Category Archives: Environment

Global Warming is Real: Pineapples Growing in East Vancouver!

An absolute stunner came this week as we discovered two fully grown pineapples on the tree.  Pineapples are usually not produced except in strange circumstances when winter temperatures do not get colder than 6 degrees Celsius and we get spring temperatures of 20 degrees by March.   This year, this has happened and a tree in east Vancouver is actually producing Pineapples.  Note that two originally grew.  We tool one to the UBC agricultural center to test the genetics to ensure this is not due to a freak gene mutation.

20130327_181154

Full video available on the Technoracle Blog at http://technoracle.blogspot.com/2013/04/finally-concrete-proof-of-global-warming.html

Why I may quit Greenpeace and Open Minds

I must disclose that I have been a Greenpeace member for most of my life. I am an environmentalist and regularly write on this topic.  Free enterprise and a good environmental policy are not antonyms, they are in fact two pillars of a modern sustainable culture.  The reason I believe this is that there has been a major shift in how people buy in BC.  Many of us buy local, we buy hybrids and we buy organic foods even though they all cost more.   We support our neighbours and farmers, the small produce suppliers and our blossoming wine industry because we know it is better for the economy and the environment.  We also know we cannot put people into poverty en masse.

Wednesday night I received a call from Greenpeace that disturbed me somewhat.  One of the three reasons they were calling me was to raise awareness of the importance of climate change and that we should “vote for the climate”.   When I asked what that meant, the response was “vote for the party that will keep the tar sands from happening”.  He then reported to me in another sentence that “the NDP opposes the pipeline”.  The implication being I should vote for the NDP.   What does “oppose the pipeline mean”?  I have a suspicion that no matter what any party says (perhaps with the exception of the Green Party), that the pipeline will be build.  The rational?  It is simply the most environmentally friendly way to move the product.

Greenpeace is supposed to be non-partisan.  I found it very interesting that the person on the phone did not mention the Green party but rather the NDP.  I am not sure why a Greenpeace phone volunteer is spending the money we donate to Greenpeace every month to call me and tell me about our political situation but that is for Elections BC to figure out.

The question that I had to ask when he stated we must oppose the pipeline is “what do you propose will be done in the alternative to move the oil“?  There was stunned silence before a reply to the lines of “well we oppose everything about the Alberta Tar sands.  If we do not build the pipeline we will cripple that operation“.  I had to think about this for a while longer.  This was a person who actually believes that if the Northern Gateway Pipeline is not built, the entire oil sands will cease production.  Better yet, if we elect the NDP who formally “oppose” the pipeline, we can shut down Alberta’s Tar sands.  I am sorry but this is simply not true.  If the pipeline if not built, the alternative is trucks and rail.  We do not have the rights to restrict traffic on national railroads and highways based on hatred of a particular industry. Those are national resources to which we all have equal rights to use.

If we had that power, I will aver that this is a very slippery slope.  For the record, I wish we all lived in a utopian society that did not require fossil fuels, but the reality is we do not and change takes time.    There is also an important concept of self government.  I do not support BC being able to tell Alberta that they cannot develop their natural resources any more that I would support Saskatchewan being able to unilaterally shut down the BC movie industry based on a belief that they are polluting and films are not necessary.  What about fishing?   If Ontario could shut down our technology industry over concerns about computers containing dangerous substances, it would put many people out of work.  What if someone in New Brunswick stopped UBC building condominiums on un-ceded native territory.   This is a very dangerous slope to slide down.  I understand the dangers of the Tar Sands project and know we have to change.  At the same time, I do not believe our students should graduate with $100,000 of debt.  We need balance in all policies.

So how does one stop the Tar Sands?  Simple.  Refuse to buy anything made with energy that comes from the Tar sands.  Stop buying cosmetics, cars, tires, bicycles, electronics, clothes and anything plastic made with Alberta crude.  Stop buying New Zealand apples and don’t buy green smoothies from Happy Planet, shipped in plastic bottles.     If no one wants to buy those products, the market for that product will dry up very quickly as no manufacturer would allow it in their products. This would cause a slump in demand and a reversal of the trend.    While sounding easy though, this equation is not so simple.  What if companies like Enbridge actually used the profits from the tar sands to invest into renewable energy sources to prepare the world for a better future?  Well guess what?  They do this.

