Another Energy Strategy is Possible and Needed

19 07 2014

The Wheeler review on hydraulic fracturing will soon start sharing its draft recommendations through a series of public meetings. While speculation on the contents has been rife, especially as a result of the perceived lack of balance and evidence in several of the discussion papers that have emerged from the panel, it remains to be seen whether the review panel will recommend maintaining the moratorium on fracking or not.

Given this, it seems an opportune time to shift the discussion slightly, away from the panel itself and toward larger-scale questions about the future of our province, such as why we are investing so much time and money into reviewing this clearly unpopular method of energy production, and not more time and investment into major renewable energy initiatives. (Note: 69 per cent of Nova Scotians oppose fracking, according to a poll.)

Now some may say, “Haven’t we been doing just that, with extra costs on our electricity bills for green energy production as well as (the now removed) efficiency charge?”

But the reality is whatever paltry amounts we have been putting into building renewable energy sources pales in comparison to the levels of subsidy for the oil and gas sector embedded in our electricity and fuel bills. It’s just the ones for creating green energy are actually visible.

A recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) report says Canadians are subsidizing the oil and gas sector to the tune of $26 billion a year, in addition to the $1.3-$2.8 billion in direct subsidies provided to the industry through government programs. This amounts to close to $800 year that individual Canadians are paying the oil and gas sector.

This type of support demands a tough question: do we need the jobs that would supposedly come with the fracking industry, at any cost? And, is investing in something like this really the best way to create jobs in the energy sector in the first place?

According to a recent report, investing the same level of direct subsidy ($1.3 billion) in renewable energy as opposed to the oil sector would yield between 18,000 and 20,000 jobs, while the same investment in the oil sector yields between 2,000 and 3,000 — an almost tenfold difference.

And the interesting thing is that renewables are a fantastic potential windfall — not just to provide 25 per cent to 40 per cent of our power, but to pass power on to other parts of the continent. For instance, Mark Jacobson has shown winds off of the East Coast of North America could provide for the energy needs of the continent due to the consistency and strength of winds along the Atlantic shore. Nova Scotia is in a perfect position to take advantage of this, as well as other renewables such as tidal forces.

This is where I am hopeful that the Wheeler review can defy expectations and look not only at whether to maintain the moratorium or not, but also to provide the basis for our political leadership to say to Ray Ivany and others that this province can be a “have renewables” province.

Certainly, the basis for maintaining the moratorium exists, with Ottawa’s own sponsored review having pointed to the clear dangers and questions associated with hydraulic fracturing. With the subsidies described above and the questions raised by this report, one needs to ask if we should invest in fracking. In fact, more and more voices are calling for a shift away from the oil and gas sector toward renewables, including hedge fund and insurance brokers and Hillary Clinton.

I hope the Wheeler recommendations will speak to our common future — one that sees a clean and productive energy future with no place for fracking. We have several natural resources in our backyard that we can harness for energy without destroying our water tables, the health of our communities and our general environment — and which lead to great job creation.


Johathan Langdon is an associate professor in development studies at St. F.X. University.




One response

19 07 2014

Right on.
I hope you are intending to come to a couple of the presentations by Wheeler in Tatamagouche on Monday and Truro on Tuesday. The one in Tatamagouche at least promises to be quite lively.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: