Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
Fisherville, Ontario, Canada
Tel. 416 410-0432, Fax: 416 362-5231
Vol. 15, No. 3, June 17, 2010
Honoured Reader Edition
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This issue we are catching up on some environmental sustainability issues that have cropped up and not found space in our recent issues.

In the US, a unit of Congress has found some major problems with the Energy Star program. Loblaw continues to be a leader on recycling plant pots and trays used by garden centres. We give you the scoop. A major industrial waste management company has published a sustainability report. In an industry sector that historically has a very poor reputation, Newalta may be setting a standard for more environmentally sound management of wastes. The TSX is a partner in a new Clean Technology Index. While indexes such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index have yet to prove the performance of greener companies, GL welcomes these initiatives as increasing the awareness of the investment community to social and environmental responsibility issues and giving all companies another standard to which to aspire.

The public certainly needs better information on climate science and the Science Museum in the UK is stepping up to provide it. Strange, isn't it, that there is no major exhibit on climate change in any of Canada's national capital museums although the Canadian Museum of Nature  has rudiments including rental of a travelling exhibit on some aspects of climate change with the support of TransCanada Corporation. The National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy has produced a report which ranks Canada's performance on a low carbon economy within the G8. We tell you where we stand and how we got there!

We get letters, and in this issue we publish four, each of which makes a powerful point from an informed position. We sure like to receive your letters at

Have you ever heard of a country choosing to leave oil in the ground? Ecuador is trying to do it in an economically sound way in one of its most pristine areas. We explain the challenges. By the way, one of the source documents (links to source documents are provided to our top level subscribers) is written by Gerard Coffey, whom some readers may remember as the manager of Pollution Probe's Ecology House back in the 1980's.

One of our correspondents has found that achieving significant reductions in carbon emissions from buildings is much more challenging than expected, in part because people, at least in the UK, adapt their behaviour to use more energy in an energy efficient building. We present the research findings and leave with you the thought that energy efficiency cannot be about technology alone but must also incorporate programs to ensure social adaptation. What a novel idea!
Next issue we will return to our thematic approach with some commentary on recent developments in water quality. Meanwhile we hope you enjoy this issue and, if you have comments, as we suspect you will, we encourage you to send a Letter to the Editor. On Canada Day, think about what we are doing to Canada's environment.


We normally try to avoid reporting in Gallon Environment Letter on environmental matters that are extensively covered in the daily media but the BP Gulf saga, one of the most serious environment events so far this century, is essentially unavoidable. So rather than recount all of the gory details we have picked a few key points where we believe our voice can contribute something to the debate.

Whose fault is it?
Many in the media and environmental groups have blamed those who consume petroleum products for the mess in the Gulf. GL rejects that argument. Certainly our consumption of petroleum products contributes to overall environmental damage but people are not putting gas in their cars or buying plastic shoes because the industry has chosen to drill for oil in deep ocean areas. People are buying gasoline and plastic products because they want the benefits that those products provide. If you want to transport yourself over any significant distance, for example to visit your far flung family, you have little option but to use a petroleum powered mode of transportation. If you want to wear a shirt on your back, you have little option but to buy one that is either made of petroleum product (polyester, for example) or that is grown with petroleum inputs (pesticides and fertilizers on cotton, for example). Certainly there are niche options, but organic hemp, organic cotton, and biodiesel are not yet available in sufficient quantity to replace all of the petroleum we use and if we did try to use bioproducts in place of all non-renewable products then we would quickly run out of land for food production. People are not using the products of oil exploration and production because they want to destroy the environment but because our science-based industries have not developed low environmental impact alternatives and because we want to be able to travel and enjoy the products of our technological society. Better to blame scientists for not developing petroleum-free products and governments for not imposing a carbon tax that would provide a revenue base for such research than to blame the consumer for what is happening in the Gulf.

Whose fault is it?
There has been a great deal of debate about whether the blow-out was the fault of BP, the rig owner, or the drilling operator. The courts will eventually have a fine time trying to sort out the mess of responsibility. This kind of thing happens so frequently that it is time for governments to resolve it. Governments should pass legislation that designates the responsible party whenever an environmental permit is issued. Most simply, whatever organization applies for the permit should automatically be responsible for all of the environmental risks, without any ceiling on expenditures. Bankruptcy should not be allowed as a way to avoid financial responsibility for clean-up of environmental damage caused.

Who should be cleaning up the mess?
People in the Gulf states have been urging that the US federal government should be taking the lead in cleaning up the mess. While one can understand that view, especially in light of the loss of jobs and fear of catastrophic environmental harm, GL would suggest that it is not realistic. Governments do not have the expertise to deal with environmental disasters on this scale and it is not realistic for the government to maintain a staff of science and engineering experts who have the expertise to deal with all of the disasters that might occur. Far better to make use of the expertise within the private sector and it is likely that, in this particular case, BP has more expertise than most other organizations. We might be inclined to consider the idea that government should participate in the meetings that plan the remedial strategy but we would weigh that against our experience that the more people at meetings the less actual work gets done.

