BC Government failing on energy security and sustainability

August 16, 2004

VANCOUVER - British Columbia is headed for an energy crunch if it doesn't make sweeping changes to the sector with a new focus on energy security, renewable energy and conservation, says a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the David Suzuki Foundation.

Released today, the report says the province's fixation on extracting as much oil and gas from the ground as quickly as possible, and then shipping these non-renewable resources to the US, is creating more greenhouse gases and exporting jobs. Greenhouse gases cause climate change, which is linked to an emerging pattern of drought, declining salmon stocks, heat waves, insect infestations and forest fires in BC.

"We need to change the way we produce, consume and export energy in this province," said report author Dale Marshall, a Suzuki Foundation policy analyst. "BC's energy sector is fundamentally unsustainable. We are giving up long-term security to achieve short-term goals. We have no plan for when these oil and gas resources run out, either for the province's energy needs or for the communities that depend on these industries for jobs."

The provincial government released its energy plan in 2002, which claimed to be based on principles of sustainability and energy security.

"Two years later it is clear that the government's plan actually undermines energy security, ignores the dangers of climate change, and makes only token gestures towards the need for conservation and renewable energy," said Mr. Marshall.

BC's energy plan set in motion new coal and natural gas-fired plants; more pipelines and increased oil, gas and electricity production for export; the development of coalbed methane and offshore oil and gas; and the break-up and incremental privatization of BC Hydro.

Running on Empty: Shifting to a Sustainable Energy Plan for BC outlines a more hopeful and sustainable vision for the province's energy industries. The report shows how BC can meet its electricity needs during the next two decades entirely through conservation measures and renewable technologies. It also calls for a new approach to the oil and gas sector, one that would see more in-province refining and value-added activities, rather than opening up fragile ecosystems to oil and gas development. In return, the province will get a secure supply of energy, less air pollution, more jobs, and an improved quality of life.

Among the report's key findings:

  • Despite rapid increases in both oil and natural gas production, fewer people are employed in extracting oil and gas in the province. British Columbians make up only one fifth of oil and gas production workers employed in the province. Less crude oil ends up at BC refineries than in the past, and the province has yet to develop any value-added natural gas industries.
  • BC Hydro is spending more on the 10% of its power supply it buys from private power producers than it does on the 90% that it generates through its own operations. BC also depends increasingly on burning fossil fuels--coal, diesel, and natural gas--for electricity. The result is that greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity and oil/natural gas sectors have increased by 179% and 45% respectively between 1990 and 2001.
  • BC's oil and natural gas reserves now stand at ten and twelve years of production respectively. Yet BC is increasing its exports of these valuable resources.

Running on Empty offers practical alternatives to the policies outlined in the government's Energy Plan, including:

  • Eliminating all subsidies to oil and gas production, and increasing oil and gas royalties
  • Earmarking a portion of oil, gas, and coal tax and royalty revenues to a permanent fund that invests in economic development projects that diversify local and regional economies dependent on non-renewable resources
  • Maintaining the moratorium on offshore oil exploration and development
  • Establishing a renewable portfolio standard for all new electricity production in BC that mandates all new supply be from low-impact renewable power sources
  • Reversing the deregulation of BC's electricity sector by re-establishing BC Hydro as an integrated public utility with a mandate to undertake long-term electricity planning and provide a secure electricity supply, and rescinding the new rule precluding BC Hydro from building new generation capacity.


For more information, or to arrange an interview with report author Dale Marshall, call:Avi GoldbergCCPA Communications officer(604) 801-5121, ext. 229