Toronto mayoral candidates talk about greening the city’s economy

The debate, hosted by Toronto Greenhouse and moderated by yours truly, took place this evening. Please come back after noon on Wednesday for access to a transcript of the event and to post any followup questions you may have. Candidates have been invited to visit this site and answer questions. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: After a sincere attempt to transcribe last evening’s Green Government debate, I have decided to not proceed because certain parts of the debate were inaudible on my digital recorder. It would be unfair to post a transcript in which the comments of certain candidates are not accurately recorded. My apologies. I will, however, soon have access to a link where people can watch the full video of the debate.

In the meantime, I will post here the four questions I asked and candidates have the opportunity, if they choose, to respond more clearly and concisely on this blog. Their responses can be sent to and will be posted soon after they are received. (NOTE: Sarah Thomson has replied. Read below for her comments.)

Question #1: What are the top three environmental issues facing the city today and how do you plan to address them?

Question #2: Building on past efforts, how can a major municipality like Toronto do a better job of reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions?

Question #3: Can the green economy be a future economic engine for Toronto? If so, in which areas should Toronto focus its efforts and how would you, as mayor, support emerging green businesses?

Question #4: Where does each candidate stand on the use of energy-from-waste technologies, both as a way to manage municipal waste and generate electricity for the city?

Here are some links to coverage of last evening’s event — the Toronto Star, the Globe and Mail, and the National Post (and here).

Also, check out Toronto Star columnist Catherine Porter’s account of the evening on Twitter.

If you attended the debate, I welcome your comments. Who won? Which particular responses stood out?

To read candidate answers received so far click for more… Continue reading Toronto mayoral candidates talk about greening the city’s economy

Canadian company one of several clearing land in Africa to grow biofuel crops

A new report from Friends of Earth is taking aim at several companies — including Canada’s Kimminic Corp. of Mississauga — for buying up land in Africa and clearing it so biofuel crops can be grown. The group claims that Kimminic has purchased 13,000 hectares of land in Ghana that will be used to grow Jatropha, which produces an oil that can be used to make biodiesel. “Non-edible agrofuel crops such as jatropha are competing directly with food crops for fertile land. The result threatens food supplies in poor communities and pushes up the cost of available food. Farmers who switch to agrofuel crops run the risk of being unable to feed their families. While foreign companies pay lip service to the need for ‘sustainable development’, agrofuel production and demand for land is resulting in the loss of pasture and forests, destroying natural habitat and probably causing an increase in greenhouse gas emissions,” according to the report. It also warns that these fuel crops are consumer water in regions that are already struggled with water scarcity.

Biofuels can be a good thing and part of the fight against climate change, but not if produced irresponsibly.

Joe Romm’s book Straight Up is a treasure of climate-related widsom

I meant to review Joe Romm’s most recent book Straight Up a few months ago but didn’t really dig into it until I started research for my own book. Also, I’ve been regularly following his blog,, since it was started and much of the content in the book — a compilation of his best climate-related posts with commentary and updates — isn’t new to me. But if you’re someone looking to expand your knowledge of climate change science, policy, and the technologies needed to address global warming, then I highly recommend Romm’s reliable and passionately written compilation — and his blog for that matter. You may disagree with him occasionally — I do — but he cuts through the crap in a way no mainstream media outlet has or will. In fact, my favourite posts are when he regularly attacks the mainstream media for its pathetic coverage of the climate issue.

Before Romm even got into blogging he authored the book Hell and High Water, which I was first to review. Before that he wrote The Hype About Hydrogen, which effectively let the air out of Jeremy Rifkin’s Hydrogen Economy balloon.

$20 LED lightbulb at Home Depot a welcome start, but call me when it hits $10 — even better, $5

My Clean Break column for this Monday acknowledges Home Depot for selling the first sub-$20 LED lightbulb for a standard household light socket. It was only months ago — weeks, even — that the $40 pricepoint was being tossed around. These lower prices can’t come any faster. I respect the compact fluorescent bulb, I really do, but it just doesn’t cut it for me. Mercury. Premature blowouts. The light quality has gotten much better, and the price has come a long, long way — $1.50 a bulb in most places compared to $11 or $12 a decade ago. But LEDs are just so much more superior.

As we wait for the perfect and affordable household light bulb, it’s nice to see niche LED markets thriving, such as that for municipal streetlights. Companies such as Halifax-based LED Roadway Lighting are making great headway with products that can lower energy consumption by at least 50 per cent and up to 80 per cent and offer better quality and reduced maintenance.

Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV an ideal inner city electric car

Just had my first spin of a Mitsubishi i-MiEV today and quite enjoyed it. I’ve driven the plug-in Prius (retrofitted by Hymotion), the Tesla Roadster and a ways back a $1-million fuel cell Ford Focus, and have to say that being a person who lives in a big city and lives in a two-car household, the i-MiEV so far is the best fit for me. It helps that I’ll soon be able to ditch my kids’ car seats. The car has a 100 km to 120 km range, depending on how many passengers you have and how much you use radio/aircon/heating. I now work from home and maybe twice a week do the 15 to 20 minute drive downtown. With my lifestyle, and keeping in mind this is a second car, a single weekend charge-up of the i-MiEV would cover my entire week most times. I’d love to test drive the car for a month in the dead of winter to get a real feel for it.

The car goes on sale in Canada in the fall of 2011. The price will range from $30,000 to $40,000, and that’s relying only on the standard 120-volt charger. The upper range is too expensive for me, considering what the Nissan Leaf is likely to cost, but if Mitsubishi can come in with a pre-incentive cost of $30,000, and if I could get a $5,000 subsidy from the government, then at $25,000 it looks more doable. Will be interesting to see if Mitsubishi can match the GM and Nissan 10-year warranties, and offer good lease terms. Currently, as somebody who will be in the market for an electric car in 2012, it’s a competition between the i-MiEV and the Leaf.