Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2017
British Columbia, like Quebec and Manitoba, is fortunate to have large natural resources that permit very high production of electricity from hydroelectric sources. In fact, about 94% of British Columbia’s electricity generation comes from hydroelectric and other renewable energy power sources. The problem is that electrical energy only represents about 20% of the total energy consumed in British Columbia (source: Globe Foundation).
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It is difficult to find current data concerning the energy consumption in British Columbia by source. In 2000, 33 % was supplied by oil and propane, 26 % was supplied by natural gas 20% was supplied by the burning of wood wastes and the rest was supplied by coal and coke. (source: Globe Foundation)
Environment Canada’s data on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by energy source offers a glimpse into the energy consumption by sector and fuel. In 2016 (the most recent year for which data is available), energy-related GHG emissions were 50.5 megatonnes (Mt), up 19.5% from the 42.2 Mt in 1990, but down 2.3% from the 51.7 MT in 2005. This shows the effects of the economic recession. Source: Environment Canada)
About half the 2016 emissions arose from the transportation sector (25.5 Mt), virtually all resulting from the combustion of oil products; 74% of the transportation emissions were from road uses (personal and freight). Transportation emissions have grown 36% since 1990. (source: Environment Canada)
“Green BC” runs on fossil fuels
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The next largest sources of GHG emissions are stationary sources (19.8 Mt), fugitive emissions (5.1 Mt), waste (4.3 Mt), industrial processes (3.9 Mt), and agriculture (2.3 Mt). In all cases except agriculture, emissions have risen since 1990; in agriculture, they declined slightly. (source: Environment Canada)
Car sales have stayed largely flat since 1990, but truck sales are up 43% (from 103,000 vehicles to 147,000 vehicles). (source: Statistics Canada)
Average household energy use in B.C. is led by natural gas with 81 gigajoules per household, followed by wood and wood pellets (71 gigajoules), oil (47 gigajoules), electricity (36 gigajoules) and propane (26 gigajoules).
B.C. has two operating oil refineries, at Burnaby and Prince George. They rely primarily on crude oil supplied from Alberta.
About 50% of the refined oil consumed in B.C is gasoline, 24% is diesel fuel, 20 % is aviation fuel and 6% is heavy fuel oil. Claims that all commuter transport could be switched to mass transit and all freight transport could be switched to rail ignores the fact that most of the province consists of smaller communities that could not afford transit and are not accessible by rail. (source: Blair King, “Dispelling Myths about British Columbia’s Energy Picture”)
Shipping and ports are extremely important elements of the B.C. energy supply picture. In 2011, Port Metro Vancouver shipped 6,671,000 metric tonnes of petroleum products, which represents about 8% of the total tonnage exported out of Vancouver. At present, about 3,160 vessels call at the port each year. While that might seem like a lot, the port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, slightly smaller in the area of land and water than Vancouver, sees about 30,000 seagoing vessels per year, or about 80 per day. (Source: Port of Vancouver)
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Despite being the second or third busiest port in the world (after Singapore or Shanghai) millions of tourists come to Rotterdam. Rotterdam Partners see the economic competitiveness of the port in glowing terms:
Rotterdam Partners was in 2014 actively involved in attracting 40 international companies to the Rotterdam region. They include NICO, ZPMC, Navigators, Pure Fix Cycles and The Venture Generator. These international companies account for at least 34.9 million euros in investment and 797 jobs, 442 of which are new jobs. Most of the companies that decided to locate to Rotterdam in 2014 operate in the Technology & Industrial, Oil, Gas & Chemical, Transport & Logistics and Business Services sectors. As in previous years, most of the new projects came from the Asia region. China is the largest contributor from this region with twelve companies. The number of foreign companies that opened their first location in the Netherlands broke a record at 25.”
Wikipedia describes the port as:
“Covering 105 square kilometres (41 sq mi), the port of Rotterdam now stretches over a distance of 40 kilometres (25 mi). It consists of the city centre’s historic harbour area, including Delfshaven; the Maashaven/Rijnhaven/Feijenoord complex; the harbours around Nieuw-Mathenesse; Waalhaven; Vondelingenplaat; Eemhaven; Botlek; Europoort, situated along the Calandkanaal, Nieuwe Waterweg and Scheur (the latter two being continuations of the Nieuwe Maas); and the reclaimed Maasvlakte area, which projects into the North Sea.
Rotterdam consists of five distinct port areas and three distribution parks that facilitate the needs of a hinterland with 40,000,000 consumers.”
British Columbia ports now see themselves as vital links in the infrastructure that supports the import and export of goods between Canada and Asia. This growth in trade will yield very large economic benefits to the province, unless of course local opposition blocks it. (source: Province of British Columbia White Paper on Energy Policy in BC 2013)
British Columbia now accounts for only 5-10 % of Canada’s natural gas production, but with the discovery of new extraction techniques, it is estimated that there are almost 40 trillion cubic metres of gas in place in unconventional shale, coal methane reserves and other large gas–bearing shale in the Horn River Basin, Cordova Embayment, Liard Basin and Montney play areas. If only 20% of this is recoverable, it could add 280 trillion cubic feet to the province’s recoverable natural gas supply. (source: Province of British Columbia White Paper on Energy Policy in BC 2013)
The province has already benefitted from the sizeable Crown royalties and corporate income taxes generated from natural gas production and exports. Annual revenues have exceeded $1 billion per year, peaking at over $2 billion in 2008. In addition, between, 1993 and 2012, bonus bids from the sale of exploration and production rights totaled about $10 billion. (source: British Columbia White Paper on Energy Policy 2013) Will the province walk away from the much higher levels of revenues potentially available from shale gas development?
24.5 million tonnes of coal were extracted in British Columbia and exported in 2015. (source: Bringing Perspective blog). The province’s coal reserves are immense, estimated to be in the range of 25 billion tonnes. B.C. is the third largest exporter of metallurgical coal in the world. While coal is not used for power generation in the province, B.C. coal serves the needs of Asian economies. (source: British Columbia White Paper on Energy Policy 2013) Now, there is discussion of restricting export sales through taxes or quotas. That sounds like shooting oneself in the foot.
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