Enbridge now generates over 1,365 MW of clean and renewable energy.  Do not believe me, read the website page at http://www.enbridge.com/DeliveringEnergy/RenewableEnergy.aspx. By contrast, the BC Carbon Tax has invested zero dollars and produced not one single MW of clean energy.  That tax is revenue neutral and only shuffles money around.  It also does not stop GHG emissions (read the increased amounts of GHG’s going into the environment on page 66 of the BC Provincial Budget).

So who are the bad guys and who are the good guys?  There is no right answer to this question.  My only hope is that I can invite anyone reading this to widen their thoughts and be a little more open minded.  We all need to work together on this.  No matter who wins the Provincial election May 14, we all have a deep responsibility to move forward to clean energy.  If you are a protestor, keep protesting to raise awareness.  If you have an idea to move to renewable energy, help Enbridge and others use the proceeds of the tar sands to invest into clean energy.  They are an energy company.  Oil is only one currency in that market.  If they invest all their money into oil, they will due as a company when the oil runs out.  The people I know at Enbridge told me that they know they need to move off oil to be successful in the future.  Some top environmentalists have noted this and are helping them with this change.

We all know oil is running out.  We have to reduce GHG’s.  I have a plan to use Geothermal energy to both produce clean and renewable energy for British Columbians.  We can do this.  It is not that complicated but it requires educating people on how this will work.

Conservatives (and anyone else with a sane brain) do not want our planet ruined. We are entrenched to fight against this and restore BC as an economic leader. In the meantime, some have advocated raising taxes on gasoline to cut back on people using cars.  Fine, I can personally afford $20/litre gas yet I found even the most hardened environmentalists are stating that this is not going to work for them.  “My life will be hell and my food and transportation bill will be through the roof” they claim.  True I replied, but we will achieve the goal of reducing your contributing to GHG emissions.  Most of them did not realize this was purely a rhetorical statement and got angry with me thinking it was an attack on their ability to exist.  When I pointed out that this is the same logic they are using on others, many then thanked me for helping to raise their awareness.

I am a friend of both clean energy and environmental causes.  I will not favor one at the expense of the others though.  We all need to work together on this.

We have an answer to meet the GHG targets for 2020 but also know that we have to measure them in a way that is fair and realistic.  Simply outsourcing the GHG’s used in manufacturing to China is not the answer.  After all, this is global warming, not BC warming.

Please give this some thought.

Debt is BC’s Biggest Issue

Our provincial debt is now at record levels.  In the coming weeks leading up to the election, understanding the full extent of the provincial debt, including any and all outstanding obligations, should be a primary focus of the election coverage.  ”

“Every BC resident needs to understand the connection between our provincial deficit and their own financial well being.  There is a direct correlation.”

Quite simply, the deficit is the single largest issue.  Without fixing this, we will not have funding in the provincial coffers for healthcare, education, infrastructure and other important programs.    If we are broke, we will have no options to protect the environment, educate our children and preserve our way of life.  We are seeing first hand consequences in Cyprus this month.  The utter devastation of the economy in Cyprus has resulted in private wealth being seized to pay down sovereign debt.

If we elect a government in 2013 that continues business as usual, BC will be setting a dangerous precedent by allowing special interests to mortgage our future.

As for the current budget, it would be good to also get a clarification of what assets will be sold on page 135 of the BC Budget in years 2013-2015.  These total over $700 million. As a taxpayer, I want to know what these are.

The budget also contains contradictions with other statements being given to us.  I would like to see an explanation of the projected increased in natural gas production on page 134.  The budget projects a growth in gas volume from 1461 petajoules (2011) to 2025 in 2015 (approximately 30% increase).  I am not saying it is not true, just wondering why our government is telling us the carbon tax is working while GHG’s are going up.  This needs to be explained.  BC residents are too smart to allow such a double standard.

