JOHN BREWER: Changing our behavior

Carbon tax OK if money spent on installing solar panels or more mass transit etc.

Published on August 8, 2017

P.E.I. solar panels near potato field

©File Photo

In the August 4 edition, Alana Lajoie-O'Malley stated a price on carbon will change our behavior. She works for the University of Winnipeg which is trying to reduce it's emissions to zero but can't do it unless there is a carbon tax to help pay for it.

This is self-serving at a huge tax expense to the taxpayers. She claims fossil fuels are subsidized referring to the natural gas boom and over reliance on hydroelectricity. There is something wrong with this statement as natural gas is a low emitter of carbon and hydroelectricity is about the cleanest means of producing reliable electricity available.
Ms. Lajoie- O'Malley contends, as do others that solar, wind, geothermal and sustainable biomass are better alternatives to fossil fuels. She is only partly correct.
Solar is a good alternative with few side effects except costs per unit of electricity. Wind is good but unreliable. Geothermal often means drilling holes deep into the earth on a large scale which is asking for trouble as we don't know the long term effects i.e.: fracking for gas has created lots of bad side effects including earth tremors.
Heat pumps are fine but too many of them use so much electricity to run that the supply and demand of electricity is thrown way out of balance. In the case of P.E.I. the over use of heat pumps was partly to blame for so much peak demand of electricity that the province had to pay over 100 million dollars to run a new under water cable to New Brunswick for more electricity whose main source is nuclear.
The last alternative that she mentions is sustainable biomass. There are two reliable sources available on a major scale: Burning plant material and burning trees to create electricity.
I think both are horrible choices. I can not agree with taking farm land out of production that grows food to eat and using it to grow plants to burn for energy plus according to the internet burning plant material produces 25 per cent more pollutants than burning coal.
Burning a tree is just as bad as this is not carbon neutral. It takes 40 to 50 years to grow a tree. While it is growing it absorbs a lot of chemicals out of our atmosphere and stores it. So what do we do? We cut it down and burn it.
Twenty per cent of those stored chemicals go right back into the air and that tree will never again absorb chemicals from the air we breath. Sure we can plant a new tree but it will take 40 or more years to be as effective as the one we cut down.
It is true that we need to cut back on chemical pollutants but there are better ways such as better insulated homes, more efficient cars and not necessarily electric cars as on a mass scale they use a huge amount of electricity to charge their batteries.
Restrict cars in our towns and cities in favor of mass transit etc. I also have no problem with a carbon tax if the tax is spent on reducing carbon such as assistance on installing solar panels or more mass transit but politicians are notorious for taking our money and doing something else with it.

- John Brewer operated a tourism business in Cavendish for almost 30 years.