Tag Archives: energy

T. Boone Pickens: Let’s transform energy — with natural gas

The US consumes 25% of the world’s oil — but as energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens points out onstage, the country has no energy policy to prepare for the inevitable. Is alternative energy our bridge to an oil-free future? After losing $150 million investing in wind energy, Pickens suggests it isn’t, not yet. What might get us there? Natural gas.

Column: Energy Prices Will Force Changes

My latest column in The StarPhoenix

In the past two weeks I have written about energy and the coming oil shortage that is driving oil and gas prices higher.

When you are talking about peak oil, many authors see this as the end of mechanized civilization and suggest we will head back to a pre-industrial revolution existence. Since I’m not much of a horseman and don’t have a lot of oxen around to plow my backyard, I find the more hopeful scenarios a little more plausible.

UCLA geologist Laurence C. Smith describes in his book, The World in 2050, a world that has shifted to the north because of climate change and the access to natural resources it has provided. It’s a world that’s short on resources and the northern cities (such as Saskatoon) are in a position to benefit from this shift.

Smith believes oil prices will continue to rise, but offers some hope that the world can support biofuels and provide the food we need. By taking the right steps, we may even have enough oil left for future generations both to drive and to make plastics.

While the future will present excellent technological possibilities, he feels, none will be on the market by the time we need it. That means escalating fuel prices and interim technology to bridge the gap.

Smith paints an interesting picture of the northern cities. Saskatchewan’s North and the Northwest Territories have an abundance of resources in a world struggling to meet the demand. We see the evidence already. BHP Billiton has moved into downtown Saskatoon, PotashCorp is expanding, and Cameco is expanding with a new building near its offices on 11th Street.

The city’s north industrial area is full of mining supply companies in addition to many new businesses that service a variety of resource-based industries and niches. That is only going to get bigger. According to Smith, by 2050 there is a good chance that climate change will impact the marginal farmland north of Saskatoon, with a longer growing season and greatly improved yields.

Low commodity prices which plagued the province in the 1980s have turned around, with all commodities in demand now. While the rest of the world was buffeted by high energy and food costs, Saskatchewan continues to grow.

In a world that is struggling to power and feed itself, Saskatchewan resources are going to continue to be vitally important. It also means the province faces a decision on whether to save the money for future generations – as Norway has done with its resource royalties – or spend to fund government operations, as Alberta has done.

High oil prices will also lead to a revival in parts of Saskatoon. Caswell Hill has seen a revival because of its many character homes and its proximity to downtown. The same thing will happen to Riversdale and 20th Street.

Expect the gentrification that has started on the east side of Riversdale to continue to expand as the value of being close to downtown and public transit services grows.

Saskatoon’s core neighborhoods could be front and centre for significant urban renewal. It’s good news if you are in a field where your income rises with the boom, but the world and city could get a lot smaller if you are outside the boom and your income stays flat.

It’s going to also be a city where the Saskatoon Food Bank, the Friendship Inn and other social service organizations will have to play a bigger role. During a time of rising rents, we saw demand at most food-and shelter-based organizations grow exponentially or max out capacity. Toss in rising transportation and food costs, and more families will need more help. Affordable housing and an expanded public transportation service could define whether our city continues to grow or declines in future generations.

The next couple of generations will be crucial. Eventually new fuel sources will be mastered -we already understand them, we just can’t make them cheaply – but until then, Saskatoon will have to walk a delicate line between being the gateway to a declining and valuable base of natural resources, and taking the steps to protect those affected most by the boom.

It could be the most important series of decisions made since John Lake decided the winters can’t be that bad and called this place home.

14 Ways to Create Jobs in this Economy

Bill_ClintonFew Presidents have been able to create jobs like Bill Clinton did during his eight years in office.  In Newsweek (it still exists?) he outlines 14 ideas for creating more jobs.

