08 January 2010

Newfoundland takes step back away from sustainable energy

A new year is a time for new beginnings: correcting our mistakes, and moving forward with a clean slate. The province of Newfoundland, however, seems to disagree. A press release issued in November by Peat Resources Limited, a Toronto-based peat fuel-producing company, states the company has been asked to help Newfoundland’s provincial government to devise an Energy Innovation strategy for their Energy Plan using peat for fuel. A recent UN report blames the destruction of peatlands for releasing over three billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually - equivalent to 10% of global emissions from fossil fuels. Peatlands are the most efficient terrestrial ecosystems in storing carbon, and with numerous environmentally friendly energy production methods available, there is no good reason for the continuation, let alone increase, in peat extraction. At a time such as now, when the need for environment conservation is at its peak, innovative green solutions need to be prioritized – not replaced with centuries-old destructive practices.

With the changes in global temperatures, peatlands will be amongst the hardest hit. Most peatlands are located in northern high latitudes where temperature changes will be higher, causing significant increases in CH4 (methane) and CO2 (carbon dioxide). Increased temperatures cause melting permafrost, increased fires and peat decay rates, raising CH4 and CO2 emissions and reducing the carbon storage and sequestration capacity of peatlands. The increase in temperature will also cause rising sea levels and heavier rainfall, leading to peat erosion. By destroying peatlands for fuel, Peatland Resources Limited and the province of Newfoundland are helping to seal the deal on climate change, instead of fighting it.

While some may argue that the more environmentally friendly energy solutions, such as wind, tidal, and solar, are too costly, we must consider what climate change will cost us if more sustainable measures are not taken. The total damage from Hurricane Katrina is estimated to be USD $81 billion. Imagine how much it will cost when entire coastal areas are flooded over. And what will Newfoundland do once all the peat is gone? Only 3% of the earth’s surface is covered with peatlands, and peat only grows at approximately one millimeter per year!

Some sustainable energy solutions may be expensive at first, but the more mainstream a process becomes, the more affordable it becomes through the refinement of processes and competitive pricing. For example, in the 1950s when the first solar cells were available commercially, it cost about $300 per solar cell of 1 watt. Nowadays you can get it for less than $1. With the advances in technology, increases in human intelligence, and necessity for wiser governance of our planet, why is Canada still struggling to move forward with energy production?

Newfoundland needs to get on board with the movement to a more sustainable future. Nations with large proportions of peat, such as Ireland and Germany, are moving away from peat fuel due to its negative environmental impact, so why aren’t we? If Newfoundland chooses to adopt peat fuel for their energy plan, Canada will also be moving away – away from an environmentally sustainable future.

You can help Newfoundland get on track with green energy solutions by contacting the following government representatives. Tell them that peat should not be used for fuel. Be sure to copy in the Society on your correspondence (communications@burnsbog.org, 4-7953 120 Avenue, Delta BC V4C 6P6). Write your own letter or sign your name to our template letter available by downloading it from http://www.mediafire.com/?jt2fgy4yv3b

Jack Harris, MP, St. John’s East


342 Freshwater Road, St. John’s, NL A1B 1C2

Siobhan Coady, MP, St. John’s South – Mount Pearl


860 Topsail Road, Mount Pearl, NL A1N 3J7

Danny Williams, Premier, Newfoundland and Labrador

Confederation Building, East Block
P.O. Box 8700, St. John's, NL A1B 4J6

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