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Rafe: Site C Dam, LNG a Bad Deal for British Columbians

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Posted June 13, 2013 by Rafe Mair in WATER
Artist rendering of the proposed Site C dam near Fort. St. John.

I want to clarify my position on the proposed Site C Dam: I AM AGAINST IT.

One of the troubles in this business is that one comments on many aspects of the environment and can have a word or two or a line taken out of context – as happened with a column of mine last week, in which I referred to newly elected Premier Clark’s resolve to push forward with the dam to power shale gas operations.

Here are my thoughts on Site C.

We do not need the power, nor will we in the foreseeable future. In a blog sometime many years back, I answered the question, “Isn’t Site C better than so-called ‘run-of-river’ projects?” My answer was  if that’s the choice we face, I suppose I would have to agree. Except it’s false premise, since we don’t need either. That was, I believe, about 2008.

Now I would leave no doubt. These are two separate issues. I am unalterably opposed to so-called “run-of-river” because they not only destroy our precious rivers, they are – if they haven’t already -bankrupting BC Hydro.

Let’s then look at Site C. They say this will cost $8 billion – using the usual margin of error on such matters, we can safely assume it will be at least 25% higher, say $10 billion.

At any price the project would wipe out a large and very important amount of farmland and wildlife habitat.

Premier Clark has already designated the power for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) - which is enormously energy intensive – and it is here we descend into the world of madness. Premier Clark says that LNG will eliminate our debt of $57 Billion. Well, for starters, the real number is $171 Billion, or $40,000 per man, woman and child!

This will also give us a “Prosperity Fund” of over $100 Billion.

Really???

At this point we have no firm customers for one cubic meter of LNG and none on the horizon! Of course companies will say they are going to recover all this natural gas, ship it to Prince Rupert and sell it to China and Japan. I repeat – there isn’t a single firm contract in place and my bet is there never will be.

We’re in an entirely new world from a few years ago. A process called “fracking” lets one drill vertically into shale rock up to a kilometre or more then horizontally to capture fossil fuels trapped between the layers of shale. They do this with huge quantities of water laced with chemicals.

Leaving aside, for the moment, the question of markets and refineries, I’m sure you’ve picked up a couple of important environmental questions. What does this process do to the fragility of the nearby landscape?

Does it provoke earthquakes?

And, what about the water? It takes huge amounts – where does it come from and where, after it’s become so toxic, does it go?

The fracking and LNG processes use large quantities of power – this is where Site C comes in. We would sacrifice all that land in order to make power to be sold at bargain rates to gas companies. We, the people of BC, would make power, sell it at a discount to a company that would use that power to make more energy, to which more energy would be applied so as to transfer it to an LNG plant in Prince Rupert, where energy would be used again to make more energy to be shipped and sold!

Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.

Now let’s look at the markets.

The world is awash in natural gas. While fracking isn’t new, it’s come into vogue over the past few years. No one yet knows how much is available but there are huge deposits in Asia, especially Russia and China. Premier Clark would have us use public money to gamble on BC gas being lapped up in Asia, when, all signs say, they have ample of their own and the higher prices they currently pay are likely to vanish by the time we get our gas to market.

Don’t take my word for it – this is according to top business publications like Bloomberg, which wrote in January, “The difference between U.S. and Asian gas is poised to drop by more than 60 percent by 2020, leaving exporters facing a loss of as much as $6 million per tanker, according to calculations by Bloomberg based on data from Rice University in Houston.”

Moreover, if Asia does need gas, Australia is already in the position to supply it. In fact, the immense amounts of public money spent on this is a huge scandal in Australia which, it seems, Premier Clark wants us to join.

Let there be no doubt – I and my colleagues at the Common Sense Canadian stand firmly against Site C, no matter what those who would ravage our environment, including the governments, would have us believe.

To Site C, the answer is NO.


About the Author

Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe continues to make regular appearances on radio and television, writes regularly for thetyee.ca, and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

One Comment


  1.  
    Archive

    Thursday, 20 June 2013 17:35 posted by Dave McGowan

    Fracking has its problems but they are not even close to those created by Site C.
    As for the need for it, there is plenty of power for the LNG plants in existing sites in production.
    Alternet power production (wind and solar) could produce more than the private and a large proportion of the commercial users will need for generations. The problem with that is that it isn’t glamorous enough for Hydro execs; they thinki it makes them look small when in fact it makes them appear as leaders. (Bit of irony there!)
    As for the Site C idea, very little of that 8 B (or 10 B or 15B) will be spent in BC. Little more than a few million will be spent in the Peace Country the project will destroy.
    When it is all completed the site MIGHT generate a hundred grand a year for the Peace Country which will be a far cry from the one or two million the present agriculture community contributes to the local economy.
    On top of that, a province that has a small percentage of such excellent ag land will have much less.
    Dave
    http://www.dmmcgowan.blogspot.com

