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Free temporary parking options return to downtown Red Deer

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Free temporary parking returns to 215 stalls in Red Deer, offering easier access to downtown businesses for the remainder of 2022.

Starting Wednesday, March 23, drivers will notice one in every five meters covered with a bag that states, “FREE PARKING 2 HRS”. The meters are located throughout downtown, wherever metered parking exists.

Only covered meters offer free parking; adjacent meters and any unbagged meters require payment during business hours.

“By reinstating temporary free parking options, we hope to reduce barriers and encourage frequent visits to downtown businesses and attractions,” said Erin Stuart, Inspections and Licensing Manager. “This initiative aims to increase the vibrancy of the downtown core while demonstrating The City’s desire to support local businesses through their post-pandemic recovery.”

The initiative continues through December 31, 2022. More

Energy

Unpacking the Growing Cost of Home Heating Bills

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From EnergyNow.ca

By Canada Powered by Women

Bills are one of life’s certainties, and in Canada, so is winter. When combined, the two add up to a growing affordability crisis across the country.

Lots has been said about the rising cost of daily essentials such as groceries and gas, but another factor weighing heavily on Canadians’ pocketbooks is the cost of heating their homes.

According to data from Statistics Canada:

  • 15% of Canadians reduced or had to forgo necessities such as food or medicine for at least one month to pay an energy bill last year. To put that in perspective, based on the number of households there are in Canada today, roughly 2.5 million households had to forgo necessities in 2023.
  • 14% of Canadian households kept their home at an unsafe or uncomfortable temperature because of unaffordable heating costs (approximately 2.3 million households).
  • High energy prices also caused 10% of Canadian households (approximately 1.7 million households) to be late or unable to pay their energy bills in the past year.

In total, nearly 27% of households (4.5 million households) said it was difficult, or very difficult to meet financial needs in the second quarter of 2023.

These numbers concern us, and we know they are also a big concern for women across Canada who have told us they are adjusting their living conditions to keep costs down.

Engaged women are making trade-offs

Hilary Krauss, a 28-year-old who lives with her partner Mitch in Vancouver, told us that their apartment setting is now fixed at an “affordable” temperature, and they are now bundling up and adding layers of clothing to compensate for lower house temperatures.

Even those who can currently afford their heating bill are considering investing in technology such as solar panels to lower home heating costs over time.

“I want energy security and care about the environment,” said Angela Chung, a Calgary woman who told us she pays $400 per month for her utility bill. “The heating costs for my modest home are exorbitant. If I invest in solar panels, it will have an upfront cost. But I may break even in a decade, saving money in the long run.”

With costs ballooning, and concerns rising about affordability, that drove us to ask what exactly we are paying for in our energy bills.

Taxes are driving up energy costs

The three main components of your heating bill are energy charges, delivery and administration (what you pay utility companies), and various government taxes, including the federal carbon tax.

  • Used energy (GJ or KWH)
    The gigajoules or kilowatt hours of energy you used in the billing period. (This number can be an estimate or exact number.)
  • Delivery charges
    Delivery charges include fixed and variable costs based on the length of your billing period and natural gas consumption. Both charges are often summed on your heating bill under “Delivery Total.”
  • Rate riders
    Provincial utility commissions approve temporary charges/credits. Rate riders adjust for under/over collection of approved costs.
  • Transmission charge
    A fee for accessing high-voltage wires and towers to transmit power from generation plants to distribution systems.
  • Federal carbon tax
    A federal government tax on natural gas consumption.

These numbers vary across Canada based on different energy and home heating sources, so we collected bills from people in Alberta (Calgary and Sylvan Lake), Ontario (Barrie and Whitby) and British Columbia (Vancouver and Victoria) to compare.

Here’s what we found.

(1) Energy cost varies by province, and are rising every year

Just over half of Canadian households that reported having a primary heating system use a forced air furnace (51%) and one quarter (25%) use electric baseboard heaters, so we focused on these two sources.

Of the bills we looked at, people are paying an average of $135 per month to heat their home. With natural gas, the average winter month costs $160, compared to $110 with electricity.

Canadians are facing increased costs year-over-year for both natural gas (up 23.7% in 2023 over the year before), and electricity (up 1.6% in 2023).

The cost of electricity varies across Canada and can be a challenge to compare because there is a wide variation in market and rate structures.

Some provinces use tiered rates that increase or decrease based on usage, some provinces use flat-rate billing, and Ontario uses time-of-use rates where peak hours are billed at a higher rate than off-peak hours.

According to Statista, the average cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) for electricity in Canada is 19.2 cents, with the Northwest Territories paying the most, and Quebec paying the least per kWh.

unpacking the growing cost of home heating bills 2

(2) The carbon tax is nearly doubling home heating costs

The bills we examined show that the carbon tax accounts for 30% of heating costs for those who heat their homes with forced air furnaces that use natural gas.

In Alberta, for example, it costs about $1.80 per gigajoule (GJ) of natural gas, and an additional $3.33 per GJ in carbon tax. This means the tax is greater than the actual energy cost, nearly doubling the cost of a monthly bill.

For every $1 an Ontarian spends on natural gas, they pay an extra $1.66 on the carbon tax, according to the bills we examined. Again, the cost of the carbon tax is greater than the cost of energy used.

unpacking the growing cost of home heating bills 3

In Eastern Canada where home heating oil is the most used heating source, the carbon tax has been exempted (a fairness issue we’ve already explored in depth) so we have excluded it from this analysis.

