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  • Writer's picturePaul Hogendoorn

THINKING GREEN WITH AN OPEN MIND

Updated: Sep 28, 2023

Earlier this month, after all the kids went back to school, my wife and I visited a few of Ontario’s beautiful provincial parks, including MacGregor Point. It has a beautiful network of cyclable trails, and one of them ended at “sunset point”.


I consider myself a nature lover, a conservationist, and someone both very concerned about where things are going environmentally as well as very appreciative of past generations for preserving so many large tracts of land for us to still enjoy today. But, I don’t drive an electric vehicle (because don’t think its net-environmentally beneficial), am not in favour of carbon taxes (because it further separates rich from poor and makes no environmental impact whatsoever, certainly not globally), and question why building pipelines across the continent is worse than shipping oil from the middle east or Russia.


I don’t mind being called a skeptic, but being labelled a “climate denier” would be inaccurate. In fact, I think skepticism is healthy, and asking questions means you aren’t denying anything, but rather you are open to every possibility. Not asking questions, or even allowing questions to be asked or contemplated, would be more indicative of a closed mind; asking questions, and even just allowing them to form in your mind, would be in my opinion, an indication of an open mind.


So, as I pedaled my bike to the end of the sunset trail in MacGregor Provincial Park (which coincidently is only a few minutes north of the Bruce Nuclear plant and some large wind farms), I found myself pondering some facts and coming up with many questions that I think are worth knowing the answer to.


For starters, 80% of electricity in North America is generated by burning fossil fuels or nuclear reaction to create heat, to make steam, which then drives turbines, which drive generators to make electricity, sometimes 100’s or 1000’s of miles away from where a “BEV” (battery electric vehicle) will be charged or will use that energy to propel that vehicle. If it all starts with burning a fossil fuel – how is that different and better than using an “ICE” (internal combustion engine) that burns the fossil fuel to propel the vehicle directly, at the actual location it is needed, as well as at the precise moment it is needed?


There is another emerging technology that promises to solve this problem: “FCEV” (fuel cell electric vehicles). They are electric, but truly eliminate fossil fuel emissions as they generate their electricity from hydrogen. Plus, they have the advantage and convenience of generating the electricity at the time of use and place of use.


I’m a huge fan of the Ford Motor Company, both for what they did 100 years ago (which in my opinion, created the middle class), plus how they continue to forge ahead today by making bold decisions. They demonstrated how a major and complex manufacturing company can pivot in a relatively short period of time to design, produce, and bring to market attractive BEV products that many consumers embrace. My hope is that they can, and are willing to pivot just as quickly, should FCEV technology deliver solutions to the two primary unsolved problems of BEV – that being the reliance on fossil fuel, and the need to be tethered to a fixed charging station at potentially inopportune times or in inopportune places. The key word here though is “willingness”.


There is a lot of marketing that is happening, and still needs to happen, for EV (electric vehicles in general) to completely replace ICE vehicles. Many western governments have strongly encouraged automobile manufacturers to swing their efforts to EV, and some have been trumpeting their big financial commitments to new BEV factories as a key part of their “Green” election platforms. It does make me wonder how open and supportive they will be to better solutions, as they emerge. It wouldn’t look good if what they heralded as the way the entire industry and society should turn - at great individual, corporate and societal expense - turned out to be the wrong way.


As I prepared to pedal back to camp, after soaking up the solitude, the boundless view, and the fresh air at the point, I realized that as a nature lover, a conservationist, and someone who is keenly sensitive to the environment - that its for those exact reasons that I think its right to ask candid and honest questions of our governments, and expect that the questions get answered.


For the most part, governments are not creative and inventive organizations, but industries by and large, are. The word “govern” means to control and regulate, not invent, create, or even to “lead”. As such, governments shouldn’t bet the farm on BEV (perhaps bet the “wind” farm instead), but they need to remain open to other technologies developed by the creative and inventive minds in industry that better address the primary problem and the lingering issues and disadvantages that BEV solutions present. Industry, after all, has to earn the business from their customers – the consumers – day in and day out. Consumers, like me as an example, want “green”, want environmentally friendly, but convenience and cost are big factors in our buying decisions - and its our buying decisions that drive that industry. To give government some credit where its due, they do have some programs that foster and support the inventive and creative minds in industry, and I think that's their most constructive role in driving towards a greener economy. Policy makers need to make policies that encourage inventions, questions, and alternate approaches, and not narrow the thinking and set a course that supports only a single solution.


In the midst of my skepticism and questions about BEV and some of the other “green” courses our governments have set, I’m confident that given the opportunity, our creative and inventive customer driven industries can deliver solutions that meet their customers demands, including being even "greener" and even more environmentally friendly. As much as I may seem like a skeptic, I am an optimist as well.

Keep an open mind, and let your questions be heard. Its the only way to keep doing better at the truly important things.



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