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Climate Change Hypocrisy in BC’s Throne Speech PDF Print E-mail
Earth News
Monday, 01 March 2010 11:23

Climate Change Hypocrisy in BC’s Throne Speech

- Peace Valley Environment Association
 - February 10, 2010

Climate change hypocrisy is evident in the throne speech. The BC Government somehow plans to become a “clean energy powerhouse” by building power lines and damming rivers to increase oil and gas exploration and export natural gas to further the oil sands development. 

  Yesterday’s throne speech identifies the connection of the Horn River Basin petroleum development to the BC Transmission Grid allowing accelerated development of Horn River Basin Gas. This gas is targeted to support oil sands development in Alberta and coincidentally the pipelines to Kitimat and the awaiting super tankers ready to take the oil and gas off-shore to produce more greenhouse gases in Asia.

The throne speech promises to make BC a “clean energy powerhouse….while we lower greenhouse gas emissions within and beyond our border”.  However, accelerated oil and gas development, with new huge greenhouse gas emitting plants like the one proposed by Encana at Cabin Creek in north-eastern BC’s Horn River Basin, is in direct conflict with the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  BC is the only province to increase greenhouse gases in 2009.  Northeast BC is BC’s energy and greenhouse gas emitting dirty little secret. The large natural gas processing plants in NE BC are individually some of the largest emitters in the province and collectively are the majority of BC’s industrial emissions. 
An intended purpose for the power from the proposed Site C dam was recently revealed by former BC Energy Minister and new federal Senator Richard Neufeld, who made a presentation to Fort St. John City Council on Monday, February 8th.  In encouraging Council to “get on the train” of Site C, Neufeld said “I know that there has been some discussion ongoing about the amount of electricity that would be needed in Fort Nelson with the advent of the Horn River Basin which is in the magnitude of 500 MW. Understanding Site C would generate about 900 MW, it’s a significant amount of Site C so I think we can all get some benefits out of this as long as we all are on the same boat.” The suggestion is that Site C Hydro is intended to power fossil fuel extraction from one of the largest gas fields in North America - the Horn River Basin. This is not to meet domestic needs but rather to power the extraction of Alberta tar sands oil – the world’s dirtiest oil.
This throne speech proposal would connect the huge new gas “play” near Fort Nelson to BC’s electrical grid creating a circle of emissions. This folly is destined to sabotage the promise of a “clean energy powerhouse….while we lower greenhouse gas emissions within and beyond our border”.
Sandra Hoffmann - Coordinator, Peace Valley Environment Association
Phone: 250-787-1749 ;   Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Among the proposed energy developments for the north-eastern part of the province, is the Site C dam which would involve flooding over 100 km of river valleys.  The projected cost, estimated by BC Hydro at $6.6 billion in 2007, will likely exceed $10 billion.  Site C would result in the loss of over 7,000 acres of class 1 and 2 agricultural land, the loss of thousands of acres of boreal forests that presently act as a very effective carbon sink, the loss of critical wildlife habitat, and the loss of world-class recreation and tourism.   This proposed megaproject has been classified as clean but not ‘green’ due to the substantial impacts that large hydro with reservoirs have on the environment.  The government seems to almost use the words ‘clean’ and ‘green’ interchangeably, likely hoping that it is not noticed, as illustrated in the title “Green Energy Advisory Task Force”.  In addition to not being considered ‘green’, it should be noted that Site C would also produce significant greenhouse gases.   Site C is projected to produce the same amount of greenhouse gases as 33,000 new vehicles on BC’s roads per year.  Further, what some may find even more surprising, is that in addition to large hydro producing its own greenhouse gases the power it would generate could be used in such a way that substantially more greenhouse gases would be produced rather than lowering the greenhouse gas levels as the throne speech falsely promises. 
The potential new transmission line interconnecting Fort Nelson to the British Columbia Transmission Corporation (BCTC) integrated system can be found in BC Hydro’s 2008 Long Term Acquisition Plan (LTAP); “BC Hydro has requested that BCTC complete a planning level assessment with respect to a new transmission connection between the Peace region and Fort Nelson.”  This line would allow for power generated at the Peace River to be used in the Horn River Basin. The intentions of furthering exports was also made clear in the statement “New transmission infrastructure will link North-eastern B.C. to our integrated grid, provide clean power to the energy industry and open up new capacity for clean power exports to Alberta, Saskatchewan and south of the border.  We will seek major transmission upgrades with utilities in California and elsewhere.”   Power needs in Alberta and Saskatchewan come from the oil and gas industry which leads further to the “empty” promise of “lower greenhouse gas emissions within and beyond our border”.
According to Michelle Rampersad (Nexen’s marketing manager for north-eastern BC) on Horn River’s growing demand for natural gas, “With the geographical location of Horn River, we feel it makes sense to come across and feed those volumes over to the oil sands” (cited within “Nexen sees oilsands as natural market for Horn River gas”, Oil & Gas Inquirer, January 2010, p.27). This Oil & Gas Inquirer article suggests that a new outlet would also be Asian markets if the proposed Kitimat liquefied natural gas facility came to fruition.  To think that the proposed Site C Dam, which is touted as being ‘clean’, is intended to power fossil fuel extraction and potentially one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters in BC clearly illustrates the hypocrisy surrounding the government’s energy plans.  Hydro electricity, while cleaner than electricity from coal or natural gas, still floods valleys and farmland while producing greenhouse gases. Building a transmission line to the Horn River Basin gas fields from hydro power sources on the Peace River will promote natural gas development which is BC’s largest emitter.  Using BC natural gas to fuel oil sands development in Alberta, the world’s largest emitter, just compounds the hypocrisy of the throne speech’s promise of greenhouse gas reductions. 
In addition, the throne speech indicated that “New transmission investments will open up the Highway 37 corridor to new mines and clean power.” The potential for further greenhouse gas emitting coal mines also exists along the Highway 37 corridor.  According to Fortune Minerals Limited “This upgrade and extension to the B.C. electrical grid will bring power to within 100 km of the Mount Klappan [anthracite coal] project and at sufficient voltage to supply the Company’s proposed development as well as other new projects in the area (news release dated September 22nd, 2009 at http://www.infomine.com/index/pr/Pa803215.PDF).  The ultimate hypocrisy of supplying coal mines, the world’s dirtiest greenhouse gas emitters, with ‘clean’ power is now quite apparent.
If the government insists on overbuilding electrical generation for export, their emphasis should at least be shifted to the development of low-impact renewable energy sources such as geothermal, an area where Canada lags behind the rest of the world.  Geothermal, a base-load energy source, has abundant potential in BC.  It is classified as both ‘clean’ and ‘green’, leaving a relatively small ecological and sociological footprint.  Oil and gas rigs used in drilling for fossil fuels could have their focus shifted to tapping BC’s hot spots, generating significant amounts of truly ‘green’ energy for BC.
Peace Valley Environment Association
Box 6062 Fort St. John, BC V1J 4H6

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