One aspect of the transition to clean energy that is not often discussed, is the actual dollar expenditure on fossil fuels by our local economies. When we (individuals, businesses, farms, etc.) buy fossil fuels for heating or transportation, etc., about 87% of that expenditure leaves our community, province and even our country.
On a four-township wide basis, the dollars we send out of our local community to places like Texas, Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan for fossil fuels have to be substantial. Calculating our combined, four-township fossil fuel expenditure is the focus of this column today.
Read the visuals, and stay with me:
Waterloo Regional Population in 2014: 550,000
WR Township Populations total in 2014: 65,000
The visual tell us, roughly, how much was sent out of our local economies, for fossil fuels in 2014. The totals are for transportation, heating/cooling, businesses, schools, industry, farms, etc. Prorated, the 2014 fossil fuel expenditures come to about $2,168 per person in the region.
You can skip this paragraph or, if you want it, here’s my simple math:
$2.077B – $706M (electricity) = $1.371B x 0.87 (13% stays in the community) = $1.193B / 550,000 (WR population) = $2,168 x 65,000 (2014 townships population) = $140.96M.
This is roughly the amount we spent (no spelling error) off into distant places for fossil fuels consumed in the townships.
Thus, the amount that our four townships send out of our local economy each year for fossil fuels, is in the neighbourhood of $141M. These are 2014 figures; the amount is probably higher by now. It would be worth finding a way to keep some of that $141 million in our local economies.
Guess who thought of this a few years back? On June 24, 2015, Oxford County Council unanimously passed a motion to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050. Oxford County will be saving money long before later adopters; it will be able to provide less expensive goods/services before others. It will be contributing to lower health care, travel/shipping, and extreme weather insurance costs. Oxford County will have more money in local pockets, especially as renewable energy and storage become less and less expensive.
My point: Renewables are now less expensive than most fossil fuels. Storage has been solved beyond batteries, through mechanics, thermal storage, and other techniques. The transition to clean electricity is underway, and the municipalities that are proactive will benefit from adopting clean energy early.
Just like the switch from wood to electricity and from horses to fossil fuels, the transition to renewable energy requires system change. We need to support our elected officials in restructuring budgets, in finding ways for everyone from homeowners-to-business-to-industry-to-agriculture, to take advantage of federal and provincial programs, to embrace renewable energy. This is not a time to not be paying attention. And yes, transitions have up-front costs, as grown-ups know.
How does one signal to elected officials a desire for system change? Here is a rare, short-term opportunity some folks might be up for. Find some like-minded folks and participate in one of the upcoming Global Climate Strike/Marches, September 20th and 27th (activities ‘til the 27th, apparently) to let elected officials know people are serious about wanting more action and options. It takes masses of people showing up to convince our leaders that residents desiring system change are not a fringe element.
A Global Climate Strike is planned at Waterloo Town Square on September 27th from 11:30am to 2:00pm.
Watch the Global Climate Strike/March on TV and talk/listen to others about what you each see coming down the track. That takes masses too.
Longer term actions – we’ll get to that in further columns.