Precautionary Principle
European environmental and health legislation often places more emphasis on the precautionary principle than North American legislation. Our governments are more likely to allow companies to bypass environmental protection measures because they 'cost too much'. Few studies have been done comparing cost savings from bypassing of environmental measures with the costs incurred because of environmental damage caused but GL's hunch is that in many cases the costs of clean-up far outweigh the cost savings resulting from scrapping of environmental protection measures. We would suggest that governments should generally apply the Precautionary Principle and, in those few cases where there is good reason not to, the companies involved should be required to post a bond big enough to cover the costs of the most serious environmental effect imaginable.

Jobs and the economy versus the environment
It is frequently argued that we cannot afford environmental protection measures because industrial and resource investment would simply flow to other countries. This is a false dichotomy. We cannot afford a global economy based on environmental risk and destruction because such activities are simply not sustainable. For resources that are in decline, such as crude oil, the rush to extract every last drop makes little sense. More wealth will be created by leaving them in the ground until prices go higher and we can afford the most advanced environmental protection measures. International negotiations can ensure that similar standards are imposed worldwide. Green procurement standards, such as those used to restrict toxic metals in jewellery and toys, can bring further pressure on countries that allow pollution of the environment.

The management of communications on the Gulf blowout has been poor. First, the long time description of these things as 'spills' is absurd. This is not a spill, except in a legalistic sense, but a blow-out. By calling it a spill both the company and the government appear to be attempting to diminish the significance of the event and they immediately lose some of the trust of the public. Similarly, far better to have real experts talking to the media and the cameras than the CEO and the head of the Coast Guard. It is Ok to have the CEO talking about BP's financial commitment but it is clear he knows little about the environmental impacts of large oil spills. Bring on the experts, not the spin doctors, and let them explain what is going on and what can and cannot be done about it. GL's editor is reminded of a CHCH television interview in which he debated a retired US submarine commander who had initially urged government to close BP's gulf pipe with a nuclear torpedo. While GL certainly wants to allow the general public to input their ideas, because sometimes non-experts can come up with a truly useful proposals, one really has to wonder why the media would present a retired submarine commander as someone who has especially useful ideas on preventing environmental damage from a blowout. GL's research suggested that the idea had no merit at all and would probably have made the situation much worse. Certainly by putting the commander's idea forward the media did little more than further confuse an already very complex situation.

If you want to know more about the BP blowout may we refer you to the general news and the official response centres. GL will try to avoid the issue but we will probably find ourselves drawn in a few more times yet.

Colin Isaacs 

Unified Command for the BP Oil Spill, Deepwater Horizon Response Center.
US. Dept. of Commerce. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA. GeoPlatform - Gulf Response


The US General Accountability Office obtained Energy Star certification for 15 products which didn't exist. Two bogus products were rejected and three submissions received no response. Two of the bogus companies were contacted by buyers interested in purchasing. In the US, and periodically in Canada, purchases of Energy Star products are subsidized by the government with tax credits and appliance rebates. In addition, federal government departments are required to purchase certain Energy Star certified products.

In 2008, there were 40,000 Energy Star models from 2,400 manufacturers. Some had claims of up to 75% energy savings compared to standard models. For 60 categories of household and commercial products, Energy Star is supposed to apply to those that are the most energy efficient (efficiency of up to 10 to 25 percent over the minimum federal standards).

Examples of the bogus products include:
Issues raised by GAO include:
The conclusion: "Energy Star controls do not ensure products meet efficiency guidelines." The covering letter for the report says Energy Star "touts itself as a trustworthy means for letting consumers know which products deliver the same or better performance as comparable models while using less energy and saving money." The program report states that in 2008, through use of Energy Star certified products, Americans prevented 43 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and saved more than $19 billion in utility costs.

The GAO report concludes that the Energy Star Program run by the US government through two of its departments is also "for the most part, a self certification program vulnerable to fraud and abuse."

In April, the US. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy jointly announced "changes to the Energy Star product certification process to ensure that only products meeting the program requirements can receive an Energy Star label. These changes accelerate steps DOE and EPA have initiated over the past several months to bolster the verification, testing and enforcement aspects of the Energy Star program."

GL notes that, just as in the case of food and product contamination, pathologist reports that falsely implicate parents of child abuse or excessive member of parliament expenses, the gaps in Energy Star are an indicator of failures in the system but by themselves give little indication of how many of the other products in the program may or may not be compliant with the program's stated standards.

