How Guelph is Aiming to Defeat King CONG
No, we’re not talking about the movie monster here. King CONG is a term popularized by Danny Kennedy, author of the book “Rooftop Revolution.” In it, Kennedy uses King CONG as a descriptor for the world’s four primary sources of energy.
Coal, Oil, Nuclear, and Natural Gas.
Here in Guelph, the bulk of the energy (48%) used comes in the form of electricity. This electricity comes mostly from nuclear power, although hydroelectric energy is a large component as well. Natural gas, wind, and other sources make up the rest.
Much of the energy used in Guelph isn’t ideal. There are risks with many of the current sources of energy.
Roughly 22% of the energy consumed in Guelph is sourced from oil (15% as gasoline, 5% as diesel, and 2% as heating oil), but oil production and consumption is fraught with risk.
First, the availability of oil is declining as our existing sources are depleting and new, more expensive sources are being used instead. Geopolitical ramifications also exist, as money follows whoever can provide the cheapest oil.
Oil also harms the environment as extraction can damage ecosystems and spilled oil can harm wildlife. Not to mention the emission of greenhouse gases as the oil is burnt to release the energy.
Natural gas is a major source of energy in our community, providing 28% of our needs. But natural gas comes with its own set of problems. Natural gas also produces climate-changing carbon dioxide, although less than coal and oil.
The method for extracting natural gas known as hydraulic fracturing (also known as “fracking”) has been linked to earthquakes, groundwater contamination, and dangerous methane seepage.
Nuclear power makes up the bulk of the electricity produced in Ontario. Often touted as a cleaner source of energy due to the nearly non-existent greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power does have some risks.
The cost for nuclear facilities is often much higher than anticipated and can add budgetary strains. And due to the size of the facilities and the amount of energy produced, regular maintenance (which is required to maintain safety) can create large holes in electricity supply.
If there are any lapses in maintenance or protocol, there is always a risk of catastrophe, as seen with the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.
In Chernobyl, during a late-night safety test, a combination of flaws in the design of the reactor and human error created a massive explosion and fire, sending dangerous fission products into the atmosphere. In Fukushima, an earthquake-induced tsunami struck the facility and damaged it, and subsequent failures resulted in multiple meltdowns and the release of radioactive materials.
And finally, there’s the liability of spent nuclear material which can remain radioactive and dangerous for thousands of years.
Ontario has kicked the coal habit.
Historically, Ontario created a substantial amount of electricity by burning coal. Fortunately, in 2014 Ontario eliminated coal generation and has been reaping the benefits ever since.
Coal burning has been one of the greatest contributors to air pollution since its adoption as a fuel source. While it’s an effective way to produce electricity, coal burning is a source of greenhouse gases as well as a number of other air pollutants—many of which are known to cause respiratory illnesses.
The elimination of coal generated power has been one of the greatest victories for clean energy. Since Ontario stopped burning coal, there has been a significant decrease in the number of smog warnings in Ontario, according to airqualityontario.com, a site provided by the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
Toward a post-carbon world
We could use more of those wins, though. To reduce our carbon footprint and our impact on the planet, more work is still ahead.
Greener energy equals safer energy. As the world scales down the use of dirty and declining energy sources, we can direct our focus towards ones that are more beneficial for both the planet and its inhabitants. Investment of money saved through sustainable practices can accelerate the transformation of Guelph into a greener and even more tempting place to start a business and raise a family. Urban greenspaces also mean better air and water quality, reduced soil erosion, greater biodiversity, and increased civic pride.