Balanced budget legislation is worthless if not followed.   Asking why the Health funding is running a budget deficit of around $5 billion despite the BALANCED BUDGET AND MINISTERIAL ACCOUNTABILITY ACT.  This act (Statutes BC 2001, Chapter 28) received royal assent on August 16, 2001.  It clearly states in section 2

The main estimates for a fiscal year must not contain a forecast of a deficit for that fiscal year.”

The following health funding report is from page 110 of the BC budget.

Screen Shot 2013-03-17 at 10.49.51 PM

Pay close attention to the bottom three lines.  Health care is important. If the true cost is $17, 266 million, then let’s budget that.  It is also fair to expect that the accounting for this be completely transparent so BC residents who can find ways to improve the efficiency of health care are able to help our province.  Having a budget that does not reflect reality just confuses everyone.

I’ve run business and started companies form nothing and grown them to be sold to Fortune 500’s.  This is not hard to do if everyone is transparent.  We need a change in BC on May 14.

Thoughts on the UBC Subway Rapid Transit Proposal

March 10 I attended an open house meeting with Mayor Gregor Robertson and councillor Geoff Meggs.  The meeting was filled to capacity and there were some great people in the audience.  NDP politician Mike Harcourt was there as was Constance Barnes.

Before passing any opinion on this matter, I would like to say thank you to all the citizens who gave up a few hours on their Sunday to come down and express their opinions.  This is indeed how democracy needs to work and it is great to see so many exercising their rights.  I appreciated hearing from the people for and the people against the plans.

The presentation went very well and I thought Councilor Meggs made a very eloquent and data driven presentation that would have lead anyone to the logical conclusion that the SkyTrain is needed and the best option is to tunnel under Broadway, primarily to reduce the devastation of the cut and cover techniques used on Cambie.   Based on the congestion alone, it appears we need to invest into the future.  I myself have been passed up on the 99B or very near the last person allowed on a totally packed bus.  I was surprised to find a very sizeable opposition to the project in the hall and listened to hear their concerns.

NIMBY – the Not In My Back Yard opposition is very typical and for those living right next to the projects, is justifiable.  During the construction of the Cambie street line (Canada Line), the local residents had major problems, several businesses failed and more.  I noticed some patterns of activity that I will elaborate on later.  A second set of concerns concluded that along with Skytrain we will get a lot of big box retailers displacing the local businesses.  A tangent on this is the worry that with the prosperity promised from Skytrain, the local real estate prices will continue to soar, something that does worry a lot of people in this riding.

By far the the most compelling reason against is the cost.  When asked directly, Mayor Robertson told the audience that the cost is $2.8 billion for a tunnel approach.  I took the liberty of checking the official Translink website ( I am a data geek) and found that the projected cost is actually $3.2 billion.  There are conflicting bits of information on this.  For example, this page ( http://www.translink.ca/en/Plans-and-Projects/Rapid-Transit-Projects/UBC-Line-Rapid-Transit-Study.aspx ) states the cost is $3.0 billion for the RRT version.  This page paints it at $2.8 billion ( http://ubcskytrain.wordpress.com/22points/) while the Globe and Mail pegs it at #2 billion. I also had seen another number of $3.2 billion which seems to have since been removed from the Translink website but the Vancouver Sun, of which I would believe the reporters did proper homework, reported the $3.2 billion number too at http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/westcoastnews/story.html?id=4ae63f6a-c784-46da-a772-ce15cd4d8f01.  This really doesn’t matter as much as the fact that BC is now at record levels of debt.  Still, asking how we will pay for this is a very just question and one that needs to be answered honestly.  We are broke and in debt.  You cannot borrow your way out of debt.

I am running for office and one of the things I will promise you is that if elected, I will never take what I am told for granted and will do my homework.  I find it worrying that the raw data of the budget is not public and that there is a $400 million discrepancy.

So where do I stand?  This is a complex issue and here is what I would like to see.

1. Some research to understand the real cost and also the track records of those who are doing the estimates.  I would welcome an understanding of whether of not the estimates are provided by people and processes that have proven accurate or inaccurate.   If these people have been wrong in the past, we, the people , have a right to know.  One of the core policies of the BC Conservative Party is that we believe government must be transparent and accountable to the people.  We are all expected to balance our budgets in a given fiscal cycle.  Is this too much to ask of our elected officials?

