The New Brunswick Energy Commission will release a public feedback document at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 19, in Room 112, Centennial Building, 670 King St. in Fredericton. The commission co-chairs, Jeannot Volpé and William Thompson, will participate in a news conference at 10 a.m. David Coon, CCNB’s Executive Director, submitted the following to the New Brunswick Energy Commission. CCNB has changed its position on shale gas since this submission and today supports a province-wide ban on shale gas in light of the hazards posed by this industry.
Welcome to the 21st century. A time of runaway climate change – with the devastating storms, crop failures and ocean warming that come with it. A time of peak oil – with the triple digit oil prices and crushing costs of gasoline and heating oil that come with it. If there ever was a time for an energy policy guided by a moral compass, it is now.
With respect to electricity, while there is no current need for new generating capacity, as with all our energy consumption, there is a moral imperative to reduce our demand and to be frugal with the energy we do use.
Considering only the 25% of the energy we consume in the form of electricity, the Ganong Panel concluded that a public investment of $690 million over the next 10 years would eliminate growth in electricity demand, create 30,000 jobs distributed all over the province, and leverage $3 billion of private investment into New Brunswick’s economy. This is a win, win, win strategy. But to capture these opportunities, the energy policy needs to clearly articulate conservation and energy efficiency strategies.
While there is no current need for new generating capacity, there is a moral imperative to replace power plants fuelled by oil and coal with renewable sources of energy. Replacing baseboard heating with renewable wood energy, earth energy, and solar energy will help us retire fossil fuel plants like Belledune and Coleson Cove, which run those baseboards. Replacing the use of oil for heating commercial and institutional buildings with passive solar energy, wood-based fuels and ground source heat pumps will help build a firewall between us and peak oil. To phase out our dependence on oil and coal, energy policy requires a clearly articulated renewable heat strategy.
While there is no current need for new generating capacity, we must transform our generation mix to phase out our use of non-renewable fuels such oil, coal and dangerous uranium. To replace these 20th century power plants, we need new generating capacity powered by hydro, wind, biomass, biogas and the sun.
Where biomass is used, it must be used frugally and efficiently, which means using it as close to where its is produced as possible, using it on a small enough scale to ensure it supplies both electricity and heat to local markets, and using it in technologies with low emissions such as those which convert wood to a gaseous form of fuel.
As part of this transformation, new renewable power sources should be community-based to provide maximum economic benefit to New Brunswickers. And this is a double win, because these new renewable sources of electricity redirect the hundreds of millions of dollars that we currently send out of the province to buy non-renewable fuels back into the New Brunswick economy. To manage this phase-out of non-renewable sources of power, the energy policy must have a clearly articulated renewable power strategy.
It may be that New Brunswick has considerable reserves of natural gas locked up in our shale rock. This is a non-renewable and unconventional supply of fuel. Its exploitation comes with higher risks to New Brunswickers than conventional natural gas. At this moment, we are unprepared in terms of planning, in terms of regulation, and in terms of policy to permit its exploitation. This is why CCNB has called for a moratorium on the exploitation of shale gas.
If shale gas is to be exploited, energy policy must treat it as a strategic public resource for New Brunswick, not an export commodity. There is only so much of it, and then it’s gone. If exploited, it is a public resource which must be used to maximize its energy and economic benefits for New Brunswickers. We must decide whether we want to be like Norway or like Nigeria if we permit it to be exploited.
As a fossil fuel, natural gas must be used strategically and frugally. To burn it at Coleson Cove in a desperate attempt to generate revenues from that white elephant would be an appalling waste and polluting use of natural gas. Using it to fuel stationary fuel cells, combined heat and power systems, and high efficiency furnaces would not. Using it to provide gas to the north and secure a connection with Canada’s natural gas grid would not.
If we are to treat shale gas as a strategic resource, energy policy must include a clearly articulated natural gas strategy.
Almost half of all the energy we use is in the form of oil, particularly in the form of transportation fuels. The prices that are developing with peak oil will make it prohibitively expensive for people to get around and for businesses to ship and receive freight. The emissions from oil are already terribly costly to people’s health and the environment. A provincial energy policy must clearly articulate strategies that provide transportation for our people that doesn’t depend on private vehicles and for the movement of freight that is less dependent on trucking.
The elements of the energy policy I described today will shrink our environmental footprint, fight climate change, create jobs, develop our communities, and reduce the cost of heating and travelling.
We need an energy policy that is about the future, not about money. Yes we have bad debts and stranded assets, and we are going to have to pay for the past mistakes that created them.
We need an energy policy based on long-term thinking to provide us with long-term solutions, not short-term fixes to problems caused by the short-sighted decisions of the past.
Our world is going to look very different within the next ten years, and this energy policy must anticipate that fact. Today’s problems cannot be solved by yesterday’s mind. We must approach the development of energy policy today with a new consciousness. Some will say we cannot afford a hopeful future. Some will say all we can afford is the miserable future we are heading towards. The only answer to that, if we care about our families, our communities, and the rest of nature is to reject the defeatism of yesterday’s mind and press forward, guided by our moral compass, not by economic or political expediency.
David Coon is the Executive Director of CCNB Action.