As cities ban natural gas to reduce emissions, Ontario is expanding its gas network

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This week:

  • As cities ban natural gas to reduce emissions, Ontario is expanding its gas network
  • Electric vehicles and the story of ‘range anxiety’
  • How climate change has contributed to less bread for this baker

As cities ban natural gas to reduce emissions, Ontario is expanding its gas network


What on earth34:01Takes CO2 out of home heating

Reducing the carbon footprint of homes across Canada is no easy task. We ask, what role does home heating play? From individual homeowners to community-led change, find out who does something and why. 34:01

More and more jurisdictions, including Quebec, Vancouver and New York City, is taking steps to ban fossil fuel heating and exclamation points electrification to reduce emissions, slow down climate change and reach net-zero target.

Meanwhile, the province of Ontario is building new natural gas heating infrastructure to serve more customers and communities, including some that have been dependent on electric heating until now. And it’s getting existing customers to subsidize that expansion.

In June last year, announced the province $ 234 million to support 8,750 new gas connections ($ 26,285.71 per connection) in rural, northern and indigenous communities. Funding will come from a supplement of $ 1 per. month to existing natural gas customers, which includes 3.6 million homes and 160,000 businesses.

It is the second phase of the province’s natural gas expansion program, launched by Progressive Conservative government in 2018, with the support of the New Democratic Party. Construction on the new gas projects, including 27 from Enbridge Gas Inc. and one from EPCOR Utilities, is scheduled to begin in 2025.

The government says the goal is to lower energy costs for families, businesses and farmers, as natural gas is “more affordable than other sources such as electricity, oil or propane.”

But critics say switching more people to gas heating is not the best option when Canada aims for the entire country to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Keith Brooks, program director for the advocacy group Environmental Defense, has been following Ontario’s energy policy for years. He agrees with getting communities away from propane and oil and making heating more affordable, but believes building more fossil fuels is the wrong solution.

“What we want to do is increasingly invest money in carbon-free solutions that are widely available for heating.”

Environmental Protection estimates that a home can be electrified for far less than the $ 26,000 that existing taxpayers pay for each new connection. (Brooks noted that this does not even include the cost of the stove and duct to be installed in the home itself.)

Brooks added that the lifespan of a furnace is about 20 years, and connecting new homes will lock them into burning fossil fuels until the nearly 2050 net-zero deadline.

Some of the communities getting the new gas pipes and connections are already heating their homes with electricity, but want the option of burning fossil fuels instead.

Anwaatin, a group representing indigenous rural areas on climate change issues, wrote a letter in support of the gas expansion program.

“The majority of First Nations in Ontario … rely on electricity with poor to modest reliability in the north for basic home heating as well as lighting.” the letter saidand adds that they often pay 10 times more for heating than people in southern Ontario. “Many First Nations are therefore interested in accessing cheaper natural gas.”

Brooks said that if electric heating is too expensive, then improve home insulation and efficiency and switch to a more efficient electric heat source from foot plate heaters to heat pumps is a better option.

“If the challenge is that the electricity grid is unreliable,” he said, “then my solution would be to increase the reliability of the electricity grid, because it is one of the key solutions that we have to solve climate change … We have to to electrify pretty much everything we can. “

Brooks believes most natural gas tariffs in Ontario are unaware that they are paying for the network to be expanded to new customers.

“I’m not sure if they were heard about what they would say ‘Yes’.”

Emily Chung

Reader feedback

RA Morris writes:

“I was glad to see yours recent profile of climate fiction and Canadian authors. As a writer and environmentalist, the more space for stories to inspire and demonstrate the precarious situation our society is in, the better. If anything, more Canadian authors and eco-fiction / climate fiction should be profiled along with eco-non-fiction. Only with continued and consistent messages about the dangers we face told from a scientific and literary lens will more of society demand change. “

Old editions of What in the World? is right here.

There is also a radio program and podcast! Scotland’s coastal town of Aberdeen is a hub for offshore oil and gas in Europe. But now the North Sea is being exploited for a “fair transition” as more wind turbines spread out on the horizon. This week you can watch a special documentary about What on earth which reveals the promise of this trait – and the growth plant. What on earth airs Sunday at 12:30 p.m., 1:00 p.m. in Newfoundland. Subscribe to your favorite podcast app or listen to it on demand CBC Listen.

