October 11, 2017

The struggle to transition our high-energy lifestyle to a low-carbon future

The struggle to transition our high-energy lifestyle to a low-carbon future

This week’s Generation Energy event in Winnipeg is the result of a federal government initiative to bring together a wide and representative array of citizen voices on the future of energy in all its forms.

The aim is to identify values, goals and pathways to arrive at the energy future. How do we grow the economy and living standards, green the environment, and maintain Canada’s place in the world? My organization – British Columbia’s Resource Works Society – asked to be invited because Generation Energy is intended to heal some of the damage resulting from years of conflict on fundamental issues.

There are plenty of examples of how energy issues have become super-divisive factors in our society today. (Did someone say pipelines?) Claiming to be the “right” side of any of these issues increasingly seems like a pointless exercise, as it seems only to cause opposing sides to dig in more firmly. The polarizations are on display every day in all kinds of ways.

For example, does it not seem awkward to welcome the electric vehicle (EV) future while also dealing with the fact that today’s low gasoline prices mean more consumers are buying trucks and SUVs than cars, and fewer than one per cent of all these are EVs?

Also, the City of Vancouver decided a ban on natural gas would be a good way to reduce carbon emissions. So confident was the City of the righteousness of its “100% renewable by 2050” slogan that it didn’t bother consulting with citizens or studying the economics of such a radical change. As a result of the Vancouver experience, other cities are pursuing similar programs without conceding it will make household energy bills more costly.