Saturday, January 22, 2011

If Nuclear and Coal are phased out, Letter to the Editor, Jan 20 2011

If Nuclear and Coal are phased out

Letter to the Editor, Jan 20 2011

Dear Editor;

I have yet to understand why the wind power lobby sees the phasing out of nuclear and coal as integral to the energy future of Ontario and beyond. No responsible or informed discussion on wind or renewable energy sources in general gives the slightest bit of credibility to the position that the electricity needs of Ontario could ever be met by these sources alone. Even with any amount of anticipated conservation added into this the amount of electricity demand will always far exceed the available power from renewables and conservation. In fact, traditional methods of producing electricity produce thousands of megawatts more than renewables each and every day in Ontario. Today (Jan 20th for example) wind was responsible for 90 megawatts of supply to the grid while nuclear was producing well in excess of 10,000 megawatts without one gram of greenhouse gases as a by-product.

The simple mathematics of supply and demand underscore the minimal impact that wind has on the daily electricity needs and this does not even take into account the cost of wind energy at $140 plus dollars per megawatt or solar at 400 plus dollars per megawatt hour. Nuclear power is generally produced at a cost in the range of 40-60 dollars per megawatt hour. Make no mistake that once the health effects of wind turbines are taken into effect and set backs are legislated many in the debate see wind and other renewables as having some role to play in the electricity mix in Ontario, but at no time will wind or renewables meet the base load needs of the province.

The health debate will never go away, but in simplest terms the production of electricity from nuclear energy is the most regulated industry in the world and year over year self regulates itself to less than 1% of allowable emissions to the environment. I wonder if the hundreds of trucks hauling the offshore made parts for windmills ever keep to less than 1% of their allowable emissions. CANDU Reactors and all their components are over 95% sourced in Canada and have mitigated hundreds of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases since they first came on line. Almost all parties understand the controversy over the use of coal, but to suggest that Ontario will follow a path of renewables, wind and gas instead of converting existing coal plants to the use of biomass is another form of irresponsible energy policy in Ontario. Thankfully the government of Ontario recognizes the need for Nuclear Power, but it is time make it clear that wind and renewables are not the answer and will only be a small contributor to Ontario’s energy future. Casually disposing of Nuclear and Coal without looking at alternative uses for existing coal plants and thinking that wind and renewables will take their place is a guarantee for an Ontario with no future economic prosperity.

Dave Trumble

President Grey-Bruce Labour Council

Below Please find Last week's letter that the above is written in response too.

Phase out nukes, coal
Letters to the editor

Dear Editor,

If we take seriously the protection of human health we have to phase-out coal and nuclear-powered electricity.

Coal kills hundreds of Ontarians and triggers over 120,000 illnesses (e. g., asthma attacks) annually. It is also the most climate-destructive fuel around, emitting twice as much carbon as natural gas does. Whether the issue is respiratory disease or global warming, coal is a catastrophe.

But nuclear is extremely unhealthy as well. A scientific review by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment found all functioning reactors release radioactive materials on a routine basis.

A 2008 German government study showed children (younger than five) living within five kilometers of a nuclear plant are at elevated risk for leukemia. And Scientific American recently reported nukes harm the climate: "Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered."

But to phase-out conventional power we need to use less energy and switch over to renewables, including wind turbines.

Lately there's been a certain amount of anti-wind sentiment from some Ontarians. This is unfortunate because turbines are a far healthier source of power than their competition.

Dr. Arlene King, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, released a scientific literature review on wind and health in October, 2009. In the document she explains that there are anecdotal reports of symptoms such as sleep disturbance and headaches but "there is no scientific evidence, to date, to demonstrate a causal association between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects."

In May, 2010, Dr. King released the results of a second scientific literature review. Again she concluded that "the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.

But what about concerns besides noise?

A recent (January, 2010) scientific review from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control examined claims that turbines might create electromagnetic fields, potentially cause epilepsy, and possibly throw ice. The study's conclusions:

* Wind turbines are not significant sources of EMF (electromagnetic field) exposure."
* Shadows caused by wind turbine rotors can be annoying, but are not likely to cause epileptic seizures at normal operational speeds..."