    Monday, 17 June 2013 11:44 posted by Jared

    Responding to Shawn of Vancouvers comments, I too live in The Vancouver area and am totally appalled that someone I consider a neighbor could be in the belief that sacrificing our beautiful land and rivers is good for all of us?! Do you not see the big picture? This isn’t for your benefit Shawn, this is to make the rich richer, at our cost and the sacrifice of our natural resources that belong to the people of this province. The real wealth of the people here is the ability to observe nature and enjoy the recreational activities it offers.
    I am all for progress but not at the cost of this beautiful land we live in an the wildlife that live in it. Which were all bete beore us. If you think the government is looking out for the best interst of all of us, I suggest checking out some more of Rafes posts and taking a look at the recent documentary called ‘Salmon Confidential’ by bioligist Alexandra Morton.
    If they are looking in our best interests, why the lies?

    Monday, 17 June 2013 00:49 posted by Dan Regermort

    I’m terribly disheartened that our government is going to sell our assets and the people of BC “down the river” in an attempt of reaching some fantasy of balanced budgets and being debt free in ~15 years. This is a crock and we all know it, especially those who voted for this preposterous nonsense. Our water tables, rivers, lakes, spawning rivers, arable land and coastlines need to be saved from this idiotic government bent on destruction. The plans to increase private hydro projects, fracking, pipelines, tanker traffic, fish farms, mining and simply paving over farmland are going to devastate our economy for the long term! Purely short term cash gain. Little Shamus is doomed with his mother at the helm! Poor kid. Debt, hidden debt accounts with Hydro, dropping revenue, smaller tax base are only part of the problem. The remainder of the problem is political indifference and apathy. Lets get over ourselves and get together for one another!! This government won’t, it’s pocketbook stuffing time for them, guaranteed.

    Sunday, 16 June 2013 02:39 posted by Sean in Vancouver

    The election is over and done with; get on with life.

    The party that promised LNG projects got reelected with a comfortable majority, and they have every right to do so.

    We are a natural resource base province, and I applaud any political party or business that wants to exploit our resources.

    Remember what defeated Dix? It was his opposition to both the Enbridge Northern Gateway and the Kinder Morgan project!

    Sensible British Columbians want to continue to exploit our resources; It for the good of the economy, government revenues, and basic health and social programs.

    We live in an era that has a Strong Economy for a Secure Tomorrow!

    Friday, 14 June 2013 22:45 posted by Alley Hensler

    It truly is sadly unbelievable that people would allow such environmental destruction!! What heritage are we leaving to the following generations?!! I think with delight of the wonders of nature that my children & myself have experienced & shared with friends & family!! The lakes, mountains, fish, wildlife, sunsets & sunrises…!!! I would like to think that my grandchildren & their grandchildren will have opportunities to experience as many such natural experiences that have touched our hearts, minds & inner beings!! Treasure and protect the world & universe around you!!

    Friday, 14 June 2013 14:08 posted by Gordon Hartman

    You are on the mark Rafe.

    Thursday, 13 June 2013 23:59 posted by Grant G

    Hello Rafe…Thought you might want to read my latest essays on LNG..There is a little talk on Site C in the first link…Cheers Eyes Wide Open

    http://powellriverpersuader.blogspot.ca/2013/06/christy-clarks-ministry-of-lng-welcome.html

    http://powellriverpersuader.blogspot.ca/2013/05/lng-premium-price-downward-spiral.html

    http://powellriverpersuader.blogspot.ca/2013/06/lng-spin-zone-unraveled-uncomfortable.html

    Thursday, 13 June 2013 22:00 posted by Hugh

    BC Hydro was told to limit use of its gas-burning Burrard Thermal plant, because of greenhouse gas emissions.

    Now, BC Hydro is expected to supply renewable hydro power to LNG plants, which would export LNG (on ships emitting CO2) to Asia, where one use of the LNG is to generate electricity in CO2-emitting power plants similar to Burrard Thermal.

    hmmm…

    Thursday, 13 June 2013 19:57 posted by J

    A number of sensible jurisdictions seem to be banning fracking, which is great but also kind of scary because it could focus more of the fracking frenzy in BC if we’re one of the spots left wide open to this environmentally destructive business. It’s really beyond comprehension that the land and water of our beautiful province is in line to be sacrificed and stolen from future generations. Quick bucks and jobs in exchange for an impoverished future.





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