Federal government Ethanol announcement

Today, the federal government announced a $500–million package of aid and regulations to encourage the use of biofuels like ethanol in gasoline products sold in Canada.

From that press release:

“The new federal regulations will require enough renewable fuel to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about 4 megatonnes per year, the GHG equivalent of taking almost one million vehicles from the road. Grain-based ethanol results in life-cycle GHG emission reductions of 30-40% compared to gasoline, and biodiesel made from oil seeds results in life-cycle GHG emission reductions of over 60% compared to conventional diesel. Next-generation renewable fuels, such as cellulosic ethanol, are expected to provide even greater environmental benefits – up to 100% GHG reductions on a life-cycle basis. Life-cycle values account for all GHG emissions resulting from the production of the organic material, fuel production and distribution.”

The most recent data from Statistics Canada (Table 153–0034) shows that, in 2002, Canada generated 682 megatonnes (682,119 kilotonnes) of greenhouse gas emissions (GGE). A program which reduced Canada’s GGEs by 4 megatonnes would trim Canada’s overall emissions by about 0.6 per cent. At a recent press briefing, Environment Canada officials said GGEs emitted from all sources in Canada totalled 754 megatonnes in 2003. Trimming 4 megatonnes off that number would reduce GGEs by 0.5 per cent.

To meet its 2010 Kyoto target of 546 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, Canada must reduced its 2003 GGE levels by 207 megatonnes or 28 per cent.

The government says removing 4 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions is the equivalent of taking one million cars off the road. Here are some other comparisons (all of this data comes from Statscan):

  • Electric power generation, transmission and distribution accounted for 123 megatonnes of GGE’s in 2002, making the electricity business the single largest GGE emitter. Oil and gas extraction was number two at 99 megatonnes, and crop and animal production was number three at 69 megatonnes.
  • In 2002, Canada’s airlines produced about 13.5 megatonnes of GGE.
  • Canada’s pulp, paper and paperboad manufacturers generated 9.3 megatonnes in 2002.
  • Natural gas distribution, water and operators of other similar distribution systems created about 4 megatonnes of GGEs.
  • The combined GGEs of everyhousehold in Canada in 2002 was 111 megatonnes.

Last June, when Ottawa announced its intention to move towards increasing use of ethanol, I interviewed Deniz Karman, a Carleton University engineering professor, about using ethanol to cut down on greenhouse gases. “It can be part of a solution. I can't see it being a significant part of the solution,” he said. Karman says the broad adoption of ethanol-based fuel might trim greenhouse gas emissions from driving by between two and four per cent. Other simple steps, such as frequent changing of your car’s air filter, can have a bigger impact.

“There are much more significant things you could be doing about your driving than fueling up with ethanol if the intent is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Karman said.  “You could be driving a car with better fuel economy. You're going to get much much better than two to four per cent reduction in your greenhouse gas emissions.”

Strahl swings the axe

Agriculture Minister Chuck Strahl did what he’d said he’d do: He fired the CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The Conservative government wants to let Western grain farmers sell their wheat and barley to whomever they please. Right now, wheat farmers in the West must sell all their stuff only to the Wheat Board, which markets grain on behalf of farmers. The former CEO of the Wheat Board was Adrian Measner and he had campaigned against the government’s initiative. Strahl had told the Wheat Board to cease and desist that campaign and then later wrote to Measner telling him that he was going to fire him unless Measner could convince why he shouldn’t be fired. 

On Dec. 6, Opposition Leader Stephane Dion held a press conference outside the House of Commons where he was flanked by Measner. A few minutes after Dion’s press conference, we asked Strahl what he thought of a governnment appointee holding a press conference outside the House of Commons to critize government policy. Here’s part of Strahl’s response:

“I wrote [Measner] a few days ago saying that, you know, he should explain why he should keep his job. What the job of the — what we need, you know, is a CEO — what farmers want is a CEO that sells grain, maximizes profits for farmers. That's the job is to market grain in an orderly fashion. That is the mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board. That's what the CEO and the management team should be doing. And to, you know, to stand up and do political grandstanding with the leader of the opposition is hardly getting on with the business of selling grain. There's lots of grain this year. It's of premium quality and the prices are the best they've been in 10 years. This is the chance for farmers to finally make some money and what they need is a management team that gets out there and flogs this grain around the world and gets at that job. That is their mandate. That is their job and we need a CEO and we need a management team that does that. “

Apparently Measner was unable to convince Strahl he should keep his job and so today, Strahl fired him. Measner’s replacement is Greg Arason.