2. I would like to understand the tendering process (the process by which we award the contract  and understand how many BC jobs are involved.  Are we sole sourcing it?  If we are, why and are we locking out local companies?

3. I would like to understand the options for private funding and operation to see if they are acceptable. Maybe private enterprise can help cushion the costs?  This needs a lot of work before it could be proposed but it does seem to be a valid question.

4. We, the BC Conservative Party, actually listen to people when they speak and share concerns about the potential to disrupt the character of the neighbourhood.  In particular however, the re-zoning and number of re-development applications is a separate issue.   Saying yes to SkyTrain does not equate directly to allowing big box stores to take over small family run businesses.  I also want to see a contingency fund in place to help any businesses hurt by the process.  I also want to understand why there seems to have been an acceleration in development along the corridor prior to the SkyTrain being formally approved?  On the few blocks around my house I have seen many new development signs going on and it does make me a little uneasy.

5. I would like to understand the full environmental impact.  Many people complain about the fact that our government is no where near meeting its’ 2020 GHG obligations and the SkyTrain project may actually have the capacity to help meet that target.  The Canada line, for example, carried 38 million passengers last year which is a lot less car trips.

In general, despite the high cost, it is a project I think can be beneficial to the entire corridor but there are some conditions that need to be met.  Politicians must listen to their constituents and I applaud every politician who took time to attend and listen.  I believe we have learned from Cambie and the Canada Line experience and can mitigate many of the concerns.

I remain in favor of the SkyTrain, contingent upon the concerns of residents being satisfied.  We need to reduce GHG emissions, the existing system is at capacity and the future needs to be planned for now.  For anyone who does not believe the system is at capacity, please experience boarding a 99B bus between 8-11:00 AM or 3-7 PM.

I am doing some more research on this and will post it on this blog as it becomes available.

 

The Carbon Tax does not reduce GHG nor does it Invest in Renewables.

I believe strongly in protecting the environmental.   I have been advocating using less petroleum for decades.  I have argued for better alternatives for Canada and other countries, working within various organizations    We have alternatives and we have better ways to reduce pollution of all types.  I commute on bikes more than cars and do everything I can to leave a smaller footprint in terms of energy used.

This week I have started looking at the 2012 BC Budget and the Carbon Tax and made a startling realization.  The Carbon Tax, as written, is:

1. Not reducing carbon or GHG emission (this is an eye opener for sure);

2. Not causing any investment into Renewable energy sources; and

3. Is merely a tax that “redistributes” wealth.  It is “revenue neutral” meaning it does not put money into government coffers.

In fact, the 2012 BC Budget actually budgeted more carbon to be spewed into the air hence more revenue.   Don’t believe my interpretation however.  Read the 2012 budget at http://www.bcbudget.gov.bc.ca/2012/bfp/2012_Budget_Fiscal_Plan.pdf.  Here is an excerpt:

Carbon tax – as announced in Budget 2008, the carbon tax rate per tonne of CO2 – equivalent will increase by $5 each year to $30 per tonne by July 1, 2012. The forecast  assumes that purchased volumes of natural gas will grow by 2.0 per cent annually,  while consumption of gasoline is expected to remain constant. Revenue is expected  to increase in line with these higher rates and assumed volume growth.

I went to read the rest of the Carbon tax propaganda and found the projections for 2012-2015 (use this link and look at page 68).

BC Budget shows an increase in GHG emissions forecast for 2012-2015

BC Budget shows an increase in GHG emissions forecast for 2012-2015

So are other political parties telling us that the carbon tax is working when it is not?  Or are the 2012-2015 BC Budgets based on flawed assumptions?   Either one of these statements could be true but they cannot logically both be true.  It appears the worst case scenario has happened and neither one is true.

Most of the claims that it works come from three studies, of which I will contend may be flawed.   The costs of which will inevitably be passed off to you and I, the consumers of anything that is affected by the rise in the price of petroleum.  Additionally, this carbon tax will put BC businesses at a disadvantage in a global economy yet will not stop the emissions of carbon.  I am not the only one to notice this.  People are waking up all over.