Regulator Focus

Third party ecolabelling programs such as Canada's Ecologo, US Green Seal and the US government run Energy Star Program have generally received less scrutiny and guidance from regulators. In Canada, the Competition Bureau used only the ISO self-certified ecolabelling guide to provide guidance to those making self-certified environmental claims. Presumably the assumption is that third party labels such as Canada's own Ecologo licensed to Terra Choice met standards. . Although on the surface, it seems there is an independence in such labels, in fact there is an inherent profit-motive because of the reliance on fees from certified products - the more certified products, the more revenues.

In work on evaluating green products and their labels, GL's editor used to think it reasonable to accept claims already accepted under an established third-party ecolabel but has encountered a few situations where the manufacturers couldn't provide the documentation and verifications which one would expect to exist already for such a third-party certified product.

Environment Canada

Even though the Competition Bureau says "green" is a vague term which should not be used without supporting evidence, a major Canadian federal department uses it in unsupported advice to consumers and inappropriately takes the side of one private company over many others in the marketplace. In a piece in its education section called "Don't Be a Victim of Greenwashing", Environment Canada reprises the verbiage of a negative advertising piece called ""Sins of Greenwashing" by Terra Choice, a private company which it has licensed to ecolabel products under the Ecologo. Environment Canada then recommends,
"WHAT TO LOOK FOR Of course, there are products out there that are genuinely green, and you should consider purchasing them. Now that you know what to avoid, here’s what to seek out. 1) Look out for certified eco-labels, such as ENERGY STAR and Ecologo."

GL: Whoopa! Turns out that a ENERGY STAR certified product may or not be so assuredly "genuinely green." Equally Environment Canada has provided no evidence (and apparently sees no need to do so) that self-certified labels are not "legit", as they say only the "certified ecolabels" especially their own are.

Since the ecolabel is Environment Canada's, this seems a clear conflict of interest. Only in the world of environmental changes to consumer products, could a major government department such as Environment Canada diss wholesale, without data or evidence, a large number of products manufactured or distributed by the private sector and labelled by them. A similar statement on other non-environmental issues would cause a backlash, for example, equating all accounting practices in numerous companies to ponzi schemes or most drivers to careless, irresponsible or drunk drivers.

Greenwashing or Fraud

The GAO didn't use the term green at all (exception: greenhouse gases). GL was pleased to read the GAO's use of the term fraud rather than that nebulous and unverifiable term "greenwash". Fraud is specific to the claims and means that the claims submitted were false or misleading, which can be proven even if it has to be determined by a court of law. Greenwash, like sins, nimbyism and a favourite of one of our associates "Crooked as a dog's hind leg", means anything the critics want it to mean without the need for substantiation.. For example, critics could apply the term greenwash even if the claims were accurate but the critic doesn't like one or more of the company's environmental or other practices, doesn't like the business the company is in, for example, oil companies, water bottling companies, chemical companies or biotech companies, is generally opposed to large corporations or wants to get at a corporate competitor.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


In 2008, Loblaw, the supermarket chain, set up a recycling program for plastic pots and trays used by the nursery trade at its garden centres. These items are difficult to recycle because even though consumers are asked to clean them there is always dirt and other contamination. In 2008, Loblaw recycled 1.2 million pounds of plastic pots and flats. The store also offers an incentive in the form of a $5 coupon for a minimum number of pots which can be used to offset a specified amount of purchase.

Reuse would be best for most of the stronger containers but the nursery trade fears diseases being transmitted on used plant containers. Once introduced into the nursery, some diseases can ruin future plantings for many years.

Consumers can return pots from other sources than Loblaw. It is said to be one of the first national closed-loop system in Canada: the pots with the recycled content are shipped to growers who in turn supply Loblaw Garden Centres.

GL's editor was involved with some of the research and recommendations for this program at its initiation. It shows that retailers can be involved in direct take-back programs. As regulators increase the types of materials and the fees charged to retailers for recycling, retailers may find their own programs while still costing money, effort and present problems-which-need-solutions are effective especially for materials not commonly collected in municipal recycling programs. Some retailers don't like return-to-store recycling because of the potential for vandalism and contamination with non-recyclable materials, however, there is the advantage of bringing customers to the store. For example, GL's editor often buys supplies when he takes electronic scrap to Staples. Loblaw also released its third CSR report.

Myers Industries

Myers Industries based in the Akron Ohio with a facility in Brantford. makes products for the horticultural sector including these pots with recycled material.

In its March 2010 10-K filing, the company identified itself as seeking to be a green manufacturer. e.g. thermoformed pots with thinner wall construction but with a dark layer of recycled material to prevent sun damage of the plant roots, seed starting kits made of peat-free renewable coir pellets. Use of recycled plastics is said to reduce the Company's exposure to higher costs for virgin raw material.