2. CASH FOR STARTUPS

If you start a business tomorrow, I can give you all the tax credits in the world, but since you haven’t made a nickel yet, they’re of no use to you. President Obama came in with a really good energy policy, including an idea to provide both a tax credit for new green jobs and for startup companies, to allow the conversion of the tax credit into its cash equivalent for every employee hired. Then last December, in the tax-cut compromise, the Republicans in Congress wouldn’t agree to extend this benefit because they said, “This is a spending program, not a tax cut. We’re only for tax cuts.” It was a mistake. The cash incentive worked. On the day President Obama took office, the U.S. had less than 2 percent of the world market in manufacturing the high-powered batteries for hybrid or all-electric cars. On the day of the congressional elections in 2010, thanks in large part to the cash—incentive policy, we had 20 percent of global capacity, with 30 new battery plants built or under construction, 16 of them in Michigan, which had America’s second—highest unemployment rate. We have to convince the Republican Congress that this is a good thing. If this incentive structure can be maintained, it’s estimated that by 2015 we’ll have 40 percent of the world’s capacity for these batteries. We could get lots of manufacturing jobs in the same way. I could write about this until the cows come home.

3. JOBS GALORE IN ENERGY

When I was president, the economy benefited because information technology penetrated every aspect of American life. More than one quarter of our job growth and one third of our income growth came from that. Now the obvious candidate for that role today is changing the way we produce and use energy. The U.S. didn’t ratify the Kyoto accords, of course, because Al Gore and I left office, and the next government wasn’t for it. They were all wrong. Before the financial meltdown, the four countries that will meet their Kyoto greenhouse-gas emission targets were outperforming America with lower unemployment, more new business formation, and less income inequality.

4. COPY THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING

Just look at the Empire State Building—I can see it from my office window. Our climate-change people worked on their retrofit project. They cleared off a whole floor for a small factory to change the heating and air conditioning, put in new lighting and insulation, and cut energy-efficient glass for the windows. Johnson Controls, the energy-service company overseeing the project, guaranteed the building owners their electricity usage would go down 38 percent—a massive saving, which will enable the costs of the retrofits to be recovered through lower utility bills in less than five years. Meanwhile, the project created hundreds of jobs and cut greenhouse-gas emissions substantially. We could put a million people to work retrofitting buildings all over America.

So many of these ideas could be implemented in Canada (and Saskatchewan) that it would make your head spin.  Of course Canada would actually need an energy and environmental policy framework that was based on reality.

The cost of not using nuclear

Angelo Persichilli has a great article in today’s Toronto Star about the future of nuclear energy in this country.

While I don’t trust those who tell me that nuclear energy is completely safe, likewise I don’t trust those who say we have an alternative that can sustain our demands to run our businesses, our economy and — here’s the bottom line — the quality of life that we’re used to.

I suspect that giving up nuclear energy at present wouldn’t just be an economic decision, it would require a change in all our lives.

We used coal to power our economic growth two centuries ago, then oil in the last century. We realized that the first was polluting the environment and the second will soon be in short supply.

We already complain about the skyrocketing cost of energy, but it’s going to be worse in the future when emerging economies like India and China reach their full potential.

Solar energy is not fully developed, we don’t like wind energy because those big towers ruin the scenery and we turn against governments when the cost of energy is too high.

I understand that it’s easy to criticize governments for sticking with nuclear power, but no one wants to tell voters that without nuclear energy we’d have to change our way of life.

We’d have to use fewer cars and more public transportation. We’d need to turn down our furnaces and air conditioners, tell our children that the switch at the entrance of their room can be also used to turn the lights off, reduce our use of jet aircraft to conserve fuel and get rid of some home appliances.

That’s the real debate: Are we ready to make those sacrifices?

This debate reminds me of a movie I watched some time ago, in which the family of a rich businessman was furious with him when they learned in the media he was making his money in the arms trade.

He apologized, but said that if he was going to give up the business, they had to give up their mansion in the city and their cottage on the lake, the SUVs, the Ferrari and the Armani clothes.

He told them he was supposed to make another delivery the next morning and had to leave for the airport at 5 a.m.: “I’m not setting the alarm clock. It’s up to you. If you don’t set it, I’ll miss the plane.”

The alarm rang at 3 a.m.

The Weir as a Power Station

That dam weir

Saskatoon has decided not to fund a feasibility study on turning the weir into a small hydro power project.

The major question now is how much power could be produced annually, Hudson said. A B.C.-based consultant calculated in an initial report -via computer modelling -that the hydropower station could pay for construction costs in 12 years and produce close to $400 million in revenue over 50 years.

But a review by Cliff Smith, a retired professor and an expert on engineering projects in the South Saskatchewan River, said the benefits were over-estimated and the construction costs under-estimated. The cost of installing a coffer dam has increased dramatically since the consultant’s estimate, Smith said.

