Thursday, April 16, 2009

Energy: Whence goest thou?


CBC Saskatchewan has a weekly 5-minute radio program called Provincial Affairs in which the political parties are given free time to say what’s on their minds. Yesterday, Laura Ross of the Saskatchewan Party lauded the achievements of the current government, particularly the injection of a billion dollars into infrastructure development (highways, schools, hospitals, etc.) inside a balanced budget.

My ears perked up—as they say—when she talked about energy initiatives because there’s been a great deal of talk about the refinement of uranium locally and, possibly, the generation of nuclear power in the province. The provincial government has appointed Dan Perrins to guide province-wide public consultations on “the findings and recommendations of the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) report (”, but Ms. Ross pointedly left the impression that it was to be a general exploration of the province’s energy future, and she also made it clear that hydro, wind, solar, nuclear, thermal, will all be on the table.

I hope individuals will seize this opportunity to educate themselves on the costs and the benefits of the various kinds of energy generation and make their wishes known. It makes a difference.

In all likelihood, our province (not to exclude others) will begin a major energy project. It may be tied in to a hope that the tar sands of mid-western Saskatchewan can be developed and we know that such a venture would require massive energy. We’ve been able to “go to school” on Alberta’s experience on that!

Whatever the long-term plans for that option turn out to be, aging energy facilities and the concern for climate change make a serious discussion on future energy needs critical.
The next major energy development will be a far-reaching commitment, a signal to all and sundry that we are either driven by short-term economics or by environmental issues and sustainability. The expenditure will be so large—in all probability—that the final choice will exclude the others. Developing nuclear capability, for instance, would cost massive amounts of money, all of which would have to be recouped through future energy bills and taxes. Likewise, the carbon sequestration technology doesn’t come cheap.

If I attend a hearing, my vote will go toward two initiatives: reduction of energy use and development of a combination of solar, wind technologies so that our energy is gathered from thousands of small sources rather than from a few mega-projects.

Where will your vote go on this subject, and why?

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