Politicians failing soldiers in Afghanistan, Senlis Council says

The U.K.-based think tank The Senlis Council is relatively unique among the “think tank” crowd who have had pronouncements on the current NATO mission in Afghanistan because it is one of the few NGOs to actually put its researchers on the ground there.

This week, the council released its latest report in which it concluded the following:

  • The Taliban are winning hearts and minds in southern Afghanistan; the international community is not. NATO-ISAF troops are forced to fight in an increasingly hostile environment because of the international community’s blunt political errors.
  • The absence of comprehensive development aid plans has given a strategic advantage to the Taliban.
  • Time for a well-planned village by village hearts and minds campaign to re-engage the Afghan population and make NATO’s mission a successful one.

Josee Verner, the federal minister responsible for the Canadian International Development Agency will announce two more aid projects for Kandahar at a press conference in Quebec City.

TD says economy will slow in 07

The Economics department at the Toronto Dominion Bank believes borrowing costs are likely to to fall in 2007, as central banks in Canada and the U.S. are forced to drop their key lending rate in response to slowing economies. Here’s the highlights from the bank’s quarterly economic forecast:

  • U.S. economy slowing to sub-2% quarterly pace over the next two quarters
  • Canadian economy clearly bearing the scars of slowdown south of the border
  • Net exports to shave 1.3 percentage points off real GDP growth in 2007
  • Canadian real GDP likely to hold at or below 2% until the second quarter of 2007
  • Central banks on both sides of the border won’t be able to remain on the sidelines in 2007
  • In the first half of 2007, we expect 75 basis points in cuts from the Federal Reserve and 50 basis points from the Bank of Canada


Gregory Morrow runs the DemocraticSpace.com blog and he loves numbers. I do, too, which means I'm one of those regular visitors who have made his site the 865,092nd most popular spot on the Web. That's the ranking — don't you know? — given to Mr. Morrow's site by the robot-ware at Alexa.com.
In fact, Greg ran some kind of algorithm to generate a ranking of many Canadian political blogs. Paul Wells of Maclean's is at the top of that heap, with Alexa's 39,375th most popular site.
Now, Morrow admits his list is a bit of a random thing and, ahem, this particular blog is not on his list. Not that I (really, really) care or anything, but, after running my URL through Alexa.com's engine, I find that I am the 4,450,828th most popular site on the Web which would put me on to Morrow's list, at number 70, right after Peter Loewen (is this the right site? Morrow does not have hyperlinks on his list so I have no idea if I have the right Peter Loewen.) and just before Urban Refugee.
My friend and colleague Bill Doskoch — who is not so much a pure politics blogger as he is a politics/media/culture blogger — would stake out the number 75 spot on Morrow's list, according to Alexa's ranking.

In Ontario, voters like "average" McGuinty, says SES

Pollster SES Research releases a survey this morning about voter preferences in Ontario. In that province, Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals enjoy a seven-point lead over their nearest rival, John Tory’s Tories.

When asked who they would vote for in a provincial election, 42 per cent of respondents in SES’s survey said they’re vote Liberal. 35 per cent said they’d vote for the Progressive Conservatives and 16 per cent said they’d vote for Howard Hampton’s NDP party. Seven per cent were ready to mark an X next to a Green Party candidate.

But Nik Nanos, the principal at SES, has a warning for provincial Liberals: “The McGuinty Liberals should not take too much comfort in their seven point lead over the Tory PCs. Looking at the underlying numbers, Ontarians are split as to whether the province is going in the right direction (38%) or on the wrong track (39%). One half of Ontarians (51%) describe the McGuinty performance as Premier as “average”.”

SES Research polled 500 Ontarians between Nov. 25 and 27. The survey results are accurate to within 4.4 percentage points 19 times out of 20.


The Internet's real shame

For my money, the best consumer technology writer is (and has been for a very long time) David Pogue, now found mostly in the pages and Web home of The New York Times. In a recent post, he complains about the viscious tenor of online discourse at forums like this one:

…. the kneejerk “everyone else is an idiot” tenor is poisoning the potential the Internet once had. People used to dream of a global village, where maybe we can work out our differences, where direct communication might make us realize that we have a lot in common after all, no matter where we live or what our beliefs.

But instead of finding common ground, we're finding new ways to spit on the other guy, to push them away. The Internet is making it easier to attack, not to embrace.

Maybe as the Internet becomes as predominant as air, somebody will realize that online behavior isn't just an afterthought. Maybe, along with HTML and how to gauge a Web site's credibility, schools and colleges will one day realize that there's something else to teach about the Internet: Civility 101.

Hear! Hear!