The big picture: Electric vehicles and ‘range anxiety’

If asked, most (if not all) electric drivers can probably share a story of “range anxiety” – that is, an incident where they thought their vehicle would run out of battery power before arriving at a charging station.

Rank anxiety is often mentioned as an obstacle to getting more people to drive electric cars (that and the price). One problem is that many countries have inadequate charging infrastructure, which is part of the reason why many car manufacturers are trying to create more spacious batteries.

Currently, the cars with the largest range are the Tesla Model S (approximately 650 kilometers per charge) and the Mercedes EQS 450+ (approximately 729 kilometers). Mercedes recently unveiled a prototype for a vehicle that will run 1,000 kilometers on a single charge, a car that the company said “puts an end to range anxiety.” This seems like an extravagant solution and out of reach, financially, for most motorists.

A more comprehensive charging infrastructure will make it more tasty to drive an electric car over long distances; US President Joe Biden, for example, has promised to install 500,000 more charging stations across the country. But a recent piece in Vice magazine points out the fallacy of that kind of thinking – and of range anxiety wider. “Studies and surveys repeatedly show that the vast majority of charging electric cars takes place at home, either in a driveway or garage. Consumer reports found that owners of electric cars that can charge at home and have a car with a range of about 250 miles [400 kilometres] can handle 92 percent of the charge at home and visit public chargers on average only six times a year. “

(Carsten Koall / Getty Images)

Hot and embarrassing: Provocative ideas from across the web

  • To have any hope of achieving our global emission reduction targets, countries must sharply reduce their use of coal, oil and natural gas. As Climate Tracker tweeted this week, the movement of these three commodities accounts for 40 percent of worldwide shipping, meaning that an overall reduction in these high-emission energy sources should also result in less shipping, a notoriously difficult sector to decarbonize.

  • Germany recently closed three of its six remaining nuclear power plants and expects to compensate for the power shortage by burning natural gas, which many observers are wondering: is this a good strategy to reduce emissions?

  • This week, banking giant Goldman Sachs made a $ 250 million investment in Canadian startup Hydrostor, which has developed technology to store excess energy in underground caves. It is the type of innovation that may prove useful in converting the grid to renewable energy sources that are not available 24 hours a day.

How climate change has contributed to less bread for this baker

(Posted by Graham Beck)

They say half a loaf of bread is better than nothing, but a baker in Perth, Ont., Is not so sure his customers will agree.

For the first time in 30 years, Graham Beck bakes less bread in his ovens – and he believes the problem may be directly linked to climate change.

“I would be surprised if my customers would tolerate it for a very long time,” said Beck, founder of Little Stream Bakery.

While the bakery picks up most of its heirloom grain from Ontario, Beck and his small team get Kamut, a wheat species, from the prairies. The grain requires a dry climate, Beck said – but not the scorching temperatures that western Canada experienced this summer.

Along with COVID-19 supply shortages, Beck was forced to secure his Kamut, also known as khorasan wheat, from a new supplier.

“It was a bit like a lump, and quite rightly the bread didn’t rise much,” he said. “And we had to work on it because that was all we could get.”

Beck said the only way to improve the sad state of the dough was to use bread molds that were two-thirds the size.

“We were not happy about that,” he said. “But we had two choices: do what we could with what we had, or not do it.”

The baker even called Kamut International, which owns the Kamut brand, and was told that the harsh weather affected American farms even worse.

What struck Beck most was the chain effect: a changing climate that led to inconsistent weather and ultimately resulted in his dough not rising in his ovens.

“This strikes me as something we might get to see more of.”

Moreover, he said that smaller companies like his are more likely to struggle to find supplies in uncertain times like a pandemic. Fortunately, Beck has secured a sample batch of Kamut from another supplier, which so far has led to fuller loaves.

For now, Beck warns customers on social media to expect dense Kamut bread and explains that it may become harder to ensure quality grains at fair prices in the coming years.

“We have to really look at the big picture and food security,” he said. “And what we can do to see more locally has alternative supplies [and] work to support farmers. ”

– Joseph Tunney

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