Carbon Credits revisited

This looks like good news.

I already went on about the ham-fisted way our Provincial government has forced Cities to become “Carbon neutral”, mostly by using property taxes to purchase carbon offsets and line the pockets of profitable multi-nationals.

But it’s not just eco-terrorist left wing lunatics like me saying this system is messed up. Those socialists in the Vancouver Business Press are also asking questions. In the August 23-30 edition of Business in Vancouver (issue 1139), there is a great piece called “Smoke and Mirrors” about how this system is corrupt at its core. It is well worth the read, only to hear the Surrey School Board, Marc Jaccard (the SFU scientist who shared the IPCC’s Nobel Prize for characterizing Climate change risk), John Cummins, and the BC School Trustees all agreeing with left-wing eco-terrorists like me.

Alas, if that is the system we have, how can we make it work for us? Here is where Jane Sterk of the BC Green party hits the nail right on the head. She suggests TransLink can fill its ongoing “funding gap” by selling carbon credits to the Pacific Carbon Trust. This is brilliant.

As Sterk suggests in the press release, every one of the 210 Million + transit riders per year , every person riding a bus, riding a SkyTrain, riding the West Coast Express, or riding the Sea Bus is producing less CO2e per km than a person in a car. TransLink provides the service that allows that carbon reduction. TransLink already has stats around transit use, all they need to do is get an energy economist to provide the number of Tonnes of carbon reduction per annum, and TransLink can negotiate a fat check from the PCT. Instead of our municipal and school tax dollars going to Encana, or Lafarge, they go back to us in the form of improved transportation service.

But let’s not stop there What about AirCare? According to
a recent study
, one of the side benefits of the AirCare inspection program is a reduction in GHG emissions, as much as 1.1% of the total emissions of the Lower Mainland. This works out to enough offsets to run the entire AirCare program, saving drivers money. Or the money can go right back into TransLink general revenue.

Of course, the better alternative would just be to fund transit appropriately, without having to resort to ridiculous paper-shuffling exercises like the Pacific Carbon Trust. If we took the Province’s carbon tax and specifically earmarked it for carbon-reduction initiatives (like the Evergreen Line), then we wouldn’t need to go the long way around.

The Reported Death of AGW

I don’t know if you have heard. It is all over the internets. Climate change is dead. Over. Kaput. Finito. History.

Some may suggest, in contrast to the Twain quote, that reports of the death of Anthropogenic Global Warming may be greatly exaggerated, but it seems pretty official this time, as it is being reported by no greater authority than Rex Murphy.

This is really no surprise. Since Rex returned to serious drinking a few years ago, he has been leading the charge of climate change deniers in the mainstream Canadian Media. We all expect knee-biters like Ezra Levant to be in the denier camp, but when Rex the Verbose declares climate change a hoax, there must be something to it.

However, if one reads his piece beyond the headline and first paragraph, and delves into the content (admittedly not the strength of the National Post on-line audience) you notice he doesn’t make a single point about AGW or about the science of the climate, doesn’t mention the ever-expanding pile of scientific data measuring the direct and indirect impacts of human-caused warming of the planet. Instead, the article is yet another silly attack on Al Gore, who according to the Right End of the Internets, has recently come publicly “unhinged” and become a raving lunatic.

All because of this recording.

Maybe I am unhinged, because when I hear this recording, it sounds completely rational to me. He sounds significantly more hinged than pretty much any other politician in the United States on this issue; Democrat, Republican, or otherwise.

Yes, he uses the word bullshit repeatedly, but he uses it completely in context. When someone says volcanoes put out more CO2 than humans, that is bullshit. Demonstrated bullshit that was proven to be false decades ago, as any intelligent person can prove to themselves with a little math in few minutes. When deniers say it is sunspots causing the recently observed changes, that is demonstrably, clearly, and unambiguously bullshit. Same with saying CO2 is not a greenhouse gas, or that climate it isn’t warming, or whatever old debunked bullshit they are recycling this week. Al Gore is not a scientist, is not a climate expert, but he is an accomplished politician, and politicians do recognize one thing better than most: Bullshit. This guy worked with Bill Clinton and lost an election to Carl Rove, I would say he is a world expert on the topic of political bullshit.

What I hear here is not a person “unhinged”, I hear a guy speaking truthfully, and somewhat exasperated that seemingly intelligent people like Rex Murphy fail to acknowledge the emperor’s nudity.