Supplying the garden business is seasonal and affected by weather including hurricanes, water shortages, floods, excessive temperatures whether cool or warm. These affect the cash flow of the company. Regulation for plastics and increased consumer concern about plastics are listed as other negatives for the bottom line.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


Newalta based in Calgary, Alberta has released its first CSR Report, the 2010 Sustainability Report. Newalta is an industrial waste management and environmental services company. There are 85 facilities and 2000 staff mostly across Western Canada/Ontario and Quebec and Texas and Wyoming. Newalta provides product recovery and recycling including crude oil. lead, used lube oil, wastewater, solvents, and oil filters. In 2009, the company recovered
Alan P. Cadotte, President and Chief Executive Officer, has been there since the beginning when the company began in Alberta in 1993. Newalta is now 100 times larger and recovers $400 million of products from industrial wastes.

Among the changes in the last 17 years are:
The report says Newalta is the only company successfully recycling slop oil, waste from SAGD (Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage) returning the crude oil to the producer. The company services only about a quarter of the SAGD market so there is room for expansion. SAGD is used in the oilsands such as in Fort McMurray where the heavy oil is too deep to mine. It has a high cost and environmental impact due to the energy and water needed for steam generation but recovers a high percentage of the oil in place. Two horizontal wells are used: one to inject steam into a steam chamber to melt the bitumen, the other on a lower level is the producing well to collect the hot bitumen. Slop oil is waste oil which often contains a high percentage of oil but also solids, water and other contaminants such as from the bottom of oil tanks. Processing of slop oil to recover as much oil as possible and separating other liquids increases profits, reduces disposal costs and protects the environment.

The report outlines some specific numerical targets the company has set for itself including building on achievements of previous years in health, safety and environmental incidents. Newalta is also doing what is often recommended which is to identify site-specific improvements, addressing safety conditions, behaviours and environmental awareness. Newalta has set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Its 85 facilities emit 90,000 tonnes of total gross carbon dioxide. Canada's reporting for CO2 requires that any single facility emitting more than 50,000 tonnes per year of CO2 must comply with reporting regulations. Newalta's emissions are relatively small compared to those facilities required to report but it seeks to reduce emissions over the years.

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


Standard & Poor's and the TMX Group, operator of the Toronto Stock Exchange launched S&P/TSX Clean Technology Index in March The index lists companies with a core business of development and deployment of green technologies. Jantzi-Sustainalytics screened the companies. The list of companies is:
Gerdau Ameristeel Corp
Brookfield Renewable Power Fund
Westport Innovations Inc
Cascades Inc
Northland Power Income Fund
Automation Tooling Systems
Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp.
Ram Power Corporation
Newalta Corporation
Plutonic Power Corp
Ballard Power Systems Inc
Boralex Inc
Ruggedcom Inc.
Burcon NutraScience Corp.
WaterFurnace Renewable Energy Inc
Innergex Renewable Energy Inc
Macquarie Power & Infrastructure Income Fund
Innergex Power Inc
Boralex Power Income Fund
Azure Dynamics

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


The London (UK) Science Museums is changing its Climate Change gallery to "atmosphere: exploring climate science", a new gallery which is opening November 2010. The gallery will summarize the current state of knowledge to be attractive to visitors at all levels of knowledge. The findings of science presented include "that human actions are the most likely dominant cause and that a major response is required, both to reduce the likelihood of disruptive climate change and to adapt to the change."

Elements include:
Prof. Chris Rapley CBE, Director of the Science Museum, said: the gallery "will provide our visitors with accurate, up-to-date information on what is known, what is uncertain, and what is not known about this hugely important subject, and the ways that science, technology and industry can contribute to a positive future."

Sponsors include Royal Dutch Shell plc, (Netherlands), Siemens (UK) and the UK government department DEFRA (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


The National Round Table on Environment and Economy has released The Measuring Up report which ranks Canada within the other G8 countries for low-carbon performance. The benchmarking analysis was done by Deloitte & Touche LLP, which developed the Low-Carbon Performance Index, and the Conference Board of Canada provided advice. The report was reviewed by Andrew Sharpe of the Centre for the Study of Living Standards, and Jeffrey Fritzsche of Statistics Canada.

Climate Action and Prosperity

Bob Page writes in the Message from the Chair:
"As Canadians move to define their position in a carbon-constrained world, we must focus on our innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth. We must create low carbon solutions that others will want to buy. We must continually benchmark and compare our efforts to our G8 colleagues. We must understand well the carbon context of our trade operations with the G8 and beyond. This is where sustainability and prosperity meet and interact. Our export products will have to meet global carbon standards, but in doing so nurture our own prosperity."

David McLaughlin, NRTEE President and CEO, suggests that the green race is on but it is not at all certain that Canada's place in the transition is assured. He writes, "Canada must position itself to compete and prosper in a new global low-carbon economy. The challenge before us is not just about coping with climate change, but prospering through it."


