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Articles by 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

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  • Where’s tomorrow’s water?

    We Canadians can be a prickly sort. So I for one wasn't particularly surprised to see that large majorities of us are opposed to selling water to the U.S. (This is the same country that's gotten extremely wealthy -- and abandoned its Kyoto commitment -- by selling the U.S. as much tar sand oil as we can make.) Still, Jim Margolis' recent article at The American Prospect has some interesting bits.

    Now looms a U.S. invasion Canadians take more seriously. This one is real, and its target is more tangible -- their water. They think we're coming after it. They're right.

    It isn't that the water wars are the talk of the nation; they were rarely mentioned in the recent federal election campaign. But the dispute bobs beneath the surface, a regular topic of conversation among the political elites. From the left, the Council of Canadians calls for a national water policy that would prevent "bulk water exports and diversions." From the right, former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed predicted that, "the United States will be coming after our fresh water aggressively within three to five years."
    One newsmagazine here, Macleans, had a cover article last year about the American desire for Canadian water. And you can get an idea of the coming talking points from the right by the tone of the article:
    But Canada, the most water-rich nation on the planet, wants no part of this new world. And that puts our priorities on a collision course with the needs of our biggest trading partner and most essential ally. Already the White House has mused about the need to open the Canada-U.S. border to water exports, and dozens of communities are lining up to reform a 96-year-old treaty that limits the amount drawn from the Great Lakes. This country is in a position to provide a solution that would yield enormous economic and humanitarian benefits for the entire continent, even the world.

    Wow! Sign me up! After all, we're talking about feeding the hungry, feeding the poor, right?

  • Econ 101 for progressives

    My favorite economist, Dean Baker (I want his rookie card!), has just put out a free PDF of his latest book, The Conservative Nanny State. (PDF link here.)

    I would urge everyone to read this book -- it's not all directly related to environmental causes, but some of it is. More broadly, there's an obvious moral: The system we live in is, to an enormous extent, determined by government policies. Understanding that, and understanding how the apparatus of the state is tilted towards the already-wealthy, is crucial to any progressive cause.

    Some specific examples below the fold.

  • The military-industrial complex wins again

    Theoretically, the oil shale in the American West could provide enough oil to power the world, Saudi-free, for decades or more. The problem is that while oil shale is a hydrocarbon, it's not a terribly attractive one. Massive amounts of energy must be used to extract useful fuel, making it a loser in terms of economics and energy balance.

    Fortunately, Raytheon (makers of the missiles and radars used by the USAF) is there to save the day, via The Energy Blog:

    Radio frequency (RF) energy combined with critical fluid (CF) technology shows promise for efficiently extracting oil from shale. Historically, the lack of an economical and environmentally friendly way for extracting oil from shale has kept it from being a significant energy source.

    "Raytheon is an expert in RF technology," said Lee Silvestre, director of Mission Innovation at Raytheon IDS. "What makes this effort a breakthrough is that similar RF technology that we have been applying in core defense products -- radars for tracking and guidance systems -- has demonstrated applications in the energy crisis."

    So good to see a mom-and-pop operation like Raytheon helping the country -- nay, the planet! -- through its environmental crisis. After all, I'm sure oil-shale harvesting will be at least as efficient as, say, the tar sands.

    The military industrial complex: Fueling the ... military industrial complex since 1945!