Much like Al, I just don’t see where Rex is on this issue. I am a firm believer in Hanlon’s Razor, but the other side of that razor says if you cannot find the incompetence, your only resort is to assume malice. I don’t think Rex is incompetent. But I also don’t believe that he can write a 900-word piece declaring the death of AGW without once mentioning that the planet isn’t warming or that the scientists were wrong. Instead, he writes a lot of vague phrases about how the public relations battle has been lost. Or, alternately, Rex and the people on his side of this issue have won the PR battle. They successfully piled on the bullshit so high that they won a PR battle over the truth.

And this is why Al and I are using words like Bullshit in otherwise polite company. What else can we do, when reality has lost a public relations battle?

Who really wins when reality loses a popularity contest?

I can’t help but feel Many years from now we will look back at this moment and wonder what the hell we were thinking. Only 35 years after the world agreed to end of all atmospheric nuclear testing, only 25 years after the Montreal Protocol saved the ozone layer, how can a small number of PR hacks funded by a few of the largest corporations on earth, publicly deny reality, and get the majority of people to agree?

This may be all fine and dandy for Rex. The worst impacts of climate change, the negative feedback of the stupid decisions we make now, will only be felt after Rex’s cirrhotic liver has failed and his pickled corpse is stinking up the churchyard on Carbonear.

But wasn’t journalism supposed to be about facts?

Six more reasons for a tree bylaw

I noticed this on the way home today:
436 7th Street. Six mature pine trees gone.
Perhaps they needed to go. The stumps sure look healthy, but I;m not an arborist. Maybe they were diseased or had been topped to death. Maybe they will be replaced with young trees better suited to whatever the property manager is looking for. Let’s hope so, because trees have a value in a mature community like ours, and I would hate to think they just knocked them down because they didn’t like sweeping up pine needles, or because they were a perceived “security issue”. As we wait for a tree bylaw to get organized, we will lose more of these.


A leader inspires people to follow.

A leader sees a destination and charts a course, and isn’t afraid to change course when a shorter or superior path the destination is found.

A leader is clear about what he stands for, and makes an eloquent case for his position.

A leader brings out the best in the people around him, not by forging them in the Leader’s image, but by allowing every individual’s strengths to rise, and providing them the tools they need to contribute their best, to make the team stronger.

A leader attracts opposition, faces it head-on, and becomes stronger through it.

A leader does not move forward by holding others back.

A leader, by force of personality, causes us to question what we are doing as individuals towards the causes we believe in.

Love him or loathe him (few seemed indifferent!), today Canada lost a Leader in every sense of the word. But as he set a course, he inspired us to act, it is now up to us to carry forward. Leaders leave us stronger with their legacy, and in that sense, we rarely know their power until they are gone.

In the days, weeks and years ahead, let’s remember his final message to Canadians:

“Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Metering Time

Call me a conservative, I think this is a good idea.

Water is a subject that raises passions in Canada, partly because we have so much of it, partly because we do such a poor job protecting it. Much like with electricity, good planning decades ago got us used to a plentiful supply of cheap water, and now to suggest we can’t have all we want, or that we might have to pay more for it? Well, that is the kind of thing that loses people elections.

But I’m not running for anything, so I’ll say it: we need to start paying for our water.

It is true that Metro Vancouver has a large supply of very well protected water in our reservoirs, and on most years, have enough to serve the current population very well. Even with the large anticipated growth in the Lower Mainland over the next 50 years, our existing reservoirs (barring significant climate change or natural disaster) should serve us volume-wise. However, volume is not the only concern.

Every drop of water in your house has to be filtered, has to be treated, and has to be delivered to your house through a finite infrastructure of pipes, pumps and valves. The managing of this water is energy-intensive, and expensive. It’s not the water you pay for, it is the treatment and delivery system.

Our water is of spectacular quality, partially because of the quality of the source and the investment in watershed protection the region has made, and partly because of the systems to filter, treat, inspect, test, and manage the water. Metro Vancouver does this one thing very, very well (which probably means the Province will come in an muck it up, or try to privatize it, but I digress….)

What do we do with this valuable resource, after we spend all that time and energy making sure every drop meets high drinking water standards? During the summer months, we put about half of it on our lawns to keep the grass from going dormant. We use about a third of the remainder to flush out toilets. On Sunday I watched a neighbour with a garden hose spending the best part of an hour washing leaves off the back alley behind my house.  We do things like wash cars on the streets or our driveways, which has the double benefit of wasting hundreds of litres of water, and washing soap, oil grease, and other stuff into the adjacent storm drain where it impacts the fish in the River.

