LNG

Before taxpayers spend billions on LNG…

Since Paul Taylor’s keys to the public sector were taken away, again, I’ve been waiting for news of his latest landing ground. The Report of the Joint Review Panel (JRP) for BC Hydro’s Site C Project offers an idea suited for Taylor. It arises from these JRP words,

“There are alternative sources of power available at similar or somewhat higher costs, notably geothermal power. These sources, being individually smaller than Site C, would allow supply to better follow demand, obviating most of the early-year losses of Site C. Beyond that, the policy constraints that the B.C. government has imposed on BC Hydro have made some other alternatives unavailable. (emphasis added)

“…The Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA) objected to BC Hydro’s labelling of geothermal power in B.C. as technically unviable. It claimed that ‘BC Hydro has not properly informed themselves about the geothermal option and continues to perpetuate the just-ain’t-so information to the public, especially around using Meager Creek as their example of why the industry is not viable.’

“This was a different view than in many other areas of the world where geothermal power is used. It provided cases where geothermal energy has been installed in similar geology. CanGEA addressed the economics of geothermal power, noting that, in many countries, it is often the low-cost provider with power prices well below what BC Hydro has indicated in the IRP…”

Clearly geothermal needs a champion in British Columbia, a person with close connections to power and the ability to work any file, even ones well beyond personal expertise. Taylor is that sort of guy and geothermal seems perfect.

A whole new industry could roll out; billions could be spent with foreign contractors and much could still leak into the hands of BC Liberal pals. That alone would satisfy the government’s main business requirement but the good news is that geothermal could be a non-destructive, renewable solution to British Columbia’s future energy needs. Carbon-free thermal energy in the earth’s crust is virtually limitless and it can provide base load or peak power, with a smaller footprint than other energy sources. Unlike tar sands oil, the energy return on investment (EROI) could be attractive.

Were Canada’s federal government not a division of the multinational oil industry, geothermal might look attractive to the nation’s leaders. In 2010, Tyler Hamilton, energy and technology columnist for Toronto Star, wrote,

“Canada could technically meet all its electricity needs and dramatically lower greenhouse-gas emissions if it moved aggressively to develop enhanced geothermal power projects, according to the first comprehensive assessment of the country’s deep geothermal resources.

“The study, published online in the Journal of Geophysics and Geoengineering, reports on the potential of using enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) to tap hot temperatures kilometres below the earth’s surface as a way of generating clean electricity.

“It found that the most promising Canadian sites are located in parts of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan at depths ranging from 3.5 to 6.5 kilometres. Drill deeper, however, and the potential extends right across the country – including parts of Ontario.

“…The findings aren’t surprising – I’ve been pounding on this drum for several years now. But it’s encouraging to finally see it expressed in a peer-reviewed journal. Canada, shamefully, is the only country along the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire that has yet to switch on a conventional geothermal power plant.

“The irony is that Canada is home to several of the continent’s leading geothermal power developers. Problem is they’re mostly developing in Nevada, California, Nicaragua, Iceland, Chile – everywhere except Canada, where no formal development program exists…

“Add to the equation the new technologies that make EGS possible and geothermal power could play the kind of role that hydroelectric power has historically played in Canada, particularly in western Canada’s many hot spots.”

A paper from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, discusses Energy Return on Investment (EROI) but notes that, despite its importance to making correct energy decisions,

“there seems to be very little interest by governments and industries in supporting this research or in using or promulgating such research as has been done. We view this as critical as our main fuels are progressively depleted and as we are faced with making extremely important decisions on a very meager analytical and data base, and with few scientists trained to cut through the reams of insufficiently analyzed energy advocacy saturating our media and the blogosphere.”

So, despite evidence that expanded production of unconventional fossil fuels is both dangerous to the environment and a wrong economic choice, governments close eyes to alternatives and allow the existing vested interests to dictate public policy.

Categories: LNG, Natural Resources

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