Help the planet, for 60 minutes and forever 

Pemberton challenges Whistler and Squamish to a no-power challenge

It would be nice to sit on the moon this Saturday, March 26, to see if there is a diminishing of earth's light pollution as people around the globe turn off their lights for an hour.

In support of Earth Hour, the Sea to Sky corridor will be alive with the flickering of candlelight as local hotels, businesses and residents hit the switch at 8:30 p.m.

In Whistler, a resort-wide lights out and power down campaign will be accompanied by a bike-powered concert (see entertainment, page XX for more details) and candlelit dinners at participating restaurants (go to for complete listings).

Pemberton, which has challenged Whistler and Squamish to a no-power challenge, is encouraging all its residents to turn off all lights, electronics and non-essentials for the hour. At the Howe Sound Inn and Brew Pub in Squamish, patrons can enjoy dinner and drinks by candlelight after an afternoon of eco-minded presentations, movies and events coordinated by the Squamish Climate Action Network, Howe Sound Inn and BC Hydro Powersmart.

"Throughout the day the Inn will be offering an earth hour special for a local food feature and people who order from the menu get entered into a raffle for a free energy audit of their home," said Ana Santos, coordinator for the Squamish Climate Action Network.

"In the evening we have a National Geographic movie on oil shortages and a discussion relating to transportation. In Squamish the finger points to transportation along the corridor as the main and worst problem we have in regards to emissions due to the number of single occupancy vehicles so we thought we would bring out some awareness with this."

Speakers involved with the Squamish event include Whistler-based Pacific Rim Bioenergy, which has developed technology that converts algae to biofuel.

"Creating large volumes of biofuel from algae is highly realistic today and it's being done in parts of the States and Australia and other parts of the world, including India and China," said Robert Eberhard, Pacific Rim Bioenergy's head of planning and investor relations.

"The thing that is making it difficult to take it to a commercial level is the cost. We've shown that it is highly economical in a lab situation, our goal is to build a beta facility in the sea to sky corridor that in many ways takes on many of the characteristics of a real world situation to further analyze the possibility of taking this to a commercial level."

Until the algae are ready for mass consumption, another alternative for reducing one's carbon footprint is to convert a diesel engine to run on vegetable oil. That's what Scott Kerr of, a diesel-plant oil hybrid conversion service will be talking about during the Earth Hour events.

"Diesel engines can be modified to run on straight vegetable oil from deep friers from restaurants and I'm going to be taking about this in regards to vehicles and also generators," he said, adding that he's converted five cars to run on vegetable oil in Squamish in the past six months.

"It's certainly carbon neutral because the carbon that is released when you burn vegetable oil is being pulled out of the atmosphere in the last couple of years from a crop, so this is not carbon pulled out of the atmosphere millions of years ago when fossil fuels were being made."

Kerr argues that though it would be difficult to sustain a large population of drivers on vegetable oil because of supply constraints, the damage done by fossil fuels is further reaching. He's had a lot of interest in generator conversion from people living away from hydroelectric access.

"Canada as a whole still gets a lot of its electricity from coal fired power plants and reactors, and we're seeing some issues from nuclear plants in Japan right now so one possible alternative is vegetable oil generators," he said.

"It's essentially carbon neutral and making use of a waste stream for fuel."




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