Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Adrian Dix Leaving Good News for Greens

with 4 comments

I must admit I was a bit surprised by the announcement yesterday that he was stepping down – as soon as they can find a new leader. I expected him to soldier on, especially since his caucus had been so quiet.  He is speaking at UBCM as I am writing this and the coincidence of a couple of tweets  inspired this post

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 9.10.05 AM Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 9.09.35 AM

The link on the image won’t work so here it is in working condition Insight West Poll on Fracking 

He is also reported to be trying to distinguish NDP on LNG from BC Liberals on LNG, but the point is that LNG is a fossil fuel that has to stay in the ground. For one thing gas extraction always leads to leaks of methane, and that is a far more powerful gas than carbon dioxide. But secondly it is not a “transition fuel” as the industry claims. It is a fuel that locks in existing technologies and thus slows the introduction of renewable sources of energy and also slows the introduction of greater energy efficiency. But the really important linkage is that these LNG plants rely on fracked gas. There is no way that conventional gas wells can produce more – most are in decline, and the new resources being discovered are now nearly all “tight gas” requiring fracking. And the opposition to fracking is based on concerns about local environmental impacts – especially the effect on water supplies – rather than understanding the ghg implications of its development. The gas industry has been very clever to emphasize how “clean” gas is, without making clear what they are comparing it to. Probably coal.

The Green Party on the other hand has made its position clear “economic suicide”  and “a pipe dream“. While Dix and the NDP would like to present themselves as defenders of the environment, they cannot do that credibly while supporting expansion of fossil fuel extraction for export.

It has also caught my eye that Thomas Mulcair the leader of the NDP nationally is not in favour of increasing taxes on the super-rich.  Which suggests to me that he is really out of touch with the roots of the NDP and the need for far greater equality. Although other NDP members do not agree with him. It reminds me forcefully of the conversation I had with Geoff Meggs just before the provincial election, when he said the NDP if elected would not be raising provincial income tax rates for the wealthy. (Meggs bio on the Vancouver City web site does not mention his NDP link directly but does say “He served as Director of Communications in the Office of the Premier under Premier Glen Clark, and later served as Director of Communications and Executive Director of the BC Federation of Labour.”)

Just in case you have not read them here are our Ten Core Principles, which all Greens adhere to.  Sustainability and social justice are numbers 1 and 2 respectively.

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One way to do that would be to abandon LNG entirely and embrace progressive taxation policies. I do not expect either – from Dix or the NDP. If you agree we need both then you should join the Green Party.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 19, 2013 at 9:48 am

4 Responses

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  1. I would like to see the NDP and Green Party get together in a series of meetings, in secret if necessary, and discuss non-partisan first principles about not only offering a winnable alternative to the rebooted Socreds, but to address governance in the 21st Century.

    It has been painfully obvious since the eighties that the NDP has to come to grips with the degradation of the biosphere. At the same time, the Green Party, its Ten Core Principles notwithstanding, has to come to grips with the fact that every transaction, motion, act and plan within the economy is underpinned by energy.

    There is a direct correlation between the historically recent progress of civilization and the energy obtained by burning fossil fuels. Fossil fuels were valued so cheaply that its inherently dense available energy, its contaminants when burned to release that energy, and its finite nature were never accounted for. In traditional economics atmospheric pollution caused by fossil energy-based carbon, nitrogen and sulfur are classified as ‘externalities,’ therein the costs to deal with them are ignored when it comes to applying a price to energy. One could even imagine currency (dollars, euros, yuan) as paper or digital proxies for units of energy. Dollars can always be mass printed at the stroke of a pen, but a litre of gasoline once burned is gone forever, as J. H. Kunstler once said.

    The amount of energy contained in one barrel of oil is equivalent to something like eight years of work by one human. That barrel of oil is valued today at $US108.64 (Brent / world price). Eight years of an average full time gross wage for one working age Canadian human tips the scales in the hundreds of thousands. The energy density of fossil fuels is not currently matched by any other fuel except uranium. And fossil fuels, notably the Number One liquid fuel (oil byproducts) is now in decline despite the hype surrounding the drilling and fracking of shale. The five largest oil companies have collectively seen a 25% drop in production worldwide in the last decade.

    We are facing a major energy falldown, and it will arrive a lot sooner than we can ever hope to adapt to climate change.

    Neither the Green Party or the NDP have explained how exactly, and in the detail necessary to prove they actually understand the problem, they would foster a transition from non-renewable energy to renewables to keep some kind of an industrial economy running if only at a stable state when growth may no longer be possible under the status quo. This would be a gargantuan and very expensive task in the face of a potentially devastating worldwide deflationary cycle once fossil energy is priced too high and supply constraints cause the economic foundations all over the world to crumble. The industrial policies of the NDP remain remarkably business-as-usual. The Green Party doesn’t appear to have an industrial strategy at all other than to superficially promote solar and wind in the absence of cost, transmission distribution and other technical concerns, let alone an economic policy that distinguishes the opportunities and constraints of decentralized vs. base load zero emission power directed to new and far cleaner industries.

