After three months of watching oil from the Deepwater Horizon pour into the Gulf of Mexico, killing animals that are reliant on the Gulf eco-system by the truckload, and destroying traditional fishing cultures of the people who live along the Gulf coast - not to mention wetlands - can we finally make some serious investment in green energy?
Well, the good news is that global investment in wind and solar energy has continued to climb year over year and for the past two years constituted the majority of new power generation in North America, Europe, and China. China, who some tried to blame for all the carbon problems, has invested massively in solar and wind technology.
China had the largest addition of renewable power capacity, and the Asian economic powerhouse surpassed the United States as the country with the largest investment in clean energy.China's cities are still a smog and carbon-belching nightmare. But the picture of China as the main culprit just doesn't wash. The number that is often used to judge China is the absolute carbon emissions but this is dishonest since China has a population of $1.4 billion whereas the USA has less than a quarter of that total and Canada even less. It's more accurate to look at carbon production per capita and by this measure the USA - and even more so, Canada - are the bottom of the barrel. According to the Conference Board of Canada, a conservative business organization, Canada is the pits.
China now produces about 40 per cent of the world’s solar electricity collectors, 25 per cent of its wind turbines, and three-quarters of its solar water heaters.
Canada is one of the world’s largest GHG emitters. Canada ranks 16th out of 17 OECD countries on GHG emissions per capita and scores a “D” grade.3 In 2005, Canada’s GHG emissions were 22.6 tonnes per capita, almost double the 17-country average of 12.4 tonnes per capita. Canada’s per capita GHG emissions were also almost four times greater than Norway’s, the top performer.
The primary reason why Canada's position is so terrible and getting worse all the time - the Tar Sands debacle. The next worse in line is, of course, the USA at 19.1 tonnes per capita. In the case of the United States the terrible record and worse response to the growing disaster of fossil fuels is especially poignant in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and Obama's pitiful $2 billion loans to the solar sector in response, even as oil companies get at least double that amount every single year in tax subsidies.
And it isn't the case the up here in the kinder, gentler nation that we're any better. Stephen Harper continues to pour subsidies into the oil sands project, destroying the Alberta watershed, poisoning downstream communities and jacking up Canada's carbon emissions when we should be reducing them. Of course, nobody is surprised that a neanderthal like Harper and his pals will be happy to ride a luxury handbasket into global warming hell.
But Dalton McGuinty leads the progressive Liberals. They don't hate the cities. They had an openly gay man in cabinet. The teachers unions like him. Of course, he is implementing the HST, which is a blatantly regressive tax grab. And in the area of energy policy and development, the Green Belt that was supposed to lead to greater population density - a necessity to make mass transit efficient and to reduce the need for automobiles - in the Greater Toronto Area is a total hoax that does nothing to reign in the developers. And now the Liberals have taken an axe to subsidies for the solar industry, cutting the price paid per kilowatt hour by more than 25% - from 80.2 cents to 58.8 cents per kilowatt hour. Of course, what the government should be doing is directly investing in solar infrastructure, rather than leaving it to the inefficiencies of market mechanisms. Just as they should be investing in infrastructure for electric vehicles. However, it makes no sense to cut solar subsidies at a time when fossil fuel subsidies for the Tar Sands are, if anything, rising under the federal Tories. McGuinty could easily fund the development of renewables and create jobs by taxing carbon producers and investing that money in Green industries. But that would mean taking on corporate priorities and redirecting them to meet social and environmental needs. What this rollback demonstrates is that McGuinty isn't willing to do that. He's more than happy to pass secret, repressive legislation to clampdown on civil liberties - he isn't willing to use his legislative powers to help save the planet.