The Columbia Journal
P.O. Box 2633 MPO,
Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada V6B 3W8
Government failing on energy security and
sustainability, Report Says
British Columbia is headed for an energy crunch if it doesn't make
sweeping changes to the sector with a new focus on energy security,
renewable energy and conservation, says a new report from the Canadian
Centre for Policy Alternatives and the David Suzuki Foundation.
Released today, the report says the province's fixation on extracting
as much oil and gas from the ground as quickly as possible, and then
shipping these non-renewable resources to the US, is creating more
greenhouse gases and exporting jobs. Greenhouse gases cause climate
change, which is linked to an emerging pattern of drought, declining
salmon stocks, heat waves, insect infestations and forest fires in BC.
"We need to change the way we produce, consume and export energy in
this province," said report author Dale Marshall, a Suzuki Foundation
policy analyst. "BC's energy sector is fundamentally unsustainable. We
are giving up long-term security to achieve short-term goals. We have
no plan for when these oil and gas resources run out, either for the
province's energy needs or for the communities that depend on these
industries for jobs."
The provincial government released its energy plan in 2002, which
claimed to be based on principles of sustainability and energy security.
"Two years later it is clear that the government's plan actually
undermines energy security, ignores the dangers of climate change, and
makes only token gestures towards the need for conservation and
renewable energy," said Mr. Marshall.
BC's energy plan set in motion new coal and natural gas-fired plants;
more pipelines and increased oil, gas and electricity production for
export; the development of coalbed methane and offshore oil and gas;
and the break-up and incremental privatization of BC Hydro.
Running on Empty: Shifting to a Sustainable Energy Plan for BC outlines
a more hopeful and sustainable vision for the province's energy
industries. The report shows how BC can meet its electricity needs
during the next two decades entirely through conservation measures and
renewable technologies. It also calls for a new approach to the oil and
gas sector, one that would see more in-province refining and
value-added activities, rather than opening up fragile ecosystems to
oil and gas development. In return, the province will get a secure
supply of energy, less air pollution, more jobs, and an improved
quality of life.
Among the report's key findings:
- Despite rapid increases in both oil and natural gas production, fewer
people are employed in extracting oil and gas in the province. British
Columbians make up only one fifth of oil and gas production workers
employed in the province. Less crude oil ends up at BC refineries than
in the past, and the province has yet to develop any value-added
natural gas industries.
- BC Hydro is spending more on the 10% of its power supply it buys from
private power producers than it does on the 90% that it generates
through its own operations. BC also depends increasingly on burning
fossil fuels - coal, diesel, and natural gas - for electricity. The
result is that greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity and
oil/natural gas sectors have increased by 179% and 45% respectively
between 1990 and 2001.
- BC's oil and natural gas reserves now stand at ten and twelve years
of production respectively. Yet BC is increasing its exports of these
Running on Empty offers practical alternatives to the policies outlined
in the government's Energy Plan, including:
- Eliminating all subsidies to oil and gas production, and increasing
oil and gas royalties
- Earmarking a portion of oil, gas, and coal tax and royalty revenues
to a permanent fund that invests in economic development projects that
diversify local and regional economies dependent on non-renewable
- Maintaining the moratorium on offshore oil exploration and development
- Establishing a renewable portfolio standard for all new electricity
production in BC that mandates all new supply be from low-impact
renewable power sources
- Reversing the deregulation of BC's electricity sector by
re-establishing BC Hydro as an integrated public utility with a mandate
to undertake long-term electricity planning and provide a secure
electricity supply, and rescinding the new rule precluding BC Hydro
from building new generation capacity.