A cold, hard look at LNG

South Cowichan Echo News

FEBRUARY 2017 South Cowichan, British Columbia, Canada VOLUME 3, NUMBER 3 

Four years after winning an election based largely on her promises that the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry would be the salvation of B.C.’s economy, Christy Clark continues to tout the benefits of this industry.

will you see the costs of these subsidies? On your steadily rising hydro bills.

We don’t need to believe this story anymore. In fact, we must reject it.

But that’s not all. The citizens of B.C. were denied half of the tax revenue from this site when the Liberals and NDP voted last summer to give the LNG industry a 50 per cent tax break. (BC Green MLA Andrew Weaver voted against the tax break, and the Greens are calling for a moratorium on fracking in B.C.)

The economics of LNG are bad for B.C. Currently, the price to sell LNG on the global market is significantly lower than the price to produce LNG in B.C., where production costs are some of the highest in the world, due to the high costs of fracking in remote areas of the province.

As it stands right now, the production costs in B.C. are about 50 per cent higher than the price being paid on the open market, and global prices are still dropping – it doesn’t take an economist to recognize that’s a bad investment.

Woodfibre also gets 18 months with no carbon taxes, lowered natural gas royalties and accelerated capital costs write-offs. The LNG industry also gets $200 million in drilling credits each year.

Worse yet, it’s the citizens of B.C. who will end up paying through subsidies and tax giveaways to the industry.

Consider Woodfibre LNG, near Squamish, recently approved by the BC Liberal government and cautiously supported by the BC NDP. Woodfibre is owned by Sukanto Tanoto, a Singapore businessman who has been found guilty of tax evasion.

All in all, it’s a pretty sweet deal for Woodfibre, funded by the citizens of B.C. It’s hard to imagine when the revenues could possibly start flowing back to B.C., particularly given the reality that so many countries are taking significant steps away from fossil fuels.

Christy Clark wants us to believe that this type of LNG facility will be good for B.C., but it’s pretty hard to make the math work. There may, one day, be 100 permanent jobs, but at what cost? Clark has given Woodfibre a giant electrical subsidy, offering to sell them hydro electricity at $53.60/megawatt hour.

Solar, wind and geothermal are the energy sources of the future, and countries around the world are recognizing not only our moral imperative to transition away from fossil fuels, but also the significant economic and environmental benefits of doing so. By investing in these industries, we create jobs in our own communities, and we create long-term solutions to our energy challenges, and we move to far less polluting forms of energy production.

This is significantly lower than the projected cost of producing electricity at Site C, which would be somewhere between $83 and $100/megawatt hour.

We can no longer pretend that 20th century models for energy production are viable. It’s time that we launch B.C. into the 21st century with a sustainable energy revolution.

Who would make up the difference? The citizens of B.C., who are already on the hook for the $9 billion plus bill for Site C, the biggest megaproject in our history. To add insult to injury, we will cover, with our taxes, the $30- $50/megawatt hour deficit for the electricity going to Woodfibre. And where

Sonia Furstenau is the CVRD area director for Shawnigan Lake, and BC Green party candidate for the Cowichan Valley. 

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March 17 CBC Interview on Big Money

LINK to excerpt

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Greens look to basic income for poverty

Cowichan Valley Citizen posted Jan 26, 2017

I applaud The Citizen for asking the question “What will candidates do about poverty?”, as it’s a crucial issue, and one that needs urgent political action.

As a teacher at Dwight School in Shawnigan Lake, we participated in several community-based initiatives to fill gaps created by poverty in the region. Each year students and teachers ran a food drive to collect food and funds for the CMS Food Bank in Mill Bay. I also coordinated with Meals on the Ground to get Dwight students to participate in this terrific local effort; many of the students found the experience of serving meals to be one of their most satisfying extra-curricular activities.

All across B.C., community groups, NGOs, and citizens are stepping up to fill the ever-widening gaps in our social safety net. While these groups are trying to meet growing needs, the reality is that the root causes of poverty are not being addressed in our province. We need a poverty-reduction strategy in B.C., and we need to recognize that poverty is a crisis that affects all of us.

In B.C., poverty rates have steadily increased over the past 16 years. Wages have fallen behind — we have one of the lowest minimum wages in Canada — while cost of living has steadily risen. Twenty-five per cent of B.C.’s workers — half a million people — currently earn less than $15/hour, which means that their earnings, even if they are working full-time, put them well below the poverty line.

