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HALIFAX—Tom Rand needs a trillion dollars. With that trillion, Rand, the venture capitalist with an eco-twist, believes he could wean the world off of its fossil fuel addiction, curb greenhouse gas emissions and make renewable energy financially competitive.
Rand sits on the board of several green energy companies and businesses, has designed an award-winning, low-emissions hostel in downtown Toronto and has written “Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit,” a green energy primer. Rand is also an accomplished speaker and headlined April’s “Renewable Energy Conference” in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The problem, although Rand would not call it that, is that he doesn't particularly care where his trillion comes from, so long as it comes. So while some might cringe at seeing the world’s largest weapons manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, as a sponsor of the conference, Rand lets the money talk.
“The only way we're going to be able to solve this problem [climate change],” says Rand, “is to get the people with the capacity to build this stuff at scale at the table. So, people like GE, Lockheed Martin, Siemens, BP, Duke Energy...these are all companies who could either be friend or foe. The most helpful thing for us to do is to say 'How do I make you a friend? How do I bring you on board?'...It's just not pragmatically useful to have those people not on your side. It doesn't make things any easier.”
“Past sins forgiven,” says Rand. “Come on in, help us out...I think is the approach.”
Tamara Lorincz, of the Halifax Peace Coalition, is not so ready to forgive Lockheed's sins, past or present.
“Anything Lockheed Martin might do on a renewable energy front pales in comparison to the plundering of the climate by its weapons systems,” says Lorincz. “If Lockheed Martin truly cared about renewable energy and a sustainable future, it would stop producing the weapons systems that use so much fossil fuel, and pushing for military spending and war spending that degrades the environment and contributes to climate change.”
Lorincz, the self-proclaimed mosquito in Lockheed Martin's ear, recently drew blood when her Access-to-Information request revealed that the many billions—continuously escalating, according to experts—that the Harper Government plans on spending on F-35 stealth fighters would net them 65 engine-less aircraft. The story went global.
“Each stealth fighter holds 10,000 pounds of jet fuel," says Lorincz. "Jet fuel is extremely carbon intensive and will cause climate change, and will use our dwindling fossil fuels. They have no credibility on renewable energy and they are not needed on renewable energy.”
So, while Tom Rand won't ask the question, I will.
Who the hell invited the war pigs to the table?
“I can say that our presence here is based on our interest in renewable energy, and reducing greenhouse gas consumption and environmental damage,” says Steve Marsden, Lockheed Martin’s representative at the conference. “And to the extent that our activities in renewable energy will accomplish that, I think that's a good thing.”
Things were far more black and white, good versus evil, in the days when Lockheed's F-117s were dropping thousands of tons of ordinance on Iraq, or when their Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense program had the world in American cross-hairs. Then, Lockheed Martin was simply the biggest arms manufacturer and exporter the world had ever known, a peddler of products that caused untold suffering and mayhem.
Lockheed Martin is still the world's biggest arms manufacturer and exporter. The Canadian military still consumes thousands of barrels of oil per day. But the Lockheed Martin website, aside from lauding missile defense systems and F-35 fighters, loudly toots on the suddenly-popular green horn. F-22 Raptor diagnostics systems now have a completely paperless approach, in that no paper will be used when diagnosing what ails the F-22 Raptor. Copper-beryllium, the dust of which can cause severe lung damage, has also been eliminated from the F-35 assembly line.
Lockheed Martin has also been awarded a contract by the provincial government of Nova Scotia, in consort with Irving Shipbuilding and Atlantis Resources Corporation, to build an experimental tidal turbine to be tested in the Minas Passage, near Parrsboro, Nova Scotia. The turbine is expected to cost between $10 and $15 million, and is expected to generate 1 megawatt of power. Lockheed Martin is going green, and coming to the Bay of Fundy.
So, who the hell invited the war pigs to the table?
The NDP provincial government of Nova Scotia, that's who.
The invitation comes in the form of the Renewable Electricity Plan (REP), released by the Nova Scotia Department of Energy in 2010. The REP includes a mandate to create 25 per cent renewable electricity by 2015, and 40 per cent renewables by 2020.
Ostensibly, the REP is meant to wean Nova Scotia off its dirty coal habit. Realistically, it opens a veritable Pandora's box of options that, upon closer inspection, do not appear renewable at all. These include large-scale biomass operations that threaten to decimate Nova Scotia's already fragile forests, as well as an increased interest in natural gas exploration, which most likely would involve the environmentally-catastrophic technique known as “fracking.”
Tidal power, to be gathered from the Bay of Fundy, weighs heavily in the dreams of the REP, and this is where Lockheed Martin's so-called expertise comes in.
The Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE), a berthing station for turbines in the Minas Passage, can accommodate up to four tidal turbines. FORCE has been built using millions of taxpayer dollars. So far, only one turbine has ever been berthed at FORCE, and the Fundy tides knocked it off-line in only seven days. This is the place where the magic is supposed to happen.
Never mind that the old Annapolis Royal Generating Station has been chugging along in the Annapolis sub-basin, at an output of 20 megawatts, for almost 30 years. The NDP government, and now Lockheed, appear to have their sights set on the Herculean task of harnessing some of the most massive tides in the world. But as they say at FORCE, “One day the world will ask...Is it Fundy-tested?” It remains to be seen whether this line will be spoken as the butt-end of a joke.
The REP doesn't even touch on solar energy, considering it an "emerging" technology. Considering that FORCE has not generated its first kilowatt of energy to the grid, and yet is being offered an extremely favourable rate of return should it ever do so, and considering that the power-generating properties of solar energy have been well-proven around the world, the Department of Energy appears to be flagrantly selective in its use of the word "emerging." REP is also very restrictive on wind projects, another of the areas where smaller players stand to make a go of the energy game.
Neal Livingston, co-founder of Black River Ltd., thirty-year veteran in the solar, wind, and small-hydro installation business, isn't getting swept away by the tidal wave.
“The Premier is 100 per cent in bed with big business and the old boys' network in Nova Scotia in terms of designing this policy,” says Livingston. “And that's why you see tidal being so prominent in their thinking, because they've bought into a whole corporate structure that isn't about you and I having the ability to generate power. It's all restricted.”
According to Livingston, the REP stresses the notion of COMFIT (Community Feed-In Tariff), which essentially ties the hands of renewable energy entrepreneurs, and favors big-time investors. COMFIT has strict rules as to who can sell power back to the grid, and more than likely this isn't you. Communities, co-ops, universities, and Aboriginal groups are fine. But if you can't find 25 of your closest friends to co-sign with you on a small-scale wind farm, forget it.
“It’s going to be a mess in two ways,” says Livingston. “One way is that very, very few people are going to own [renewable energy sources] and thus be able to produce their own electricity. This is much like the current situation, with Nova Scotia Power owning everything,” he says. “And also, if you want to be a smaller player you have to work under a whole set of crazy rules which make it not a very interesting place to do it.”
For Lockheed Martin, however, Nova Scotia is the perfect place to get their feet wet in the renewable energy game.
Miles Howe hails from Ottawa, Ontario, and currently calls Halifax home. He has a Masters degree in Sociology, plays a wicked harmonica, and ferments a mean kimchi.
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.