"I’m more convinced than ever that the economic viability is seriously in question," Smith said, "If it was my money, I’d say it’s time to call it off. A private developer wouldn’t touch this project with a 10-foot pole."

The power utility is looking to install water-level instrumentation upstream and downstream to get a more accurate handle on flow rates and judge the effect of ice buildup, which was one of Smith’s main concerns, Hudson said. Council’s approval this spring would be needed to fund the next phase of study.

"Then we can get a very accurate annual energy projection," Hudson said. "You do it for a full year and get a handle on the impact of the ice . . . We want to get the actual site-specific measurements."

The whole idea of a white water park, surfing simulator, and hydro electric dam seemed to be too good to be true for the price tags being tossed around.  Hopefully the project will be revived in the future.  At least the tall wind turbine project is moving forward.

BP to drill in the Arctic

I know environmental groups are upset but with BP’s recent safety record, why worry?  Oh right.

The Arctic is to become the "new environmental battleground", campaigners warned yesterday after BP announced plans to drill in one of the last great unspoilt wildernesses on earth.

Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) have vowed to confront BP’s American boss, Bob Dudley, over the agreement with the Russian state-owned oil giant Rosneft to explore the Kara Sea, north of Siberia. The British energy firm was branded the world’s "environmental villain number one" by Friends of the Earth (FoE) yesterday in response to its move to exploit potential oil reserves in the remote waters.

Environmentalists are dismayed that BP, which announced the deal on Friday night, has decided to set up rigs in an area of great biodiversity and treacherous weather conditions. The region is one of the few remaining havens left for a number of endangered species, including polar bears, walruses and beluga whales. And while the waters of the Kara Sea are relatively unexplored, they are known to house key fish species such as halibut, capelin and Arctic cod.

Tall Wind Turbine

Wind Turbines on the Prairies

In my regular e-mail from City Councilor Darren Hill, he mentions this

Tall Wind Turbine — City Council approved a report from Administration that a consultant be hired to conduct a wind resource and environmental assessment for a tall wind turbine to be developed at the Landfill. This assessment is the next step in exploring the viability of constructing and operating a single tall wind turbine to generate clean electricity. The process now calls for the construction of a meteorological tower with instrumentation at the Landfill to gather wind data, as well as to conduct an environmental assessment meeting federal and provincial requirements.  The 80-metre tower will be in place for 12 months. When the proposed turbine project is constructed, it has the potential of generating enough power for 600 homes and offsetting greenhouse gas emissions by 4,500 tonnes per year.

The Picken Plan I would love to see these in a variety of locations in Saskatoon. Not to go all T. Boone Pickens on you but this could be a big deal to the city of Saskatoon and the province of Saskatchewan.  If there is one thing we have a lot of, it’s windy days.

I know locations can be controversial but one at the land fill, Diefenbaker Park, the University of Saskatchewan farm(s), Innovation Place, Credit Union Centre, a small one in the City Council chambers (for use on Monday nights), and even in some of our urban parks (like Umea park) where it wouldn’t interfere with the urban forest.  Oil is going up in price, natural gas supply is limited and finite, coal produces greenhouse gases and today the government decided that nuclear was too costly until 2020 (as if it is going to be cheaper in a decade).  While I wonder if wind power is the best option in the long term, it seems to be a really good option in the transitional period.  I am glad to see the city moving on this.

Warren Buffett’s $26 billion gamble on the next big thing

This is huge

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad is purchased by Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway

Most investors looking for the "next big thing" seek out whiz-bang investments like alternative energy, lifesaving biotech drugs, handheld Internet devices and, for doomsayers, hard assets like gold.

Railroads, which had their heyday in another era, are rarely mentioned as a must-have investment for those looking to get rich.

So why is Warren Buffett, arguably the world’s most famous and successful investor, betting more than $26 billion of his spare cash to acquire all of Texas-based railroad Burlington Northern Santa Fe?

On Tuesday, Buffett turned heads on Wall Street when he placed his biggest bet of his career on rails — and the battered USA economy, for that matter.

Here is why he is doing it.

"Burlington Northern Santa Fe last year moved, on average, a ton of goods 470 miles on a single gallon of diesel, and society has an enormous interest in using less oil to transport goods," Buffett says.

Indeed, Buffett very much likes the green component to his rail investment, likening it to an energy-saving play.

"Each train displaces 280 trucks on the road," Buffett says. "When it comes to spewing pollutants there is nothing more efficient than trains. It is very much in line with the future goals of society. While the railroads won’t take over the world it is something that is part of the future."