Meanwhile, life has gotten more and more expensive. Rates for MSP, ICBC, BC Hydro, and BC Ferries continue to increase, and housing costs are creating a crisis in this province. Food and child care costs are also rising, pushing more and more vulnerable families to food banks — over 100,000 in 2016.

Nearly 20 per cent of children in B.C. live in poverty. Social assistance rates have been stagnant for nearly a decade, and are woefully inadequate given the high costs of living, particularly in urban areas. A poverty reduction strategy needs to be a top priority of the provincial government, and should be a provincial election issue.

Raising minimum wage is one approach, however it does not help people who cannot find a job, or who face job insecurity. Minimum wage also does not address the issue of increasing automation that we’re seeing. Analysts and experts predict that rising automation is going to undermine employment rates across all employment sectors, as we have already seen in the resource industries, and is increasingly happening in the service industries. We need to create solutions that recognize the reality that automation is going to drastically change the workforce landscape.

Andrew Weaver and the BC Green Party have investigated the concept of basic income — an approach to poverty reduction that is increasingly gaining traction around the world. Basic income works on the premise that everyone who falls below a certain income threshold would be eligible for payments that would raise them above the threshold. It’s an approach that has been shown to reduce administrative costs for government, and there would be no need for people to submit to the levels of invasiveness, restrictiveness, and social stigma that is currently attached to receiving social assistance. The BC Green Party has committed to moving forward with two pilot projects to determine the effectiveness and potential for success of a basic income program in B.C.

Poverty takes an enormous toll across society. The Centre for Policy Alternatives estimates that in B.C. poverty costs between $8 and $9 billion annually — a combination of social assistance costs and the consequences of poverty, which result in increased burdens on the health system, increased policing and judicial system costs, and lost economic activity.

Basic income is one approach to addressing growing inequality and poverty. Basic income should be part of a wider poverty reduction strategy that recognizes the rights that all citizens deserve: the right to housing, the right to necessities, the right to health care, and the right to dignity. We all do better in a society that takes care of everyone, especially the most vulnerable.

 

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PowHERtalks | Sonia Furstenau

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Site C will boost your hydro bill

South Cowichan Echo News

JANUARY 2017 South Cowichan, British Columbia, Canada VOLUME 3, NUMBER 2 

Last summer we took a three-week road trip to the Peace River region, with four kids and a tent trailer in tow.

Hydro expects to lose at least another $800 million over four years selling power internationally for less than what it costs to produce. On top of that, BC Hydro plans to saddle us with a 70-year debt repayment plan.

It was the first time we had visited this spectacular far corner of our province. The scenery was beautiful, with rolling farmland along the valley of the mighty Peace and vast expanses of forest. It was very illuminating to visit the two existing dams on the Peace River and the proposed Site C dam site, and to talk to various local people about the project, most of whom were adamantly opposed to it.

The proposed $9 billion Site C would be B.C.’s largest ever infrastructure project. There are several controversial aspects to this project, including the flooding of over 31,000 acres of valuable farmland and traditional First Nation territory along the huge 83 kilometre long reservoir.

This assumes the megaproject comes in on budget, which megaprojects almost never do – and this one is already on track to be significantly over budget.

But as our steadily increasing BC Hydro bills arrive this winter, this is a good time to look at one specific aspect: The cost.

Less costly hydro alternatives to Site C include adding a turbine to the Revelstoke Dam, and reducing the amount of hydro sold by the province under the Columbia River Treaty. In Valemount, they have a shovel-ready geothermal project that the B.C. government is reluctant to approve – even though this is exactly the type of decentralized renewable energy projects that should be supported.

To start, even before Site C costs are figured in, we are already facing a 28 per cent hydro rate increase from 2013 to 2019. Site C will significantly add to these increases, and we will be paying for it for the next 70 years.

Site C is not the “clean energy solution” the BC Liberals would have you believe – in fact it has been an impediment for B.C. to move towards a truly diversified, clean energy economy.

Do we actually need a hydro megaproject? Domestic hydro demand has flat-lined, and the cost of green renewables is falling. BC Hydro says that new electricity generated will not be needed for another 20 to 40 years.

This is a very brief sketch of only one aspect among many concerning this very large project, but one thing is clear: if Site C goes ahead, our Hydro bills will show ramped up increases, steadily and significantly, far into the future.

It appears the main purpose for Site C power is to provide publicly subsidised electricity for B.C.’s natural gas industry and the Alberta tarsands. This means that your increased hydro rates will, in part, be helping to subsidize the fossil fuel industry.

Sonia Furstenau is the CVRD area director for Shawnigan Lake, and BC Green party candidate for the Cowichan Valley. 

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