Moving people away from oil isn’t just a question of cost. Consumer behaviour is complex, often contradictory
Published: North American Energy News (link)
June 2, 2017
Dear Reader, here is my question for you: how much extra are you willing to pay to speed up the Energy Transition? How much risk are you willing to assume?
This is not at all a simple question. Would we be likely to retrofit our current townhouse to be super energy efficient, much less pull out the gas furnace and hot water and go all-electric?
Probably not, because we have other places to spend tens of thousands of dollars, and the payback period would, for us, be far too long. There are also the questions about how much hassle it would be to get approval from our strata for this scope of work, and whether a forty year old wood structure is worth that kind of investment. If we’re looking to sell, a new kitchen and bathroom is better choice.
But what if we weren’t tied to a specific property? A few years ago we were looking seriously at a stunning new house on Passage Island, just off of West Vancouver. In the end we sadly concluded that boat only access just wouldn’t work for us, but that was about the only reason for not moving.
That house, like many in the Gulf Islands, and up Indian Arm in North Vancouver, is entirely off-grid. Phone and Internet are by cel coverage, and all power is by solar and battery. We looked at it and concluded that yes, we could get by just fine with the resources available: wood heat, rainwater collection to drink and wash, propane for cooking, and everything else electric from solar.
What we learned is that there are already a lot of people living very comfortably with solar power, and that it’s become reliable and affordable for most situations. If we had purchased that house everything would have already been in place, so for our use case moving away from natural gas and BC Hydro wouldn’t mean an added cost, just some fairly painless changes to electricity usage – mainly eliminating the electric clothes dryer and replacing a few energy intensive appliances.
This is all within our reach, because it’s not just about “how much are you prepared to spend,” but also about “Are there changes you can make to your day to day activities that will make this possible.”
The phenomenal success of household recycling might be good model for the energy transition. Even with curbside pick up it’s more work, more containers, involves rules that change with every municipality, and delivers exactly no financial benefit to users.
There is no immediate upside to recycling, and no downside to throwing everything into one big black plastic bag, yet the vast majority of people religiously separate plastic and paper, and now often food scraps, into separate buckets.
This didn’t happen because it was mandated, or because there was a cost/benefit analysis. It happened because over the course of a couple of decades people as a whole became convinced that it was a good and productive thing to do. The challenge for EV proponents is to develop similar arguments, and sell them to the broader population. I’d argue that this is already happening, with most people thinking that, all things considered, electric cars are a good idea.
Moving people away from oil and towards renewable energy isn’t just a question of cost. Consumer behaviour is complex and often contradictory. Governments can help things along with incentives, but the big change will come when the population as a whole sees electric cars as part of “normal.”
Donate now! Please support quality journalism by contributing to our Patreon campaign. Even $5 a month helps us continue delivering high quality news and analysis about Canadian and American energy stories that affect your life and your lifestyle.
You can ignore the part of the question about “risk.” We’re already at a point where for the average consumer, that’s been eliminated. For household use you add panels on the roof and batteries in the attic, and you’ve got a reliable system. For autos the only “risk” seems to be the much repeated “range anxiety,” but the vast majority of urban driving is well under those limits so doesn’t apply.
As far as the costs of moving to an electric car, there are really two different questions. One is the cost of charging, and that’s really in the hands of whoever sets the electricity rates. If government decides to do some kind of smart metered cheap rate for auto charging that ceases to be an obstacle.
The only remaining factor is the actual purchase price of a new electric car. That is best answered by my former mother-in-law, who described buying a car by saying “Get the fancy model. The payments aren’t any bigger, they just last longer.” If the monthly payment on a new electric car is only $50 more than for a gas model – and again, government could do that easily with tax breaks – consumers would be there in a flash.
Barry Rueger is a North Vancouver writer, non-profit board member, and past Chair of the District of North Vancouver’s Transportation Consultation Committee.
Published:North Shore News (link)
December 16, 2016
Late last month, in a meeting at the District of North Vancouver, a cyclist, a pedestrian and a disabled person found common ground.Instead of discussing the broad visions of the district’s official community plan, or initiatives like Vision Zero or Barrier Free BC, talk turned to one of those mundane problems faced by anyone travelling without a car: telephone poles in the middle of sidewalks.
