John McGrath

John McGrath is an intinerant student and sometimes reporter currently living in Toronto, Canada. He mainly writes about Canadian and International Politics from an energy and climate perspective

Guess what? Salesmen sell things

I keep wating for a credible author to write a piece about the alleged “nuclear renaissance” that doesn’t make me gag a little. Today will not be that day.  Hendrik Hertzberg writes a piece for …

My government dumps nuclear waste, and I cheer

Costs kill Ontario’s new nukes

It all started so well. Almost exactly three years ago, Ontario’s government announced the construction of two new nuclear reactors to replace ageing parts of our current power supply. Despite the drawbacks of being announced …

<em>Climate Wars</em>

Because we've always needed reasons to kill each other

Canada's public broadcaster, CBC, has just finished airing the three-part series Climate Wars, based on the Gwynne Dyer book of the same name. I haven't yet finished reading the book, but the thesis is easily summarized: If you thought that the effects of climate change only included withering droughts, torrential storms, and general freaky-deakiness, you've missed one of the big ones: anthropogenic mass death, or as the political scientists call it, "war." Yup, on top of all the other things we'll have to worry about in a melting world, there's the sad fact that we'll have more and more reasons to kill each other over dwindling water and food supplies. When you consider that the 20th century was bloody enough as economic and industrial opportunities were expanding, the 21st century is looking mighty depressing if you believe that wars can start over resource scarcity. You can download the podcasts of Parts I, II, and III of Climate Wars here, though I can't testify as to how long they'll stay up there. So give it a listen soon. And do check out the book -- like I said, haven't finished it, but it's excellent so far.

Worst idea ever?

I'm having a cow over beef-tallow biodiesel

I heard about this on the radio this morning, and couldn't believe the uncritical reporting on it: The City of Calgary's entire fleet of trucks and buses may soon be partly fueled by biodiesel produced from Alberta beef tallow.Tallow is all that's left over after an animal has been processed. The city has been experimenting with tallow from the meat-packing plant in High River, Alta., as part efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions....Not only is the tallow in ready supply locally, turning it into biofuel recycles a product that would normally be thrown away, he said.Tallow-waste biofuel is also more ethical than other alternative fuels, since it does not displace food crops such as corn, which is used in the production of ethanol, he said. That's a neat trick of sunk-cost accounting. Sure, beef production is ridiculously carbon-intensive, making this biodiesel probably more climate-hostile than even corn ethanol, but hey, we've already got all this surplus cow fat to get rid of. I'm all for waste recycling, but reducing the production of waste is the first step, right? I'll confess this is a first-blush impression, and welcome the opportunity to be proven wrong. But doesn't this sound like a poor excuse to support beef prices?

The week that Canada learned the definition of 'prorogue'

Canadian Parliament suspended, PM Harper survives … for now

The situation in Ottawa has passed, for now. The Governor-General (representing Her Majesty Elizabeth II) has granted Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s request to prorogue (or suspend) Parliament, meaning that the confidence vote that had …

Harper's Black Friday

Canadian government may fall, bring in greener coalition

It looks like Stéphane Dion might just make it to the Prime Minister’s office after all, at least for a little while. According to frenzied reporting out of Ottawa, opposition parties in Canada’s Parliament (who, …

Election night! (No, not that one.)

Canadian elections strengthen Conservatives, drinkers

Well, it was a short, boring campaign, and, uh, nothing really happened. I’m writing this before the polls have all reported in, but the Conservatives have almost certainly gained a couple dozen seats, putting them …

Why you don't let things get to the crisis point

The moral argument for curbing climate change

Robert Farley has a point I would like all environmentalists to have seared to the insides of our eyelids: Simply because something must happen does not mean that it will happen … It’s not that …

That didn't take long

Hope dimming for Canadian carbon tax

Not too long after my earlier post was published, even Canada’s biggest carbon-tax booster inched away from the central plank of his election platform. To understand how disingenuous this is, Dion spent months preparing the …

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