Okay, this is why this is interesting to me.  Buffett is making a massive investment based on the idea that Peak Oil is real and it’s going to influence how we travel, move goods, and our way of life.  You also can’t notice that in some ways, he is betting against cars or at least how expensive it is going to be to get from Point A to Point B.  That is something that will reshape not only the transportation of goods but cities, how we interact as communities, and where we live.  It’s something that you never hear from government officials, probably because governments are good at a lot of things but planning for the future is not one of them.

It’s a conversation that the church needs to have.  For the last two decades the idea has been big campuses with lots of parking on the outskirts of town or in the suburbs.  The question I have is as gas prices rise, those in lower income brackets will see their world get a lot smaller, will the churches just be refuges for those who are rich enough to get to them or even worse, will the impact on the church, be the same as it expected for sprawling and emptying out suburbs.

More Americans worried about staying warm this winter

It’s a weird time.  The United States may be the most powerful country ever but here we a story about how Americans are worried about how to stay warm this winter.

After she spent the end of last winter shivering in her Belle Vernon, Pa., mobile home, Cindy Cross sought help this summer at a county assistance office. But the 47-year-old nurses’ assistant was told that her $617 take-home pay every two weeks is above the state’s threshold, which is about $15,600 a year before taxes for a single adult.

The approach of winter brings more anxiety. A minimum kerosene shipment of 75 gallons would cost more than half of her paycheck, most of which is already burned by the gas, insurance and monthly payment for the car she needs for the 20-mile trip to work.

By March, she could no longer afford a fill-up, so she bought an electric space heater and spent some nights at a 24-hour McDonald’s.

"I’m basically just asking, asking around, seeing what are my options for this winter," Cross said. "It might come down to the fact that I might leave this mobile home."

I am a little more sensitive to this but when was the last time that North American’s on mass had a hard time keeping warm and seating?  The 30s?  How many people will have to freeze to death before it becomes a priority.

Geopolitical Peak Oil

The New York Times on how the energy giants are being squeezed out of an already tight market.

Part of the reason is political. From the Caspian Sea to South America, Western oil companies are being squeezed out of resource-rich provinces. They are being forced to renegotiate contracts on less-favorable terms and are fighting losing battles with assertive state-owned oil companies.

And much of their production is in mature regions that are declining, like the North Sea.

The reality, experts say, is that the oil giants that once dominated the global market have lost much of their influence — and with it, their ability to increase supplies.

Of course there is still some oil out there…

“There is still a lot of oil to develop out there, which is why we don’t call this geological peak oil, especially in places like Venezuela, Russia, Iran and Iraq,” said Arjun Murti, an energy analyst at Goldman Sachs. “What we have now is geopolitical peak oil.”

As you can see the problem is that three (or four) of the four regions are not all that friendly with the west.

The Church in an Age of Scarcity

A couple of weeks ago Jason Evans started to post about the recession and the church which started me thinking as I was reading Howard Kunstler’s excellent book, The Long Emergency (Wikipedia summaryFull text available on at Google Books) for about the third time.  If you haven’t read it, you need to.

thelongemergencyI don’t know if I totally accept all of Kunstler’s findings.  While I accept that technology today does not allow us to deal with the problems of living in age of scarcity, technology in a capitalistic society does tend to bridge a lot of gaps when the capital is there for innovation as it will be in the future.  At the same time I accept his statement that the western world as we know it is not based on democracy, Christianity, or the pursuit of liberty, it is based on cheap oil and natural gas.  Of course we are running out of those two commodities…

The upshot of all this is that we are entering a historical period of potentially great instability, turbulence and hardship. Obviously, geopolitical maneuvering around the world’s richest energy regions has already led to war and promises more international military conflict. Since the Middle East contains two-thirds of the world’s remaining oil supplies, the U.S. has attempted desperately to stabilize the region by, in effect, opening a big police station in Iraq. The intent was not just to secure Iraq’s oil but to modify and influence the behavior of neighboring states around the Persian Gulf, especially Iran and Saudi Arabia. The results have been far from entirely positive, and our future prospects in that part of the world are not something we can feel altogether confident about.

