Nuclear power and hybrid vehicles in Ontario: McGuinty’s Kyoto opportunity, part I (continued)

My first post in this series (May 25) showed how a nuclear power expansion in Ontario would propel us to full Kyoto compliance in the electricity generation sector. The provincial government can accomplish this within the time it takes to refurbish and replace the laid-up reactors in the provincial fleet. I talked about how the resulting low-carbon electricity would be the basis for a major shift away from fossil fuel use in automobiles, via current and future hybrid-electric vehicle technology.

Here are some of the numbers.

Electricity generation is the third-largest source category for Ontario greenhouse gases (GHGs), behind transportation and industry. The generation sector emitted nearly 41 million tonnes of GHGs in 2003.

Nuclear generation emits no GHGs at all. Refurbishing or replacing the laid-up nuclear reactors would wipe out more than 20 million tonnes per year, bringing the generation sector down to just over 20 million tonnes. Kyoto requires a reduction to just over 25 million tonnes (i.e., six percent below the 1990 level of 26.6 million). Therefore, this would make Ontario electricity better than Kyoto-compliant.

Forgive me for blowing my own horn, but I have yet to see another plan that (a) is as specific, (b) results in GHG reductions that are even close to comparable in size, and (c) is as technologically and economically feasible.

(Some have suggested that Ontario’s coal phase-out will achieve a massive Kyoto reduction. That would be true if the plan were to just close down the coal stations and walk away. But everyone knows we have to replace their capacity. It would be technologically feasible to do that by building new natural gas–fired plants. But with gas four times as expensive as coal, such a move would not be economically feasible—in fact, it would be outright economy-hostile.)

Transportation-related emissions are currently by far the biggest source category for GHGs in Ontario (61 million tonnes in 2003). Greater consumer uptake of hybrid vehicles would begin to eat away at those 61 million tonnes. Plug-ins, when they become available, will accelerate this reduction.

Could hybrids reduce transportation emissions by 8 million tonnes per year? If they could, then Ontario, as a jurisdiction, would be totally Kyoto compliant.

“McGuinty’s opportunity, part II” is about chopping away at industrial emissions, the second-largest source category. Stay tuned.

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