Thursday, February 06, 2014

Why Is British Columbia Pushing Fossil Fuels When It's Easier and Cheaper to Go Green?

I sat in on a discussion presented by Canada's sole Green Party MLA in Port Alberni Tuesday night. 
The MLA for Victoria's toney Oak Bay/Gordon Head riding and leading Canadian environmental scientist, Dr. Andrew Weaver touched on a lot of topics including British Columbia's unique alternative energy resources.  Our province's capacity for generating clean, renewable energy is unlike any other.

B.C. has enormous resources from tidal energy, wind energy, ocean current and wave energy, hydro-electricity, solar and geo-thermal.  It's all there and in huge abundance.  Continental west coasts get westerly winds that build across the open ocean.  We get wave energy that likewise builds across the ocean.  Those winds bring rainfall that drives our hydro-electric system.  The Pacific is wide which means high tides and plentiful tidal energy.  Powerful ocean currents line the coasts.  Being on the Pacific means being on the Ring of Fire which means strong, geo-thermal options.  In fact, Weaver pointed out that Canada is the only Pacific Rim country that hasn't tapped its geo-thermal energy.

We have the ocean and we also have mountains.   Mountains are ideal for placement of wind turbines.   They're also great for energy storage.  During peak energy production you can use the surplus to pump water into mountain reservoirs that can release the water for hydro-electric (turbine) generation as needed.  Weaver pointed out that the desert of the Okanagan valley would be ideal for solar power generation on an industrial scale.

Properly developed, these resources could allow British Columbia to be the power plant for western Canada.  As though we needed another reason to pry loose the cold, dead, boney fingers of the Fossil Fuelers.


Hugh said...

We have private wind farms, and run-of-river hydro in BC. BC Hydro is on the hook for over $50 billion to purchase power from these private companies. It's not clear if BCH needs this power, or can sell it profitably.

BC Hydro is about 95% renewable hydro power. It's owned by the province. It can provide enough power for BC. It's now deep in debt. The idea of public benefit is gone, it's now an ATM for private companies.

Purple library guy said...

The test for the modern establishment is not what works, it's what produces the more concentrated profits. If something makes less money overall, employs 10% as many people, does more damage, is more dangerous, whatever, no such considerations rate next to the basic question: Can the money made be largely hoovered up by the 0.1%?

Fossil fuels like oil and LNG require big centralized facilities (refineries, plants for liquefying the natural gas) and involve relatively few jobs compared to say wind or solar. The result is that an elite can readily control them and extract large rents. They don't much like renewables because they tend to be decentralized, involve actual competition that lowers margins, and even have ordinary consumers getting into the act. The Liberals tried to solve some of those disadvantages by giving some buddies access to government largesse, but it seems to have been kind of half-hearted.

The ability to extract large rents for the wealthiest makes something "valuable" and important even if its actual economic contribution is negative. Similar things go for financial speculation, although the levers of control are different. These characteristics also create lobbies with tons of concentrated money to use for propaganda and bribes. That's why, say, the vegetable growing business doesn't have that much clout: It makes a lot of money overall, because lots of people eat vegetables, but it's decentralized and margins are low, so there's no major players with masses of $$$ to lobby with, and the elites generally don't see it as an attractive thing that they want there to be more of.