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Canadian Hockey Star Goes To Bat For Energy Efficiency, And Against Tar Sands Oil

Apologies for the mixed sports references but when we heard that Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference (aka @Ferknuckle) was on board with a new energy efficiency promotion we could hardly contain ourselves. Aside from leading the Bruins through a string of playoff slots and a Stanley Cup, the Canadian-born Ference has a solid history in sustainability issues that includes early involvement in tar sands oil protests going back at least as far as 2009, when he joined 500 other athletes and creative artists to sign an open letter to President Obama protesting Canada’s development of its notoriously “dirty” tar sands oil fields.

ference joins national grid to promote energy efficiencyAndrew Ference and Energy Efficiency

The new promotion has quite a bit of meat in its muscle. It partners Ference with CBS Radio and utility giant National Grid, which just last November made headlines (well, CleanTechnica headlines) for investing $40 million in transmission lines with a company called Clean Line, which will help feed renewable energy from the Midwest into points east.

The core of the project is a series of contests for residential customers, grammar schools and middle schools in National Grid’s service territory covering Massachusetts and Rhode Island (the company’s New York and New Hampshire customers are not eligible, unfortunately). Residential customers who win could find themselves with free tickets to a Bruins home game and/or some cold cash (to the tune of up to $7,500) to apply to energy efficiency upgrades.

Winning schools get up to $2,500 in funding for energy efficiency upgrades. The grand prize includes a visit from Ference, who will use the occasion to talk about sustainability. As someone who “grew up surrounded by people who cared about environmental issues,” Ference has first hand experience with the ability of one person to motivate for change. As Ference puts it:

“If I can use my voice as a hockey player and use the exposure we get on a public stage to bring more attention to living green then I’m going to do it. I want to continue to inspire others to care about the planet and this contest is a great way of doing that.”

Andrew Ference and the David Suzuki Connection

Speaking of the power of one determined individual to motivate change, here’s where things start to get really interesting. In its press release announcing the new promotion, National Grid made a point of referencing world renowned Canadian geneticist and sustainability expert Dr. David Suzuki as a key influencer in Ference’s life.

The release traces Ference’s green activism back to his early career with the Calgary Flames, and by 2007 he was leading the National Hockey League in a renewable energy and sustainability campaign in partnership with the Suzuki’s namesake environmental organization, the David Suzuki Foundation.

That leads us right around to the Canadian tar sands oil issue, which has become a central issue for U.S. environmental policy by virtue of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Though the pipeline would not necessarily bring tar sands oil into the U.S. market, it would make the U.S. a key enabler of tar sands oil export, by conveying it from Canada down to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Needless to say, the David Suzuki Foundation has been a longtime foe of tar sands development.

Is the Keystone XL Pipeline a Match for Professional Hockey?

What this boils down to is that National Grid, CBS Radio and the National Hockey League have all come down, if somewhat indirectly, on the side against approval of the Keystone XL pipeline (the pipeline requires President Obama’s approval through the State Department because it crosses an international border).

That sure complicates things for Keystone, which has been experiencing something of a roller coaster ride over the past month or so. The sequence began with bad news earlier this year when President Obama pledged that climate action would be a centerpiece of his second term, though that was quickly followed up by good news when the State Department issued a neutral report on the pipeline’s environmental impacts.

On the other hand, the confirmation of noted environmentalist and former Massachusetts Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State certainly doesn’t bode well for final approval of the pipeline, and it appears that Canadian officials are already starting to hedge their bets.

In the latest development, Ben German over at reports that Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver seems to have gone out of his way to reassure the U.S. that rejection of Keystone XL would not poison relations between the two countries. Here’s Oliver as reported by German:

“We have the most important commercial bilateral relationship in the world, and certainly one of the closest diplomatic ones, we are not going to let anything happen to jeopardize that relationship, irrespective of the decision the government takes in this regard.”

And for what it’s worth, as of this writing the Bruins are 14-3-3 on the season.

Stay tuned, hockey fans!

Image (cropped): Andrew Ference by rubyswoon

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


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