The higher the ranking the better the performance on climate amongst the G8 countries. France was 1rst with a total of 58 points followed by Germany with 52. United Kingdom was 3rd, Japan 4th, US 5th. Canada was 6th with 38 points followed by Italy with 27. Russia hardly ranked at all as it was 8th with 7 points.

The main categories of indicators each have subcategories.
1. Emissions and Energy Category - A. Carbon Productivity B. Carbon Emissions Embodied in Exports C Share of Low-carbon Electricity

Canada ranks 6th in this category overall but only because it received a Rank of 2 in low-carbon electricity. For indicator 1a and b it ranked 7th and 8th ie second to last and last

2 Innovation Category - a. Low-carbon Energy Patents B. Energy Sector Business Expenditure on R&D c.. Government Expenditure on Low-carbon Energy R&D

Canada ranked 3rd overall. GL notes that a high portion of government expenditure is on carbon capture and storage which is very much unproven as a solution.

3 Skills Category - a. Number of Sustainability MBA Programs B. Share of Low-carbon Technical Graduates C. Post-secondary Education Spending per Student as a Share of GDP per Capita

Canada ranked 1st overall ranking and first and second for 3a and c but 7th for b

4 Investment Category a. Clean Technology Initial Public Offering (IPO) b. Clean Technology Venture Capital (VC) c . Low-carbon Stimulus Spending

Canada ranked 4th for investment with the subcategories ranking either 3rd or 4th.

5 Policy and Institutions a. Presence of a Low-carbon Growth Plan (LCGP) B. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Targets and Accountability c. Carbon Price Coverage and Stringency

Canada ranked 6th in this subcategory. For 5a, it has no plan so it was not ranked. The other two subcategories were 5th.

For each category and the three subcategories/indicators, the report discusses why the category and the indicators are important.

Canada got points for having a Medium-term GHG target but GL wonders whether there is any distinction made between goals-on-paper vs goals governments show some commitment to keep. Canada supposedly had a goal which was promised to the world by the Environment Minister at Copenhagen in December but this goal was later watered down.

Carbon Productivity Indicator

This is the level of economic activity measured as GDP per CO2 equivalent emissions. The measure has been developed by the Climate Institute (Australia) and E3G (UK), Next 10 (California) and the McKinsey Global Institute as well as others. Ways of improving carbon productivity includes switches to non-fossil fuels, growth of GDP, energy efficiency and carbon capture and storage. A high score is an indicator that the country can enjoy economic wealth in a carbon-constrained world. Canada in 7th place on this measure is still behind the US while France is 2.5 times higher. The leading countries are quite far ahead of the lower ranking countries. The expansion of the oilsands will lower Canada's score.

Current Membership of NRTEE

Bob Page, TransAlta Professor of Environmental Management and Sustainability
Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta

Francine Dorion
St-Bruno-de-Montarville, Québec

Robert Slater, Adjunct Professor, Environmental Policy
Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario

The Hon. Pauline Browes, P.C., Director
Waterfront Regeneration Trust, Toronto, Ontario

Elizabeth Brubaker, Executive Director
Environment Probe, Toronto, Ontario

Dianne Cunningham, Director
Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Management, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario

Anthony Dale, Vice President, Policy and Public Affairs
Ontario Hospital Association, Toronto, Ontario

John Hachey
Lachine, Quebec

Timothy Haig, President and CEO, BIOX Corporation
Oakville, Ontario

Christopher Hilkene, President, Clean Water Foundation
Toronto, Ontario

Franklin Holtforster, President and CEO, MHPM Project Managers Inc.
Ottawa, Ontario

Robert Kulhawy, Executive Chairman, Calco Environmental Group
Brockville, Ontario

Donald MacKinnon, President, Power Workers’ Union
Toronto, Ontario

Robert Mills, International Advisor, Globe International and Senior Advisor, Plasco Energy Group
Red Deer, Alberta

Mark Parent
Canning, Nova Scotia

Richard Prokopanko, Director, Government Relations, Rio Tinto Alcan Inc.
Vancouver, British Columbia

Wishart Robson, Climate Change Advisor, Nexen Inc.
Calgary, Alberta

David McLaughlin

Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.


            Subject: GL Vol. 15, No. 2, May 5, 2010


I have been very happy to receive the Letter. Of course it makes me feel a bit old to realize that this is the 40th anniversary of that great "environmental guideline", the 3Rs...

Your introduction is so totally correct. As many of us tree huggers actually do realize, it isn't about the trees... It's about us. Even though the human species seems to be the latest asteroid to hit this planet, it is beyond reason to think that we will eradicate life completely. So, the environment will win in the end. It sure would be better, though, if we would not cause such huge negative impacts.

It would be better for us, and for the many species we could continue to enjoy this planet with - if we would simply get better at hugging trees...