While the government is claiming that we have let less GHG’s into the air than other provinces between 2008-2010, even accounting for some of the general economic recession, they never factored in the completion of the Canada Line of Skytrain that carries really 40,000,000 riders per year (source: Translink)  and the ceasing of cement production when our Olympic Infrastructure was completed.

Some Facts:

The claim is that between 2008-2010 the GHG gas emissions fell by 4.5% in BC. The facts do not support this.  Greenhouse gases are measured by volume and are correlated to various GHG emitting products manufacture or consumption.  The algorithm used is linear.  While it is possible that the manufacture of concrete and use of fossil fuels actually did fall by 4.5% in that period, the general economy sank by 2.3% in 2009 alone, construction went from a 6.4% growth in 2008 to a 5.3% reduction in 2009 alone and retail sales fell by almost 5%.  This chart is from Statistics Canada data.

BC General economy

BC General economy

Again – go and look at the source – http://www.fin.gov.bc.ca/tbs/F&Ereview10.pdf

It might be time to start over.  BC is part of a global economy and a global environment.  We have a commitment to everyone on this planet to help reign in pollution.  Using less energy in our daily lives can have an impact and we need proactive programmes that actually develop renewable energy policies.

I have been lucky enough to work with the US Department of Energy and visionaries like Saul Griffith.  If you want to get some facts, watch Saul’s talks on Climate Change Revisited.

Saul Griffith: Climate Change Recalculated from The Long Now Foundation on FORA.tv

Saul is bright and has done a lot to change the world for the better.  One thing we discussed at great length was where change is most effective.  The problem is that change is often not most effective at the National level.  The Provincial level, for large infrastructure projects, is where change may be best directed.  Some examples of this are Sky Train and Hydro-electric power projects.   The myth that solar energy can save BC is just that.  Doing the net calculations on manufacturing the solar panels will often show a less than favorably return, certainly short of our needs.  We are blessed with an abundance of cheap, renewable energy sources and a smart and innovative population.  Wind, Hydro, Geothermal and Solar used in combination can be very effective but reducing GHG’s requires a reduction in the use of hydrocarbons period.  Replacing cheap and plentiful Hydro-electric power with solar power may actually cause more pollution given it is the energy produced is replacing green energy and not targeting hydrocarbons.

We have the ability to also develop Geothermal energy.  While serving on the US DOE’s National Geothermal Data System as a technical monitor, I noticed that the heat flow potential for Geothermal energy seems to increase as it goes northward into BC.

What can you do?

We can do this.  If done correctly, based on the input of organizations like the BC Sustainable Energy Association (BC SEA), we can create ways to develop renewable energy source, green cement and build green industries.

Join the BC SEA – http://www.bcsea.org/

Vote BC Conservative Party on May 14, 2013.  We will try to repeal the Carbon tax and replace it with public policy that actually reduces carbon and/or creates renewable energy sources.

Join the BC Conservative Party (Note: we are not the Canadian Progressive Conservative party) – http://www.bcconservative.ca/get-involved/join/

Do not believe the parties that tell you the Carbon Tax is working as it is.  It is clearly not.

Be a scientist!  Ask questions and educate yourself.

We have alternatives.  No more faux taxes.  Let’s take real action.

Help us fix this.  Join our cause and donate.  Be part of a solution.

http://www.duanenickull.ca

New Bike Lanes in Point Grey – Debate

Recently I have been hearing rumblings about yet more bike lanes being retrofitted into Vancouver’s West Side (Vancouver – Point Grey).   For context, I am a former UCI World Cup Mountain Bike Professional athlete.  I have represented Canada at the World Championships and believe I have probably cycled more kilometers than I drove a car for each of the last twenty years.  I used to commute from Coquitlam to Yaletown daily using the Adanac/Union Street bike route.  I LOVE cycling.

