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A ZENN moment

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There's lots of buzz around the Canadian-made ZENN car, which is powered by a rechargeable battery. The version available now is low-speed, designed for city streets, but the company plans to soon release a model that can reach highway speeds.

Promoters of the vehicle say that because it does not emit exhaust through a tail pipe---ZENN stands for "zero emissions, no noise"---it is a valuable tool in the fight against climate change. That's certainly the case in Quebec, which has approved the vehicle, because that province generates almost all of its electricity through non-polluting hydro power. Drivers switching from conventional cars to the ZENN will be replacing their greenhouse gas-belching gasoline engines with clean electric batteries.

But Nova Scotia generates the bulk of its electricity with four coal-fired plants, which are among the largest sources of GHG emissions in Canada. For local drivers, switching over to the ZENN would actually increase GHG emissions, not reduce them. That hasn't stopped NDP transportation critic Vicki Conrad from introducing a bill that would make the ZENN legal on provincial roads.

Conrad points out that the province has outlined big future reductions in total GHG emissions. The ZENN can operate as Nova Scotia Power switches over to renewable sources of electricity, she claims.

Problem is, all of the political parties, including the NDP, have refused to endorse a "demand side management" plan carved out earlier this year by environmentalists, businesses, consumer advocates and NSP representatives. Adoption of that plan is essential if Nova Scotia is to have any hope of actually achieving the lowered GHG emission targets, and if the plan isn't adopted soon, NSP will be forced to build a fifth coal-fired plant, making matters that much worse. Throwing electric cars into the mix without implementing the plan is the worse thing we could do, environmentally speaking.

Support for groovy-sounding (but highly polluting) electric cars aside, the NDP is apparently hoping to win the next election with a "we don't stand for anything" platform.

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