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Canada: Energy crisis supplants environment as top concern

Gloria Galloway, Globe and Mail
Anger at soaring gas prices has supplanted fear about global warming as the No. 1 issue Canadians say is facing their country.

As the cost of filling the tank hits uncharted heights – and is predicted to go even higher – a wide-ranging survey conducted by the Strategic Counsel for The Globe and Mail and CTV suggests energy prices are on par with the sagging economy when it comes to Canadians’ worries.

The environment, last year’s top issue, has been pushed to No. 3, with just 16 per cent of Canadians surveyed saying they now consider it their primary concern.

This shift could make it more difficult for Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion to sell the carbon-tax plan he unveiled last week, a complex scheme to cut greenhouse-gas emissions that will be the cornerstone of his party’s platform in the next election.
(27 June 2008)
Recommended by Rick Munroe of the National Farmers Union (Canada), who points out that “The G&M is Canada’s most prestigious ‘national paper.’ “

Scott Chisholm Lamont writes:
This was always my fear when it came to the costs (read: sacrifices) to curb carbon dioxide output – that as soon as consumers were hit in the wallet, the environment would rapidly slip down the priority list, regardless of long-term consequences.

UPDATE Kassil writes:
It’s an unfortunate inevitability; when faced with an immediate impact on their own lives, people will react and worry about it first over a nebulous-seeming concern with less obvious and direct of an impact. We are, by and large, a short-sighted species with a tendency to think that someone else will solve the larger issues for us; it is a part of the hoax created by governments and corporations for their own perpetuation. It is also a habit we must all strive to break, if we hope to have an inhabitable world and a decent way of life in the future.

Oilsands vacation site tempts visitors with ‘toxic lakes’

CBC News (Canada)
Greenpeace has launched a tongue-in-cheek website touting the tourism potential of the Alberta oilsands.

The site ( has an address similar to Alberta’s official tourism page ( and is the conservation group’s response to the province’s $25-million campaign to improve the environmental image of Alberta’s energy industry.

The Greenpeace-produced site promises visitors “beautiful black sand beaches [that] stretch for miles,” toxic lakes and clearcut forests.

“Try open-pit paragliding and ride the unique coal bed methane and sour gas updrafts,” a male announcer says over a slide show of familiar Alberta landmarks, grinning tourists and panoramic shots of the oilsands.

Earlier this year, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach announced his government was launching a $25-million campaign to polish the province’s environmental image. This week, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers unveiled a website to promote what the industry is doing to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit water consumption.
(26 June 2008)

Oil prices prompt crisis response in Korea

Yonhap, JoongAng Daily
Korea plans to reveal a set of comprehensive measures including compulsory driving restrictions this week to cope with higher oil prices, officials said yesterday.

The price of the benchmark Dubai crude exceeded $135 per barrel on Friday, compared to $52 per barrel average in January 2007. Korea is the world’s fourth-largest oil importer.

According to the contingency plan being considered, the government will put limits on air conditioning and lighting at public facilities should the prices of Dubai crude reach $150 per barrel.

Under the plan, public servants will be required not to commute by car at least once every week, a stiffer restriction from current once every 10 days. The government will prod the private sector to follow this lead.

Should the Dubai crude price top $170 per barrel, compulsory measures such as strict driving restrictions will be applied to the private sector, and taxes on oil products will be cut.
(30 June 2008)

Germany Records World’s Biggest Cut in Energy Use in 2007

maw/reuters, Der Spiegel (Germany)
A new annual energy consumption report by the oil giant BP paints a split picture of the world: rapid rises in emerging economies, a smaller fall in the EU. Energy-conscious Germany emerges as the star environmental performer.

When it comes to tackling climate change, Germany’s government seems to be making a serious effort. On Wednesday, the German cabinet signed off an ambitious package of measures (more…), aimed at slashing the country’s CO2 emissions by 40 percent relative to 1990s levels by 2020. German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel called the package, which reflects Germany’s ambition to take a lead in the fight against climate change, “the largest worldwide.”

On the same day the German cabinet was rubber-stamping the climate change measures, oil giant BP presented a report in Berlin that showed that energy consumption in Germany fell last year by a greater extent than in any other country in the world. According to the oil company’s statistics, German companies and consumers slashed their use of so-called primary energy — defined as energy generated by oil, gas, coal, nuclear and hydropower — by 18.5 million tons of oil equivalent in 2007, a 5.6-percent reduction. Only Denmark and Azerbaijan recorded larger percentage reductions last year.
(19 June 2008)

Germany Approves Ambitious CO2 Reduction Measures

cgh, Der Spiegel (Germany)
The German cabinet on Wednesday signed off on a far-reaching package of measures aimed at cutting Germany’s CO2 emissions. Energy efficiency is at the top of the list — but the country’s chimney sweeps will also have new duties.

…The new measures, which had been twice delayed amid controversy before Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet finally rubber-stamped them on Wednesday morning, call for new homes and apartment complexes to become much more energy efficient as of 2009. Buildings that are refurbished after that date are also required to install state-of-the-art insulation and energy savings systems.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Wednesday said that chimney sweeps, responsible for checking and maintaining heating systems in Germany’s residential buildings, will be asked to report homeowners not complying with the new measures.

Gabriel also praised the package by saying it was “the largest worldwide — perhaps even the only — such package aimed at reaching climate goals.” He said the new measures aimed at energy conservation and improving building efficiency will lead to cost savings for homeowners and will create 500,000 new jobs by 2020.
(18 June 2008)