Part of the reason we waste this resource is that we don’t value it as a resource. Metro Vancouver charges every City for their water use by the cubic metre. Some Cities charge their customers per cubic meter, some charge a flat rate, some do some combination of both. It is only fair of all Cities start charging the users per cubic metre.

The City of Surrey has had a “voluntary” water metering system for several years. Far from a “cash grab”, the metering system provides incentives to those who choose to conserve water, and has been popular enough that 27,000 households have signed up. They pay $0.75 per cubic meter for water, and $0.63 per cubic metre for sewer, or about a thousandth the cost of bottled water. As the average Canadian household uses about 400 cubic metres a year, so their bill in Surrey would be about $500/year (Note the Average Surreyite still uses more than the Canadian Average) . In New Westminster, the “flat rate” for water and sewer is $851/year, so we would probably have to charge a little more than Surrey, unless the metering lead to conservation. Of course, it has led to conservation elsewhere, so there is every reason to believe it will here.

How would metered water at similar rates as Surrey impact your lifestyle? Using a typical 400L of water to wash your car would cost you about 50 cents. Watering your New Westminster 250 square foot front yard with a typical weekly 2” of sprinkling would cost you about $1.50. Flushing your 13L toilet 5 times a day would cost you about $30 over the year. Switch it out for a low-flow and you can cut that to less than half. I have no idea what it would cost for you to wash the leaves off my back alley with your garden hose, but it would cost you, which is better than it costing me.

Multi-family dwellings in New Westminster are already metered. Where is our voluntary metering program?

Translink to BC Hydro: welcome to my hell.

BC Hydro can be listed amongst the organizations that have been completely mucked up by the current BC Government. One of the last great Crown Corporations in BC, Hydro has managed to make money, create jobs, and provide a growing province with some of the lowest electricity costs in North America since it was first created by that raving socialist W.A.C Bennett in 1961. It is a stellar example of taking a public resource (our rivers) and turning them into a direct benefit for the people who own them.

However, all of the sudden, BC Hydro is in trouble. They are applying to the BCTC to increase rates in order to keep themselves, uh, above water. If you read Vancouver’s Newspapers, or listen to Vancouver radio, the culprit is pretty clear: It employs too many people. (although, bizarrely, the Sun also suggests that Hydro doesn’t burn enough natural gas).

Don’t worry, Darth Coleman has leapt in and said he can save the people of BC from unreasonably paying the same as the rest of North America for electricity, by cutting staff. But this is a complete distraction from the real reasons BC Hydro is in the situation it is. To find the truth, all one would have to do is read the actual report.

The executive summary is enough to realize this report should be a concern. BC Hydro is accused, in reference to building a safe, efficient, and reliable power grid, of “[having a] corporate culture [where] ‘being the best’ and the resulting desire to have the gold standard is not necessarily for lowest cost or greatest value for money.” – so they tried to be too good for their own good. Why should BC customers pay to have a safe, reliable power grid, when a less safe, less reliable one is available for less? They are also accused of being too “risk adverse”. God forbid a public utility should be risk adverse…

What of too many employees? From the report: “BC Hydro’s operating costs have been increasing over the past years largely due to the volume of work required for maintaining aging infrastructure and changes in legal, regulatory and environmental legislation/ practices resulting in significant and uncontrolled increases in the number of employees and spending.” So, maintenance demands and regulatory requirements have forced BC Hydro to increase staff. This is not discretionary hiring, but required hiring to fulfill their mandate in a tougher regulatory world.

This sentence is a beautiful piece of corporate-speak:
“BC Hydro rates are competitive with comparable jurisdictions, however, there may be a perception that general commercial customers are subsidizing residential customers.”
In other words, rates competitive, we have some of the lowest power rates in North America, but aside from these facts there is a perception that businesses pay too much compared to residents. Of course, the residents of BC own BC Hydro, it is perfectly reasonable that we set the rates to benefit us. It is hardly like our Hydro Rates are slowing business growth in BC. But there is a perception, so expect that corporate rates will go down, residential rates will go up.

It goes on, but it is too painful to read.

So what is really causing BC Hydro’s current financial crisis?

We can start by looking at how small pieces of BC Hydro are being sold off for short-term profit, with no regard for how it impacts the operation of the company.