So, here's another tremendous "environmental guideline" we would be wise to implement better: Think globally, act locally.

Thanks for your work.

David McCallum

GL note: David McCallum is President, M+A Environmental Consultants Inc., Hamilton, Ontario. He provides a range of services relating to environmental management systems and auditing. He has a biology degree from McGill and an M.E.Des. (Master of Environmental Design) from the University of Calgary, McCallum is an instructor for the ecourse initiative at The Air and Waste Management Association. His course called Internal Environmental Auditor has been offered in 2008 and 2009. This online course provides flexibility for the student but because it is offered over a specific six week period allows for interaction with the work of other students and the instructor. Completion of the course is eligible for points with the American Board of Industrial Hygienist and also for Continuing Education Units.

Air & Waste Management Association. EMGM-191E Internal Environmental Auditor. 2009.

            Subject: Water Problems Gl V15 No. 2


Your piece on water problems was spot on and very timely. You did, however, fail to make the link to climate change, which is certainly important. For example, diminishing glaciers and snowpacks will certainly affect a large percentage (as much as 15-20%?) of the world's population.(1).

Recently the Indian government correctly criticized the IPCC for exaggerating the diminishment of that country's glaciers (2). Yet the Indian Space Applications Centre reports that "Since 1960, almost a fifth of the Indian Himalayas' ice coverage has disappeared" (2), hardly cause for celebration by the most complacent of bureaucrats or denial of climate change effects. In the neighboring Himalayan country of Ladakh, engineers are building artificial glaciers to replace the ones that have disappeared or supplement those in retreat, hardly an indication that the rosy outlook of the Indian report is correct (3).

(1) Barnett, T.P., J.C. Adam and D.P. Lettenmaier. 2005. Potential impacts of a warming climate on water availability in snow-dominated regions. Nature 438: 303-309.
(2) Bagla, P. 2009. No sign yet of Himalayan meltdown, Indian report finds. Science 326: 924-925.
(3) Vince, G. 2009. Glacier man. Science 326: 659-661.

Best regards,
 -- Malcolm Cleaveland

Malcolm K. Cleaveland, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Geography
Tree-Ring Laboratory Dept. of Geosciences, Division of Geography University of Arkansas - Fayetteville AR 72701 U.S.A.
GL note: The Tree-Ring Laboratory was set up in 1979 and develops chronologies of exactly dated annual ring width from ancient forests globally. The lab staff take small core samples non-destructively from living trees and cross-sections from dead logs to reconstruct dates and events in history including past climate, stream flow, socioeconomic effects of past extremes of climate, e.g. long years of drought, identification and mapping of ancient forests.

            Subject: Yasuni-ITT Initiative (see also separate GL article below)

Dear Sir/Madam,

My name is Joe Vogel and I am an economist who has subscribed to the newsletter for many years. I work on the economics of climate change, but in a fashion distinct from Nicholas Stern and also critical of Stern. In Copenhagen, I launched The Economics of the Yasuni Initiative: Climate Change as if Thermodynamics Mattered (Anthem, 2009). The book enjoyed a subvention from the UNDP to keep it online and is freely downloadable at: It has resonated well within the academic community engaged in climate policy as well within civil society seeking climate justice.

Unless I missed an issue, I do not believe the Gallon Environment Letter covered the story of the Yasuni-ITT Initiative. It begins in the UN General Assembly in New York in 2007 when the President of Ecuador made a proposal with sweeping implications for international climate policy: his country would not drill in the Yasuni UNESCO Biophere Reserve if the industrialized world would finance half the worth of that oil. Through the “Yasuni Commission,” the proposal was vetted worldwide. Among the industrialized countries, Germany took the lead and committed $650 million and the UNDP designed a Trust Fund to receive the financial flows. However, the President of Ecuador finds the international response inadequate. In contrast to the $650 million committed, just the investment flows from oil extraction would be $5 billion. The President now speaks favorably about exercising the option of drilling in the Yasuni despite the predictable devastation (see, for example, the prestigious PLoS article “Global Conservation Significance of Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park,

The international press has covered the story but not in the detail that the story merits. For example, award-winning journalist Andrew Revkin gives only an outline in “A Durable Yet Vulnerable Eden in the Amazonia” (The New York Times, 20 January 2010,

In the international public conversation about the Initiative, the threshold has not yet been reached that would tip the scales toward conservation. Nevertheless, that threshold is very near. I am writing to ask if your Newsletter could cover the story and reference "The Economics of the Yasuni Initiative: Climate Change as if Thermodynamics Mattered" and/or the aforementioned
articles in your website. Like the Public Library of Science or The New York Times, The Economics of the Yasuni Initiative is currently open access. I can also provide an updated and extensive bibliography/filmography of the Initiative as it has been reported in diverse media.

