David Suzuki: Budget time offers a glimpse into the future, but how far?

It’s budget time. How refreshing it was, then, to hear these words: “We cannot continue to ignore the clean energy challenge and stand still while other countries move forward in the emerging industries of the 21st century.”

If only they had come from our own government instead of U.S. President Barack Obama. In his budget address in February, the president said, “Because we know the nation that leads in clean energy will be the nation that leads the world, the budget creates the incentives to build a new clean energy economy.”

The budget speech by Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on March 4 didn’t even mention energy, green or otherwise. The budget document itself references green energy but emphasizes untested technologies like carbon capture and storage and unsafe, expensive, and decidedly non-green technologies like nuclear power (which also relies on a non-renewable resource, uranium).

The government summarized its position on the issue under the heading “Green Jobs and Growth”: “Canada has established itself as an energy superpower, being the third-largest global producer of gas, seventh in oil production, and the world’s largest supplier of uranium. Our international reputation as a safe and reliable energy supplier creates unprecedented opportunities for exporting our energy products within an integrated North American energy market and to the rest of the world.”

And so, this budget continues to pin our hopes, our future, and our economy on rapidly dwindling and highly polluting resources while much of the rest of the world creates jobs and new opportunities with green energy.

To be fair, President Obama must contend with anti-science politicians intent on stalling every progressive piece of legislation that hits the U.S. Congress. But the U.S. is already investing about 14 times more than Canada in green energy. China and South Korea are also way ahead, according to an HSBC Bank study that shows Canada is investing less in green initiatives than many other countries.

Of the recent “stimulus” spending by governments around the world, South Korea has allocated 81 per cent to green areas, the European Union 59 per cent, China 38 per cent, the U.S. 12 per cent, and Canada eight per cent, according to the study, titled A Climate for Recovery. In actual dollars, that works out to US$221 billion for China, $112 billion for the U.S., and $3 billion for Canada.

Even if infinite growth on a planet with finite resources and a finite biosphere were possible, the federal government’s “Jobs and Growth Budget” would make little sense from a long-range perspective. Where will the jobs—and indeed, the growth—be when the oil runs out, or when all of our economic resources have to be put toward controlling or adapting to the devastating effects of climate change?

Aside from climate change—one of the greatest crises ever faced by humanity—our reliance on fossil fuels like oil and gas and uranium is still suicidal. The pollution alone from burning fossil fuels is degrading the health of humans and all life on this planet. The consumer mentality that it encourages is also fuelling rapid depletion of other resources, as well as the destruction of agricultural lands and habitats for plants and animals that are essential to our survival. The fact that we’re not even extracting the resources we have in a sustainable way that benefits all Canadians will only compound the long-term problems for our country and the rest of the world.

The good news is that we have an incredible opportunity. If we start focusing on energy conservation and new forms of sustainable energy, as well as new ways of looking at how we live on this fragile and finite planet, we and our children and grandchildren should be able to live healthy and prosperous lives long into the future.

We have a choice: either we move into the 21st century with some innovative solutions to the problems we’ve created or we go the way of the dinosaurs. It’s up to all of us to make this choice. Many Canadians have shown that they are willing to take action in their own lives to reduce their environmental impact. Now we must let our government know that we expect them to move forward with the times as well.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.


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a question

Mar 9, 2010 at 8:50pm

Does Canada's "green" spending include projects that few besides Harper and Campbell would call green, such as the new transmission line to mines in NW BC, and biofuel subsidies?

12 7Rating: +5


Mar 9, 2010 at 10:31pm

Suzuki really has no clue - a fruit fly biologist telling what he knows about energy solutions - Nothing

His last work on the subject was a joke advocating utterless ridiculous clean coal as his solution. Now he's back with his anti nuclear spew.

To start with uranium is not an issue and to say it is reveals his complete ignorance on the subject. Gen IV reactors can supply all the worlds energy needs for centuries just burning existing nuclear waste. In fact its the only way to get rid of the stuff. India has a 500 Mw version going into service next year at a first of a kind cost of 1 cent a kwh.

