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A dirty shame

Tim Bousquet sees our premier’s dastardly ecological deeds.


Maybe you missed it, but last week Rodney MacDonald voted in favour of global warming.

At a Moncton conference called in part to address environmental issues, Nova Scotia's premier joined up with his counterparts from Alberta and Newfoundland to kill a plan to impose a national "cap and trade" system to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

Alberta and Newfoundland are damning the planet in pursuit of future petroleum dollars. But MacDonald is damning the planet so we can continue to live in the past: he doesn't want to dismantle our dirty coal-fired power plants.

We've got four of these hulking behemoths, built atop the now-abandoned coal mines of Cape Breton and the north shore, the oldest of which are pushing 40 years of age. These plants together spew out nearly 12 million tonnes of GHG each year, and are by themselves responsible for about half of all GHG emitted by everyone and every industry in the province.

These four coal plants are the reason why Nova Scotia is such a heavy polluter, even for Canada, and why our province is one of the most polluting places on Earth, exceeded only by a few Middle Eastern oil baronies and the Alberta tar sands operations.

MacDonald and the officials around him know that it's not possible to meet the GHG targets the province has already agreed to (and which the Kyoto Accord binds us to) without shutting down the coal plants and replacing them with greener power generation. Doing the right thing<0x2014>closing the coal plants<0x2014>will take strong leadership, the expense of political capital, and courage. Unfortunately, MacDonald lacks all of those traits.

But time is of the essence. Coal is already responsible for 20 percent of global GHG emissions, and global warming will accelerate if India and China continue to follow our lead by producing electricity with coal.

Climatologists and environmentalists are calling for a worldwide moratorium on new dirty coal-fired power plants, and the dismantling of existing ones. That last part is essential: there's no reason for China to agree to a moratorium if we in the west continue to use coal. And each day that passes without action brings us closer to the brink of global catastrophe, as China is opening a new coal plant every six days, on average.

The cap and trade system would have begun a process that would have ultimately led to the closing of our polluting coal plants, or at least would have mitigated the damage done by them by reducing emissions elsewhere. By voting against the system, MacDonald cast an affirmative vote in favour of the destruction of the planet.

Our political system has utterly failed on the global warming front, so if we're going to responsibly address the threat, it's up to the people themselves to act. The first order of business should be to shut down Nova Scotia's coal-fired power plants.

In last week's letter page, Halifax councillor Andrew Younger took issue with my backing of a district heating system for Halifax. "The total available heat at Tufts Cove may be enough to heat the city, but the distances are too great," wrote Younger.

He is incorrect. The National Energy Center for Sustainable Communities, a research institute associated with the US Department of Energy, published a paper studying this issue ( and found that "15 miles is the maximum distance for a hot water line when thermal energy is derived from an electrical power plant."

Therefore, Tufts Cove can easily serve the peninsula with a district heating system.

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