It’s time to clear the air | To cut carbon emissions, we must switch to renewable energy sources – and get polluting industries to foot the bill

It’s time to clear the air

To cut carbon emissions, we must switch to renewable energy sources – and get polluting industries to foot the bill

George Monbiot is correct in asserting that “If we behave as though it is too late, then our prophecy is bound to come true.” But it’s not, so let’s not.

I attended the Science Conference in Copenhagen last week, and, like many there I was dismayed by what I heard, but also heartened. As senior researcher to Colin Challen MP I have been listening to pronouncements of the “end of the world is nigh” variety at meetings and conferences for several years now, and continue to be amazed at the intellectual contortionism of our species in clinging to old, dirty technology rather than embracing the means of harnessing resources that are freely available all around us, such as wind and solar power. At these same meetings and conferences I often hear that the UK has the best “wind resource” in Europe – so why not take advantage of this? Instead we try to convince ourselves that we can carry on burning coal as long as we can “bury” the nasty side-effects underground? Haven’t we already realised that this is unsustainable for household waste, and have developed alternatives to “landfill”?

Ironically, it was in a session at Copenhagen on carbon capture and storage (CCS) that I saw positive possibilities for the future. It was not the presentation of a model (there were a lot of “models” at the conference) of risk of leakage of CO2 from a storage site in a former oil well, and the statement that there was no empirical evidence to offer because oil companies would not release such data that was heartening, as you can imagine. It was the presentation on “mineralisation” of CO2, ie, not treating CO2 emissions as “waste”, but as a potential resource, and converting the CO2 into something useful. It transpires that this is already happening in Finland, that a byproduct is iron, which is snapped up by a nearby steel plant, but which I am given to believe is also what the oceans need to counter acidification. The potential benefits of this process are many and various.

Apart from the aforementioned – far from a mere 3% per annum – dramatic, rapid decreases in CO2 emissions are achievable by switching to renewable sources of energy. Industrialists who have risen to this challenge report decreases in CO2 emissions in the order of 60-70% in the very short term – empirical data, not models. Not only good for the human species, but good for their company’s “bottom line”.

So, there are some reasons to be cheerful: the science conference warned us that we must take action, and also presented examples of ways to clean up the dirty act that some industries insist on continuing to follow. I am not suggesting that we allow these industries to think they can continue as usual, and offload the costs of their clean-up onto the taxpayer – we have already contributed massively to their financial success. Rather, such industries and their shareholders must be the ones who pay for cleaning the atmosphere they have sullied, and for the adaptation measures required by people around the globe whose lives are threatened by the consequences.

Polluters liable, even if they follow the rules, top court says

Janice Tibbetts, Canwest News Service

Published: Thursday, November 20, 2008

OTTAWA – Industrial polluters can be forced to pay damages if they excessively annoy nearby residents, even if companies comply with regulations governing emissions, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled Thursday in a decision that stresses environmental protection.

The unanimous judgment ends a long-standing battle between St. Lawrence Cement and people who lived near the plant in Beauport, Que., until it shut down in 1997.

The residents launched a class-action suit against the plant in 1993, complaining that its operation spewed residue on their homes, land, and cars, along with an ensuing odour and noise that devalued their properties.

The key issue in the Supreme Court ruling was whether companies in Quebec can be found civilly liable, even if they are not strictly at fault for the inflicted damage because they followed regulatory standards on maintaining equipment.

Although the case was confined to interpretation of the Quebec Civil Code, the court noted that no-fault liability is also found in common law that is used in all other provinces.

“What is more, such a scheme is consistent with general policy considerations, such as the objective of environmental protection and the application of the polluter-pay principle,” justices Marie Deschamps and Louis LeBel wrote in the 6-0 decision.

The court said that the test for civil fault is whether the pollution violates a standard of conduct of a reasonable person.

Environmental groups hailed the decision as a “massive victory” that will empower citizens to challenge environmental annoyances.

“The result is that future environmental nuisance claims will be more easily proven under a no-fault regime, and polluters will have even more incentive to clean up their act to avoid being sued by their neighbours,” said Will Amos, a lawyer for the University of Ottawa Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic.