Carbon tax increases will raise cost further

The federal carbon tax is set to increase by 23% on April 1, 2024, and it will rise every year until it nearly triples by 2030 over today’s rate.

The federal carbon tax was intended to incentivize people to consume less oil and gas, but we know from our national research that more than half of engaged women (52%) feel it isn’t working because it isn’t changing behaviour. It’s also putting undue pressure on remote and rural communities where alternative energy sources are not available.

Home heating is a necessity, not a luxury, and many Canadians do not have options on how they heat their home. With 46% of engaged women across Canada telling us they are concerned about energy affordability, it begs the question: Do you think what you pay for home heating is fair?

Let us know what you think about rising heating costs and these findings, and reach out to tell us how you’re managing the rising cost of living.

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Plastic Bag Bans Backfired in California and New Jersey, Increasing Waste

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From HeartlandDailyNews.com

By Linnea Lueken

” the FCR report states that polypropylene bag production has caused a 500 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and that it is unlikely the emissions will be offset significantly by bag reuse, since most consumers throw them away far earlier than expected. “

Recent research has revealed that plastic bag bans in California and New Jersey have resulted in an increase in plastic waste, rather than the decrease intended.

A new report from the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) shows that California’s 2014 plastic bag ban, SB 270, has led to more plastic waste, not less, over the 10-year period since the law was enacted.

Likewise, a report from Freedonia Custom Research (FCR) found that more plastic containers and bags were used in New Jersey after that state’s plastic bag ban. The FCR report also found the increased use of polypropylene bags as a result of the ban contributed to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

Californians Use More Plastic after Ban

CALPIRG is a consumer advocacy group that supported the initial plastic bag ban and now supports a stricter plastic bag bans in California that removes the “loophole” they claim the existing California law created. The law permits retailers to sell thicker plastic bags for a fee, which CALPIRG said in a January 2024 report led to an increase in plastic waste because customers still treat them as single-use bags.

“While theoretically “reusable,” it appears that many shoppers are disposing of those bags in the same ways as single use bags, potentially undermining the effectiveness of plastic bag bans at reducing plastic waste overall,” CALPIRG reports.

In Alameda County, California, for example, the thicker reusable bags resulted in more plastic waste by weight despite decreasing the number of bags consumed, says the CALPIRG report.

“Since these “reusable” plastic bags are at least four times thicker than typical single-use plastic bags, the estimated 13 million of them sold in Alameda County in 2021 likely surpassed the 37 million single-use plastic bags sold annually pre-ban on a plastic weight basis,” CALPIRG said.

The weight of plastic bags discarded per 1,000 people increased from 4.13 tons in 2004 to 5.89 tons in 2021.

New Jersey Plastic Consumption Spikes

In New Jersey, the results of a 2022 plastic bag ban were similar, according to another, recent report from FCR, a division of MarketResearch.com.

FCR reports that following the thin-film plastic bag ban, the shift to alternatives resulted in a massive increase in plastic consumption.

“[F]ollowing New Jersey’s ban of single-use bags, the shift from plastic film to alternative bags resulted in a nearly 3x increase in plastic consumption for bags,” FCR’s report states. “At the same time, 6x more woven and non-woven polypropylene plastic was consumed to produce the reusable bags sold to consumers as an alternative.”

Despite being advertised as environmentally friendly, the FCR report states that polypropylene bag production has caused a 500 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and that it is unlikely the emissions will be offset significantly by bag reuse, since most consumers throw them away far earlier than expected.

“FCR’s analysis of New Jersey bag demand and trade data for alternative bags finds that, on average, an alternative bag is reused only two to three times before being discarded, falling short of the recommended reuse rates necessary to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions generated during production and [to] address climate change,” said FCR.

‘More Expensive, Worse for the Environment’

There is a reason why thin-film plastic bags are commonly used in the first place, says H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., director of The Heartland Institute’s Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy, and it is not shocking that people began using other types of plastic bags.

“It is not surprising that the plastic bag bans in New Jersey and California backfired, I predicted as much 10 years ago when I was writing on the then relatively new phenomena of plastic bag bans,” Burnett said. “Plastic bags have many virtues, the primary among them being convenience and ease of reuse.”

As in the case with polypropylene bags detailed in the FCR report, attempting to get rid of plastic bags carries costs, Burnett says, and if cities and states were so concerned about the impact of volumes of plastic waste, they should have looked into other solutions.

“Alternatives to plastic bags are more expensive, worse for the environment, and sometimes bad for public health,” Burnett said. “Recycling plastic bags should have been the response to cities concerned about plastic waste, not banning them.”

Not only are the thicker and reusable bags more costly, but the bans drive stores toward returning to paper bags, Burnett says, and support countries like China which stand to gain economically from spikes in reusable bag manufacturing.

“The cities cost themselves, their residents, and the United States economy money, destroying trees and boosting China, which dominates the reusable bag market, in the process,” Burnett said.

Linnea Lueken ([email protected]) is a research fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy at The Heartland Institute.

For more on plastic bag bans, click here and here.

Linnea Lueken
Linnea Luekenhttps://www.heartland.org/about-us/who-we-are/linnea-lueken
Linnea Lueken is a Research Fellow with the Arthur B. Robinson Center on Climate and Environmental Policy. While she was an intern with The Heartland Institute in 2018, she co-authored a policy brief ‘Debunking Four Persistent Myths About Hydraulic Fracturing’.
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