Friday, December 26, 2014

On renewables and the need for compromise, Part III: Geothermal redux

So after preparing my first post on geothermal energy and the need for compromise, I was challenged by the Executive Director of DeSmogCanada who asked "Who has actually opposed geothermal? I haven’t heard any backlash". My response was muted as my work schedule precluded me doing a detailed response but now that the Christmas break is upon us let's illuminate the problem for the purposes of those who don't seem to get what I am talking about.

As I discussed in my post, exclusive of the tenure issue (which clearly still needs to be addressed by government) two issues need to be addressed prior to any program to enhance the development of geothermal resources in British Columbia: enhancing the ability to do intrusive testing to identify locations for geothermal facilities and creating transmission line access to connect the geothermal resources to the power grid. Early in 2014, the British Columbia government proposed a tool to address these two bottlenecks. The tool was an update to the Park Act:
http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2014/02/legislation-introduced-to-provide-greater-clarity-in-bcs-parks.html. This update provided a legislative mechanism by which both the geotechnical studies and expansions to the power transmission grid would be facilitated. Does anyone want to guess how the environmental movement viewed the bill? Here are some highlights:

West Coast Environmental law: http://wcel.org/resources/environmental-law-alert/park-amendment-bill-paves-way-industrial-exploration

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society:
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2463/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=15093

The Straight:
http://www.straight.com/news/619081/peter-wood-what-good-provincial-park-if-it-doesnt-protect-land

The Vancouver Observer:
http://www.vancouverobserver.com/news/bill-4-passes-opens-bc-parks-industry

The Tyee:
http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2014/07/22/VIEW-BC-parks-at-risk-for-development/

and even the Executive Director's own, Desmog Blog Canada :
 http://www.desmog.ca/2014/03/25/bill-4-passes-b-c-parks-now-officially-open-pipelines-and-drilling

I could go on, but you get the picture. Virtually every progressive media outlet and environmental group in BC came out against the idea. Certainly the move would marginally simplify the process of developing pipelines in BC, but anyone familiar with the process knows that inter-provincial pipelines are a federal jurisdiction and the federal government doesn't need to consult with the Province to run a pipeline through a provincial park. A second complaint was the potential for oil and gas drilling? This environmentalist response appeared to be purely reflexive and another example of the science-blind nature of the opposition in BC. Anyone who has spent any time looking at resource maps of BC will recognize how ridiculous this concern is. Oil and gas in BC is almost exclusively found in the Peace District and as my post pointed out, most of the parkland in question is not in the Peace but rather in southern mountains. The geothermal map from my earlier post shows that this represents the hot zone for geothermal energy. The government in their press release even suggested that geotechnical studies (absolutely necessary for geothermal) were one of the major reasons for the revision but for the progressives, if the Liberals wanted it, then it must be bad and it must be opposed. But don't worry, because they (the progressives) really support geothermal, just don't suggest a rational and practical method to develop the energy source in BC.    

So I've started with geothermal, but let's look at another case of cognitive dissonance on the renewable energy front. Everyone agrees that as renewables go, hydro is one of the greenest and lowest carbon sources out there. I am conflicted on the Site C Dam proposal but have no such conflicts on run-of-the-river projects which seem like an obvious way to provide clean, localized power.

Once again, run-of-the-river is loved until someone tries to develop a facility. It would appear that run-of-the-river is good unless an investor makes money: http://www.nanaimodailynews.com/news/protesters-lash-out-at-river-hydro-project-plans-1.274220 the facility needs to connect to the power grid: http://thetyee.ca/News/2008/02/19/RunOfRiver/ or it just "threatens rivers": http://www.sierraclub.bc.ca/media-centre/press-clips/green-energy-threatens-b-c-rivers-report-warns
I must say the biggest example of congnitive dissonance is the suggestion that there is no "compelling need for it" http://thetyee.ca/Views/2008/06/16/GreenScreen/ . Yes, you read right, the same people who want to wean us off fossil fuels; want us to move to electrical vehicles and alternative energy sources; do no want us to develop a readily available power source that would provide a means to address the electricity needs because there is no immediate "compelling need" for the power?

Ask yourself, if reduction of our dependence on fossil fuels is a necessary goal, shouldn't we be able to drop our partisan blinkers and work together towards achieving that goal?

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