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