“Clean” energy promise a dirty lie

- The federal government used the throne speech to promise it will switch Canadians on to clean energy by balancing the need for power with climate change.

To achieve that goal, it pledged to ensure 90% of all Canada's electricity comes from "non-emitting sources" such as hydro, nuclear, clean coal and wind by 2020.

"The key is nuclear and also other clean energy sources," Environment Minister Jim Prentice said. "Clean coal is a part of that. We need to see improvements in terms of technology there, but this is a realistic objective."

Environmentalists, however, say describing energy sources such as nuclear and coal as clean is misleading.

"The issue here is what defines clean power," said Dave Martin of Greenpeace Canada.

"Nuclear energy is not clean. It creates radioactive waste that stays deadly for a million years."

Martin also says there is no such thing as clean coal and experimental technologies — which claim to capture coal emissions — have yet to be proven or widely used.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians get 59% of their electricity from hydro generating stations, 14% from nuclear power and 26% from fossil fuels.

Martin argues that by labelling some energy clean the government could achieve its promised goal of moving to 90% from the current 73% without actually cutting emissions.

The government also reaffirmed its promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020 and pledged to join a North America-wide carbon cap and trade system touted by U.S. president elect Barack Obama.

Quite controversially, the throne speech also promised to continue support for biofuels such as ethanol. The policy of subsidizing fuels made from food crops was widely criticized by international aid groups for driving up the price of food for the world's poor.


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