I am in favor of more bike lanes in Point Grey only with sound evidence.  To understand why, please read the rest of this article at the new blog URL of http://duanenickull.ca/2013/02/15/new-bike-lanes-in-point-grey-debate/

11 Tips for Saving Energy in House Design

I got an email asking about solar and wind options for housing. Since I am planning to build an energy efficient house north of 49 degrees (in Canada) and have done a lot of thinking on this topic, I decided to share the following and now make it available as a blog post.

1. House design is essential. I plan to re-route all hot air evacuations (bathroom fan, kitchen fan, clothes dryer (if we get one) exhaust etc.) into either a thermal bus or to tie them directly to a year round greenhouse to use the thermal energy for growing food.

2. IMPORTANT: Always do the “Net” energy calculations. For example – having cheap, Chinese made solar powered, LED lights to power your walkway instead of investing in a proper system is a waste of time and an affront to the environment if you have to throw out something that broke in one year and took 25 times as much energy to make as it saved. For example, I bought these little solar powered lights at Home Depot, which lasted only about 250 days. When I took them apart, I discovered the culprit – a single AA rechargeable battery was the only power source. These usually do not last more than 250 charging cycles and if you connect one to a daily charge routine, it will burn out in less than a year. Net result: I actually polluted more by buying cheap products to save energy.

3. I also plan to use wood heating with a proper catalytic converter (avoids most carbon pollution) to warm the house on winter days as we have ample wood for cooking etc. The house we are choosing has a small horizontal footprint and is 2.5 stories high, which allows thermal energy to be more efficient.

4. I’m putting the shower and kitchen on the top floor then using a diverter valve to reroute the entire waste water into the flooring for either keeping the house cool in summer or heating in the winter.

5. After the electrical inspectors give the final OK, I am moving to 12 or 24 VDC power for all lighting in the house and possibly some USB outlets. All lighting will be 12/24 VDC LED indirect. This saves tons of energy over trying to convert a 12/24VDC battery array into 110 AC (or in your case 220 VAC, which would be less efficient). Most solar and wind systems use 12 or 24 VDC as the charging output. Energy can neither be created nor destroyed and it is a lossy process to convert energy. The biggest culprit is usually thermal energy as an unwanted byproduct (think of hot transformers). If you must convert, try to capture the byproduct (place the converters in a place that needs heating).

5. My wife and I are investigating thermal heating systems. These seem to make a lot of sense as they can be used in both the summer and winter. In North America, there is an relevant organization that has members; there might be a similar system in the UK – http://www.geoexchange.org/

6. In order to use wind energy in a micro manner, there are lots of manufacturers and the kits are not that hard to figure out. The first thing you have to do is check out the MET office to find out if it will work in your location. Wind speed must be at a minimum of 5 metres per second to work. The Canadian map showed us that in our case, we have sufficient wind. http://www.windatlas.ca/en/nav.php?field=E1&height=50&season=ANU&no=45.

7. Solar kits are also not that complicated. Study up on it and note the major components – collectors/charge controllers, battery array/inverters or converters then do the calculations. You have to figure out what you want to use the property for before you can plan a system. In our case, assuming we only go there on the weekends, we can go with less collections and a bigger battery array as the battery array will recharge during weekdays. If we lived there full time, we would have to use more collectors. Most manufacturers of repute (Siemens, etc/) will have all the calculations available. There are some good resources online for this too. Here is one: http://midsummerenergy.co.uk/solar_panel_information/solar_panel_calculator.html#nogo

8. Look into evacuated solar tubes. These work in very low temperatures (as low as –40 degrees Celsius) and can deliver off grid water at 65 degrees Celsius. They work by having no gas (a vacuum) in between the outer tube and the inner collector. This collects energy radiated from the sun without the atmosphere moving the heat away and harvests it via the manifold. http://www.solarthermal.com/products.asp These can take care of big things like hot water tanks.

9. If you use your property for weekends only like me, you might want to consider a Linux micro kernel running a small routine that can be used to “wake up” the house. For example, if you have a grid tied-hot water system, you could invoke a cron job that turns your hot water heater on and off remotely so you’re not paying for energy you don’t need. Another option is to move to a EU style JIT hot water heater (tank-less system).