And then there is the issue of China, which, in 2004, became the world’s second-greatest consumer of oil, surpassing Japan. China’s surging industrial growth has made it increasingly dependent on the imports we are counting on. If China wanted to, it could easily walk into some of these places — the Middle East, former Soviet republics in central Asia — and extend its hegemony by force. Is America prepared to contest for this oil in an Asian land war with the Chinese army? I doubt it. Nor can the U.S. military occupy regions of the Eastern Hemisphere indefinitely, or hope to secure either the terrain or the oil infrastructure of one distant, unfriendly country after another. A likely scenario is that the U.S. could exhaust and bankrupt itself trying to do this, and be forced to withdraw back into our own hemisphere, having lost access to most of the world’s remaining oil in the process.

We know that our national leaders are hardly uninformed about this predicament. President George W. Bush has been briefed on the dangers of the oil-peak situation as long ago as before the 2000 election and repeatedly since then. In March, the Department of Energy released a report that officially acknowledges for the first time that peak oil is for real and states plainly that “the world has never faced a problem like this. Without massive mitigation more than a decade before the fact, the problem will be pervasive and will not be temporary.”

Which will mean that we need to make some changes

The circumstances of the Long Emergency will require us to downscale and re-scale virtually everything we do and how we do it, from the kind of communities we physically inhabit to the way we grow our food to the way we work and trade the products of our work. Our lives will become profoundly and intensely local. Daily life will be far less about mobility and much more about staying where you are. Anything organized on the large scale, whether it is government or a corporate business enterprise such as Wal-Mart, will wither as the cheap energy props that support bigness fall away. The turbulence of the Long Emergency will produce a lot of economic losers, and many of these will be members of an angry and aggrieved former middle class.

Over the years I had a lot of discussions on what this will mean to the church.  Chris Marshall is wondering the same thing

My truck is paid off but the gas prices are killing me. I don’t drive that much and its over $300 per month, not including my wife’s car. So what does this project to as a national economy? Recession seems inevitable, will it go way beyond that? A nation already ruled by fear and over-spending with no margins by individuals and the government, what will be the consequences?

How will this impact churches and mortgages and credit lines that can’t be fed? As builders pass on who are the committed givers what is left? 1/2 of boomers are there to give and the other 1/2 are driven past their financial margins with consumerism and can’t help. Gen X and Millenials have very little value in long term commitments, are all about instant gratification and consumerism is their native language. Commonly this group of up and comers are living on 125-140% of their income taking on exponential debt per year. What will be the result of these decisions having no margins when the shoe drops?

Will American churches go the way of their European counterparts? Becoming really funky coffee houses, restaurants, art galleries and dance clubs. Just things I wonder about.

I know a couple of people who are the boards of Bible colleges and seminaries who talk about getting new projects done in the next couple of years before the builders who give most of the money to churches and institutions pass away.  After that they know that the money will be in far less supply.  On top of that, while churches like to talk about sacrificial giving and committed tithers, most studies show that people give when the economy is good and are more casual tithers.  When faced with higher heating costs, much higher fuel prices, and more money to go to food, will the cash go to paying the churches bills or their own bills?

One thing that economists have been saying for a long time is that our lifestyle is being financed by VISA and when a recession hits, it will hurt those that are carrying debt the most.  In 2004, Maclean’s ran this story about Canadian’s personal debt being at record levels.

And so this summer Russell Kent and his wife, Mary, joined the legions of other young families in opting to ignore the admonitions they’d heard from their parents and taking the plunge into home ownership. They bought a house in the suburbs north of Toronto – and in the process have run up their debts far above anything they’d ever imagined. The house cost more than the top amount they’d intended to spend. They had to drain much of their savings and load up on personal lines of credit to muster a 25 per cent down payment. In total, they now owe roughly $340,000, spread across a mortgage, three lines of credit and two credit cards. Every month, $920 goes to pay interest on the cards and bank lines, and another $1,460 toward the mortgage. Mary also spends $300 a month to lease her car. Debt payments eat up close to a third of their after-tax income. Russell says making ends meet over the next few years will be “like stretching a gnat’s ass over a rain barrel.”

If the Kents feel intimidated by the debt challenge ahead of them, they’re not alone. Collectively, Canadian consumers now owe $752.1 billion, according to Bank of Canada, up 36 per cent in the past 10 years when adjusted for inflation. Over the same period, personal disposable income, or take-home pay, has risen 15 per cent. In other words, Canadians are piling on debt more than twice as fast as their income is growing.

