Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Natural gas-guzzling Canadians


The Toronto Star has a story today about "outrageous" gas bills brought on by one gas company's maladjusted "equal billing plan" (EBP) that tries to spread payments for gas out across the year, rather than concentrating them during the months when gas is most used (in winter, for heating).

The thing that surprised me, though, was not the EBP glitch -- I don't really care about that -- but the size of these peoples' gas bills!

One man received a bill for $847.18 after paying monthly installments of $80 since last September, meaning the total consumption was worth over $1600. One woman received a bill for over $1200 after also presumably making installment payments along the way. The article's author looks to have used over $1400 worth of gas.

Me? I live in a detached house with a lot of windows that does not appear to be particularly modern in its insulation. My monthly installments multiplied by 12 comes to an amount under $600 and I will be getting a credit when the EBP resets in August.

Are these people creating tropical conditions in their houses during the winter? I assume some do -- I have had someone say to me before that "we set the thermostat high in the winter because he (husband) likes to wear t-shirts inside".

Are they indifferent as to how much it costs to the extent that they don't look at their bill each month? That should be the real story!

But, of course, with the Star everyone is a victim.

Shale gas, clean coal, etc: why can't we provide a better future for our energy findings?

Tyler Hamilton had a column in the Toronto Star recently about the role of shale gas in Canada's energy cupcake.

I am becoming a bit tired of thinking about these things because, whatever world developments occur in relation to energy, it always seems like we are on the wrong path. Or, if there is a positive development, it is used to take us down another wrong path.

Other than a visible increase in young men being forced into a car-less lifestyle by insurance rates (and this is particularly humourous in the suburbs, where teenage urban bling posthumously remains into the early 20's and clashes hideously with the notion of being atop a bicycle instead of in the seat of a shiny new car with polished rims -- I don't think "Pimp My Bicycle" is going to be a hit show), I just don't see many people steadying themselves and believing in the necessity of a different energy future.

The discussion shouldn't be whether or not we'll be driving hybrid, electric, or fuel cell cars in future, but why we need to drive cars so much at all. One thing that is apparent to anyone who is observant is that, despite an apparent recession, traffic has increased more than ever.

I wouldn’t have any problem with some of the latest proposals — including an increased use of coal — if only we showed any willingness to try and reorganize society and cut consumption and if these newer “findings” were being used to bridge the gap and pad the error margin that will arise between where we are today and where we will need to be in future.
But they’re not — the premise for being excited about having found new energy, and about extracting this stuff seems to be to allow things to keep running as they are for a bit longer into the future.

I am not so concerned about global warming or greenhouse gases. I am concerned that, at some point, a large number of people who are used to a certain way of doing things will not be able to function in the world we have created while others go about their life as they always have; and that the former will not perceive themselves to be treated fairly, because they can't afford the energy necessary to participate in what they see as the Canadian way.

It's not just about driving from A to B: most functions of Canadian life are energy-dependent.

We are on our way out of -- but are still within -- a world recession. Nobody knows what will happen to energy prices when we "recover". Even if we don't recover quickly, developing countries with large populations will absorb the savings as they set a new energy baseline for their people. And if it is a relatively jobless recovery -- if not all of the jobs return, or if they do return but are not as well-paying -- then it will be even worse because prices will go up with no means for many to pay for them.

The perception of fairness is the most important one because it's the foundation of the social contract and what keeps things stable. But, then again, the situation is worse in the US and very little of note has occurred. It's hard to predict what will happen.

I'd normally say: so what? I'd normally say that you're not entitled to anything and that a better life is within your reach if you improve yourself and don't stand still. But it is getting to the point where many people have difficulty getting around their own town because of the distances between things and the cost of transportation. Time is sometimes money, but money is also time -- you have more useful hours in your day if you can afford a faster mode of transportation.

I have a difficult time with this because I am really tired of the lies and over-the-top rubbish put forth by environmentally-minded people. They simply make things up a lot of the time. If you look at Rob Paterson's blog, for example (I mention his blog because it is one with which I have experience, and one that I think is serious and not hysterical or activist), there is no interest in discovering the truth there, but instead in refactoring the same old political slant under a newer, trendy headline in order to make money off the problem. The idea that thinking, intelligent people would believe this stuff if there wasn't money to be made or social cachet to be gained is unfathomable to me.

At the same time, the “free market will save us all” approach has problems, too.

I have confidence in the mechanisms of the free market to do what is needed with available resources, but not necessarily in its ability to provide those things in a timely manner. It takes a longer time to reorganize society -- something that involves cultural and psychological change -- than it does to realize a new baseline oil price because of rapidly-changing world circumstances that are sometimes out of our control.

Given a choice between the two, I have to side with the free market because at least these people are creative, progressive, and have an ability to get things done. A lot of the former are just age-old failed communists and anarchists on a new hobby horse who want to see things smashed and broken.

Just writing this post, I have now exhausted whatever affinity I was able to muster for the topic. There are too many words, they're all coming from people who already believe in the problem, and nobody else is reading them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

You try to reason with some people...

The Toronto Star had an article today about a dog that had erroneously received communion from an Anglican priest. The dog-loving but irrational readership rejected my remedy:

Monday, July 05, 2010

Ketil Bjornstad's "The Sea"

In the same way that George Winston captures the essence of the forest in his piano album, Ketil Bjornstand captures the chaotic grace of the ocean in his albums "The Sea", of which a small sample is included below: