Posted by: Dave Neads | February 2, 2008

Chickadees, Electricity and Politics

Yesterday was one of those cobalt blue days which make living here so special. Because we have not had our usual January thaw this year, the snow is still pristine white, dimpled with frost crystals on its calm surface. It gave our walk down to the cabin a magical quality.

The chickadees were out in full force, singing their typical February call “Oh, Dear Me” in a descending trio of notes. These busy little birds flit from tree to tree, constantly alive, jabbering to each other and all the rest of the forest creatures, full of life and zest.

Seeing their energy got me to thinking about our energy, the way we produce it and the way we use it. Last Thursday the Campbell government announced its new Energy plan. A significant portion of the dollars and effort will go into burning forests to make electricity.

Without going into detail, I can confidently say that calling this industrial process carbon neutral is a lie. A big lie. Burning a 150 year old tree in 70 seconds, then waiting 150 years for that same volume of carbon to be resequestered is not carbon neutral! It front loads the system hugely, while waiting five generations for that CO2 to be taken back into the trunk and branches of a tree.

But is it more than a big lie. It is the same old same old. The process of cutting the forest and making 2×4’s for the American market is failing for a variety of reasons. So now, the idea is to switch from making products to just burning the trees and selling power to B.C Hydro.

Fewer jobs, more pollution, more habitat destruction, more fragmentation, more unloading into the commons for profit.

Sound like a rant? Maybe, but when I see the way the political machine spews out feel-good slogans at the expense of wild places I cannot be silent.

There are so many ways to produce electricity, especially here in the interior, that we don’t need to burn our precious forests to get it. Burning forests is just the simplest, easiest, most profitable way to do it, so away we go.

What it really speaks to is the way we value wild places in this culture. Most of us live in urban places; we really don’t have the physical connection to the forest that those of us who live in the bush do. This is not a put down, it is a reality. A reality that allows the political machine to serve falsehoods and outright lies for dinner.

This has to stop. If you love wild places, if you understand their value for clean water, for the air we breathe, for the spiritual solace and strength they provide, if you think that we, as a species, have a moral responsibility not to wipe out other sentient creatures just so we can have the luxury of walking around our homes in January wearing a tee shirt, if any of this resonates with you, then it is time to expose the big lie.

Expose the politics that burns forests and calls it “Clean”. Think of the chickadees.



  1. Good on you Dave for getting this out.

  2. Thanks, I’ve had a lot of off BLOG requests, that’s why the latest post.


  3. Yes, but one could argue it is better than the alternative. Currently, we are net importers of Power (mostly from coal fired plants).

    We currently import 15% of our need, and by 2020 it will be over 30% (this is taking into account future conservation savings).

  4. Justin:

    Two things, we also export a lot of power. On balance we produce more than we need. It is a shell game that we are net importers.

    Secondly, producing more power, for what ever reason, cannot be done in a way that adds to the CO2 problem. We cannot afford to use outdated technologies to move forward. Wind, solar, tidal, conservation, some run of the river, all are needed. But what is not needed is carbon combustion and the associated emissions.


  5. Dave, I wish it were true, but I work in the hydro industry where we used to net exporters, but not anymore. BC has been a net importer since 2001.

    Even after conservation we are increasing our energy use at 6% every years (mostly because of a net immigration). Our production is actually going to go down when Burrard Thermal goes offline.

    Much of the energy we purchase is actually green now because Alberta has large wind farms. Solar rus around 50 cents per KWh, which is still too high to commercially produce. BC is the only province in the Canada that doesn’t have commercial wind power. There are several reasons for this.

    1. The BC government won’t let BC Hydro produce anymore power, so its up to the private sector – which could take a while to come on board.
    2. The limited wind capacity is generally very far from existing power lines.
    3. Not enough government subsidies to make it viable – yet.

  6. The clean energy source I think the most potential is geothermal.

    Click to access canada.pdf

  7. J.
    Thank you for the correction, I will have to check my source, as he says it is a matter of interpretation, depends on how you add things up.

    In any case, you are right, demand is going to increase. That is why I strongly feel we need to go green in reality, not just in name. Pricing is an issue for sure. There are a couple of gasification proposals right now that need from $1.25 to $1.50 a MWh to be viable.

    I think we will have to pay more for power, for too long we have not paid the full price when you factor in emissions etc.

    I will look at the geothermal link, California uses it as well.

    There are a couple of wind proposals out there
    Naikun looks like a good one.


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