The Not Impossible Plan is a policy alternative for getting off fossil fuels by 2060 that could be implemented in any country, but the original paper describing it (available here) was focused on the USA.
Since I started talking to people and giving lectures, many are asking “How would it work in Canada? What do the numbers look like for us?” To answer those questions, today I uploaded The Not Impossible Plan for Canada PDF onto the website.
The quick summary is I believe the plan would work well for Canada. What is nice is the Not Impossible Plan’s basic structure is based on Canada’s own Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), so Canadian’s already have experience with the idea.
However, it has become clear after the recent First Minister’s conference on Climate Change that Canada does have some special challenges ahead.
Following is an excerpt from the paper that discusses two key challenges for Canada in implementing the plan, and potential solutions.
Potential Issues for Canada
Despite this encouraging result, there are two elephants in the room in the Canadian context.
First, given the realities of Canada’s politics and geography, provinces may have a tough time accepting a national body managing the loan money. Provinces will want the tax money paid by its industries and citizens to stay within their borders for their benefit. I see two potential solutions –
- Each province could setup its own Provincial Renewable Energy Fund (PREF) to provide loans exclusively within the province. All provinces have access to renewable energy sources, so this is likely doable though not as efficient as a national body. It would likely be wise for smaller provinces like the Maritimes to band together and cooperate with a single fund. It would be important for all provinces to have the same carbon tax level and for it be economy-wide to maintain a level playing field.
- The national fund could be mandated as part of its charter to give out loans using a formula based on a province’s payments into the fund. Thus the skills and expertise required to be successful won’t have to be duplicated 12 times. This would also allow for better planning across provincial boundaries.
Second, Alberta and Saskatchewan have a high reliance on fossil oil and gas for a large percentage of their economies (23%). Giving up fossil fuels will be especially difficult for these two provinces. Their high fossil CO2 emissions would lead to a lot of money being available for renewable energy projects, but is there something that can be done about the impact on their major source of employment?
A key part of the Not Impossible Plan’s expected success comes from building renewable energy projects that feed our current energy systems. That is, I don’t see replacing oil for transportation with battery electric vehicles or hydrogen vehicles or mass transit solving our transportation needs. The transportation future will be most likely, in my opinion, based in large part on low fossil carbon liquid fuels. In other words, fuels that are still carbon-based like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, but instead of being mined, they will be synthesized using a combination of renewable energy, biomass, and captured CO2. When these fuels are combusted they release no net carbon to the atmosphere because their carbon content originated from the atmosphere. See my paper Future Energy and Its Delivery for details.
As we transition from full fossil carbon fuels today to low fossil carbon fuels in 2060, there will be a long period of blending, where low/zero fossil carbon fuels are blended in increasing amounts with fossil fuels to form the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel supply. This blending will likely begin slowly in 2020, and in earnest around 2030 and increase every year after that so all fuels are low/zero fossil carbon by 2060.
Alberta and Saskatchewan are perfectly positioned to take the lead on this technology. They have vast renewable energy available through wind and solar, they have access to biomass though farm waste, they have the liquid hydrocarbon infrastructure and knowhow, they have Universities that are already in the forefront in researching this area. With leadership, Canada’s major fossil carbon emitter provinces could transform themselves into world leaders in low fossil carbon fuels using loans from the NREF (or PREF) to build renewable energy collection systems and systems to convert that energy into low fossil carbon fuels.
The ironic part is if this plan is followed and Alberta and Saskatchewan become Canada source for low/zero fossil carbon fuels, there would be good reason to build the Energy East pipeline so all of Canada could be supplied with this important fuel.
This solution also points out the advantage of the National body to provide loans. It may be much more efficient and practical for the low carbon fuel production to be concentrated in one area, rather than each province having its own industry.