10. For certification, The SRCC (Solar Rating and Certification Corporation) is the key solar collector certifying body for the US and Canada. Make sure everything you use has passed the minimum criteria for this.

11. My thoughts on this are that when I buy my supplies, I want to do it with a company that has been around, been certified and is backed by a manufacturer with a warranty and good history, and someone who has a physical office I can identify and walk into. Too many snake oil vendors on the web.

Broadway Corridor Skytrain Extension

The facts:
Translink, the Provincial and Municipal governments and others are contemplating building a Skytrain extension to UBC from the Vancouver Community College station.
The projected costs will be around $3.2 billion for a ~12 km extension.  I am against additional government spending until the budget is balanced however Translink has their own budget and is turning a profit every year by collecting user fees from those who use the services.
SkyTrain-Extension-Broadway
Projections and benefits:
According to Translink, the Broadway – UBC corridor extension to the Skytrain will carry over 75,000 riders per day.  The Broadway corridor has North America’s busiest bus line according to the Vancouver Vision Party.   Currently the corridor takes over 100,000 riders per day via bus.
Keeping people moving in a green and efficient manner is a challenge with large benefits to our economy.  The status quo of clogged, congested traffic arteries is not going to work for the long term.
Get involved:
Mayor Gregor Robertson and Councillor Geoff Meggs are hosting an open house on Sunday March 10 from 2pm to 4pm at St James Community Hall to discuss this topic.  They will invite questions from the audience to begin a dialogue about how to get the Provincial and Federal governments on board with a Broadway Subway.
What: Public Forum on a Subway along Broadway
Where: St James Community Hall – 3214 W 10th Ave
When: Sunday March 10, 2pm-4pm
Links:

Taxation – Fair and Simple

I was recently challenged (thank you Murray MacDonald!) to define “Fair Taxation”. I invite people to challenge things and this particular topic is very complex. I wish I was bestowed with the answer to this question however I don’t have a full answer. This is due in some way to the complexity of our tax systems which I believe needs to change. I do have some directions I would like to explore. The official BC Conservative Party Policy Document contains the basics of the platform. I encourage you to read it.

So what is Fair Taxation? For starters a fair tax system might include the following concepts:

Comprehendable – I would argue that our tax system has to be simplified so that people, including myself, can sufficiently understand it. I love math but the level of complexity of our finances is hard to understand.

Usefullness – As I research the Carbon Tax, I am finding some very disturbing facts. First, it doesn’t actually seem to reduce carbon. I belive the studies may be flawed but will stand corrected if they are not. I will grant it is difficult to measure GHG’s accurately. I am an environmentalist and I do not want to leave my children a damaged world. Second, the 2012 budget document contains an assumption that GHG emissions will actually climb! Why do we have a tax that does not reduce carbon and is revenue neutral? I would rather reduce GHG’s for real. The image below shows that the taxes will rise by around 10% between 2012 and 2015. Since it is taxed on volume, there is a linear relationship between the amount produced and the tax revenue. Still think the carbon tax is working?

Links:  Carbon Tax revenue – page 68 of the BC 2012 Budget

Transparency – The next BC budget contains some yet undefined items. The Government is planning to raise over $625 million from the “release of surplus assets”. What are those assets? Will this be like the BC Rail debacle again?

Links: Revenue by Source – page 15

Accountability – The following excerpt comes form the BC Conservative Party Policy Document:

ARTICLE 4. Financial Management.

Every tax dollar collected from British Columbians is received in trust. This trust must be managed and accounted for according to the highest standards of integrity and transparency. The people’s scrutiny of all spending decisions should be encouraged and welcomed.

Sounds good to me. At the same time, we are now being presented another budget that is more of the same broken promises and excuses.

I will write more on this topic later. Thank you Murray and others for being vigilant on this front.

My Great Uncle Kenneth MacKenzie

When Ken began working in the Radiation Laboratory, the 60-inch cyclotron was nearing completion. He became involved with the radiofrequency (RF) system which produces the D-voltage. With this beginning he became an authority on RF systems. He made a major contribution to the design of the system for the 184-inch cyclotron which was completed in 1947. It was the first machine capable of producing mesons. He also made significant contributions to the system for TRIUMF, the meson factory which was completed in 1974. RF systems can be temperamental. Ken had an uncanny knack in getting them to perform properly.

