EARTHFUTURE.COM by Guy Dauncey
There is a game in play that we can’t afford to lose. It’s called global warming and we are both the players and the pitch. Forget the Olympics; this is the only game that matters. If we win, our children and grandchildren will inherit an Earth they can continue to live on comfortably, full of forests, green cities and wild places.
If we lose, they will inherit an Earth that will be truly uncomfortable.
Rising sea levels will inundate coastal cities. The summer heat will make life in many places intolerable and many rainforests will burn up. The stakes could not be higher. So why in the name of all that is beautiful has BC Hydro awarded electricity contracts to two new, coal-fired power plants, backed by the BC government?
Choosing to burn coal is like head-butting the referee at a critical stage of the game. It’s like pitching a boner when the bases are loaded. It’s like placing the puck in your own goal while talking to the goalie.
The Compliance Energy Corporation has been given a contract to burn coal and maybe some wood-waste, in a 56 MW power plant near Princeton, in the beautiful Similkameen Valley.
The Wapiti Energy Corporation has been invited to burn coal and maybe a little wood-waste, in a 165 MW power plant near Tumbler Ridge, south of Chetwynd and Dawson Creek in northeastern BC.
The projects still have to go through Environmental Assessment, so there is a chance for people to share their views, but the contracts are waiting when they’re ready. Between them, they will increase BC’s greenhouse gas emissions by up to 1.83 million tonnes of CO2 a year. An average car produces 6 tonnes of CO2 a year, so burning this coal is the equivalent of putting 300,000 new cars on the road and driving them for 40 years.
They will also produce mercury, sulphur dioxide, and particulates – just the kind of thing you want your child to breathe. In direct conflict with BC’s “best in the world” goal for air quality, they will produce far, far more air pollution than the gas-fired Sumas 2 project near Abbotsford would have produced, which the government opposed because of its air pollution. Asthma City in Princeton and Dawson Creek, here we come.
Coal-fired electricity today = rising sea levels tomorrow.
Coal-fired heaters and hair-dryers today = vanishing species tomorrow.
Coal-fired electricity today = children saying, “What were you thinking?”
I search for sanity in this decision, but I find none. All that I find is a belief that business is good whatever the costs, combined with – I can only presume – a massive failure in the Ministry of Energy and Mines to grasp the urgency of the global climate crisis.
We do not need this kind of electricity. We can invest in efficiency, halving the amount of power we use. We have enormous resources of wind, tidal, solar, geothermal and microhydro power. The best power is not always the cheapest. There’s biogas power to be had from dairy herds and sewer-power from under the streets. There’s a farmer in the interior warming his buildings with heat from his cows’ milk. Not all resources should be developed, but plenty can be without a loss of amenities.
BC Hydro has also awarded contracts to BC’s first wind-power projects, at Bear Mountain near Dawson Creek, Dokie near Chetwynd, and Mount Hays near Prince Rupert. This is good, but they’ll only produce half the power of the coal-fired projects.
If BC were to adopt the feed law renewable electricity policy that many European countries use, and which Ontario has just adopted, small producers would have guaranteed access to the grid, and we would see a surge of green power.
It would not be enough to win the climate game; that needs the whole world. But at least we would be among the best, instead of dragging our feet among the worst.
If you want to share your thoughts with the premier, his email is (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Guy Dauncey is president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association (www.bcsea.org).