Estimates have world wide deaths from coal pollution as high as three million annually and Suzuki advocates burning more of it but 90% cleaner so only 300K have to die. Nice guy huh

A worldwide investment in 10000 mass produced nuclear reactors paid for by ending fossil fuel use, would eliminate most air pollution saving millions of lives annually, end the global warming/ peak oil problem within a ten year time frame, provide a huge job producing boost to the economy, require only a small part of our industrial capacity, and pay for itself in less than three years.

The US seems to be crippled by inefficient private power companies, a biased Nuclear Rejection Commission and corrupt and litigious political and legal systems, quadrupling nuclear costs and time frames.

However, Canada's very efficient power companies could bulk order and rim the border with AECL reactors, creating hundreds of thousands of hi tech jobs, making the Canada the world leader in booming nuclear tech and making $trillions selling the US power.

65% of Canadians believe nuclear power is an acceptable power source.

Reasoning progressives and almost all Cons and Deniers will go along with nuclear power.It is politically doable. Renewables at a minimum of 20 times the cost are not.

Nuclear Deniers like Suzuki to laugh at their Global warming counterparts as being too stupid to get out of the trayler park but if you stack the End of Civilization and the deaths of millions every year we delay against whatever uninformed objection they might have to nuclear power, wouldn't it be smarter to just hold their nose and vote for the nukes.

Government's not a solution

Mar 10, 2010 at 9:22am

Who gives a damn how much the government is investing in 'green energy'? All that excessive government investment gets you is crony power deals like Ontario's multi-billion dollar gift to Samsung. It's bad for the citizens because it steals more money from than they could ever hope to get back in wages, and certainly doesn't guarantee a long-term market for the products!

I hate to say it, but Seth is (kind of) right. Cut senseless political red tape and let smart companies find the most economical solution to our energy needs. If that happens to be nuclear, then let it be.

Just because corporations are big doesn't instantly make them corrupt. Large corporations are the ONLY entities with the expertise and resources to tackle a problem like this, but it has to be done on a level playing field (ie, no fat gov't subsidies).


Mar 10, 2010 at 2:33pm

Seth, please justify your comments on David Suzuki's opinion on clean coal. I believe you would be wrong.

Clean coal does not exist.

And as a second FACT David Suzuki is not just representing his own views that renewable energy investment does not include nuclear energy into the mix, rather he is reflecting the views of many professionals and industry experts who work for the David Suzuki Foundation and have done significant research on the subject.

Nuclear may be cleaner in generating electricity than coal, however it is not a renewable resource and it also takes ENORMOUS investment and emissions from construction to bring online new nuclear power generation.


Mar 11, 2010 at 7:29am

I am always saddened when I see an honest citizen taken in by propaganda from Big Oil and their allies in the Nuclear Denier movement like Suzuki.

For Suzuki on clean coal. Google suzuki pembina energy jaccard

How about this for an enormous energy investment. Suzuki's pal Gordo just spent $75B of BC taxpayers money buying 1 Gw of useless intermittant spring time IPP power that can't be sold, ripping up thousands of square miles of forest and rivers.

A $2.3 billion advanced Candu or $1 B three years down the road mass produced advanced Candu would have produced the same 1 Gw but of very valuable baseload power sitting right down there at Burrard Thermal.

Renewable who needs it. GenIV fast breeder reactors like India's new 500 Mw $750M unit in service next year, can supply all the world's energy for the next several centuries burning only existing nuclear waste as fuel, leaving as residue a tiny amount of product less radioactive than some high level natural uranium deposits. It should be no brainer, for thinking Nuclear Deniers because it is the only way to dispose of that stadium sized pile of the world's nuclear waste

Solar and wind are of course not renewables falling apart every twenty years, creating a massive toxic waste disposal problem, requiring millions of tons of not renewable resources to rebuild them, and an enormous supply of not renewable natural gas to load balance them.

