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As I write this it’s one down, 6 to go on my 7 speeches in 7 days tour. It is my intention to speak in every corner of the province against the privatizing of our power.

Since I began this fight I’ve been wondering what argument the government was going to put up it being impossible for me to see anything to be said for this energy plan.

Forgive me if I go over some old ground today but as the government’s spin is now becoming clearer I think it’s time to put some things in perspective.

First, let me say that Save Our Rivers Society is opposed to any privatization of power. We have been well served by BC Hydro since the late 60s and we’d be damned fools to let it go.

Second, here’s what the government story is. We need power they tell us and quote statistics to demonstrate this. They use BC Hydro figures to demonstrate this but that does not include the 12% of power that comes from other sources such as Alcan, Teck Cominco, Fortis and the like. The National Energy Board, an independent body which issues the export permits, has BC a net exporter of most years.

At the meeting in Squamish was a man with an interest in private river power and his mantra was “we need power therefore we must encourage private river power. He spent much of his questioning stating and demonstrating the need for more power, especially into the future.

I confronted him with this fatal argument.

“Sir”, I said, “even if we did need power – indeed let’s say for sake of argument we need it badly – Private power would be the very last place we would look to got help because private river power can only produce power during the Spring run-off when BC Hydro’s reservoirs are full.”

Let’s pause here for a moment. You cannot store electricity in any quantity, what you store is water in the reservoir behind the dam. BC Hydro has huge reservoirs behind their dams along with other reservoirs. For all practical purposes private river plants don’t store water so must make their electricity when the river is flowing sufficiently high as to turn their generators. Thus the only power private river power can produce comes when BC Hydro doesn’t need it. It follows that power provided is for export. My private river friend had to admit I was right.

But he and his government friends continually ignore that truth and re-kindle once more their mantra that we need the power so we must put in private river schemes even though they know that this simply doesn’t follow, is a non sequitur.

The technique is the “big lie”, which holds that the bigger the lie you tell, the easier it is to get acceptance. As long as the government and private river power producers keep saying “we need the power, therefore we need private energy producers” there will be some acceptance of that nonsense. I suggest that we meet this lie by saying the plain truth over and over – even if we did need power there is no way that private river power could provide it.

There was another interesting opinion expressed by way of a question. “Shouldn’t we, as good neighbours, help the United States with their energy crisis?”

Not, surely, until they’ve exhausted their own solutions. Why should we dam and divert our rivers and streams so that they don’t have to do the same south of the border?”

“But”, the questioner pressed on, “if we can send hydro power to the US so that they don’t have to use fossil fuels to create it, aren’t we helping to reduce climate change?”

The answer is that there isn’t a tittle of evidence to support the notion that the US will use our power as a reason to be more conservation minded and in fact, cheaper power from us will simply encourage them to carry on as usual! The US contributes the same Greenhouse gases as before, our rivers are trashed and we lose BC Hydro, for 49 years the provider of clean, cheap and abundant public power. This notion that we’ll help the US with their greenhouse gases problem is not, of course, what the government has given us as the reasons they want us into private river power. We were told – and indeed are still being told – that the energy plan was to solve BC’s energy problems (not real as we now know but fictional.)

My answer is that each nation has its own obligations to reduce greenhouse gases and that if the US wanted to reduce its impact then it should look to its own solutions before they come to ask us to do that which they won’t do themselves. I see an obligation on British Columbia to get its own house in order – the same obligation is on other jurisdictions.

Besides – the best way British Columbia can make its contribution is to keep its trees.

The fight to save our rivers and our public power tradition goes on.

One Response to “The Big Lie About the Need For Power”

  1. Shirley Walker says:

    I am so glad you are carrying on this fight. It is madness to trash our rivers for the sake of the Premier’s ideology of privatization. I think this province is going to have to vote him out of office.

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