By Rafe Mair
As I make my way around the province I find the following the greatest area of misunderstanding--a misunderstanding fostered and encouraged by the government and the private river people--to be that private power will help take care of B.C.'s energy needs.
When lawyers see a statement like "fish live in water, therefore I must visit the North Pole", they call it a non sequitur; literally "it does not follow".
The Campbell government and the power producers have a pronounced a classic non sequitur in the private-power debate. They say, "British Columbia needs or will need power therefore we must have private "run of river" projects."
Remember that electricity in bulk cannot be stored and must be used as it is created. B.C. Hydro "stores" electricity by creating a reservoir behind its dams, which can be used to turn its generators.
For all intents and purposes, private river plants do not have the ability to store significant amounts of water. In fact they boast of the fact that they don't create reservoirs. They must, then, rely upon the quantity of the river flow.
The amount of energy produced by private power must come from the spring run-off; when the height of the river drops, as it does after run-off, little if any electricity can be created.
It does not then follow that if we need power, we can use private river projects. That's because the vast majority of power created by private projects comes at the same time B.C. Hydro's reservoirs are full, thus have no use for private river power.
In short, the only use for private power is export ,which is what Donald McInnis, CEO of the Plutonic/General Electric partnership freely admits.
The new minister of Energy, Blair Lekstrom, has said this in a letter to several newspapers: NAFTA (North America Free Trade Agreement) "is not part of our energy mix".
This abysmal ignorance should alarm us all. Whether or not we get involved with NAFTA is not a matter for Mr. Lekstrom to decide but happens automatically when you ship power over the border.
It must be realized that NAFTA is calculated to help the corporate world. It's not a matter of whether or not NAFTA applies but HOW it applies.
For the minister to have made such a statement shows either abysmal ignorance or egregious arrogance or both.
And it indicates one more time that the Campbell government has no time for honestly putting its schemes before the public.
If Gordon Campbell is reelected, the enormous Bute Inlet project of Plutonic/General Electric will be approved--17 rivers involved--and with that precedent, there'll be no way to turn down future private power applications.
B.C. will be in the business of being the biggest supplier of energy in the western United States, and river after river will become suppliers of that power. The profits of that power will not go to the people of B.C. but to shareholders, like Warren Buffet at General Electric.
If you plan to vote Liberal or Green, beware of what the consequences will be.
Rafe Mair, a broadcaster and former Social Credit cabinet minister, initially wrote this column for Save Our Rivers.
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