* Risk of injury [from ice throw] can be minimized with setbacks of 200 to 500 m..."

The verdict: the current science -from Ontario's top doctor --suggests wind turbines do not threaten human health. Unlike coal, they are not destroying our climate and killing hundreds of Canadians every year. Unlike nuclear, they are not associated with cancer -nor do they condemn the next thousand generations to the menace of radioactive waste.

Gideon Forman Executive Director Canadian

Association of Physicians for the Environment

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Attacks on the last line of Defence, the Trade Unions

Attacks on the last line of Defence, the Trade Unions
Dateline 1981; Ronald Reagan terminates unionized air traffic controllers rather than negotiate. Dateline 1984; Margaret Thatcher rips into the coal miners of Great Britain rather than negotiate. Did the Members of PATCO and the NUM enter into strikes that could be considered unlawful, yes? Did they have real grievances, yes? Did either of the strikes warrant ongoing vilification of the Union Movement, No, but at the time it was convenient to attack Unions while the first entry into the long term plan to destroy the middle class and unions known as free trade was being considered and negotiated. Years later this vilification is played out constantly in right wing and corporate propaganda and today is part of a far more sophisticated approach; an approach that finds fuel in the vitriolic outbursts of regressive people such as former Ontario Premier Mike Harris and the new Governor of Ohio John Kasich, the Canadian federal government of Stephen Harper and organizations like the “tea party” (lead by television celebrity, not politician, Sarah Palin).
The broad approach, or as some incorrectly say populist, attack on unions by the right wing is actually quite simple to define and analyze. As government policies and legislators became the servants of corporations and in this made the choice to defy one of the most well known quotes in American history, “government of the people for the and by the people” they and their corporate benefactors had to work diligently to remove obstacles to their grand plan. Unions, along with a free and progressive media would certainly not be conducive to running an economy that catered to the needs of the corporations. In fact all that is connected with a progressive media and educated and unionized workforce is entirely contradictory to government policy supporting capital and caring little for people or the environment.
Let’s not forget that unions have been at the heart of progressive legislative change for over 150 years. A few examples of such legislation would be minimum wage, pensions, universal healthcare, public education, occupational health and safety, paid vacations, the 40 hour work week (unions; the people that brought you the week-end), and recognition of paid statutory holidays. Would it make sense, based on this wonderful and amazing record of social responsibility, for those who have chosen to cripple the middle class to leave the Trade Union Movement untouched? The Trade Union Movement is clearly a threat to the right wing corporate agenda in that not only does the movement stand for social responsibility in contradiction to the policies of capital but is perhaps the only self funded organization to take on the role of opposing the attack on working people by government and corporations. Many progressive pieces of legislation were enacted while the revenues to operate a Union were still collected from Members by elected / volunteer Stewards. Since the late 1930’s with the introduction of the legislation that would lead to the “Rand” Formula and automatic deduction of Union dues the self funded status of the Trade Union Movement is truly the last line of defence for working people (Harris at one time suggested he would attack this in Ontario and the “right to work” states already undercut this basic human right, the right to collective bargaining). The Trade Union Movement has many a partner in the fight to sustain jobs, a middle class and the basic social infrastructure that made the national caring societies that used to exist before the blind and myopic worship of capital became the very credo of so many governments, corporations and (sadly) individuals.
The sophisticated attacks on the movement are aimed at removing from view the progressive nature of unions and to corrupt the information such that people are lead to believe that instead of being an advocate for workers and positive social change that somehow unions are greedy. I will defy for all time anyone to equate any union activity with greed when greed is defined each and every day in the financial districts of places like New York, London and Toronto where the financial meltdown of late 2008 was orchestrated and the behaviours that lead to it condoned and in fact designed.
The Trade Union Movement, of which I am a proud member, deserves the time to be understood and to be respected as should it ever be removed or so badly damaged it no longer functions the corporations will have free rein in the world. If you think the near free reign is not possible just look at the loss of Union density since the afore mentioned attacks in 1981 and 1984 and right up to, and including, the latest campaign of misinformation focused on public service workers.
In Solidarity
Dave Trumble
Grey-Bruce Labour Council