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2015: Will candidates be listening?

Welcome to 2015!

2015 is shaping up to be a year of resolution for BC and Canada in energy. This is the year we should know if BC’s hyped LNG export scheme will finally see daylight before its supposed “opportunity window” slams shut due to competitive and price pressures. We’ll also learn whether shovels will turn for BC Hydro’s Peace River Site C dam megaproject, or if legal challenges will tug it into a side-channel.

Meanwhile, BCSEA will continue to pursue clarity on government’s heavily shrouded claims of the project’s cost effectiveness.

A federal election contest will be resolved, in the spring maybe, more likely in the fall. In the federal file the sagas of the Enbridge Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipelines could finally be determined in the face of largely discredited National Energy Board review processes.

As the battle lines of these pipeline projects shift from the hearing room to the field and perhaps the ballot box (given the upcoming federal election), some of the many untold risks of these projects have been glaringly highlighted by the oil price crash, exposing them to cancellation on business case terms.

A World Awash in Fossil Fuels?

As the new year rings in and the world finds itself awash in (temporarily) cheap fossil fuels, we’ll witness more rationalization and equivocation from those BC, Alberta, and Ottawa politicians who’ve been trying to convince us it’s a fantastic idea to bet entire provincial and federal economies on a “race” to sell off Canada’s oil and gas reserves as quickly as possible to global markets they suggest offer insatiable demand, little competition – and few environmental consequences.

Because these grandiose schemes serve political far more than economic and social interests, and due to down-spiraling market conditions, there’s more pressure than ever for these irresponsible governments to grant unjustified aids, subsidies, and incentives to fossil fuel export proponents by way of slashed resource royalty rates, redefinition of terms like “clean” and “low-carbon”, and reduced environmental standards, whenever export progress falters - and that’s something BCSEA will be carefully watching for and calling out.

A Race to the Bottom of the Barrel?

With no new support for a definitive, scheduled transition to a clean energy future as part and parcel to these fossil fuel export schemes, this race is a game with no winners except perhaps the oil and gas industry. It’s a race to the bottom of the barrel.

No matter how bleak this short-term picture might appear to sustainable energy proponents, I am confident the world is set on an unstoppable course toward a cleaner, more efficient, more egalitarian global economy.

Why do I think that? Because, despite the best efforts of vested interests and short-term thinkers, there is simply more opportunity and less risk to the economy and society in renewables and efficiency - it’s a huge opportunity ripe for growth, and it’s only just begun.

The Big Energy Conundrums

In the new year, we are once again taking stock of BCSEA’s own resolutions on the big energy conundrums we’re equipped to address, and also the no less important questions around energy and local communities.

Perhaps the most interesting and profound question we’d like to see opened for examination this Federal election season — a question that was eloquently addressed by Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan at BCSEA’s November 29th AGM — is “what is the public interest”? and furthermore, what is the relationship between “public interest” and “national interest”?

It’s critical to challenge the logic of claims that “this project” or “that project” is in the national or public interest whenever we hear politicians or regulators use that argument to override consistent and persuasive local objections to major fossil fuel export projects that risk local environments and ways of life and add to the destabilization of our global climate system.

While there are certainly good reasons for high-level oversight and coordination of major projects provincially and nationally, we must finally develop a meaningful mechanism to represent local requirements and needs to balance top-down, industry-centric perspectives that currently have the power to rationalize almost any kind of project, whatever the real cost to communities in the way.

What is Really "In The Public Interest"?

Mayor Corrigan pointed to an increasing imperative for the question of public and national interest in large projects to be answered initially from a community-interest perspective, and then expanded to broader regional and national examinations. This is business as usual in some successful European democracies such as Sweden. Current events are providing the best of reasons to raise the idea in the public’s conscience in 2015.                

With the challenges of everyday life, the effort and commitment required to invent the sustainable energy future that Canadians say they want is not something most people feel they can take on.

BCSEA’s role therefore is to engage, educate and inform our members, stakeholders and the general public about energy issues that affect British Columbians (first) and all global citizens to help them stand closer together in a position of greater strength with more facts and better arguments, so they are empowered to create the democratic energy future they are asking for. To that end here are some of our planned activities for the remainder 2015. Please join us!

  • Targeting both federal and provincial governments (and governments in-waiting), we’re once again revising and updating our set of best-policy recommendations on transportation, buildings and cities, energy production and consumption, and the emerging clean economy. We will integrate this into a revised climate platform for all levels of governments to consider.
  • We will package this for whoever forms the coming federal government and the next round of international climate change discussions at Paris COP21 (the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference) in December 2015. If the new government declines to consider these, we’ll publicly represent these policies independently.
  • We are working with our chapters and affiliates to engage federal candidates in local debates on energy and the environment across as many BC electoral districts as we can.
  • Provincially, we will continue to push for clarity and justification for Site C’s fuzzy numbers, and we’ll continue pushing for economic diversification away from BC’s incredibly risky “all eggs in one basket” liquefied natural gas (LNG) export scheme.
  • We will add new value for the communities and funding partners with our enormously successful Climate Change Showdown program by auditing the program’s annual carbon reductions. This should enable us to ascribe a dollar value to the reductions so that they can be monetized by local governments in BC’s emerging “Community Carbon Market”.
  • We’ve recently relaunched our web site by building a flexible, powerful, mobile friendly media platform and regularly updating it with lots of fantastic new and valuable content. http://www.bcsea.org
  • We’ll continue to improve our popular monthly webinar series featuring knowledgeable, influential speakers on a wide array of fascinating energy topics. Join us on January 27th for our next webinar with Jeremy Moorhouse from Clean Energy Canada, on Tracking the Clean Energy Revolution: Boutique Goes Bighttp://www.bcsea.org/events/clean-energy-economy
  • We’re launching our “Affiliates” program, making BCSEA an umbrella organization for smaller groups across BC who are aligned with our style and values and who can benefit from the wider exposure and the services we can provide. In return we to expand our engagement reach, influence, and membership.  

May 2015 bring us resounding successes and victories!

Nigel Protter, January, 2015

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