It is conceivable that many churches in a particular region of the country could find themselves in a horrible financial mess when funds drive up and the demand on church and other social services intensifies.  While many recessions are relatively short lives to the last big one in the 1970s, there are many who are forecasting the next economic meltdown to last much longer.  Of course this will hit the church in a couple of ways.

  1. visamc The Church, Powered by VISA.  Several friend who are pastors bring up the point that their churches have some serious debt and if giving goes down then things will be really tough… of course the good news is that banks aren’t all that thrilled with foreclosing on banks but have been known to demand spots on church boards as a condition for continued solvency.  For churches who are owing to their denominations, the money that comes from those investments is now tied down which impacts other areas of church life.  Depending on the denomination, it could have a serious impact on church planting/missions or other areas that are dependent on investment income (as if the downtown in the economy won’t have a big of enough negative impact).  Even in a church of people committed to tithing (which Barna reminds us is a rarity), 10% of a reduced income is still less.  Add on top of that rising food and fuel costs, we may have a lot less to give above and beyond.
  2. Running on Empty| With today’s gas price at $1.31, Wendy and I are driving a lot less then we ever have before.  I am walking to work and if Wendy wasn’t on medical leave, she recently was transferred down the street to 33rd Street Safeway.  She says that even at -40 degree Celsius she is walking (I’ll believe it when I see it) to work.  I was listening to a podcast with Todd Hunter who talked about that at a church he previously pastored, they would track how far people were driving to the church.  At Lakeview, we used to talk about being a city wide church where people used to drive in as far as Borden to attend church there.  Will people drive at $1.50 a litre, $1.75 a litre, $2.00 a litre?  Kunstler talks about a localization of the economy in The Long Emergency and I wonder if that applies to the religion as well.  Will the small Baptist church at the end of the street look more attractive then the regional megachurch on the outskirts of town?  Especially when you can do as Charlie Wear blogs about where he found his sermon to listen to last week on YouTube.  Of course some are going to say, video churches are the answer and they might be if you believe that only dominant alpha males have the right to speak about how to deal with stress in your families for 14 weeks straight.  I personally prefer the idea of local expressions of Christian community throughout the city.
  3. Expensive Natural Gas | When natural gas was cheap like borscht (which itself is becoming more expensive) I hated visiting mostly rural churches that lowered their ceilings to save on heating costs.  Now they are looking smarter and I look out of date.  Most churches are really costly to heat and keep functioning for what is still primarily a Sunday event.  Of course you can keep it cold in there during the week and hot during the summer to keep costs down but churches are pretty expensive to run considering many of them aren’t used that often compared to other facilities their size.  There are other options that can be used.  Look at how the Freeway uses their space for the community or as I have blogged about forever.  Of course there are a lot of options for making it cheaper to heat but perhaps going the other way and making them useful spaces again is the better option.  nomoreteavicarI keep thinking to what Steve Collin‘s did up as his efforts for rebranding the Church of England.  He was re-imagining church interiors as public spaces again in the city, the local church as a third space, a place to work, rest, and pray and being surrounded by spiritual resources as opposed to something that was open from 10:30a to 12:30p on Sunday’s.  To answer Chris Marshall’s earlier question, maybe the future of the church is to embrace what the Europeans are doing to churches before the churches themselves die off.  Of course the other alternative would be to start weaning ourselves off our addiction to church buildings.  Look at what ReImagine is doing in San Francisco or what the Hawthorn House is doing in San Diego is doing without a traditional church facility. 
  4. The one other thing that needs to be addressed is the issue of the Clergy Class.  I don’t have a problem with highly educated and well taught clergy but the process to get them to this point is expensive and this is paid for by one of three methods.  1) Rich parents 2) Marry rich (this idea was suggested to me in college) 3) Student loan debt.  All three of these funding options have advantages and drawbacks but the most popular option is often student loans which tends to make hiring clergy expensive.  I am not badmouthing clergy but if we stick with the current method of church leadership, the economics will need to be rethought out and since our current best idea is debt financing, I doubt there is a pile of money out there to fix the issue.  Either we figure out a way to make private education a lot cheaper, we accept the fact that only wealthy churches get qualified church leadership, or we rethink ways to develop leaders.  During the Great Depression, my grandfather’s theological education came through correspondence classes.  During the age of YouTube, I am sure we can come up something as least as effective and maybe quite a bit better.