U.S. State Department on Arar

The U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins said today that the U.S. still considers Maher Arar a threat. Here’s some addition comments given by U.S.  State Department spokesman Sean McCormack who was asked today about the Arar case:

QUESTION: A question from Canada about the case of Maher Arar. He was the
Canadian that was deported from —


QUESTION: Anyways, since he was deported to Syria and tortured and two false
confessions of terrorist activity, a Canadian federal inquiry has cleared him
of any wrongdoing. Today the U.S. Ambassador to Canada confirmed that he's
still on the U.S. terror watch list. Why is that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you the reasons for that. I don't know. The terror
watch list is managed here by the U.S. Government. There's a lot of different
inputs to it. I can tell you it's not a State Department input that has
resulted in his still being on the list. I'm happy to look further into the
question for you, but I can't tell you why. I don't know why.

QUESTION: I'm wondering if the U.S. Government has been in contact with the
Canadian Government about his case since the federal inquiry and shared the
information about his, you know, exoneration.

MR. MCCORMACK: I think there have been some exchanges. I don't have the details
D(["mb","for you though.

Yes, Mr. Gollust.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about Andrew Natsios\'s discussions today in Europe?
And given that time is slipping by in 2006, would he be talking about sort of
plan B sorts of things with NATO and the EU?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don\'t have any readout for you. He was supposed to be in
Brussels — supposed to have been in Brussels today or started his
conversations in Brussels today. I don\'t have a readout for you. He will be
back here in the States next week and I would expect the Secretary will want to
schedule a meeting with him to get a readout and his sense of where things
stand, what he was able to accomplish, what roadblocks are remaining, they are
still significant at this point, and what is the way forward. So I think those
are all conversations that we\'re going to be having during the coming week.

QUESTION: Could we suggest he speak to us?

MR. MCCORMACK: I certainly will.

QUESTION: And I have another question. I\'ve been asked to write something about
the Secretary\'s farewell lunch with Kofi Annan.


QUESTION: Do you know anything about it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, not much other than it\'s happening right now and it\'s a
private lunch with them and just a couple of aides. It\'s her way of bidding the
Secretary General farewell and wishing him the best in his future endeavors. As
she talked about recently, she will look back on her working relationship with
Secretary General Annan and remember many of the good things that we and she
were able to accomplish together with the Secretary General and the United
Nations. She referred specifically to the Global AIDS Fund, working to bring an
end to the war between Hezbollah and Israel, working on issues related to Sudan
and a variety of other issues.

Now, of course, there were differences. We all know what those differences are.
//–>for you though.

Top 10 Moments on [U.S] TV

The folks who make the TiVo personal video recorder commissioned a poll to find out what the biggest ‘moments’ were on U.S. television in the last year. TiVo hired a firm to survey 1,000 Americans and here’s what they said were their top 10 favourite moments from 2006:

  1. Katie Couric's last day on “Today”
  2. Mel Gibson's interview with Diane Sawyer after his DWI arrest
  3. Oprah tells author James Frey he betrayed readers 
  4. Sara and Grissom get together on “CSI”
  5. Faith Hill's reaction to Carrie Underwood's win at “CMA Awards” 
  6. Kirstie Alley's bikini reveal on “Oprah” 
  7. “Will & Grace” series finale in which their kids start dating 
  8. Kate and Sawyer get together on “Lost” 
  9. Rosie O'Donnell's debut on “The View”
  10. Connie Chung attempting a sultry serenade of Maury Povich 

I’ve got to confess: though many of these moments would have been simulcast by my employer CTV here in Canada, I don’t think I saw a single one! I missed Katie’s last day on “Today” but I caught her first day hosting the evening news (personally I thought that was a bigger deal). And what did Faith Hill do when Carrie Underwood win? (I confess I watched Carrie win American Idol but I’m blaming my wife for that one.)


Canada Post gets its marching orders …

And this just in on this busy last day of the Parliamentary calendar: Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon has just ordered Canada Post to restore rural roadside mail delivery within 18 months. Sounds like a nice little move that’s bound to boost support in the Conservative heartland — particularly if those carriers are delivering those $100–a-month—per-kid Conservative childcare cheques!

Canada Post spokesman John Caines says there are 800,000 rural mailboxes in the country and just about each one is different from the point-of-view of the safety of the delivery person. “That’s going to be a big, big project,” Caines said.

Cannon also ordered Canada Post to continue the Publications Assistance Program for two more years. That’s a program that gives publishers of magazines like Maclean’s, Chatelaine and other Canadian titles a break on the postage when they mail issues out to subscribers. Canada Post says this program costs $15–million a year. At this point, Canada Post will be expected to absorb the cost of that program but Caines said there are some initial discussions with the federal government to have the federal treasury kick in a bit to support the program.