It sounds like a small thing to complain about if you compare it to the daily jams on the Upper Levels highway, but for anyone trying to travel the district on foot, by bike, or in a wheelchair, these poles can be as big a barrier as a stalled semi on the Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Crossing.
The reasons why we wind up with poles in the middle of sidewalks are complicated. Sometimes it’s budgetary. Cash-strapped governments – because we all want to pay less tax – may decide that a less-than-perfect sidewalk is better than no sidewalk at all. Leaving a pole in the middle of the path means avoiding spending large amounts of money to move utilities, or to re-engineer larger projects to move the sidewalk. And there are jurisdictional issues – utility poles are often the domain of the utility companies, not the district. Moving a pole requires negotiating with BC Hydro, or Telus or whoever has wires on it.
Even so, people who rely on sidewalks – or shared paths used by both cyclists and walkers – often find themselves asking, “Who, exactly, thought that leaving a pole in the middle of the sidewalk was a good idea?” Or, less charitably, “And can they show me a road for cars with a pole in the middle of the lane?”
The district’s own Pedestrian Master Plan (dnv.org/property-and-development/pedestrian-master-plan) makes some pretty specific recommendations.
It recommends explicitly that the district “adopt a policy to prioritize pedestrians over all other modes of travel or to consider pedestrian needs in decision-making.” The master plan also makes some specific recommendations about how sidewalks should be built, suggesting that “A complete sidewalk network also includes a continuous ‘clear zone’ (path free of any obstacles) of at least 1.5 metres width ...”
Despite this, it still appears that plans are made first and foremost to keep cars moving easily, with pedestrians, cyclists and disabled residents expected to settle for whatever scraps of attention or budget remain after the “important” decisions are made.
This month the district has been looking for public feedback from users of East 29th Street, between Lonsdale and Lynn Valley. Drivers of that route will immediately point to the intersection of William and 29th for attention, but this is also a good time to look at the lack of crosswalks at any other place on 29th, and to eliminate the poles, sign posts and benches that make the district sidewalks an obstacle course. Or even, just for a change, to plan first to fix the sidewalks and crosswalks, then use the left over budget to make improvements for cars.
Further afield at the Seylynn development, cyclists who need to travel between Keith Road to Lower Lynn or Deep Cove are faced with brand new poles, bollards and other obstacles that look wonderful if you’re planning for cars, but put both pedestrians and walkers at risk.
Surely brand new developments should try to make sure that everyone using our roadways is treated as equally important? These are the kinds of obstacles that could have been easy to avoid at the time of construction. Instead someone – the developer? The district? – is faced with an expensive upgrade.
The district’s Pedestrian Master Plan sets a specific goal: to have district residents make 10 per cent of all trips on foot by the year 2031. That’s pretty far off, so let’s bring the discussion closer to home.
A lot of people talk about maintaining a “village” atmosphere in Lynn Valley. To me that means getting people out of their cars to walk, bike or roll so that they meet face to face, talk and make connections with their neighbours. Dog owners know this already. You can’t take Rover for a walk without stopping to talk to the people you meet.
Every day we leave home to do shopping, visit the library or have a beer with friends. If you can leave your car at home and travel on foot, or with a stroller or wheelchair, you’ll actually find yourself getting to know the people around you, and will see your community in much different ways. Ultimately you’ll make friendships and alliances that will enrich your day-to-day life, and make the district the best possible place to live, work and even retire.
If that’s our priority, and I think that it is, then our sidewalks and shared trails should be treated as equally important as the roads we drive on.
Barry Rueger is a Lynn Valley writer, dog walker, non-profit board member, and for several years has been part of the district’s transportation consultation committee.
Published: Black Cat White Dog News (pdf)
See the lovely dog riding beside me in my truck? Do you know her name?
I had just finished loading six dogs into my truck after an hour and a half on the trails. This happy girl became an extra passenger. I met her as she wandered down Millstream Road in West Vancouver, following her favorite mail carrier. He even knew where she lived, so I tried to take her home, but the house was locked, and no-one answered the door.