Thanks for your consideration,
Joseph Henry Vogel, PhD
Professor Department of Economics University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras

Subject: Research on residential energy consumption challenges govt policy (see also separate GL article below)

Dear Gallon Environment Letter Editor,

I'd like to bring to your attention a major UK research project that has wider policy implications: Carbon reduction in existing domestic buildings A major research study published that shows how people in the UK actually use energy in their home (and not how models presume they use energy). A large number of homes were monitored on half-hourly basis (outdoor temperature, indoor temperature, energy consumption, appliances used, etc) as well as residents interviewed. What it found was that energy efficiency measures are 'taken back' by occupants in terms of higher temperatures, longer operating hours for central heating, etc.

Although not a new concept, this study provides the first detailed, authoritative investigation and finds a significant amount of the efficiency gain is cancelled by occupants' take-back - in some cases as much as 50%. This shows that technological efficiency by itself will not deliver the expected reductions in energy or CO2. This raises interesting questions about current government policy which encourages exactly this kind of technological 'efficiency' but may not deliver the expected/required savings in CO2.

The research was a multi-centred study involving 6 UK universities: De Montfort, University College London, Reading, Manchester, Sheffield and Loughborough. Funding was provided jointly by the Carbon Trust and EPSRC (1), with additional funding from ESRC (2) and NERC (3).

The research was published in Building Research & Information (BRI) (4), an international peer-reviewed research journal.

Richard Lorch, RIBA
Editor in Chief, Building Research & Information 43 Saint George's Avenue, Tufnell Park, London N7-0AJ, UK T: +44 (0)20 7609 4311 W:
Notes: 1. EPSRC Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, investing about £850 million a year. 2. Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's research and training agency addressing economic and social concerns 3 NERC is UK's Natural Environment Research Council 4. Building Research & Information is a refereed journal published six times a year by Routledge in the UK with a focus on buildings and their supporting systems. Personal subscription GBP428/Institutional online GBP1072

(see also letter above)

Ecuador has constitutional law introduced in 1999 banning oil drilling from the southern part of its largest national park, Yasuni, one of the most biodiverse natural areas in the world and the home of indigeneous people who choose to have little contact with outsiders. This has been said to be the first constitution anywhere in the world granting the rights to nature. The boundary of the "untouchable area" wasn't set until 2006 but a pipeline connects operating oil wells which are said to be extracting from this no-go zone. President Rafael Correa's plan for the Yasuni-ITT, introduced in 2007, envisions the Yasuni Trust Fund to be funded by other countries to leave the estimated 850 million barrels of oil in the ground preventing the release of 400 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and preserving the unique biodiversity of the Amazonian rainforest. Ecuador wants $3.5 billion which is said to be half of the value of the oil. The ITT part of the name refers to the oilfields Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini some of which are located under the "no-drill" park area. Yasuni is designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

For the funders, accountability and value for money is also of concern. The issue becomes how Ecuador can be held to account for its side of the agreement, that is, to leave the oil in the ground. Approaches could include cancellation of annual payments to Ecuador arising from the fund if oil is extracted and possibly reaction by the country’s people who support protection of Yasuni. Other questions includes what do investors get from their investment e.g. ownership of the oil or carbon credits.

Ecuadorian negotiators turned down an offer from Germany and others which would have paid $1.7 billion into the trust fund but put conditions that Correa was angry about. The conditions included leaving 20% of the oil reserve in the ground, protecting almost 10 million hectares or more than a third of Ecuador's land and ties to how the money was to be spent such as on renewable energy. The foreign minister Fander Falconi resigned in January; he was the minister in charge of the plan to leave the oil in the ground. Correa called the offer shameful and a threat to sovereignty.

Sovereignty Position

The First People's World Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, called by Bolivia's President Evo Morales, was held on April 19-22 in Cochabamba, Bolivia. About 30,000 people attended from social, environmental and indigenous groups. On April 26, 2010, Venezuela on behalf of the the ALBA-PTT Member States which also include Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua submitted an official report to the UN Framework on the Climate Change Convention Working Group on Long-Term Cooperative Action. beginning with, "We, the Governments of ALBA-PTT, make these voices our own, and express our expectations with regard to the agreement resulting from these negotiations that we expect to be successfully completed at the 16th Session of the Conference of the Parties, in Cancún, Mexico, in the shape of a fair, balanced and legally binding agreement, which complements and strengthens the regulations in force composed of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol."

The position is strong on sovereignty and included:
Paid subscribers see link to original documents and references here.

(see also letter above)

Kevin Lomas, Professor of Civil and Building Engineering (Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK) was the editor for the special issue of the journal Building Research & Information on carbon reduction in existing buildings.