Nuclear's lifetime CO2 emission levels are half solar and less than wind. That is until you add in the deadly radioactive toxic GHG spewing natural gas plant required to load balance wind and solar which actually produce more GHG's than if we just used the natural gas plant and scrapped the renewables.


Mar 11, 2010 at 9:51am

Part #2

The argument that nuclear is "carbon-free" conveniently omits the entire process of mining uranium, which produces greenhouse gases, along with other pollutants. In Virginia, where a study has just been commissioned to determine its safety, uranium is mined in open pits. This destroys topsoil and increases runoff, which contaminates drinking water with cancer-causing toxins.

The uranium-enrichment process also emits greenhouse gases and is highly wasteful. Eighty percent of the ore that goes through the enrichment process ends up as waste. And this is to say nothing of the lye, sulfuric acid, and other caustic agents that must be used to turn the uranium into reactor-ready fuel.

While on the surface, the steam billowing from the cooling tower of a nuclear reactor is less harmful than the toxic smoke that spews from a coal plant, nuclear reactors still create byproducts that are dangerous to human health and welfare. There's also the huge problem of radioactive nuclear waste, which can stay hot for hundreds of thousands of years. Storing the radioactive waste isn't just a security threat; there's potential for radioactive chemicals to leak, as they are in Vermont and at other aging reactors around the country.

Spent radioactive waste continues to sit at reactor sites and wait for a scientific breakthrough that is 50 years overdue. But a long-term waste storage solution doesn't exist.

12 9Rating: +3


Mar 11, 2010 at 12:53pm

Why is that Nuclear Deniers never seem to be able to use Google on their own. Are they just lazy?

I've covered most of this earlier.

The uranium mining enrichment thing is another usual Big Oil red herring.

60 times the Steel and limestone and concrete per Gw as nuclear is mined for windmills which need to be replaced every 20 years. It comes from open pit mines with far worse effects than the tiny amount of uranium nukes use.

Google lifetime nuclear co2 japan

The steam coming from the cooling tower is just water vapor nothing else.

Solar cells are an extremely toxic waste that has to be disposed of every of 20 years.

The nuclear leak canard

Vermont's leak has been found but for perspective:

You can buy keychain fobs with a curie of tritium in them.


The worst case test hole on Vermont Yankee property came out as 774,825 picocuries per liter (pCi/l). The keychain fob concentration is a billion times that. I wouldn't be surprised if some are being used for fishing lures and kids toys.

ese very low tritium levels are on the plant site not outside its boundaries. I imagine that anybody foolish enough to drink radioactive mercury/asenac laced water off a coal plant site or mine tailings pond would get a lot sicker real fast.

Throwing out that nuclear plant would be as stupid as junking your Lexus because it loses a few drops of oil every now and then.

Waste issues are covered above



Mar 16, 2010 at 4:17pm

Justifier, you need to follow the money. Seth is absolutely correct. Have you considered the amount of destruction to the land and its animal habitat, not to mention the slaughter of birds for Suzuki's love of wind turbines? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RcTjdY1aN4&feature=related
Do you know how many acres of land are destroyed to erect wind turbines and their requirement for access roads? Did you know you can get a thousand times more power from a nuclear plant sitting on one acre of land than you can from one acre of energy generated by wind turbines? Did you know wind turbines leak oil constantly which get into the ground water.....ultimately your drinking water? Did you know the wind industry and their lobbyists use the Suzuki Foundation to push their not-at-all-green agenda? Follow the money Justifier. One doesn't tend to bite the hand that feeds them! Suzuki is just another maggot. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPOEz_5ZsDo

A Joke

Mar 16, 2010 at 5:02pm

David can say we got to quit these activities of burning dirty energy. Alas the clean energy projects are hooked up alongside oil and gas/mining etc projects. They may be clean energy producing projects but the carbon footprint is not changed, more likely increased due to extra fuels/fuel storage, transportation and increased human activities. All without proper extensive environmental studies. Government/environmentalists will allow environmental hazards to occur despite the harm to habitat and mammals