The decision upholds a ruling in the Quebec Superior Court, which absolved St. Lawrence Cement of wrongdoing, but nonetheless found the company liable for excessive disturbance and ordered it to pay about $15 million in damages to the residents.

The Quebec Court of Appeal rejected the lower court’s finding that a company can be found liable in the absence of fault. But the appeal court found St. Lawrence Cement guilty of wrongdoing in its compliance with environmental laws.

The appeal court also limited the scope of class-action suits by restricting damages to homeowners, and excluding tenants and family members from claims – a ruling that the Supreme Court rejected.

St. Lawrence Cement, based in Concord, Ont., said Thursday in a statement that the recognition of a no-fault liability scheme in Quebec could have “far reaching implications” for Canadian industry.

“SLC does acknowledge that, despite using state-of-the-art equipment to manage dust and consistently complying with all regulatory requirements, there was annoyance to our neighbours from the operation of the plant,” the statement said.

Court evidence showed that the cement plant, responding to ongoing complaints, spent $8 million between 1991 and 1995 on new dust collectors for its kilns.

The company continues to operate in more than 50 Canadian communities, employing about 3,000 people and generating annual revenue of more than $1.5 billion.

NEW STUDY | Benefits of Meeting Clean Air Standards


California Loses $28 Billion Yearly Due to Health Effects of Pollution. By Louis Sahagun, LATimes, November 13, 2008. “The California economy loses about $28 billion annually due to premature deaths and illnesses linked to ozone and particulates spewed from hundreds of locations in the South Coast and San Joaquin air basins, according to findings [Benefits of Meeting Clean Air Standards, PDF, 108 pp, executive summary, PDF, 8 pp] released Wednesday by a Cal State Fullerton research team. Most of those costs… are connected to roughly 3,000 smog-related deaths each year, but additional factors include work and school absences, emergency room visits, and asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses, said team leader Jane Hall, a professor of economics and co-director of the university’s Institute for Economics and Environmental Studies.”

California economy loses $28 billion yearly to health effects of pollution


Most of the losses are attributable to 3,000 annual deaths, a Cal State Fullerton study says. The study underscores the economic benefits of meeting federal air quality standards.

Louis Sahagun

November 13, 2008

The California economy loses about $28 billion annually due to premature deaths and illnesses linked to ozone and particulates spewed from hundreds of locations in the South Coast and San Joaquin air basins, according to findings released Wednesday by a Cal State Fullerton research team.

Most of those costs, about $25 billion, are connected to roughly 3,000 smog-related deaths each year, but additional factors include work and school absences, emergency room visits, and asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses, said team leader Jane Hall, a professor of economics and co-director of the university’s Institute for Economics and Environment Studies.

The study underscores the economic benefits of meeting federal air quality standards at a time when lawmakers and regulators are struggling with California’s commitment to protecting public health in a weak economy.

The $90,000 study does not propose any particular action. But in an interview, Hall said, “We are going to pay for it one way or the other. Either we pay to fix the problem or we pay in loss of life and poor health. . . . This study adds another piece to the puzzle as the public and policy-makers try to understand where do we go from here.”

The California Air Resources Board is scheduled to vote Dec. 11 on whether to adopt broader rules that would force more than 1 million heavy-duty diesel truckers to install filters or upgrade their engines. Truckers and agribusiness have argued against stricter regulation, saying it is too expensive for them to invest in clean vehicles at a time of economic uncertainty.

Mary Nichols, chairman of the air resources board, said the findings will “be useful to all of us. Our board members hear on a regular basis from constituents who are concerned about the costs of regulations, and seldom hear from people concerned about their health because they are collectively and individually not as well organized.”

In the meantime, the two regions continue to pay a steep price for generating air pollution ranked among the worst in the country. In the South Coast basin, that cost is about $1,250 per person per year, which translates into a total of about $22 billion in savings if emissions came into compliance with federal standards, Hall said. In the San Joaquin air basin, the cost is about $1,600 per person per year, or about $6 billion in savings if the standards were met.

