Editorial Comment: It’s good to be green – to a point
June 1, 2007
Everyone wants to save the planet. That's the feeling I get when I read the papers these days. Politicians of all stripes are scrambling to do their part by outlawing age-old technologies and practice...
Everyone wants to save the planet. That’s the feeling I get when I read the papers these days. Politicians of all stripes are scrambling to do their part by outlawing age-old technologies and practices and replacing them with ‘greener’ alternatives.
Unfortunately, it seems every solution brings about a whole new set of problems.
A case in point is Ontario’s (and now Canada’s) impending ban on incandescent light bulbs. The government has decided to ban incandescent bulbs in favour of the more energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
I’ve been slowly replacing burnt out incandescent bulbs with fluorescents for some time now and reap the rewards each month when my hydro bill arrives in the mail. But it recently came to my attention that these bulbs contain small amounts of mercury. If not disposed of in the proper manner – along with other hazardous materials – these light bulbs can potentially leach mercury into the soil of landfill sites.
How realistic is it to expect millions of consumers to go out of their way to properly dispose of these bulbs?
A consumer who conscientiously chooses to make the switch to energy-saving fluorescent bulbs is far more likely to take the time to properly dispose of them afterwards. Forcing them upon the public at large and then expecting everyone to take the time to properly dispose of them is a flawed implementation strategy. Sadly, the energy savings realized by banning incandescents may well be offset by the soil contamination at landfill sites.
And then there’s this nonsensical ban on waste oil furnaces that the province of Ontario has implemented.
While many other jurisdictions across the continent laud companies that put their waste oil to good use and burn it in an approved space heater, Ontario has decided to outlaw this practice without providing any evidence to support its decision.
It says 40 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced for each waste oil furnace taken out of commission but the province fails to back up this claim with scientific proof. It also arrives at this inflated figure under the assumption that companies that currently use waste oil space heaters will instead convert to solar or wind-powered heating alternatives.
What the province fails to acknowledge is that banning waste oil furnaces in itself will create additional emissions. Now instead of burning the oil on-site, fleets will have to call in a truck to collect their used oil. That truck will have to transport it to a re-refiner creating additional emissions (and inevitably there’s going to be the odd spill along the way). And then the re-refiner will be releasing pollutants into the air as it re-refines the oil to lube stock. It does this year-round – at least customers with waste oil furnaces aren’t contributing to smog problems during the summer months when air quality is at its worst.
It’s great that governments on all levels are showing a new-found interest in saving the planet. But let’s hope they thoroughly consider the consequences of any legislation they introduce before rushing it through for the sake of appearing ‘green.’