Working against energy waste

Working against energy waste On December 24, the News ran an article entitled Secondary Customers Powered Down. The story investigated the greenhouse gases released when these customers were forced to fire up their own diesel generators. I was interview

On December 24, the News ran an article entitled Secondary Customers Powered Down.

The story investigated the greenhouse gases released when these customers were forced to fire up their own diesel generators. I was interviewed for that article.

Secondary power is only available when Yukon Energy is operating on hydro power alone. As soon as hydro is maxed out (typically during winter cold snaps), Yukon Energy supplements its power production with diesel generators, and secondary sales are suspended.

On January 7, Richard Corbet wrote a letter to the editor correcting some inaccuracies in the News article. One of those inaccuracies was mine. I had said that it made no difference if the secondary customer or the utility used diesel, that in either case the same emissions would occur.

My mistake was that the secondary power is used to generate heat and not electricity as I had thought. Corbet is correct and I appreciate him taking the time to write his letter. To heat these secondary customers would take more diesel if it was done by the Yukon Energy gen-sets, because a significant percentage of the energy is lost in conversion.

This reinforces the point I was hoping to make in the interview: that the problem of emissions does not lie with secondary sales customers, but rather with our overall electrical power demand versus our supply of renewable energy.

It should be our job as Yukoners to find ways to reduce our demand and increase our supply of renewable energy. We are beginning work on this front.

The Yukon Energy Strategy has just been released by the government. Under efficiency and conservation, they have set a goal to increase energy efficiency in the Yukon “by 20 per cent by 2020.” Yukon Energy is exploring for geothermal energy, a promising renewable source. I also applaud the work of individuals like Richard Corbet for his advocacy of air source heat pumps.

All of these initiatives work to decrease our usage of fossil fuels. Why go to so much effort to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions?

In his letter, Corbet goes on to say that in his opinion “Streicker has drunk more than a little too deeply of the AGW Kool-Aid.” AGW Kool-Aid? This was a new phrase for me, and I had to search out a reference for it.

AGW stands for human-caused climate change (anthropogenic global warming). Kool-Aid is a reference to the Jonestown massacre and suggests blind faith with disastrous outcome.

Corbett is right, I do believe in human-induced climate change. However, I reject blind faith, on either side of an issue. It is important to give careful consideration not only to the situation and risks involved but also, how to respond in an effective manner.

I have spent much of the past 20 years researching and working on the issue of climate change. I began with a master’s degree on glaciation cycles and the Earth’s response and went on to teach at university.

Eventually my path led me north to the Yukon, where, as it turns out, climate change will have a greater impact than many other regions of Canada. Twenty years ago when I taught the subject, we were just becoming aware of the problem. Now some of the students I teach have been born since we identified man-made global warming.

Is climate change real? Without a doubt. Is it caused by humans? That is my clear conclusion, and it is shared by more than 95 per cent of the scientific community that study the issue, and First Nation elders that I have spoken with.

Why haven’t we done much about climate change already? The biggest reason we have not yet acted to address climate change is that it is not easy to shift an energy economy. We are aware of the pressing need to address the situation, yet we put off action.

Right now, as Parliament reconvenes and we address our crucial economic situation, it is an ideal time for Canada to invest in initiatives and infrastructure that will not only stimulate economic activity but also sustain us for the long-term.

Canada should develop national renewable energy and energy efficiency plans. Once we collectively take responsibility for climate change, we will begin to shape a secure future.

John Streicker

Whitehorse