The savings would come from about 3,800 fewer premature deaths among those age 30 and older; 1.2 million fewer days of school absences; 2 million fewer days of respiratory problems in children; 467,000 fewer lost days of work and 2,700 fewer hospital admissions, according to the study.

The study noted that attaining the federal standard for exposure to particulates would save more lives than lowering the number of motor vehicle fatalities to zero in most of the regions examined.

The hardest hit were fast-growing communities in Kern and Fresno counties, where 100% of the population was exposed to particulate concentrations above the average federal standard from 2005 to 2007. High rates of exposure were also found in San Bernardino and Riverside counties, where diesel soot is blown by prevailing winds and then trapped by four mountain ranges.

Considered the most lethal form of air pollution, microscopic particulates expelled from tailpipes, factory smoke stacks, diesel trucks and equipment can penetrate through the lungs and enter the bloodstream. Exposure to these fine particles has been linked to severe asthma, cancer and premature deaths from heart and lung disease.

“In the South Coast basin, an average 64% of the population is exposed to health-endangering annual averages of particulates,” Hall said, “and in the most populated county — Los Angeles — it is 75%.

“In most years, the South Coast and San Joaquin basins vie with the Houston, Texas, area for the worst air pollution trophy, but this year we took it back,” she said. “That’s not a prize you want to be handed. Essentially, imported T-shirts and tennis shoes are being hauled to Omaha and the big-rig diesel pollution stays here.”

Nidia Bautista, community engagement director for the Coalition for Clean Air, described the findings as “staggering, and a reminder that health is too often the trade-off when it comes to cleaning the air.”

Angelo Logan, spokesman for the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, put it another way: “At a time when government is handing out economic stimulus packages, we could use an economic relief package to help us deal with environmental impacts on our health, families and pocketbooks.”

Hall agreed. “This is a drain that could be spent in far better ways,” she said.

REPORT | Effects of industrial air pollution on the respiratory health of children


Courtesy of International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology
Originally published Sep. 2008

Full Report:effects-of-industrial-air-pollution-on-the-respiratory-health-of-children

There is growing concern regarding to the possible effects of air pollution on respiratory health of children in Eleme industrial area of Port-Harcourt Nigeria. A total of 250 children were sampled from six primary schools with pre-nursery facilities for a period of 18 months. Subjects were divided into two zones (A and B), monitored and examined on weekly basis. The effects of four criteria pollutants (nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and carbon monoxide) on the respiratory health of the children were examined with reference to symptoms and diseases such as cough, cold, bronchitis, sinusitis and phlegm. Data were obtained from surveys of socioeconomic status of parents of subjects, three air monitoring stations and on-the-spot measurements of these pollutants and their association with symptoms and diseases analyzed. Results showed that there was a strong association between air pollution and symptoms and diseases among children. The effect was strongest among children below 2 years of age (adjusted OR = 3.5, 95%, CI 1.7-8.3) in the highly polluted zone than in the less polluted area. The higher the age of children, the lesser the susceptibility to these pollutants. These general results constitute a starting point for further research on long-term exposure to industrial air pollution and call for an urgent enforcement of regulatory standards to protect the most vulnerable groups in most of the growing metropolises of the country.

Tim Hortons joins drive-thru debate | Kitchener


Mercury news services
September 12, 2008

Terry Pender
Mercury news services


Tim Hortons went on the offensive yesterday against a possible ban on future drive-thrus in the city.

“If you get rid of drive-thrus, the cars keep coming, and the cars will move to the parking lots,” Nick Javor, a Tim Hortons senior vice-president, warned the environmental advisory committee.

And if cars shift from drive-thru lines to parking lots, it will mean more air pollution, not less, according to a study commissioned by the company.

The study measured vehicle emissions at Tim Hortons in Hamilton, Ottawa and Mississauga — two with drive-thrus and one with no drive-thru.

Study author Mike Lepage of Guelph-based RWDI concluded the public will get no better air-quality if drive-thrus are banned.

In late 2007, Kitchener city staff proposed several options for drive-thrus, ranging from changing their design to not allowing any more.