Or maybe providing infrastructure to support a completely unsustainable boom in gas production in the Peace is costing BC Hydro Money, with no long-term payout for these short-term infrastructure needs. BC Hydro is effectively a taxpayer-funded subsidy to this unsustainable resource development by private international oil and gas industries.

Or we can look at the Independent Power Producers. That raving socialist Rafe Mair has bee non about the so-called “run of the river” power projects for years, mostly to deaf ears. This report almost reads like a Rafe Mair opinion piece of 5 years ago. IPP power costs BC Hydro way too much money. BC Hydro gets 16% of its power from IPPs, and pays almost 50% of it’s royalties to these parasites. We – you and I as the taxpayer owners of BC Hydro, and as BC Hydro rate payers, pay private companies 3x as much for the electricity that we could instead be producing ourselves. Power that we must purchase at times when we have a glut, and can’t get when rates are higher. Power BC Hydro did not want to buy, but was forced to by the Campbell/Clark government. Power we are now forced to buy for the next 60 years.

Similar to TransLink, the governance of BC Hydro used to be at arms-length from the government, overseen by an independent body. The BC Liberals have changed that, and have taken a 45-year-old profitable public service turning it into a short-term cash cow, ready for privatization. And you lose.

At least in New West, we have our own, fully accountable, locally run and super-efficient power utiility. Right?


“…the beginning of the long dash, following X minutes of silence…”

If you grew up listening to CBC (or, if you prefer, being indoctrinated in state socialism) like I did, you are familiar with these words: “The National Research Council Official Time Signal. The beginning of the long dash…”. The National Time signal is actually the longest-running program in Canadian radio, having been broadcast at 10:00am Pacific (1:00pm Eastern), 7 days a week, 365 days a year for 71 years. And the plot never changes.

But if you grew up listening to out national far-left socialist propaganda service broadcaster, you know the plot has changed. A few years ago the NRC shifted from “ten seconds of silence” to five seconds. This makes complete sense for three reasons:

1) Clearly, the National Research Council is a perfect example of “sciencey” fat that the Harper Government™ has been trying to trim from the Federal budget. Every year, we throw millions of dollars at the NRC, and all they do is tell us what time it is. In 2011, people can look at their iPhones if they need to know what time it is. By cutting the NRC signal in half, we can cut the budget of the agency in half, to benefit all hard-working Canadians. Put money back in Canadians’ Pockets, yadda yadda yadda…

2) If we are going to have a government-funded broadcaster, I’ll be damned if my tax dollars are going to fund the broadcasting of silence. By reducing the silence by 50%, we are cutting in half the time those government employees are all getting paid to stand around doing nothing.

3) Kids today have short attention spans, and are not as smart as we are. When I was a kid, I would listen to the beeping, then challenge myself to keep rhythm and guess precisely when the “the beginning of the long dash” was going to arrive. (my interest in doing this reduced significantly when my parents bought a Home Pong). But these kids today, no way they can wait 10 seconds for that kind of payback, no way they can do the math, or maintain the concentration to count to 10 with perfect precision at 10:00 in the morning. These kids have been made soft by decades of liberal influence and immersion into pinko labour-oriented public schools. They had to reduce it to 5 seconds just to give the squirts a chance.

But more recently, I noticed the program changed again. Twice in a few years, after almost 70 years of complete consitencey. This time, however, it is one of those head-slapping obvious things, once you think about, you cannot believe you never thought of it before, or that it took the NRC decades to make the change. The “5 seconds of silence” is now referred to as “6 seconds of silence”, because it is much closer to 6 seconds than 5. Following the same reasoning, the old silence was about 11 seconds, not 10. See if you follow:

Each short tone is 300 milliseconds long, or 3/10 of a second. So the silence between tones is 700 mS:

During the 5 seconds of silence, there are 5 “missed” tones, followed by the one-second long tone at the top of the hour. Therefore the “silence” is 5 seconds, plus 700mS, or 5.7 seconds.

Round that to a whole number, and 6 is definitely closer than 5. I can’t believe it took them 70 years to make the change. Probably a communist plot.

UNIBUG – Learning & Science around bugs.

The Environmental Science field is full of biologists, so I have worked with a lot of biologists in my day. In my current job, I am the “token geologist”, surrounded by Bio-types. This results in a lot of ribbing back and forth. After listening to a long discussion on some arcane invasive plant species or some subtlety of insect biology, I will finally respond with: “what is its preservation potential in the rock record?” (trust me, to geologists, that is hilarious if well timed). They often exclude me from a conversation by saying “you won’t be interested, it is alive…” Good fun.

