Try out BC STV online!

This is really cool!

Some ingenious folks have created a website that mimics a BC Election using the BC-STV system.

You can select your riding, choose your candidates, and then see how your vote gets processed. I “voted” multiple times by going to different ridings so that I could see how my vote worked if I voted in different ways. Make sure you click on the “All Rounds” link when you get to the results so that you can see how the votes get transferred through all the rounds.

It is very interesting. And while it is clear it will take longer to have a final result under STV, it sure will be nice to have the choice and to be able to elect different foks from different parties! It really works!

Chris

Peak Oil and Gas biting hard in Alberta – Have-Not soon.

While both the Liberals and Conservatives in Parliament talk up the potential of the Tar Sands to keep votes in Alberta… the reality on the ground is starting to really hurt the revenues of Canadas’ richest province.

As far back as August last year, at the apex of the oil price shock, there have been major warning signs that peak oil and gas production was starting to hurt Albertas revenue/royalty stream.

From the article last year:

Natural gas provides about $6 billion of the province’s $10 billion oil and gas resource revenue and accounts for most of the roughly $27 billion spent each year to explore for conventional hydrocarbons – which, incidentally, dwarfs high-profile oilsands spending.

In 2008, Canada’s natural gas output and drilling have both been in decline, while south of the border the natural gas drilling business is going flat out and gas output is up. Provincially, gas production is up markedly in British Columbia – but given Alberta’s 90 per cent weight in Canadian production, Wild Rose Country’s performance is pulling Canada’s national figures sharply lower.

This is the definition of Peak Oil my friends… pouring more and more money into exploration/wells just to offset the production lost due to a peaked resource… and because Natural Gas tends to decline much more sharply than Oil, the reliance on Gas royalties puts Alberta in an even worse position.

And now that oil prices are “low” at $50, oil companies don’t want to invest in a futile effort… here is yesterdays article:

Natural gas makes up two-thirds of all activity in the oilpatch and production has fallen almost 15 per cent over the past two years, taking the biggest contributor to the government’s revenue stream down with it. From a peak of about 14 billion cubic feet a day in 2001, Alberta’s gas production has steadily slid to a little more than 12 billion cubic feet at present.

So what? you might say… we have the Tar Sands. Well, without Natural Gas, you have no tar sands as it is required to melt or steam the oil out of the sand.

The implications of Peak Oil and Gas in Alberta?

  • Alberta will likely be a “have-not” province within 5 years, and stay that way indefinitely, much like the maritime provinces
  • Natural Gas prices in North America will rise sharply over the next few years as US production starts to fall and increased demand from a recovering economy and rejection of foreign oil takes hold.
  • A nuclear energy plant will be built somewhere near Fort Mac in order to replace the energy lost to declining Natural Gas.
  • LNG imports into North America will increase putting more upward momentum on Natural Gas prices.
  • NAFTA will be center stage once more, as the clause requiring Canada to export its fossil fuels to the US starts to worry citizens and politicians alike.

The BC NDP Platform

The election campaign is officially here. The barbs have been flying for some time now, but I thought it worth it to go through each party platform, even though I will likely vote NDP, I still think it’s important to go through everything and pick out what I like, or really don’t, as much as i can, in each platform.

I will be going through the NDP, Liberal, and Green Party platforms. Obviously these are huge, fluffy documents full of accusations and counter-accusations and plenty of promises. I will only be addressing points that I think are actually noteable improvements and or differences in policy. There is a lot of overlap….

So. Today I’m going to analyze the platform of the BC NDP party (NDP site here).

“Ratings” in (bold).

A. TAX BREAKS TO SUPPORT BUSINESS AND CONSUMERS

Scrapping the gas tax. The NDP will scrap the tax, putting $1.8 billion back into the economy over the next three years. (NO!)

Ending privatization at BC Hydro to control rising rates. BC businesses and households face increased costs of hundreds of millions of dollars because of Gordon Campbell’s drive to privatize BC Hydro and new electric power sources. (YES!)

Holding the line on ferry rate hikes… a moratorium on the BC Liberals’ scheduled 2010 and 2011 fare increases pending a full review of the privatized corporation…the future direction for BC Ferries will be based on its importance as BC’s ‘marine highway’. (YES)

Scrapping the gas tax is ludicrous. It will rob the government of much needed revenue at a time of severe recession and if anyone actually counts up the pennies they would save at the pump will realise that it will do nothing to help people pay their bills. It also speaks to the NDPs counterproductive position on Climate Change and on putting a price on Carbon. Which must be done if we are ever to limit our consumption of fossil fuels and emissions of Greenhouse Gases from transportation. I have a feeling if they did repeal the tax, it would be back with 1-3 years anyway.

The promise to reinvigorate BC Hydro is, I think, on of the top 3 reasons to vote for the NDP. What has happened to BC Hydro over the past 8 years has been nothing short of tragic in terms of the effect on electricity rates in this province in the future… as well as the “in-house” knowledge and research on advanced technologies (like wave and tidal power) that was happening at BC Hydro and has since been completely abandoned.

Much the same can be said for BC Ferries. Rising prices due to rising gas prices are inevitable, what this speaks to though is that British Columbians will have to make a choice… either we have BC Ferries for large routes that attempt to pay for a portion of the small routes… or we have big bridges and small ferries. Either one will require subsidies and massive amounts of taxpayer money to be effective and affordable and keep Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and Queen Charlottes on the map economically.

B. NEW TRANSPORTATION AND TRANSIT INVESTMENTS

Expand passenger train service between Seattle and Vancouver. (Interesting?)

Make necessary capital investments in needed bus and transit options in Metro Vancouver to cut congestion and pollution. (YES)

Tune-up TransLink. The Campbell Liberals’ approach to TransLink has resulted in expensive privatization schemes, decisions made in secret and dictated by the Campbell government. The NDP will repeal Bill 43 to restore democratic control and public accountability to local government and taxpayers. (YES)

On the rail service… I’m not sure where this is coming from… but I will also support new investment in rail. What I do *not* see is any mention by the NDP of any improvements in transit OUTSIDE the lower mainland. Victoria, Central Vancouver Island, the Southern Interior… could all use more mass transit and real research into new ways of linking populations in BC. That’s not happening.

The 2nd point is vague… but I like it because it again emphasizes bus and transit over Single Occupancy Vehicles, and that is a must.

Translink has gone from a board of squabbling… but elected… mayors… to a bunch of unelected officials doing everything in private… that process must be reversed.

C. INVESTING IN JOBS, COMMUNITIES, LOCAL ECONOMIES AND FAMILIES

Establish a new retrofit program to ensure public facilities like hospitals and schools are energy
efficient. (YES)

Establish new low-interest loan programs to help businesses and homeowners retrofit their homes and workplaces to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs. (YES)

Accelerate hospital construction and fund new community diagnostic and surgery clinics. (YES)

The first and 2nd are long overdue. Buildings are huge contributors to CO2 emissions due to heating and cooling requirements. We can’t tear everything down and start over… we must upgrade where it is too expensive to replace, and we need to start now. A new low-interest loan program for business and homeowners would be much appreciated and I would hope would be done in tandem with new incentives from people like BC Hydro, Terasen Gas, and others to encourage even more retrofitting, especially in these tough times when people need work.

The 3rd point, Hospital and diagnostic/surgery clinic, is imperative. We are still an aging population. I don’t believe this policy is much different from the Liberals in terms of platform, but I must point it out because the Liberals actual record, at least in my region, has been of closing more wards than are opened, and moving from public to private seniors care facilities. These are trends that must be reversed if our health care system is to have any hope of serving BC’ers.

D. INVEST IN PROGRAMS THAT CREATE WEALTH

Establish new local preference buying policies – Buy BC – to ensure BC small businesses, farmers and food processors, and local communities enjoy the economic benefits that flow from expenditure of provincial and local tax dollars. (YES)

This intrigues me. Not the predictable leftist protectionist talk… but rather, the mention of “farmers and food processors”. If you have been following my blog, you will know that I am quite convinced that rebuilding our local food production and distribution networks is essential to avoid the worst effects of global energy price shocks and ultimately energy decline… I hope this turns out to be a small step in that direction.

A FAIR SHARE FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES

Restoration of local autonomy. Carole James and the NDP will repeal the Significant Projects Streamlining Act, end Gordon Campbell’s requirement that all projects over $50 million be public- private partnerships, and restore local oversight of power generation. (YES)

Really… I have nothing to say about the above. It is reversing the terrible decisions and policies of the BC Liberal government.

A Green Plan for BC’s forests.

Expanded reforestation to address the massive “die-back” resulting from the pine beetle outbreak and the reforestation backlog created by the neglect of the Campbell government.

A strengthened Private Managed Forest Land Act to improve protection and management of watersheds, wildlife and public resources.

Restricting Raw Log Exports.

We have heard the promise of “expanded reforestation” before. From the BC Liberals. It never happened. Will the NDP deliver?

We must have better regulation of what happens on Private Forest Lands. This is crucial to forestry on Vancouver Island, where the former E&N land grants (fully 1/3 of the area of Vancouver Island) in the 19th Century are now biting us in the ass as giant companies remove their land from TFLs and revert back to private status, where forest practices regulations are far less stringent, export of logs is streamlined, and development is more profitable than maintaining the renewable resource or natural environment.

These policies are another top reason to vote NDP. Forestry is not a “sunset” industry, it’s simply an industry that has been heavily “offshored” and “free traded” out of BC. The resource is still being used, more than ever, and used badly. We must reverse that trend and refocus on our greatest natural resource in this province, one that could employ thousands if we made it so… and oh ya, it’s renewable.

C. INCREASING OPPORTUNITY IN BC’S AGRICULTURE INDUSTRY


This is the top reason, IMHO, to vote NDP.

Establishing a strong Buy BC and food security program building on the growing trend to buy food products that are locally produced, healthy, and linked to BC’s long-term food security needs.

Strengthening the ALR by making preservation of arable land the priority of the Agricultural Land Commission and by returning the Commission to full provincial status.

Renewing support and investment programs for food producers and processors. For years, the Campbell Liberals have cut supports and downgraded the services of the Ministry of Agriculture, hurting those industries and costing BC needed jobs.

Revitalizing and supporting food production:

• Expand school and consumer education programs to ensure British Columbians learn more about food production and food security issues.

• Restore services to help farmers get their products to markets.

• Support community agriculture, co-ops and farm organizations, including small scale farmers; expand community gardens and local farmers markets.
• Review the BC Liberals’ new Meat Inspection Regulation to support increased farm-gate sales, and ensure all producers and processors are treated fairly.
• Eliminate the BC Liberal gas tax that, in its first year alone, cost the agri-food sector $13 million.
• Review agriculture tax policy to foster investment and maintenance of productive agricultural lands.

Except for the last two (removing the gas/carbon tax)… this promised policy direction is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL. and must be a foundation of all parties platforms in the future. We will see if the Liberals or Greens will be able to match it. I don’t think the Liberals will, the Greens perhaps.

I am impressed at the emphasis on long term food-security, this at least suggests that someon in the NDP knows the challenges facing the world in the next decade. This is good.

Carole James and the NDP will create more affordable and accessible child care spaces for
families by:
• Capping fees.
• Improving recruitment and retention, and enhancing training of teachers and early
childhood education professionals.
• As finances permit, introducing all-day kindergarten for 5-year-olds and the accompanying
after school care. This will free up 10,000 spaces within existing group child care centres
and family child care providers.
• Creating targets and timelines to build an affordable, accessible, quality child care system.

I notice the caveat “as finances permit”. This tells me not to hold my breath that this would actually happen. And honestly, I believe the Liberals have promised the same thing in the past… this is not an issue that will make people decide, I don’t think, even though I am certainly one that would benefit from increased access and affordability of childcare.

Hotter than Hades – Climate Change vs. Global Warming.

So is this Global Warming?

More precisely… is this Climate Change?

We’ve set a number of temperature records in British Columbia over the past few days. My weather station at Alberni Weather.ca recorded a maximum of 41.1C on Friday (21st) and over 38C yesterday in the City of Port Alberni. Both would be records if they were measured by Environment Canada… But even so.. the Environment Canada station at the Alberni airport measured a record of over 38C on Friday and 37.8 yesterday.

So… what does it all mean? (Aside from it being almost unliveable in our non-air conditioned house).

Well, personally, I don’t like the terms “Global Warming” per-se. While that may be happening on a global level, it’s very hard to perceive for the average human being like you and me.

I would rather call it, “Climate Change”. While the term is more vague, I think it’s actually more accurate because this “warming” causes not only stifling heat… but also more rain… more hurricanes, more tornadoes, different weather patterns, drier, wetter, windier, or more still, more snow in the winter… or less… more sun in the summer… or less. It all depends where you live on the Earth. We in the “West” really only see what happens locally in Europe, and North America….

but there could be greater monsoons in India, or stronger Typhoons in Japan and Australia.

Oh, wait… that *is* happening.

Climate Change is here folks. We need only look out our own windows to see that…

Have humans caused it? I certainly think so. (I had seen plenty of real, undeniable, scientific evidence *before* I saw “The Inconvenient Truth”… but I also did see that movie, and I would highly recommend it to absolutely everyone. It lays out the facts in very very obvious and indisputable ways.)

Anyway, I’m going to go get a drink of water… and finish hanging out the laundry.

Feasibility of Renewables – Or – Wind can power the World

I’ve been looking into improving the energy efficiency of my own home since I moved in last July. Being that the home was built in 1946, there is a lot of work to be done.

In my travels, I’ve come across many studies and projects dealing with renewable energy… I’d like to talk about one that I saw that I found most striking.

It is a study out of Stanford which “Evaluates Global Wind Power”.

Their conclusions are encouraging… if perhaps overly optimistic.

The goal of this study is to quantify the world?s wind power potential for the first time. Global wind power potential for the year 2000 was estimated to be ~72 TW (or ~54,000 Mtoe). As such, sufficient wind exists to supply all the world?s energy needs (i.e., 6995-10177 Mtoe), although many practical barriers need to be overcome to realize this potential.

Article From South Africa

South Africa’s low power costs — the least expensive in the world — have helped attract industry. Electricity is less than 4 cents a kilowatt hour, 36 percent below the next-cheapest market, Canada, said Rob Lines, Eskom’s acting general manager of generation, in a telephone interview from Johannesburg.

So how is electricity made “cheaply”? I would contend that that is accomplished through two major components:

#1: Massive investiment in a single, abundant, ultra-reliable, and renewable energy source.

#2: Building Incentives and support, and consumer price controls put in place by government, generally in the form of Publicly held Electric companies.

#1 has traditionally been satisfied by the Hydro power plants… dams. That is certainly the reason behind Canadas good fortune. But we are quickly using up that god-given resource as demand for electricity skyrockets.

In the previous post, I mentioned offshore wind… however, I think this would be only a small part of what could be called a “renewable basket” of energy.

Canada, and indeed the world, has a multitude of different regions and climates lending themselves to different forms of renewable energy installations.

In BC, on the Pacific, Wind, Wave, and Tidal forces would be the most easily harnessed and reliable sources of energy.

In Alberta and right across the prairies, Wind, and Solar would be your best bet…

In the North… the wind is your year round friend, but in the summer months, that 24hrs of sunshine would mean some serious generating potential!

There could be wave farms in the Great Lakes… and Wind farms stretching along their massive coastlines. Southern Ontario and Quebec would be perfect for residential solar panels… in the Maritimes, the opportunity to harvest the wind from those leftover Hurricanes and Tropical Storms is just too obvious.

So the question then becomes, why aren’t we doing this? What kind of investment would it take to develop these resources to their full potential?

The largest Dam in BC, the WAC Bennet Dam was built for approx $764 million dollars in 1962.

Why? Because it was clear that over the next 30-40 years, British Columbia, and Canada, would need the 2GW was power that the dam could produce.

My understanding of wind technology is that it’s $/MW isn’t nearly as good as hydro.. but hey, we’ve pretty much run out of big rivers to dam. So there isn’t a whole lot we can do about that part of the equation except perhaps upgrade what we already have.

So what would $764 million buy us today (in 2006 dollars)? Well, according to my last post… about 700MW of wind turbine generated power?… that’s not 2000, like WAC… but, it’s surprisingly close considering it’s “just wind”. Imagine, a deployment of 700 wind turbines… cherry picked across the province. Increase that amount to a cool $1 Billion… and you give yourself the opportunity to “seed” various regions in the province with significant wind generating capacity. Put 50 in the Fraser Valley, 200 on/around Vancouver Island, 200 in the Queen Charlottes, 200 in the Peace Country, and 50 more spread throughout the foothills in the Southern Interior.

Not only would it generate power, it would generate massive construction and investment throughout the province.