In response, Tim Hortons said it had a scientific report refuting the perception idling vehicles in drive-thus are a large source of air pollution.

Yesterday, the environmental advisory committee was briefed on the findings:

A car parked for 3.5 minutes to seven minutes and then restarted emits 0.6 grams of smog-related pollutants, 9.9 grams of carbon monoxide and 5.6 grams of carbon dioxide.

A vehicle idling in a drive-thru emits 0.3 grams of smog-related pollutants a minute, 3.4 grams of carbon monoxide and 34 grams of carbon dioxide.

Vehicles crawling through parking lots at up to 10 km/h to reach the drive-thru queue emit 0.4 grams of smog-related pollutants per minute, 3.7 grams of carbon monoxide and 75 grams of carbon dioxide.

The measurements were made in the morning, when drive-thru business peaked at 224 cars an hour.

Tim Hortons operates 1,700 drive-thrus across the country, with those outlets doing half their business at the window.

Lepage said emissions at the drive-thrus account for 0.21 per cent of the greenhouse gases generated by light-duty cars and trucks.

“Drive-thrus are a small part of motor vehicle emissions,” he said.

A single chainsaw causes more pollution than a single drive-thru, he said.

Committee member George Zador said the chainsaw argument was like saying Idi Amin wasn’t so bad because Hitler was worse.

Councillor Berry Vrbanovic, who chairs the advisory committee, wondered how Lepage would counter critics who say his study is biased because Tim Hortons paid for it.

This is why another scientist — chemical engineer Deniz Karman of Carleton University in Ottawa — was asked to review the study, Lepage said. The study has also been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication.

Mark Peterson, a member of the committee, was impressed.

“To hammer away at Tim Hortons may be the wrong direction to be going,” he said. The problems are car-dependent cities and lifestyles, not drive-thrus, he said.

Javor, of Tim Hortons, made a similar argument.

“The answer is very simple,” he said. “Get rid of the car. Getting rid of the car will get rid of all of the emissions, all of the exhaust and all of the problem pollutants we are talking about.”

Committee members asked city staff study the issue and report back on options.

Letter to Editor | LFP | Drive-thrus

Letter to Editor

Association misleads public
I am disgusted with the Ontario Restaurant, Hotel & Motel Association for using misinformation to mislead public on drive-through regulation.

The literature the association handed out cited a complete ban on drive-throughs, which was never the recommendation before the planning committee. The literature also said disabled people need drive-throughs and a ban would surely make life more difficult for disabled people.

There are currently 154 drive-throughs in this city and there were never any plans to close them. The ORHMA used those with disabilities as a vehicle in which to drive its message home, which was that a ban on drive-throughs was unacceptable to them.

Misleading the public and taking advantage of the less fortunate is abhorrent behaviour and I say shame on the ORHMA.

POSTED BY: Leonard Peter Manning, London
POSTED ON: July 21, 2008

EDITORS NOTE: As published in The London Free Press on July 21, 2008.

It’s still not OK to idle | Article

Natural Resources Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency (OEE) is our federal government’s official body for helping Canadians save energy and money. Its website,, has a wealth of information about everything from buying better home appliances to designing better commercial buildings.

If you’re a frequent visitor to the site, you may have noticed that longstanding guidelines for idling reduction were modified recently. But there’s something a bit suspicious about the changes.

Old rules and new rules

For years, the OEE’s idling reduction programs have been based on the 10-second rule. It’s message is simple: it’s better to turn a car or light truck engine off than to let it idle for more than 10 seconds.

It’s a general guideline, so as with any such rule there are exceptions. For example, it’s not recommended that engines be shut off at traffic stoplights – they don’t always start back up when you want them to, and that can create a traffic mess. As well, it doesn’t always make sense in cold winter conditions. But overall, the 10-second rule has been a great guideline for Canadians, helping us save money, fuel and the environment.

But back in February, the 10-second rule suddenly disappeared from OEE’s website. In its place was a message indicating that an update was coming soon.