Kidding aside, having done a lot of field work with enough biologists, I am amazed by what they know. I can look at rock outcrop and tell them more-or-less believable stories about the history of the rocks, and what they say about the tectonic history of the region. They can look at the surroundings, and tell me things about the plants, the animals, and the ecological interactions that I am completely blind to.

After a couple of years of geology field work in the interior, I could identify two types of trees: pine (they are red or brown) and alder (they are sprouting up all over the decommissioned logging roads I need to access to get to the rocks). I could also tell the difference between mosquitoes, blackflies, noseeums, and deer fly based on the geography of the bites on my skin, but that was about the limit of my field biology. All bugging of my co-workers aside, I lament that I don’t know more.

So I am trying to learn some more biology. Because I work with an invasive plant control guy, I cam now good at recognizing giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed, purple loosestrife, English ivy, Scotch broom and other invasive plants that cause so much stress to our local ecosystems. I am now expanding into learning a bit more about insects, good and bad, in my garden.

Partly to help with this, I joined a local program this year to identify beneficial insects in urban gardens. The program is called UNIBUG: a rather ungainly acronym for “User Network for Insect Biology In Urban Gardens”. This is a program run by the Institute of Urban Ecology at Douglas College, and is administered by Dr. Veronica Wahl.

The idea is really simple: give urban gardeners a bit of background material and the tools they need to collect useful data on beneficial insects. The gardeners dedicate a bit of garden space, and collect a lot more data than the researcher would working alone, setting up and maintaining their own test plots across the City (many hands make light work). It also allows a small army of “citizen scientists” to learn a bit more about beneficial insects, about their gardens, and about how science is done. For some of us, just getting the chance to bend the ear of a PhD ecologist in our gardens is worth a fortune.

The basic program this year involves evaluating if two different plants (yarrow and white alyssum), which are colloquially known to attract beneficial insects, actually do attract statistically significant numbers of insects. To do this, each gardener places a “pitfall trap” (for crawling insects) and a “sticky trap” for flying insects in each of two locations of their garden. The attracting plant is located adjacent to one set of traps, and there is no attracting plant within 5m of the “control” trap. In theory, there will be more bugs trapped near the attracting plant… or, as my grade 10 science teacher would say “The null hypothesis is that the traps would collect the same number of bugs, within the range of statistical significance”.

A pitfall trap with Yarrow planted around it.

My “control” pitfall and sticky traps.

For the pit-fall traps, we are instructed to only count the beetles, and to compare the beetles we see to an identification guide we are provided. Our main target are ground beetles of the Carabidae family. These guys eat many common garden pests like caterpillars, aphids, and slugs. Identifying the genus of the beetles we catch is the fun part of the exercise. The sticky traps have to be counted by experts working with microscopes back at the lab, so we just collect and catalogue those.

One of the beetles I trapped and counted in week 1. He was subsequently released.

There are UNIBUG volunteers across the Lower Mainland (keeping Dr. Ronnie running around keeping things running smoothly!), and here in New West, we have volunteers with yard gardens (like me) and several volunteers at each of the City’s three Community Gardens. With us all entering data on-line every week, and collecting stickytrap each week, I see a lot of lab time crunching data in Dr. Ronnie’s future. We get the fun part, she has to do the grunt work. The glory of a career in science!

Cities and Carbon credits.

We all agree that anthropogenic climate change is happening, and that Canada is one of the worlds worst offenders per capita (If not, perhaps you should review a bit of this and come back later). The question is what are we going to do about it?

Carbon Offsets are one of those ideas that might sort of work, much like a carbon tax, but their success and usefulness depends on very careful legislation. The problem is, in our hyper-policial world where logic and science rarely come into play during he drafting of legislation, they can seriously go wrong. I present to you as evidence, the Pacific Carbon Trust.

Some of you may know about the Climate Action Charter. This makes all local governments who “voluntarily sign” the charter, to be “carbon neutral” by 2012. Of course, it isn’t really voluntary, as these communities are offered a 100% rebate of the carbon taxes they pay if they fulfill this commitment. There is some strange calculus between reducing the carbon they use to the point where the savings in the taxes offset the extra carbon offsets you need to buy to get back to “carbon neutral”, but I leave that for the accountants.