Some of his points are
Social Dimension

Lomas highlighted key conclusions of the papers in the journal and overall they suggest that policymakers are working on assumptions that may not be true. The papers in this journal are all except one from the UK research consortium called Carbon Reduction in Buildings: A Socio-technical, Longitudinal Study of Carbon Use in Buildings’ (CaRB) intended to provide tools for policymakers on reducing CO2 emissions. CaRB uses modelling but is more interdisciplinary in that research includes more of the human element through monitoring of household behaviour and interviews with building occupants.

Many UK buildings already have technical measures intended to reduce CO2 emissions but the expected reduction in energy use hasn't happened. In contrast to the UK, Denmark has achieved energy reductions in space heating. Although floor area in the total housing stock increased by 53% since 1975 in Denmark, total energy demand for space heating decreased by 19%. However electricity demand has increased by 2.3% per year in Denmark.

Buildings may be more energy efficient but due to economic growth are larger or there are more buildings. There is a trend towards more electrical equipment and appliances. Some of these are relatively energy intensive. One of the papers using modelling of available data suggests that energy efficiency in buildings in the UK has had only a small impact on reduced energy demand: most of the energy demand reduction has been due to warmer winter temperatures and the occupants' response to higher energy prices.

Take-back is a term used to describe the energy use which is higher than the installed technology would suggest. For example, after insulation is installed, occupants crank up the temperature because the heating system can now cope with producing extra heat and the higher temperature can be held without as much extra cost for the energy. Although not classical take-back, another form of take-back is home expansion. For example, smaller homes may be renovated to include conservatories or lofts so small homes become larger and use more energy.

Policy-makers setting targets should realize that their targets may not be achieved if they don't address or adjust for the social elements.

Seven Key Factors in Building Energy Demand

Lomas summarizes one paper's seven most significant factors and how they change energy demand in homes:
Other Implications for Policy

A study of a set of houses built 17 years ago to the same type of energy efficiency standard and normalized for floor area found that high-energy users had increased energy use by 72% over those years or 4% per year while others had changed little in their energy demand. This suggests that policy might usefully focus on "fuel-hungry" homes.

Row or terraced houses tend to use less energy than detached houses. More affluent families operate their homes to use more energy. Homes with double-glazing and draft stripping have thermostats set at a higher temperature. The average thermostat setting is 21.1 deg C.

Most home improvements aren't done for environmental reasons but are often viewed by the occupants as improving comfort, increasing the value of the house and to save money. For example, for compact fluorescent bulbs, people consider the quality of the light, the aesthetics and how the light bulbs fit into their lifestyle. If the bulbs fail these criteria, people won't buy or use them just for the environmental benefits.

On the other hand, lifestyle preferences can be a motivator to buy newer and stylish energy efficient appliances with a known brand name. Since many of the home's technology is hidden, such as efficient boilers and other dull but proven energy-efficient technology, the lifestyle motivating factor may not lead to action.

One paper on non-domestic premises such as schools, libraries and offices with some stores and industrial sites indicated that for 25 buildings between 2001 and 2008, 16 increased their base load and 9 decreased. The rate of change was -8% to 15% with the average being 5%. Of 85 sites connected to the utility monitoring system, 26 were heated on unoccupied weekend days in February 2004.

Some say that a knowledge-based society will use less energy. That may be debatable due to high energy use for computers and electronic systems. Also many of the electrical gadgets in the home may not be that relevant to "knowledge" as they are mostly entertainment e.g. bigger televisions, electronic games.

As temperatures rise, home cooling is using a greater portion of energy.

Questions arise about which parts of the home should be regulated. For example, one estimate is that some building regulations cover only 50% of the energy demand in the home. The other 50% is appliances, lighting, alarm systems, even energy-management systems.

Although since 1970, the energy use of buildings in the UK has risen by 33% or about 1% per year, the carbon emitted has been reduced by 20% due to a switch in fuel supply mostly to gas for heating. The paper authors say this trick is non-repeatable. They are not optimistic that buildings will supply three times the carbon emission cuts compared to other sectors such as transport as has been suggested by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC synthesis report.


The overall conclusion is that achieving significant reductions in carbon emissions from buildings is more challenging than expected. Policies may be more effective if among other recommendations they:
The editorial is available for free:
Lomas, K. J.(2010) 'Carbon reduction in existing buildings: a transdisciplinary approach', Building Research & Information, 38: 1, 1 — 11 in
Special Issue - Building Research & Information. Carbon reduction in existing buildings. Volume 38, Issue 1, 2010, Print ISSN: 0961-3218 Online ISSN: 1466-4321.c


A Canadian Press story states that it took two years and a complaint to the federal information commissioner to "pry" some information from NEMISIS, a secret pollution tracking system operated by Environment Canada. The story says millions of litres of contaminants have been released and released into the Arctic (250 "spills" over five years). There are also quite a few gaps in the database which have not been filled in.
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