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Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

Energy plan? No, it’s a fire sale.

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Electricity prices in Canada are bound to go up.  At least, that’s the conclusion of a Conference Board report that looks at our infrastructure, from transmission lines to aging power plants.  $347 billion is the estimate (a trifle).

It’s going to be worse in BC, where electricity demand is going to skyrocket, because of industrial projects.  First in line are the projects to export liquefied natural gas; cooling the gas would use about a quarter of all the electricity that we currently generate.  Add to that the electricity planned for some large mining projects, and the outlook becomes ominous.

Ominous?  If you’re an environmentalist, you would think that higher power prices are good, because that encourages energy conservation.

I agree with that – provided that there is a carrot to go with the stick of high prices.  But there is none.  No German style feebates, no (or little) subsidies for efficient appliances, nothing – just a big increase in sight.

This is bad news for BC’s environment.  The expected demand is used to justify the construction of the Site C dam on the Peace River, which will flood out productive farmland, and will probably be invoked to resurrect a bunch of recently canceled run-of-river projects.

The coast near the Kemano plant

And since the LNG projects are in the Rupert-Kitimat area, I expect to hear proposals to bring back Kemano II.  From an efficiency standpoint, it would make sense as the Kemano power plant is located near the proposed LNG plant.  And I also expect that Alcan may be sorely tempted to sell its electricity directly to the LNG plant instead of using it to make aluminum.  That would be a novelty, a mutant form of electrical Dutch Disease.

Add to this the fact that the price of natural gas and oil will increase.  Not just because energy price tend to follow one another, but because we are planning to export these hydrocarbons.  The rationale for building the various pipelines is that we currently can’t sell them to the highest bidder – China.  Of course, once the pipelines start flowing, the prices go up – that’s the law of the market, after all.  Economist Robyn Allen demonstrated that to be the case for the Northern Gateway pipeline, and the same logic applies to the LNG projects.

So let’s get this straight.  We are asked to accept the construction of pipelines across BC, despite their environmental costs.  We are told that risky frakking for natural gas is the way to go, as is building large, costly, and damaging dams.  We are also told that this will increase the price of energy for electricity, gas, and oil – too bad.

We should accept all this because it’s good for Canada, we are told.  Is it?  It is certainly good for the shareholders of the various companies involved.  It is also good for the governments that are addicted to oil and gas revenues – Alberta, to be sure, but also BC.

But it means that we are exporting all our energy resources, leaving the cupboard bare for the future.  We are blindly following the market, looking for the cheap buck.  Or rather, they are – leaving the rest of us to be fleeced and lose our manufacturing jobs in the process.

No wonder Council of Candians’ Ben Parfitt is calling for a national energy plan – and to go slow.  No wonder Emma Gilchrist calls Harper “PM by day, oil executive by night”.  Unfortunately, it’s not funny anymore.

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Written by enviropaul

February 14, 2012 at 11:57 am

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