Energy: Sources and Uses

By Gary Martens

Our economy, any economy involves work and work requires energy. The human body is a very efficient machine in terms of work. A fuel efficient car might be able to travel 100 kilometres on 5 litres of fuel, but the human body only needs 0.8 litres of fuel (energy equivalents) to travel the same distance. We extend our ability to do work by using machines run on crude oil, natural gas, electricity and other non-human sources of energy.

The energy used to run the Manitoba economy can roughly be divided into thirds. One third of our energy goes into transportation. Over 90% of transportation energy comes from crude oil. The other 10% comes from ethanol additives. One third of our energy is electricity and over 95% of that comes from renewable hydro power (4% from wind, 1% from solar and solid biomass). And one third of our energy goes to heating buildings and for manufacturing. Most of that comes from natural gas.

I will focus here on the one third that goes to transportation. This is almost completely derived from crude oil.

In terms of energy we can look at Canada in two distinct regions: western Canada and eastern Canada. According to the National Energy Board of Canada we produced 217 million cubic metres (mm3) of crude oil in western Canada in 2015. We consumed only 18% of that in western Canada, 39 mm3 . We exported 178 mm3: 17.4 mm3 to the west coast, 50.5 mm3 to the United States and 110 mm3 getting to eastern Canada or to eastern and US exports. The proposed Energy East pipeline could carry 36% of total western exports, that is, 64 mm3 to eastern Canada or to exports off the east coast at St John, New Brunswick.

While western Canada is a net exporter of crude oil, eastern Canada is a net importer. Eastern Canada consumed 64 mm3 in 2015, but produced only 10 mm3, almost all of that off-shore. It imported another 33 mm3 from the US and points east.

It is interesting that the Energy East pipeline proposal has a capacity of 64 mm3 which is exactly the total consumption of eastern Canada.

Manitoba produced 2.7 mm3 of crude oil and consumed 3.5 mm3 in 2015, but we have no refinery capacity so our refined products like gasoline and diesel fuel come from the Cooperative refinery in Regina (capacity 7.5 mm3) and sometimes from Edmonton by the Enbridge mainline which leaves Canada at Gretna. A smaller pipeline takes some of that oil to Winnipeg. Trucks distribute it from Winnipeg to retailers.

It will be very difficult switching the goods and freight transportation sector to an alternative fuel because diesel fuel has no substitutes that are as energy dense. Diesel fuel has 36 MJ/litre compared to the best lithium ion batteries which have 4.3 MJ/litre. This means that we will have to look at reworking the entire supply of goods sector if we want to reduce our dependence on crude oil. How to do that and the opportunities that can arise for southeastern Manitoba will be addressed in a future article.

This the second article in a series focusing on “A Path to a New Energy Economy” where we want to introduce the issues around the proposed Energy East pipeline. This pipeline will pass very close to Isle de Chenes, Landmark and Ste. Anne. The series will conclude with a free public lecture about the proposed pipeline on February 15, 2017 at the Jake Epp Public Library.

Please follow and like us:

Respect, Cooperation, Consensus

I’m back in Provencher from Calagry with a well exercised brain and a warmed heart.

The second day of the SGM felt like an exercise in contrasts after Saturday’s hard work. The meeting was far behind schedule because of the complexity of the work on Saturday which left workshops and most of the other policy motions for Sunday.

After a bit of work getting ducks lined up people went off to various workshops of their choosing. The workshops craft the policy motions. Sometimes these motions are already fully prepared, at others, the motions may be being put together from scratch.

While I was very tempted to head to the workshop that was dealing with a package of Indigenous issues, I followed my first instinct to attend the workshop on Electoral Reform. Part of the draw was because I’m passionate about the subject but it was also because this was the only case of a ground-up construction of a policy and I was very interested to see how it worked.

It might sound odd that we had to have this workshop at all but the party only as a very broad policy that electoral reform should include some form of proportional representation. Clearly, with the work of the Electoral Reform Committee wrapped up, more definition was required. This provides people knocking on doors with some concrete information on policy and provides our MPs (Elizabeth May in this case) with direction on party policy.

We had only two hours to build a policy in a room of seventy people. Choosing a prop rep system to get behind is not easy; there are many different forms and variations of forms and there were a variety of opinions in the room. A survey of the room found that most people supported Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) while there was strong support for STV and some for Rural/Urban (which is less well understood).

In a remarkable show of solidarity, a number of supporters of other system, declared that in the interest of having a reliable policy in place they would be willing to move aside.

Remarkably, and only a few minutes late, we crafted a new and meaningful policy on Electoral Reform that included:

  • Supporting MMP as the preferred system of PR with room to accept alternatives such as STV or Rural/Urban.
  • Supporting a referendum if the referendum was only between proportional systems or the referendum were held after two elections under a proportional system
  • Directing the party to create a task force to study public education on electoral reform.