Ken contributed to the development of cyclotrons from day one. He was in Berkeley when the first tests of large-current Uranium mass spectrometry were made in late 1941. He participated in the full scale tests which were made in the recently completed 184-inch magnet, beginning in mid-1942. An accelerating voltage had to be held constant with great precision. The system developed, involving RF signals, is described in a chapter which he contributed to a book in the National Nuclear Energy Series, Manhattan Project. Ken also went to Oak Ridge where he participated in the process of getting the production plant into operation.

In 1964 Ken wrote a paper titled “Space Charge Effects and Cyclotron Beam Enhancement.” Cyclotrons had been in operation some thirty years and this effect had been overlooked. Near the center of a cyclotron there can be appreciable loss of particles which are near the surface of the circulating current due to repulsion by those particles within the body of the beam. Once the effect was recognized, steps could be taken to reduce it. As a result, several large synchrocyclotron laboratories were able to increase their research output.

McMillan and Veksler, during World War II, predicted means of increasing the upper energy limit of cyclotrons. The first test of the proposal was made in Berkeley in 1946. The 37-inch magnet was modified for the test. Ken participated, not surprisingly, in the design of the RF system, which now involved frequency modulation. The prediction was confirmed.

After World War II, UCLA was interested in establishing a program in nuclear physics. It was decided to move the 37-inch frequency-modulated cyclotron to UCLA to begin the new program. After a year at the University of British Columbia, Ken joined the UCLA faculty in 1947. Over the next 10 years he and his students performed positron-electron scattering experiments, stopping power measurements, precision range-energy relationships and a final increase of the “37-inch” energy to 20 Mev protons.

In about 1960, Ken initiated the UCLA Department of Physics program in experimental plasma physics. Over the next 15 years, with various colleagues, he published some 20 papers in this field, many involving various aspects of large quiescent plasmas. Early on, Ken and his students lined the walls of a vacuum chamber with permanent magnets of alternating polarity to suppress plasma electron losses. “MacKenzie buckets” are now universally used as plasma sources. He initiated an introductory undergraduate course in plasma physics and an accompanying laboratory (which used a restaurant size cooking pot as an ion bucket). He invented simple physical pictures for a number of plasma wave phenomena usually described in complex mathematical terms.

Ken can be given much credit for the impressive status of experimental plasma physics at UCLA today. Studies of plasmas in the ionosphere (Alfred Wong); the physically largest Electric Tokomak (directed by one of Ken’s students, Robert Taylor); and physically large plasmas for wave studies (Reiner Stenzel and Walter Gekelman) are examples of important work in progress.

For a period of about two years Ken was the president of a small company, Meva Corp, which was formed to build cyclotrons. After producing one for an undergraduate laboratory at Pomona College, the company was sold to Hughes Aircraft.

After retirement, Ken continued a long standing interest in Special and General Relativity. Some results are described in an unpublished monograph titled Einstein’s General Relativity in Three Dimensions. He also wrestled with the dark matter enigma.

Ken made very significant contributions to the Department. In a broad sense, being one of eight new faculty appointments following World War II, he participated actively and fully in every aspect of the Department’s development. Over the years he saw to it that the electricity and magnetism laboratories were kept up to date. He introduced the plasma physics curriculum. He took the course in “Physics for Non-Science Majors” seriously, devoting a great effort to make special relativity understandable. In the mid-70s he served as chairman.

What kind of a physicist was he? He could of course use mathematics to formulate and solve problems. Beyond that, he could see through the most complex situations to their conceptualization and solution. As a person, he was gentle, kind, understanding, pleasant and modest to a fault. He rarely, if ever, raised his voice. He had a considerable range of interests outside of physics, both physical and intellectual. Verna, his second wife whom he married in 1981, gave him great care during his decline. Other survivors are his children, Robert, Maryann and Wallace. They miss him dearly as do all who knew him well.