Some Sobering Observations for Energy Techno-Optimists

The Canadian government frequently affirms its commitment to renewable energy and reducing its emissions. As part of its climate change plan, it has a target of zero-emissions by 2050.

Last year the government announced it was investing $960 million in renewable energy and grid modernization projects, and that it plans to ban the sale of fuel-powered cars and light trucks as of 2035 (currently, only 3.5% of vehicles sold in Canada are electric).

Electric vehicles (EVs) are often seen as a way to “solve” the emissions problem, but what’s often not considered is that introducing them also generates a host of new problems, as discussed in Jason Fenske’s Engineering Explained video below. Fenske provides a straightforward explanation of the costs and benefits of combustion-fuelled versus electric cars based on the four parameters of science, environment, cost, and consumer, and he makes a convincing case that gas-powered vehicles are likely to be on the road for longer than we’re led to believe.

In this 2020 video, automotive engineering website Engineering Explained discusses some of the issues related to manufacturing electric vehicles and why combustion engines “are far from dead.” The takeaway is that changing from internal combustion engines to electrical engines isn’t a simple matter of going from bad to good.

The issue of EVs, as discussed in this video, is just one example of why “green energy” is not a panacea (paywall).

Solar panels and wind energy – often considered alternatives to fossil fuels – have significant environmental impacts thanks not only to their actual footprint, but the energy used (including fossil fuels) and the environmental damage sustained from mining their component parts, manufacturing and transporting them, and ultimately disposing of them.

In the final analysis every one of us has an environmental impact no matter how environmentally conscientious we may try to be  – which is why our government’s active pursuit of population growth, which seems to be guided by the Century Initiative’s proposal for a Canadian population of 100 million by 2100, can be viewed as anti-environmental.

Furthermore, this isn’t new information: In 1976, the Science Council of Canada (a governmental advisory board created in 1966 and disbanded in 1993) produced a report called Population, Technology and Resources (unfortunately not available online).

In its introduction the authors write:

The Report draws attention to the way a rapidly growing population would exacerbate the stresses caused by existing patterns of production and consumption. It notes the probability of greatly increased pressures on Canada’s urban areas, transportation systems and related social and political institutions.Uncertainty about the extent of non-renewable  – especially energy  – resources is noted, and the potentially adverse effects of climatic fluctuation on Canada’s renewable resource base is considered.”

The report addressed the fact that Canada cannot possibly solve the world overpopulation problem with an immigration policy, and looked at the conflict over land that would arise between agricultural use and development, the problem of future energy supplies, and the fact that Canada has been among the most energy-intensive countries in the world. The report was very clear about the fact that Canada’s resources were not only finite, but under pressure.

This advice from 1976 is all the more relevant today. Would that our government would heed it.


Madeline Weld, Ph.D.

President, Population Institute Canada
Tel: (613) 833-3668
Email: [email protected]

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