The single family home is considered an energy pig compared to other forms of housing
With Canucks fans busy painting themselves in the team’s colours, a few civic politicians are doing their best to portray themselves as green as well. This time it’s Vancouver and Surrey who are suffering from a bad case of “symbolic environmentalism.”
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson kicked things off by announcing he wants his city to get into the banking business in order to promote his latest green scheme. With the exception of the NPA’s Suzanne Anton, Vancouver city council all voted in favour of a new program that will lend money to homeowners to help them purchase items such as low-energy furnaces.
As they did with the Olympic Village development, the city put up cash to guarantee potential loan defaults. In partnership with a local credit union, up to 500 lucky homeowners can secure a low-interest loan to make their home more eco-friendly.
While I don’t take issue with the goal to make single-family homes more energy efficient, I do have concerns regarding local governments delving into what should be the role of senior levels of government or utility companies. Shouldn’t it be BC Hydro or Environment Canada with their deep pockets spearheading this type of program?
Robertson and his Vision colleagues argue that it’s hard for some homeowners to get a low-interest loan from their bank to buy a new furnace. In other words, the banking industry has deemed the risks to be too high to support these kinds of loans. So does that mean taxpayers should come to the rescue?
Meanwhile, Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and her council recently passed a bylaw that requires new gas stations to offer alternative fuels. On the surface it sounds like a noble effort that could yield some good results. However, when you scratch the surface, you realize this is more about green PR than any concerted effort to combat climate change.
The reality is there are few new gas stations being built anywhere today. In fact, in large urban areas like Metro Vancouver, many have actually closed up over the last decade or so. As a result, this bylaw will likely have little impact reducing greenhouse gas emissions for years to come.
Rather than tinkering around the edges to score green points in the media, our regional leaders should be tackling the real problems of urban sprawl and low-density neighbourhoods. Symbolic environmentalism might make politicians feel good, but it simply doesn’t help any of us to reduce the amount of energy we use.
- Post by Daniel. This column was originally published in 24 Hours Vancouver. You can follow us on Twitter @CityCaucus. Or you can "like" us on Facebook at Facebook/CityCaucus.