Finally I dropped her off at the West Vancouver SPCA. All in all this little girl cost me an hour or more of my time, a side trip from the British Properties down to Park Royal, and her owners the time and expense of recovering her. Plus who knows how much worry when they found that she was gone.
All for the sake of a five dollar name tag.
As a commercial dog walker I'm handling dogs all of the time. And like most other walkers, I also wind up taking care of lost dogs on a regular basis. Whether it's the time of day, or the truck, or just a positive doggy “vibe”, you can bet that the dog that's been wandering your neighbourhood all afternoon will come up to me and say “Hi! I'm lost! Please take me home!”
And truly, I'm delighted to do it, but first I have to know who she is and how to find her owners.
If you own a dog it needs a collar. A collar that's around his or her neck, and fastened securely. And on that collar you need a name tag, with the puppy name, and the phone number to call when I find her.
Yes your dog has the proper municipal license tag, and possibly a rabies tag as well. He or she is likely micro-chipped and tattooed to boot, but none of these are much use to me, or to most people who might meet your dog on the street. What we really want is your phone number so that we can bring Rover home.
Published: Price Tags (link)
August 30, 2016
For three years I’ve been part of the District of North Vancouver’s Transportation Consultation Committee. Few things have enjoyed more discussion than cycling infrastructure.
The cycling community, including HUB, have done a tremendous job of lobbying local governments for better bike paths and lanes, and for the inclusion of bike specific amenities in major developments. When these discussions happen, bicycles are almost immediately proposed as the solution to traffic jams.
Good though that is, it isn’t about to solve the problems of the daily traffic jams on the Upper Levels highway. The problem is that our most avid cyclists don’t seem to understand the motivation of all of the thousands of people driving to and from their destinations.
The North Shore has a significant problem caused by the volume of automobiles trying to get to and from the North Shore via the two bridges. The people who are driving to and from work each day don’t generally enjoy it, and they don’t like what it costs them. No one chooses to sit for an hour in stop and go traffic, or to pay more and more for gas and insurance for the privilege. Just raising gas prices, eliminating parking, or laying on guilt trips won’t change this. You can probably make commuting by car twice as expensive and see little decrease in traffic volume – unless you can offer drivers a real and practical alternative. Or more to the point, offer drivers an alternative that they see as reasonable and attractive.
I have neighbours who cycle from Lynn Valley to downtown Vancouver and UBC respectively, but they are part of a very, very small minority. The number of North Shore residents who will be prepared to cycle or walk to jobs in Vancouver or Surrey is marginal at best. Despite the apocryphal stories about cyclists whizzing by slow moving cars on Lions Gate Bridge, the majority of drivers believe that, all things being equal, driving will get them to their destination faster than cycling. For the vast majority of drivers that’s entirely true, and the only possible options are private automobiles or public transit.
Travelling long distances by bike, over hilly terrain, at the same speed as driving, requires a high level of fitness, probably a bike costing at least thousand dollars, plus an employer who either doesn’t mind wet, smelly employees, or has shower and change facilitates at the office. The cyclists who have all of these things available really do represent a pretty elite group.
Published: Radio World International
If the two hundred plus community radio stations in Canada have anything in common, it has to be the name “McCurdy”. It is difficult to walk into a community radio studio and not find at least one thing painted in McCurdy blue – either the “classic” light blue, or the newer dark blue.
Why McCurdy? Usually it comes down to two factors – the old McCurdy products were built like Mack trucks and were able to withstand years of volunteer use and sometimes sketchy maintenance. More importantly though, at the time that community radio in Canada was growing rapidly – throughout the eighties – a lot of large broadcasters were upgrading their studios, and McCurdy consoles, pedestals, and racks could be had for very little money.
Community radio in Canada exists in an environment that is quite different from the U.S. During the decades when the FCC made it impossible for community broadcasters to license a lower power station, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) was actively encouraging new and different forms of non-commercial broadcasting. Since the time when the first community radio broadcasters were licensed in the seventies, the CRTC has consistently considered community radio to be an essential part of the broadcast system, offering a distinct alternative to both commercial radio and the government funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).