Fundamentally Transforming Our Society to Confront Climate Change

The current governmental (mental being the key component of the word) focus is to funnel taxpayer money towards global businesses which develop energy mega-projects. These projects not only concentrate OUR money into business concerns which are already making millions or billions of dollars in profits and taking those profits out of country, but use our tax dollars to purchase goods and services which are not Canadian. These corporations then apply those foreign goods and services to energy mega-projects in Canada. As a by-product, some jobs and some products are created in-country and the political will is satisfied.

The flaw in this process is that the energy status quo can actively and successfully resist change. We as citizens are still faced with increasing energy costs, profound environmental impact due to the size and scope of energy mega-projects and increased government debt.

Politicians argue that energy mega-projects are the only effective way of generating enough power (or energy-related products) to satisfy demand and generate profits – which are taxable. Historically, freeing taxation dollars for grass-roots ventures has resulted in much too high failure rates, much too low production and significant loss of funds to fraud or miss-use. This attitude is not a result of lack of good intent, Politicians are terribly gun shy. Exposure by the media of funds inappropriately used is a political death sentence. Lack of proper oversight and even greater lack of insight into what kind of approach might actually work, disables political will. The only fallback position is to accept what is offered by lobbyists.

Enormous quantities of tax dollars are currently being funneled towards nuclear power plants, hydro-electric projects and petroleum or coal based technologies. In the mean time, funding for wind, solar and tide based technologies is almost non-existent by comparison. Even more importantly, red-tape for companies working with these “green” technologies is endless. In 2004 there were exactly ZERO companies producing solar panels for the commercial marketplace in Canada. Those Canadian companies were not non-existent, but instead building plants or producing solar panels in other counties because they could not get ANY support to do so in Canada. Companies working in tidal and other emerging power generation technologies report the same problems.

Governments seem frozen by past failures to find successful solutions in the triad of job creation, technology growth and oversight of funding on a more granular level. Seemingly endless demands from companies exploring “new” technologies only deepen this political indecision. Unwillingness to repeat past mistakes is to our benefit. Inability to move forward is not. So how do we move forward? The path seems hopelessly complex when the political risks of failure are so high and the very structure of our governments and the laws they create is so resistant to change. It need not be so. We, as a society can successfully find solutions which do work within the current framework. It only takes a LITTLE vision.

Other countries, notably a number in Europe, have embraced “green” technologies applied at the microscopic level. Our challenge in Canada is to do the same. We now have successful examples to follow.

We must begin by providing tax dollars (at levels which will still be insignificant when compared to those provided to mega-projects) to alternative energy micro-projects for individual homes and the upgrades which allow utilization of energy from those technologies. Since we already have individual “accounts” as citizens and small businesses with ALL levels of government, administration of such funds should be within easy reach of government management and control. The immediate impact would be a reduction of demand on the current energy infrastructure and an over-all reduction of energy costs where micro-projects were installed. Secondarily, energy costs would be reduced at the individual taxpayer level, freeing those who installed the systems to spend those energy savings in their communities.

Government attention must also be refocused on providing a business environment where Canadian companies which produce products for green micro-projects can exist and thrive. This will have an initial impact of providing jobs and creating an increased tax base within the country and have a secondary result of generating potential sales of products in the international marketplace. Our government, at all levels, must also re-evaluate how they deal with small power producers in emerging technologies. Current support for small tidal, wind and solar producers is almost non-existent and the laws which impact these technologies are hopelessly out of date. Small companies in this arena also face impossible odds because mega-corporations are in bed with government. As such, lobbyists from these corporations are capable of directing politicians and the laws they oversee and create, therefore maintaining a political environment where only large corporations can survive. This political behavior must change because it is fundamentally wrong on so many levels. Corporate profits leave the country and therefore the pockets of the individual citizen. The mega-projects which are created also arguably have a mega-impact on the environment although scientists working for these corporations can successfully argue that the over-all effect is small.

So, start small. Provide funds to the individual taxpayer earmarked specifically (for example) to solar panel installation on individual homes and upgrades to electrical and water systems in those homes so that those panels might be used effectively. Require that the funds be used for NEW energy production and do not allow them to be lost in the morass of renovation for improved energy efficiency (while this initiative might also be re-evaluated and better managed). Require receipts. NO, do not provide this funding in the form of a tax benefit. Too many people are living paycheque to paycheque to avail themselves of a tax benefit. Such funding is only for people who already have the money and can afford to wait for a refund. Initially, most “green technology” products will need to be purchased from outside Canada but as political support and corporate investment increase, more and more of our tax dollars will be spent in this country.

An immediate result of grass roots energy production will be reduced demand on use of petroleum, atomic, hydro-electric and coal based power infrastructure. Local jobs will be created to install these systems. If our government, at every level, will support the creation of small and medium sized businesses to develop and produce products for “home” energy production (which can also be used at the community level) we are well on the way to a new paradigm for energy production and use.

Instead of trying to plant an entire crop all at once, governments at every level should begin by encouraging every taxpayer to plant an individual seed. The most certain way to involve every taxpaying citizen is to give that citizen some of the money already collected in taxes in the form of a cheque to be put towards alternative energy production. The result will be a greener energy infrastructure which is more diverse, more resistant to failure and ultimately more productive than the one which currently exists.

Only when the populace is intimately involved in green energy will we be successful in moving toward a greener energy future. Any other course and any other outcome are unacceptable.

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