By Elizabeth Rosenthal, New York Times, December 11, 2010
KRISTIANSTAD, Sweden — When this city vowed a decade ago to wean itself from fossil fuels, it was a lofty aspiration, like zero deaths from traffic accidents or the elimination of childhood obesity.
Kristianstad calculated that it eliminated 64 tons of CO2 emissions annually by using wood pellets to heat a city greenhouse.
But Kristianstad has already crossed a crucial threshold: the city and surrounding county, with a population of 80,000, essentially use no oil, natural gas or coal to heat homes and businesses, even during the long frigid winters. It is a complete reversal from 20 years ago, when all of their heat came from fossil fuels.
But this area in southern Sweden, best known as the home of Absolut vodka, has not generally substituted solar panels or wind turbines for the traditional fuels it has forsaken. Instead, as befits a region that is an epicenter of farming and food processing, it generates energy from a motley assortment of ingredients like potato peels, manure, used cooking oil, stale cookies and pig intestines.
A hulking 10-year-old plant on the outskirts of Kristianstad uses a biological process to transform the detritus into biogas, a form of methane. That gas is burned to create heat and electricity, or is refined as a fuel for cars.
While some of us have, for some time, thought the pursuit of wind and solar was a little "hollywood" when there is so much garbage, and so much potential everywhere to use that garbage for the production of energy, a little town in Sweden actually makes the commitment, and carries out the plan.
Congratulations! We need more models like this one, and we need them in every town and village in the world.
Along about 1975, I had the privilege of hosting Canadian poet, Earle Birney, at a high school where I once taught. While addressing an assembly of grade twelve students, Birney told them then, 'if we are not careful will we drown in our own shit' with the microphone actually going silent, through some inexplicable technical glitch, to the amazement and uproarious laughter of all, on the last word. Those in the front rows and certainly those of us on the auditorium stage heard all the words, and it did not take long for everyone to "get it."
Why are Canadian politicians not bringing stories to our people about success stories like this one from Sweden?
Why are Canadian political leaders mired in blaming China, India and the U.S. for not joining in the fight against global warming especially when they know that projects like this one in Kristianstad, Sweden, can be duplicated, with some minor modifications, perhaps, in all our towns and cities, for the benefit of the people in those towns and cities, for the country generally and also for the people in the rest of the world.
Canada is largely an agrarian society, and there are heaps of resources that could be brought to a large plant, (this one is already ten years old, so since that time there have undoubtedly been many refinements of the production processes) and converted into biogas, methane and even fuel for transportation.
When is the Canadian public simply going to demand that public dollars be committed to projects like this one, so that Canadians can re-apply for our rightful place in the vanguard of nations on the environment?