Soft Is Hard: Barriers and Incentives in Canadian Energy Policy


116 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-920490-41-7





Reviewed by Stephen J. Kees

Stephen J. Kees was Chief Librarian, Niagara College of Applied Arts and Technology, Welland, Ontario.


In the past few years we have come to realize that our “hard” energy sources (oil, coal, etc.) are finite and non-renewable, while our “soft” sources, such as sun and wind, may be expected to go on for ever. Up to now most institutional and economic policies have favoured the “hard” path.

As the author, a professor of environmental and planning law at the University of Calgary, points out, many policy tools could put the two varieties on a more equal footing. He refers to many studies on both sides of the discussion, studies that could be considered in establishing a different mix of policies. Suggested policies in a variety of situations, such as transportation and municipal jurisdictions, are set out and examined.

Although the author undoubtedly favours the adoption of the “soft” path, his criteria and methods for evaluating both sides are fair and reasonable. The end of many of our “hard” resources may not yet be in sight, but if we wish to postpone that day a serious look at some of the problems raised in this book would be worthwhile on a national basis.


Elder, P.S., “Soft Is Hard: Barriers and Incentives in Canadian Energy Policy,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,