World

CASHING IN ON CLEANER AIR

DANYLO HAWALESHKA December 22 1997
World

CASHING IN ON CLEANER AIR

DANYLO HAWALESHKA December 22 1997

CASHING IN ON CLEANER AIR

Dale Johnson could use some good news. For more than 14 years, Johnson has toiled long hours trying to make his company, Wind Power Inc. of Pincher Creek, Alta., a success. During good times he has employed 30 people, but today only he and one other staff member remain in the tough Alberta market for alternative energy. Now, as he struggles with his dream of generating electricity from wind, Johnson cautiously welcomes the news out of Kyoto, Japan, convinced that governments may spend more money on supporting businesses like his. “It leaves room for optimism,” Johnson says.

Where there are winners, there are often losers: a number of industries face potential job losses because of the Kyoto protocol. David Manning, president of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, says those losses will exceed any job gains made

through alternative energy. "You can’t take all the people mining coal today and have them producing windmills tomorrow,” he says. Gary Gallon, head of the Montreal-based Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment, concedes some jobs are indeed likely to disappear in the $30-billion a year oil-and-gas sector. But he predicts the job losses will be more than offset by gains in Canada’s environment industries, which already consist of 4,000 companies generating revenues of $15.7 billion a year. “There will be dislocation and disruption,” Gallon says. “But the only constant in an economy is change.”

Among those poised to ride the new wave are entrepreneurs like Tom Tamblyn. As president of Tescor Energy Services Inc., Tamblyn’s Torontobased company counsels clients on upgrades to improve air circulation, heating and lighting—creating energy-efficient “smart buildings.” While energy cost savings typically range between 20 and 30 per cent, Tamblyn says many business people still ignore energy efficiency. Kyoto, he adds, will help change that by increasing public awareness and “forcing everyone to have a more holistic look at what we’re doing.”

An integrated approach is also at the core of Woodrising Consulting Inc. of Erin, Ont. The small firm is marketing a service that analyzes emissions for clients and suggests ways of reducing or offsetting emissions. Instead of attacking the problem at the factory, for example, companies could invest in green alternatives—reforestation, car pooling or public transit. Woodrising consultant Neil Bird says that Kyoto will mean more companies looking for imaginative solutions. “We’re going to get busy,” Bird says. “Are we going to get busy tomorrow? Probably not. Are we going to get busy in a year? Yes.”

While energy savers look forward to the future, so, too, do some energy providers. One of the most formidable is Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., supplier of CANDU nuclear reactors. And in a greenhouse gas-conscious world, says Allen Kilpatrick, AECL’s vicepresident of marketing and sales, that can mean only good things. “In our minds, it will unquestionably increase the use of nuclear power,” he says.

Power also lies buried in garbage dumps. Methane, produced by decaying organic material, is a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. A study for the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy reported last week that only 10 landfills in Canada collect and combust methane to generate electricity. According to Greg Jenish, the report's author, if Canada could convert 60 per cent of its landfill methane to electricity, the country could cut a significant portion of its emissions. “Any city of about 100,000 people is likely to have a landfill large enough to support a methane-gas capture system,” Jenish says. In a post-Kyoto world, there seems to be an abundant potential for clearing the air.

DANYLO HAWALESHKA