Six months later, the long-awaited update has finally arrived. Now it seems that it’s OK to idle longer. Has the science behind the recommendation changed – or is something else at work? A recent CBC news story suggests there’s a bit more behind our federal government’s change of heart.

Real science or science of convenience?

You see, excessive idling is starting to become socially frowned upon. It’s about time, of course – Canadians waste literally millions of litres of fuel every day through unnecessary idling. If we are truly ready to believe the environment is worth taking care of, minimizing our idling is one of the easiest things we can do.

Much of our preventable idling takes place at the drive-thru, so fast food restaurants and coffee shops are becoming concerned that a backlash against idling might put a damper on a part of their business that clearly makes mountains of cash. If that CBC story is correct, they have been very busy behind the scenes, working to sanitize the image of their drive-thrus. That sanitization campaign has included sponsoring a study that concludes that going through the coffee shop drive-thru causes no more pollution than parking. It has included publicizing those results using questionable comparisons, such as comparing chainsaws (whose two-stroke engines pollute much more by design) to vehicles at drive-thrus. And it has included pulling political strings to help the study’s conclusions become part of the government’s new recommendations.

Could the story be true? There are a few indisputable facts. RWDI Air, an Ontario engineering firm, recently conducted a study on behalf of Tim Hortons that seems to vindicate drive-thru. The study is being widely used to defend them, including by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA), whose membership includes most drive-thru operators in Canada.

Then last February, the CRFA met with Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn, who oversees the OEE – and the 10-second rule disappeared from OEE’s website within 24 hours.

I hope the CBC story is wrong, of course, and that this is all just coincidence. Just like any other Canadian, I want to believe that my government bases its recommendations to Canadians on sound science exclusively. Just imagine if Health Canada took its directives from the pharmaceutical industry. But I have to admit I’m concerned that in this case real science may have been trumped by other interests.

In the meantime, since the 10-second rule remains valid in other countries, I think it’s too early to give up on it here. If you believe our environment is worth preserving, it’s still a good idea to minimize idling and avoid drive-thrus.

Carl Duivenvoorden is one of 22 Atlantic Canadians trained by Al Gore to deliver presentations of ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’ He lives in Upper Kingsclear. His column runs every other Monday.

EXPOSED | CBC News | Feds revamp stance on idling after meeting with drive-thru group

