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Hydroelectricity the way to go

On Thursday, the Public Utilities Board approved a natural-gas rate hike of 6.4 percent for 2014 (PUB approves hike in natural gas rates, Jan. 24). Those who have promoted increased reliance on natural gas as an alternative to hydroelectricity, including former PUB chair Graham Lane, should take note.

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Lane has argued for Manitoba Hydro to switch from building dams to gas plants to reduce its cost burden (A sensible alternative to dams, Dec. 11). However, as the new PUB order warns, "Natural gas commodity prices can be volatile." Indeed, this year's increase is more than double recent electricity rate increases.

Gas prices can be especially precarious due to social and environmental concerns. Communities fear the effects of gas extraction on groundwater, and dangerous greenhouse gases are released by the process.

Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia have introduced bans or moratoriums on gas fracking, and even Canada's largest energy worker's union, Unifor, has called for a stop to the practice. Canadian gas production hit a 20-year low last year.

Investing in natural-gas infrastructure is riskier than ever. Better to put our money into renewable energy sources, including hydro, while focusing on reducing energy demand through conservation and efficiency programs.



Chance for dialogue missed

Jo Seenie's interruption of Phil Fontaine's speech cannot be interpreted as a protest, but rather an embarrassment and disgrace to the Idle No More movement (An unfortunate time to protest, Jan. 24).

Fontaine is a well-respected member of the First Nations community and I am sure he would have welcomed constructive dialogue after his speech. But these so-called protesters instead choose to act like a bunch of spoiled children and not allow him to even speak.

They brought nothing to the table for an intellectual debate -- just banging drums and insults.

Fontaine realizes the future of young aboriginals is not to oppose economic activities but to embrace it within a context compatible with environmental concerns such as "protecting the land and the waters and the future of our unborn" as expressed by Seenie.

I'm sure young aboriginals want economic opportunities to a good productive life. Progress and environmental protection can live together.



Oilsands still big polluters

I would like to thank Janet Annesley of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (Vehicles primary polluters, Letters, Jan. 23) for providing informative data on just how much oilsands production contributes to Canada's greenhouse gas emissions.

Specifically, Annesley states greenhouse gas production for the oilsands was 55 megatonnes in 2011, compared with 92.6 megatonnes for light cars and trucks. That is, the oilsands contribute "only" 59 per cent of gases compared with light vehicles in Canada.

Statistics Canada data suggests there are about 20 million cars and light trucks in Canada, which means that the oilsands produce greenhouse gases equivalent to 11,879,050 vehicles.

It is wondrous to see an industry that takes pride in producing as much greenhouse gas as "only" 12 million cars and light trucks. Keep up the good work!



U.S. should end surveillance

Re: Obama sets limits on surveillance, Jan. 18.

U.S. President Barack Obama would have been better off announcing the end of such surveillance rather than setting limits. Credibility has been damaged by revelationsof spying on its allies, and there is serious infringement of the rights of the privacy of Americans.

Maintaining a repository of all communications for scrutiny in the search for would-be terror threats seem excessive. Since it is now public knowledge the U.S. is eavesdropping on all phone and Internet communication, it's doubtful anyone intending to carry out a terror act will leave such a trail.

The president contends no one expects China to have an open debate on their surveillance, but the U.S. must be held to a higher standard. Fair enough.

But we cannot lose sight of the fact it took public revelation for this to be acknowledged. Perhaps Americans should have that open debate.



Bundle kids up properly

Re: Bitter cold forces kids indoors, Jan. 23.

My children walk to and from school -- a 10-minute walk -- every day regardless of the weather conditions. They have yet to freeze to death, get frostbite or even arrive home crying.

Back in the 1980s, I recall going outside for recess every day unless there was a downpour. What has changed? There is the odd day with blizzard-like frigid temperatures and blowing winds, but surely these little darlings can and should get outside on most days for a shortened recess at the very least.

Why are we punishing all of the children just because a few are not dressed adequately? If children are sent to school under-dressed, parents should be called and reminded they have a duty to provide their children with necessities.

How hard would it be to add a scarf to their mandatory school-supply list? There are cold days hovering around the -24 C mark when my children tell me yet again they didn't have outdoor recess. This despite the fact the sun is shining, the mailman is out and about, and their schoolyard is in a fairly secluded and tree-lined urban neighbourhood.

My best guess is school administrators are intimidated by a few parents ranting and raving about everything their little Johnny does at school.



Speed up drug approvals

Don Marks did us a great service in his column, The deadly toll of drug-approval drag (Jan. 20), reminding us there is a steep price to pay for sloughing off our right to self-medicate to politicians.

Taking five years to approve drugs protects only the profits of big pharmaceutical companies. I'm sure Marks would sooner take his chances protecting himself if the need arises.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 25, 2014 A16

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