Thursday, June 19, 2008

Green Shift: The Video

I'm not going to get into a point by point analysis of the Liberals' new 'Green Shift' plan that was unveiled today to much fanfare. From what I saw today and have read in the extended lead-up, it looks like a smart approach and hopefully bold enough to make a real difference. But I'm sure there will be plenty of people chewing it up and spitting it out over the next few days, so I'll leave them to it.

What I did want to mention was the video now posted at It's very slick - downright inspiring, in fact. Nice job. I'm guessing this is going to form the basis for an upcoming advertising campaign. No wonder the Conservatives are scared. I thought it was an especially nice touch including the shot of the Last Spike, given Ignatieff's recent reference to our national railway when talking about an east-west oil and electrical corridor.

Another shot that I found interesting was this one:

I'm pretty sure that's the ZENN Motor Company plant. Nice.

I know you're probably sick of me going on about this car, but I was listening to an interview with company president Ian Clifford talking about the company's plans for the future and their alliance with EEstor, a Houston-based company that is in the final stages of developing a truly revolutionary solid-state energy storage system (not a battery; it's sort of a ceramic super-capacitor). The combination will result in an electric car capable of above highway speeds and a 250-500 mile range on a five minute charge - at a reasonable cost, light weight, and no nasty chemicals in the battery.


It got me thinking about that CBC mini-series about the Avro Arrow. Yes, yes, I know, it was all rosy and filled with inaccuracies. It's TV - whatever. But one scene always stuck with me, even though it was obviously created by the writers. The boss has just found out that the Arrow is doomed, and one of his engineers (who doesn't know yet) comes in to talk to him about all these cool ideas he's had based on the technology and design innovations they've developed with the Arrow.

He talks about how, with a little tinkering, the Arrow could be modified for use as a low-orbit space platform. He even pulls out a very space shuttle-like model of a beefed-up Arrow to show how it could roll over with its belly to space to deploy satellites and even, someday, a craft to take us to the moon.

He's obviously excited at the prospect of Canada taking the lead in aerospace technology, and all the while his boss is sitting there with a tragic look on his face, knowing it will never come to pass.

Fiction or not, that scene keeps coming back to me as I read about the incredible potential of this company and companies like it. Imagine if the ZENN was actually supported by this province and this country. What if it really took off? What if EEstor decided to move its operations to Ontario? What if other electric car companies started popping up and moving here, even developing other technologies and products based on EEstor electric storage? What if all those empty truck and SUV plants started producing electric vehicles - 100% Canadian vehicles? What if Ontario became the new Detroit of the electric transportation industry?

Now, what if the Ontario government continues to drag its heels until ZENN just gets fed up and moves to the U.S.?


  1. It's worth noting that single occupancy vehicles are not all that green. Critters like the ZENN may produce less pollution than their gas guzzling counterparts, but you're still wrapping half a tonne of steel around you to go buy a bag of milk.

    Of course, there are truly green industries that Canada really should be investing in: renewable power generation (microhydro and wind leap to mind), efficiency improvements (of course, we've outsourced all of our manufacturing to Asia, so we don't have that much control over the contents of our electronics, but it's worth a try), and perhaps even some GM answers to our problems (bioreactors extracting power from rotting sewage?).

    If the liberals are serious about climate change, then we're going to have to rethink how we've built our infrastructure. No more energy-hungry sprawling suburbs for starters.

  2. "you're still wrapping half a tonne of steel around you to go buy a bag of milk."

    True, but if you live in the country or in a small town with little to no transit and that bag of milk is a kilometre or two away and it's pissing rain, or freezing cold, or you're 80 years old, or disabled, or you also need a weeks worth of groceries to go with it...

    I'm not saying it's ultimately the perfect solution, but it may be the perfect solution for weaning people off the internal combustion engine. It's that, or a horse and carriage.

    And it's a double occupancy vehicle, thank you :)

    The thing is, whether it's a car, a bus or a lawnmower, the biggest reason for using liquid petroleum fuel has always been that it's portable, whereas electricity has always required either wires or enormous, toxic batteries. EEstor (if it works out, and there are a lot of sceptics) would solve those limitations once and for all. And while we still need to find cleaner sources of electricity, the options at least are there waiting to be exploited.

    For an internal combustion engine, the options are biofuels or liquefying coal. Grim.

    (everything else you said - agreed)