    I have concluded (admittedly reluctantly) that using oil and gas fossil fuels for a time, but only as a transitional source of energy, will have to be part of the solution sooner rather than later, if at all, as will accepting a remarkably steep decline in the overall energy available to society, industries and individuals. There is no other way to supply the concrete, high-strength steel, plastics, machines, materials and electronics, most of which is currently imported from Asian industries powered by coal, and the associated myriad of taxed wages and payroll benefits and economic multipliers found in building windmills, tidal generators, geothermal plants, solar panels and transit vehicles locally, and in creating more localized value-added industries, conducting significant R&D into fourth generation nuclear power in Ontario, and to rebuild our cities to be more resilient. It will not be possible to introduce a National Transit Plan or a National Renewable Energy Strategy without using a portion of the remaining fossil fuels to energize it at the initial stage and create a carbon tax to fund it, at least while the economy is still running.

    The current BC government is too interested in shoveling our resources offshore in a Gold Rush panic and at the lowest prices possible to care about any of this. The Achilles Heel of long-term planning around fracked shale gas is its extraordinary rates of production decline, often as high as 50% after one year. BC LNG will likely not last a decade before declining, and will thus not be an economic Messiah.

    But leaving it in the ground will not counter the importation of materials and manufactured goods with very high coal-fired embedded carbon emissions that also happen to be important components of windmills and solar panels. I would rather see a small portion of the BC natural gas resource go into fueling the ferries at a predetermined local price to displace diesel set at international prices, and offsetting the higher international prices coming down the pipe for gas in the face of wide domestic dependency, notably in the form of central heating. There has to be a planned transition period and grant structure put in place that allows British Columbians time and financial resources to switch to electric induction stoves, high efficiency furnaces, ground exchange / heat pump-based central heating and cooling, even high effiociency wood stoves, and to build three or four geothermal power plants (possibly supplemented by intermittent wind and tidal) on the Coast that could supply enough base load emission-free energy to not only offset fossil fuel use in our cities, but to transition to energy efficient communities and to power industries that make things like low emission concrete and steel products from zero emission electric arc blast furnaces. Kitimat already boasts an aluminum smelter that uses relatively clean hydro electricity, but there are arguments arising against more dams in BC. Preserving our scarce agricultural land is one of them.

    The transition to a cleaner future hasn’t even started despite a generation of accumulated knowledge on peak oil and climate change, though living here in hydro-rich BC is an advantage. It is painfully obvious that today’s economic and political forces would rather ignore the issue, defer action until the crises achieve a critical level, or not place adequate intellectual resources into composing a viable Transition Plan.

    We have to do better than that.

    MB

    September 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm

  2. Though I feel there is a role to play for a small part of BC’s natural gas, notably as a public reserve to retain some of the people’s resource for the people instead of for export, I remain adamantly opposed to any widespread fracking, subsidies for any fossil fuel extraction, transport and conversion to liquefied form, and dilbit / condensate pipeline expansion in BC. I also see any reversal of the flow in pipelines eastwards from the tar sands as a strictly temporary measure to partially offset the import of oil from the troubled Middle East until decent levels of transit and transit-oriented development can displace at least half of our existing car dependency level nationwide.

    None of this should constrain (and will no doubt help fund via carbon taxes) conservation, the transition to more efficient cities, the electrification of transportation on a national scale, and realize the potential of a national smart electrical grid.

    Lastly, I feel the higher prices and lack of ability of unconventional fossil fuels (tar sands, deepwater, Arctic) to replace conventional sources on a global scale (they still produce roughly two thirds of world supplies even when in decline today) will eventually cause their own demise.

    So which political party is discussing this?

    MB

    September 25, 2013 at 3:54 pm

  3. To find out more about current Green Party policy please refer to the Green Book.

    Green Book 2013 is a living document that is updated periodically as new policy is adopted by the Green Party of BC. The document is current to the end of April 16, 2013.

    If you would like to make a contribution to the further development of any of those policies please submit your ideas through http://www.greenparty.bc.ca/suggest_policy

    Stephen Rees

    September 25, 2013 at 4:14 pm

  4. Here is a link to Ben Parfitt’s excellent report on shale gas in northern BC. Though they mention it amidst the many well-know environmental concerns on fracking, I feel there isn’t sufficient focus on the high decline rates of shale gas, the net energy left in the resource once fracked, transported and frozen, and the high debt loads carried by the companies pursuing this resource (hence the hyped marketing).

    The report is 53 pages long with 73 citations and a 2 ½ page list of refernces.

    http://www.policyalternatives.ca/fracking

    MB

    October 1, 2013 at 2:49 pm


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