Feds revamp stance on idling after meeting with drive-thru group
Monday, August 11, 2008
CBC News
A federal government website that highlights the negative health and environmental effects of idling your engine has revamped its message after meeting with a group representing drive-thru restaurants.
‘It’s gonna make it harder for every city politician to make the argument that we need to have restrictive legislation on idling.’— Ottawa Coun. Clive Doucet
The “Idle-Free Zone,” a website managed by Natural Resources Canada’s office of energy efficiency, was removed for review following a meeting with the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association. A revised version was posted five months later, on July 22, that:
Advises drivers to shut off their engines after 60 seconds of idling; the previous version advocated turning engines off after 10 seconds.
Does not refer to 5,000 premature deaths annually in Canada linked to air pollution, as the previous version did, and no longer includes posters bearing images such as a girl choking and slogans such as “Idling is killing our environment.”
The website says its purpose is to help communities and environmental groups stop engine idling.
Carol Buckley, director general of the office of energy efficiency, confirmed that the restaurant association met with Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn on Feb. 7.
According to Lunn’s spokeswoman, Louise Girouard, no one from the office of energy efficiency attended the meeting. Girouard confirmed that an e-mail was sent from Lunn’s office on Feb. 8 asking the site to be taken down.
Buckley said the site was temporarily removed because the office didn’t want to leave any misleading information online while it was being revised.
“We wanted to make sure that the website reflected all of the latest data and information that was available about this topic,” she said, adding that in the end the changes were “not really significant.”
The change to the recommended amount of idling time was made because of access to new research taking into account the wear and tear on a car’s battery and starter caused by shutting off and restarting the engine, she said. Previously, the site said such wear and tear was minimal.
The new site now also refers readers to Health Canada instead of detailing the health impacts of idling because Natural Resources felt that wasn’t really their jurisdiction and they wanted to focus on the effects on climate change, Buckley added.
“I think the emphasis in the earlier text was a little strong. Today’s vehicles are more efficient when it comes to smog emissions,” she said.
Site ‘lacks balance’: restaurant group
Joyce Reynolds, executive vice-president for government affairs for the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association, said the group corresponded with a number of government officials at various levels about the website, which was used by many municipalities to develop their own anti-idling bylaws.
‘What I would like to see is that Natural Resources Canada put the same amount of emphasis on these other driving behaviours that they do on idling.’— Joyce Reynolds, Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association
“Our concern is that municipal decision-making must be based on facts and scientific evidence,” she said. “And we were seeing some municipalities that were focusing on the health impacts of idling based on information that was incorrect and misleading.”
The association argues Natural Resources Canada didn’t put enough weight on pollution caused by a puff of contaminants produced when an engine is restarted after being shut down.
Reynolds said some of that misleading information on the “Idle-Free Zone” site has now been corrected, but the site still “lacks balance.”
In particular, she said, it doesn’t deal with other driving behaviours that cause greenhouse gas and pollution emissions, such as excessive speeding, rapid acceleration and poor vehicle maintenance.
“What I would like to see is that Natural Resources Canada put the same amount of emphasis on these other driving behaviours that they do on idling,” Reynolds said.
With regards to idling, the changes to the site will have an impact on municipalities, Ottawa city Coun. Clive Doucet said.
“It’s gonna make it harder for every city politician to make the argument that we need to have restrictive legislation on idling. It’s not good news for cities anywhere,” said Doucet, who pushed hard for an anti-idling bylaw in Ottawa.
A bylaw banning idling for more than three minutes in Ottawa went into effect on Jan. 1, 2008.
With the aim of reducing pollution from idling cars, a number of cities in Canada — including London, Ont., North Vancouver and Sarnia, Ont. — are thinking about making it tougher for restaurants to build new drive-thrus.
Gordon Taylor, an engineering consultant who has done air-quality studies for Natural Resources Canada, suggested that the restaurant association could be taking another approach to deal with criticism of drive-thrus.
“I think the restaurant association should have some kind of a pro-active campaign to say, ‘Hey, if there’s a big long lineup, consider walking in the door.’ ”

Headline News | Idling | Restaurant Industry | NRCAN: CBC World Report

CBC World News:

Here is a link to the audio file from the CBC report. (above) It aired on CBC (National) Radio One this morning at 6 am.

1:57 seconds | Transcript:

“A federal cabinet minister may have thrown his weight behind changes to a website run by the government, that discourages idling cars.

The call for changes comes from an association of restaurants in connection with the debate surrounding drive-through restaurants in Canada.

At first the Natural Resources department wouldn’t go along with any changes.

But as Giacomo Panico reports, the restaurants made some headway after a high level meeting…..

Cont’d – (listen to audio file)


See full story & comment on this story at:

Story by: Giacomo Panico :

p. 613.288.6501

The infamous Tim Hortons as featured in the RWDI report | A picture is most definetly worth a thousand words

Here we have it:  Indisputable proof that the Tim Horton’s on Bank Street in Ottawa that does not have a drive-thru will emit less GHG emissions per vehicle visit than a restaurant with an active drive-thru. What better proof that we don’t need drive thrus (more seriously, the photos just demonstrate the importance of doing a full temporal and seasonal assessment of restaurant use). Imagine the statistical evidence if the RWDI study looked at emissions on weekends late afternoon. We also noticed that Bank has street parking from 7:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. (or 3:00 p.m.) which pretty well restricts traffic to two lanes (one lane each way). Imagine if you are waiting 8 minutes trying to get into the crowded parking lot, holding up traffic in Ottawa South. While Tim Hortons may suggest that this just provides further evidence that drive-thrus are ‘good for climate change’, we counter with the view that a car dependent culture is the root cause of the problem, and that we need more parking or improved access by more sustainable alternatives to the Single Occupant Vehicle when locating Tim Horton restaurants.

Taken on July 19th, 2008 at 5:30 p.m.