "...with a letter of confirmation to Daryl Kramp MP and Todd Smith MPP."

As illustrated above, we have many reasons for concern, not the least of which is the risk that prematurely engaging the Federal and Provincial governments has the potential to significantly reduce the degree of influence that PEC residents may be able to exert on the proposal.

Recommendations:

1) PEC Council should take the lead in establishing a local process whereby PEC residents have ample opportunities to express, share and discuss their views on the National Park proposal prior to Council seeking public guidance on whether or not the proposal enjoys broad public support in PEC.

2) In the interim, Council should address the widely held perception that it has already made up its mind to support the National Park proposal. Specifically, Council should clarify publicly that pending completion of the above public consultation process, it will take no position in support of or in opposition to the proposal. This clarification should be conveyed by letter to Daryl Kramp MP and Todd Smith MPP.


 

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