The end result or this coercion is that Cities do often-good sometimes-questionable actions to reduce their carbon use. Retrofitting City buildings to be more energy efficient, introducing anti-idle policies and investing in a more efficient fleet of vehicles to line up around the token guy with the shovel, creating District Energy Utilities where the City’s ice rink takes all the waste heat it creates making ice and uses it to heat the water in adjacent swimming pool. You can also throw in building compact, transportation-efficient cities. These are all reasonable measures that should save taxpayers money in the long run and reduce the need to oxidize hydrocarbons. These are good things.

(Notably, one of any City’s largest green house gas producing activities is the generation and disposal of solid waste, and that is exempt from the Charter. I could go on…)

Recognizing that Cities can’t just stop burning fuel tomorrow, there is en expectation that Cities will use carbon offsets. This idea being that organizations that make money producing carbon dioxide can be provided economic incentives to not produce so much carbon dioxide, and sell that non-production of carbon dioxide to someone who cannot help but produce carbon dioxide. So for every tonne of carbon dioxide that a City produces, it will pay $25 to someone else to not produce a tonne of carbon dioxide. Alternately, they could just pay the $25 in carbon tax to the Provincial coffers.

I have had discussions with Municipal Energy Managers and GHG-reduction experts who are convinced this is a good idea for all kinds of traditional economics reasons. It is, they argue, the same as carbon tax, in that is puts a “cost” upon the production of pollution that can be used to directly reduce pollution. There are also some significant GHG Experts who think it is a terrible idea.

However, much like our completely misguided and ineffective carbon tax (another topic), the way the offset market is managed in BC is both unproductive and ethically compromised. You see, our local governments must purchase their carbon offsets from an entity known as the Pacific Carbon Trust. This is a Provincial Crown Corporation that operates under the direction of Kevin Falcon. Guilt by association is never a good idea, but considering Falcon’s greatest accomplishment up to this point is the ramming through of the largest climate crime of the last decade in this province, well, we know GHG reduction is not really a priority of his.

That said, we can measure the Pacific Carbon Trust for what it does, without worrying about the Falcon taint. After all, it is a public reporting company, and every person who pays property or school taxes in the Province is going to be buying carbon credits from the PCT, so let’s see where it is a going.

The PCT’s two largest offset purchases so far are from TimberWest (about $7.5 Million) and EnCana ($2 Million).

Timberwest is getting paid off by choosing not to log less than 8% of their 300,000 Ha of forest on Vancouver Island. The fact this area has not been logged up to here is pretty compelling evidence that it was not economical to log, either due to access issues, riparian protection laws, or political sensitivity. Reading the project summary is a twisted journey into justification. You see, they are anticipating a future “acceleration” in logging, after the current pine-beetle-harvest-glut of lumber passes, and they are committing to not accelerating in the future quite so much: a hypothetical agreement to reduce by 8% their future hypothetical logging based on hypothetical future market conditions. For this, our Cities and Schools have shipped them $7,500,000, so far.

I say “so far” because according to the report, TimberWest figures it will be offsetting up to half a million tonnes of carbon a year for perpetuity. That means taxpayers will be throwing up to $12,000,000 a year to Timberwest not to log trees they admit are not economical to log due to the glut of lumber on the market, presumably until the market forces them to “accelerate”, at which time they will probably find it more profitable to cut the trees that perpetuate the offset myth.

Now TimberWest is an interesting organization. It is mostly the investment wing of a bunch of public service and private pension funds (which means, ironically, that I am probably benefiting directly from this scheme, having a public service pension, but as a minor fouth-tier “shareholder”, have no say whateoever in its operations). However other “we promise not to log (this week)” deals with the PCT have been signed across the province.

The EnCana deal is even uglier. EnCana is one of Canada’s largest oil and gas companies, and is one of the largest natural gas companies in North America. They produce about $6 Billion in revenue per year, and are currently building the largest office tower in Western Canada. The BC government gave then $2 Million for a program where they capture residual gas from their drilling operations and use it instead of just flaring it off. The end result? That gas ends up in a pipeline, and is sold by EnCana.

In a rational world, the Province would pass a simple piece of legislation that says gas drillers cannot flare gas at their drill sites, but instead need to capture it. That gas is a provincial resource, we can pass any law we want about how it is managed, including insisting that if you are going to pull it out of the ground, you are going to sell it, not let it flare. Clearly, the technology to do this exists. Instead, we are paying a large profitable multi-national company to put gas in a pipe and sell it on the open market. We are paying them with your property taxes. And let us not forget, this gas is not being sequestered, every bit of that gas is still going to get burned and go into the atmosphere, it is just going to be sold to generate profit before being burned instead of being immediately flared.

