Green power or green spin?
Description: What is green on the outside and brown on the inside? According to Kitsilano resident Donald Gordon, that would be the B.C. Energy Plan. It was unveiled February 27 by Premier Gordon Campbell and B.C. Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
Date: 07 March 2007
Author: Matthew Burrows
Source: Georgia Straight
What is green on the outside and brown on the inside? According to Kitsilano resident Donald Gordon, that would be the B.C. Energy Plan. It was unveiled February 27 by Premier Gordon Campbell and B.C. Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Richard Neufeld as a "vision for clean energy leadership".
The 41-page document was released two weeks after the February 13 throne speech, which stated, "As important as all of these [provincial] priorities are, none is more important than the critical problem of global warming and climate change."
Campbell then said BCers should aim for a 33-percent cut in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2020, but the provincial budget that followed then focused more energy on tax cuts-a fact that has irked Gordon.
The 40-year-old lives in Kitsilano and last November founded Voters Taking Action on Climate Change as a way to give local citizens a voice. He recently put up a one-page Web site at www.vtacc.org.
"We started with 10 members, by mid-December we had 200, and we have been growing every week since," Gordon told the Georgia Straight. "We are juggling our work, kids, mortgage, and getting our income tax done, like everyone else."
Gordon said he is promoting an "active and engaged citizenry" and feels that more people from all political and socioeconomic backgrounds should come to grips with the issues rather than waiting for "overwhelmed" environmental groups "with limited resources" to do all the work. "We need to understand what it's like to become active and engaged again," he said. "We've become very passive."
Gordon called Campbell's latest plan "duplicitous" and said it does not reflect the real desire of constituents-such as those in VTACC-that elected officials start matching their words on climate change with serious action.
"It starts reassuringly green, although it seems to depend heavily on voluntary conservation efforts by companies and individuals," Gordon said. "But as one reads on, it becomes shockingly clear that it is a blueprint for attracting massive investment to B.C.'s oil-and-gas industry, 'streamlining regulations', and lifting the 30-year moratorium on offshore drilling for oil and gas."
Campbell did not return a message from the Straight by deadline.
Gordon said he believes that most regular citizens would be outraged if they learned how "oil-choked" Campbell's plans are and how "we've all been greenwashed". Campbell promised $25 million for a clean energy fund, but promised a $263-million subsidy to oil and gas this year alone.
"Oil and gas is not mentioned in the premier's [introductory] speech," Gordon said. "That's where the multibillion-dollar bucks are-oil and gas, coalbed methane, and shale. Offshore drilling has been resisted by successive governments for 30 years and also resisted by coastal communities and concerned citizens."
But on page 31 of the plan, a policy action states that the B.C. Liberals will continue to "work to lift the federal moratorium" while also working with the federal government to "ensure offshore oil and gas resources are developed in a scientifically-sound and environmentally-responsible way".
Tracey Mann, board member of the Vancouver Greens, told the Straight she understood Gordon's frustration.
"One of the things they left out was a comprehensive plan to deal with greenhouse-gas emissions in the transport sector," she said.
John Winter, president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, told the Straight his organization supports the B.C. Energy Plan and the lifting of the moratorium. "Nobody is advocating irresponsible activity," Winter said. "But all that the moratorium has done is create a knowledge gap. There has been no seismic testing there [offshore] since the 1960s, and we don't know the amount [of oil and gas] there."
Hadi Dowlatabadi, Canada research chair and professor at the UBC Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, said he is pleased with some elements of the plan but not happy with Campbell's dream of a "hydrogen highway" linking Alaska to San Diego and advancing Canadian hydrogen and fuel-cell technologies.
"I am 100-percent against the hydrogen idea," Dowlatabadi said. "That's not a long-term solution. The government has been captive to the hydrogen industry."
Dowlatabadi said that he agreed with Campbell's plan to demand that coal-fired electricity generation have zero carbon emissions, and that better mechanisms be put in place for "two-way metering"-more small generators of renewables selling excess power to the grid.