Once done, we headed back to plenary for discussion of the various policy proposals from the workshops. Unlike Saturday, which had a lot of stress surrounding it, Sunday’s proposals were met mostly with consensus and, in some cases, unanimity. The plenary managed to get through most of the motions and wrapped up only about fifteen minutes late and passed policies on:

  • Opposition to the Kinder Morgan and Enbridge Line 3 pipelines
  • Support for implementing recommendations from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Report.
  • Rebuilding and Recognition of Original Indigenous Nations.
  • Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery
  • Affirmation of the value of consensus based governance
  • Affirmation of post meeting ratification of policies
  • The electoral reform policies mentioned above.

The spirit of cooperation and respect in the room was palpable and was a great way to wrap up a hard working weekend.


Please follow and like us:

Democracy in Action

It has been an interesting day in Calgary, for this political conference newbie.

The Palestine related issues were the primary focus of the day. This made a lot of sense as, in my opinion, it got the most complex and divisive tasks out of the way. We’ll see if reality proves me wrong again tomorrow, but I think from here forward things become more constructive.

In fact, today was very constructive, despite the potential divisiveness of this issue. While there was considerable discussion, the compromise proposal passed. It did not achieve consensus on the first vote but in the next phase of voting (see yesterday’s post about how the voting works) it passed with an 84% approval. It is effectively policy as of this time but needs to pass a party wide online ratification between Dec 7 and Feb 6.

It speaks volumes about how this party approaches democratic processes. They work hard to make sure people are heard and are respectful. In fact, there is  a “fairness panel” in the room who occasionally step in to remind people to be respectful and they may be called upon to resolve issues of fairness. A great deal of effort is made to make sure people fully understand the issue or procedure before votes are taken (which is another purpose of the yellow vote – to seek clarity).

Some of the most complex parts of the day were procedural. There were a number of policy motions that were related to the compromise proposal and were essentially rendered unnecessary or redundant by the passing of the compromise proposal. It took awhile to sort out just how to handle those.

At the end of the day, the outcome is that a better policy was produced. It was hashed out over the last few months by a number of dedicated individuals. All of them had to make compromises in their position to craft this broadly supportable policy. They should all be congratulated on their achievement.



Please follow and like us:

Hello Calgary

Hello Provencher Friends,

I’m in Calgary this weekend for the Green Party SGM (Special General Meeting). To make a long story short, this meeting came up as a result of the BGM this summer in Ottawa. A policy motion was passed on the topic of BDS – boycott, divest, sanction – movement. This movement has its roots in Palestine but has many Israeli supports and is about numerous issues surrounding Palestinian / Israeli relations. I don’t want to go into too much details on the specifics here as that isn’t the intent of my post. Suffice to say that the original policy created some considerable debate in the party and there has been some determined effort to create a compromise agreement that will satisfy both the original sponsors and the concerns of many of those opposed.

What I do want to do is talk about this weekend in broader strokes. This is my first time at a political party conference and I thought some other people in our riding might like some insight into the inner workings of our party.

I read the SGM program document on the way out here tonight (yes, sadly, on a plane – but I took public transit to the hotel for what it is worth). While most of the document discusses the proposals that are being discussed this weekend, the introduction focuses on how the meeting is run. This gives some great insight into the principles of the Party.

Unlike many organizations, the GPC doesn’t use Robert’s Rules (or, at least, usually doesn’t; it has experimented with them). You all know Robert’s Rules as the “motion, second, all in favour, passed” process. It is fast and efficient but it isn’t particularly good at achieving consensus. Approving something when 49% of the room is opposed to it isn’t a good way to build effective teams.

Instead the GPC uses consensus building tools. Attendees are issued three cards; green, yellow, and red. Green means “yes”, Yellow “Pass”, and Red “Opposed”. Yellow votes have a bit of context depending on when they are used. It may indicate that you want more information or clarity. It can also mean you are standing aside; that you may not agree but do not wish to get in the way of a motion passing.

Edited on Dec 3 as the real world showed me I wasn’t quite accurate. A proposal must achieve full consensus to pass initially. If it doesn’t the plenary (the people) have to decide what to do with the proposal: Table it (save it for later), send it to workshops for more work, or carry out a vote which must achieve a 2/3 majority to pass.(For a motion to pass 66% approval is required to approve a motion. Motions not passed may go to a workshop, which anyone can participate in, to develop a better motion or, if it is decided that consensus can’t be reached, it may be abandoned.)

It will be very interesting to see how this all works in the real world over the next two days. For the most part, as a newbie, I’ll be simply observing what is going on and placing my own votes.

Things start early tomorrow morning so it is time to get some sleep. There are lots of interesting and constructive motions on the table and I’ll post a few comments on how things are going as time goes by.

Blair Mahaffy

Note: Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect GPC party policy or the policy of our EDA.


Please follow and like us: