Coal Trains still coming back to Vancouver Island?

Certainly looks like it.

A few months ago there were some articles online about a company looking to get the rights to and then mine coal near Courtney here on Vancouver Island. It caused quite a stir, particularly in the rail community as the company directly mentioned the close proximity to the E&N and the deep sea port at Port Alberni in its literature.

Well, even though the economy has gone in the tank, it seems as though things are still proceeding.

In February and March, Compliance Energy Corporation went through and signed a partnership in the project with I-Comox Coal Inc a subsidiary of ITOCHU Corporation and LG International Investments (Canada) Ltd. a subsidiary of LG International Corp. They also signed a deal with West Fraser Mills, the original holders of the land to purchase around 29,000 hectares near Buckley Bay and Courtney.

Below is an overview map of the area… with the “Bear” area just south of Cumberland and Comox Lake and the “Raven” area nearer Buckley Bay.


View Larger Map

The Main find that includes Metallurgic (iron/steel) grade coal is in the bottom middle of the image, near where it says “Comox Strathcona A”. This terrain view is easiest to see where the claim is as it relates to surrounding communities. The entire flat area between the water and where the mountain hills start from Fanny Bay in the South to Comox Lake in the North is the general area of the plot.

Here is a slide from a recent presentation given by CEC.

Presentation Screen Cap of VI Coal interests
You can see the various interests CEC has, with Raven being the one considered most profitable.

Their latest filings show that they are still actively pursuing the Raven project.

CEC has provided $7 Million to its Asian backers to “fund all of the activities necessary to reach a production decision on the Raven Coal Project.”

Notice that they said “production decision”, which is quite different from production itself. That said, they seem very optimistic on both the quality and marketability of the project. Other documents say they are hoping to have their first shipments in 2011 or 2012… but this little paragraph in their latest filing indicates there are financial pressures coming to bear that are not unrelated to the wider economy.

The Company will continue to require funds and as a result, will have to continue to rely on equity and debt financing. There can be no assurance that financing, whether debt or equity, will always be available to the Company in the amount required at any particular time. Management is of the opinion that sufficient working capital will be obtained from external financing sources to meet the Company’s liabilities as they come due.

So we’ll see what happens here. The partners in the project, ITOCHU and LG, are multi-billion dollar players in the asian coal and steel industry, so their financial well being is not in doubt. What is in doubt with whether this small company, lead by CEO John Tapics (out of Alberta electricity/coal sector, click for more on the Board), can make this happen, and more importantly, sell it to Island residents.

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.

Trudeau era Minister helps bring Alternative Energy to Ucluelet BC

Very cool Alternative Energy news out of Ucluelet and the Alberni Valley Times today. With an interesting link to a long past era.

The Pacific Coastal Wave plan is to build a demonstration project which will generate up to four megawatts (mw) of electricity, using the movement of the ocean swell to pump water to a shore-based turbine station

Pacific Coastal Wave is a company co-owned by Global Energy Horizons, of Victoria B.C., Canada . Anthony Abbott, a former Minister in the Pierre Trudeau Cabinet from 1976-79 serves as a Director of the company amongst other high-powered executives.

The other partner in the venture is Renewable Energy Holdings… a seemingly behemoth alternative energy holding company. In their latest report, they do seem quite enthused with the prospect of wave energy in Ucluelet, and that’s what is important here. From their report:

sites include Bermuda, West Coast Vancouver Island, Canada and others under review, all of which offer excellent wave regimes and exposure to high economic returns.

As is noted here by REH, Wave Energy has the potential to produce over 2 TeraWatts of power. Equivalent to 400,000 single 5MW wind turbines.

Ucluelet and Vancouver Island are ideally placed because of the near constant rolling swell of the NE Pacific along the West Coast of North America, and the close proximity of the BC Hydro electrical grid to that water.

A little more about the project itself:

The CECO system uses a multitude of buoys anchored to the ocean floor, between 15 and 50 metres deep. De Clare said the submerged buoys are set in constant motion by the ocean swell (not the waves). Those constantly moving buoys in turn provide the motive power for a patented “sloppy pump” system on the ocean floor.

“They push sea water onto land at a pressure of 1,000 pounds per square inch (psi),” de Clare explained.

In Ucluelet, that water pressure will drive a turbine generator, but it can also be used to turn sea water into fresh water.

“You need 800 psi to desalinize water,” de Clare said. “The government in Australia particularly likes that part.”

The sloppy pump system is self-lubricating with sea water, and the generation takes place on land – that removes two major environmental objections to the CECO system, de Clare said. The materials used in the CECO system – Hypalon plastic, stainless steel and concrete – are familiar and benign, he added.

Simple, and effective.

This is excellent news for Ucluelet, a former fishing and forestry village, which like so many other BC Communities, has had to turn to Tourism to create jobs. It has done this reasonably successfully, but something a little more concrete like Alternative Energy would be more than welcome for the local economy. And the benefit potentially won’t stop in Ucluelet. A little further inland and up the Alberni Inlet from Ucluelet lies my hometown of Port Alberni. In much the same way as Ucluelet, its’ primary, traditional, industries have been decimated over the past few years, but with a Deep Sea port and lots of industrial space, this might be a door to a whole new industry building these systems and exporting them all around the world.

One can only hope. It’s nice to have some good news for once.

G20 Leaders must create new Reserve Currency… or face decade of hardship.

That is one of the recommendations from a European Think Tank “LEAPE20/20″ in an open letter published last week. (hattip: The Oil Drum).

Your next summit takes place in a few days in London; but are you aware that you have less than a semester to prevent the world from plunging into a crisis that will take at least a decade to resolve, accompanied by a whole series of tragedies and ferment? Therefore, this open letter by LEAP/E2020, who saw the arrival of a « global systemic crisis » as early as three years ago, intends to briefly explain why it happened and how to limit further damage.

Until now you have merely been concerned with the symptoms and secondary effects of this crisis because, unfortunately, nothing prepared you to face a crisis of such an historic scale. You thought that adding more oil to the global engine would be enough, unaware of the fact that the engine was broken, with no hope of repair. In fact, a new engine must be built, and time is running out, as the international system deteriorates further each month.

LEAP’S THREE STRATEGIC RECOMMENDATIONS

1. The key to solving the crisis lies in creating a new international reserve currency!

2. Set up bank control schemes as soon as possible!

3. Get the IMF to assess the US, UK and Swiss financial systems!

Basically they’re telling the G20 to dump the US Dollar as the defacto reserve currency… which it has been since the gold standard was dropped in the 60s/70s.

There is no doubt this recommendation is as much a way to limit exposure to rising crude oil prices as well… because if the US Dollar goes into hyper-inflation due to the trillions of dollars spent bailing out the financial mess, then so will the price of crude, and the world will spin into an even deeper depression.

The US Dollar and economy are no longer capable of supporting the current global economic, financial and monetary order. As long as this strategic problem is not directly addressed and solved, the crisis will grow. Indeed it is at the heart of the crises of derivative financial products, banks, energy prices…

he solution to this problem is well-known, it is about creating an international reserve
currency (which could be called the « Global ») based on a basket of currencies corresponding to the world’s largest economies, i.e. US dollar, Euro, Yen, Yuan, Khaleeji (common currency of oil-producing Gulf states, to be launched in January 2010), Ruble, Real…, managed by a « World Monetary Institute » whose Board will reflect the respective weight of the economies whose currencies comprise the « Global ».

Would it help? Maybe…

Likely to happen? I certainly don’t think so.

For all of the good and proactiveness of President Obama in some respect… overall, he is still the cut from the same cloth as every other politician. He is a reactionary. Change like this will not happen on a global level until the we all have suffered immensely and there really is no other choice.

That is why it is so important for us, as citizens, to make these types of changes in resiliency *locally*. *We* must set the example for our governments to follow. www.transitiontowns.org