So, what is my point? I am one of those people who think that the largest, most profitable companies in Canada do not need handouts from our municipal taxpayers and school boards. Therefore, I think the City/School board should take every measure to reduce their GHG emissions. Then they should fairly account their residual carbon, and pay the carbon tax to the provincial government. I would rather my tax dollars go to fund government services than line the pockets of profitable companies like EnCana. I guess that makes me a raving socialist.

Bugs in the Garden – UPDATE

This has been a tough year for the garden. A cool wet spring had a lot of our seeds dying in the ground. The weather also brought us slugs, snails, and aphids. The first crop of lettuce expired, as did the first attempt at carrots. The beets and radishes got eaten by slugs. Radishes wormed-through. I am a terrible gardener.

By the Middle of June, not much was happening. Besdies the Garlic and the two “vounteer” potatoes, everything seen was transplants sprouted inside.

??Besides the weather, a constant issue in my garden is the combined aphid-ant battle. I learned last year that some species of ants actually farm aphids. The aphids apparently take more sugar-filled sap out of some plants than they can digest, so they…uh… pass a very sugar-rich waste that the ants harvest. Ants “milk” the aphids like we do cows. This is so successful that the ants have actually learned to farm the aphids. They move small aphids from one part of a plant to another to spread around the feeding space, they even defend the aphids from predators. My attempts to dissuade the ants from my plants, using tanglefoot on my blueberries, and diatomaceous earth on my sunflowers, were to no avail. Using a spray-bottle or water to knock the aphids off was pretty effective, until the ants replaced the lost flock with more young aphids. I just don’t have the time to do it every day. I’m a terrible gardener.

Ants and aphids working together to kill my bluberry plant. (click to zoom).

The problem with using anything more powerful (even insecticidal soap) is that it tends to knock down the natural enemies that control aphids and ants and other pests. The natural enemy of the aphid is the lady bug. So every time I see a lady bug in the garden, I know it is on my side. My experiences with ladybugs this year have included the whole life cycle.

Back in June I found a bunch of ladybug eggs on one of my sunflower plants:

Not long after, I found a bunch of freshly-hatched ladybug larvae on a leaf on my pepper plants:

Problem is, my pepper plants are amongst my tomatoes on the hot back deck, and the only two plants not being nuked by aphids. So I took matters into my own hands. I clipped the leaf off the pepper plant and attached it with a twist-tie to an aphid-infested blueberry plant in my front yard. I hoped the larvae would find a quick bounty, and stick around the garden patch where they were most needed.

That is where I learned about the ants and their defensive skills. 10 minutes after moving the leaf, there were a half dozen ants on the leaf, attacking the freshly hatched larvae. Oops. I moved the leaf to safer spot, and hopefully some of them survived! When they get big enough to defend themselves, the larvae are pretty cool looking:

And I can announce now that the weather has turned, there is a good population of ladybugs in my garden, and the aphids are almost gone completely. I still see a lot of ants around, and the sunflowers seem to have some aphids, but they are big enough to defend themselves, and they seem to be just populous enough to keep the ladybugs fed.

Oh, and now that the weather has turned, the garden is booming. Too late to get too much off the tomatoes this year I expect, but the beets, carrots, cukes and zuchs, the garlic, the blueberries, the potatoes and the onions seems to be going gangbusters, and the herb garden is loving the summer. We may even get a pumpkin to survive. Unfortunately, lettuce has been hit-and-miss this year, after a really successful last season. I really don’t know what I am doing. It sure is fun learning.

It looks like about two weeks until Fig Season, the greatest week of the year.

I am also taking part in a community science project being sponsored by Douglas College’s Institute of Urban Ecology, but I’ll talk about that later. If you are on Facebook, you can check it out now.

First update: That picture at the top shows what the garden was like inJune, with the late start, here is what it looks like now:

Second Update: I did a little research into Lady bugs, and I am supposing that little bug I photographed above is actually not a native ladybug, it is likely Harmonia axyridis, or a Japanese multi-colour ladybug. OK, because they eat a lot of aphids. but bad because are apparently displacing native species that might be better adapted to our climate. An interesting peice of background on native vs. introduced ladybugs. good reading!.