I am a disciple of Thomas Homer-Dixon and I tend to think that there will be an upside of the coming age of scarcity.  I think the church has a tremendous opportunity during this period of change.  Of course a lot of things we think are sacred cows will be turned into black angus burgers but c’mon, it isn’t as if we did that well during the age of abundance anyways.  While managing to start a bunch of megachurches, we also managed to usher the church into a very long period of decline and irrelevance and that was after spending billions and billions on church growth.  As we enter into a new age of global warming, scarcity, and perhaps conflict over resources, maybe the church adapt a little better this time.

Also: Alan Creech has posted some more thoughts on his blog

Lake Diefenbaker to get Candu 6 reactor?

mutantfish Lake Diefenbaker has been suggested as the best site in Saskatchewan for a Candu 6 nuclear reactor

“Potentially, the Lake Diefenbaker region could be the site of a Candu 6 plant configured with two steam turbine generators instead of the standard 750-megawatt, single-steam turbine unit,” the report said. “Plant output from this option would be split equally between Saskatchewan and Alberta.”

We would also split any mutant fish with Alberta as well.

The Death of Suburbia

This video is from TED and is one of a long series of videos I am downloading off of YouTube and converting to my PSP for viewing again later.  I am a big fan of Kunstler’s view of the future (although I think he underestimates the power of capitalism and innovation a bit) but the video is one that you will want to watch.

In James Howard Kunstler’s view, public spaces should be inspired centers of civic life and the physical manifestation of the common good. Instead, he argues, what we have in America is a nation of places not worth caring about. Reengineering our cities will involve more radical change than we are prepared for, Kunstler believes, but our hand will be forced by earth crises stemming from our national lifestyle. “Life in the mid-21st century,” Kunstler says, “is going to be about living locally.”

Heat or Eat

In the Maritimes, increasing furnace fuel costs are devastating some middle class families.  My political punditry skills are pretty rusty but I would imagine a large segment of your voters being either cold or hungry would be devastating for many governments, especially in a time of record prosperity in other parts of the country.

Dan Weston of the Fredericton Anti-Poverty Organization said rebate programs that offer amounts as low as $100 are “ridiculous.”

“One would think that heat in a winter country like Canada would be a right,” he said.

“People have to make serious choices – the choices are between food or rent or bills, because the price of oil eats up such a proportion of the daily finances.”

He said provincial governments need to do far more to help people heat their homes. If they don’t, Wilson predicted, governments will soon be footing the bill for shelters to keep families warm when they run out of money.

Non-profit agencies and some churches offer assistance, but they don’t represent a permanent fix.

The Nova Scotia branch of the Salvation Army offers help through its Good Neighbour Program, funded in part by companies including privately owned Nova Scotia Power and Wilsons Fuel, but families typically can’t receive help two years in a row.

A woman in Halifax who has used the Salvation Army and other sources to help pay her heating bills said such programs are just a Band-Aid solution.

“You can’t call them every month or every two weeks – it’s a one-time thing, you’re lucky if you get it once a year,” said the woman, who struggles to support a family of four on social assistance.

“We put in enough (oil in the tank) that will last, but that takes away from other things – food and bills.”

In Saskatchewan most of our homes are heated by natural gas but when natural gases went up a couple of winters ago, it did affect how Wendy and I lived that winter, although not as drastic as furnace fuel prices have in the Maritimes.  The article does remind me of this interview with James Kunstler, the author of The Long Emergency

When I say the core I don’t necessarily mean the downtown business districts. Those parts are going to be very, very problematical, and that’s another important point you have made. The places that are overburdened with mega-structures, whether they are skyscrapers or even just large buildings, are going to be in real trouble. These are experimental building types that have only been with us for 100 years. I’m even talking about 10-story pre-war apartment buildings. I don’t know if we can run them in the energy-scarce economy that we are going to have in the future. And it raises one really interesting question like the question of—take this for example—modern plumbing as we know it, where every apartment has a bathroom, a toilet, etc., is totally dependent on central heating, good and dependable central heating. You can’t be running space heaters in a 10-story Manhattan apartment building. If one-third of the building or one-eighth of the building isn’t warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing, the whole building is going to lose its plumbing and then the building is going to become dysfunctional and we don’t know if this is going to happen or not. And it could. Because the natural gas situation in America—which is how we heat most of our buildings now—is arguably more ominous than the oil situation.

There is more on the Long Emergency in Rolling Stone magazine