Opinion – Contributed by Michelle Stirling © Nov. 2017
McKenna says she has a climate plan. Even iPolitics says: “She should prove it.”
Frankly, we doubt that the Minister has a plan. If she has, we’d also like to see the cost-benefit analysis.
The Minister speaks enthusiastically about the “clean” alternatives and spouts about wind, solar and natural gas. Is she so misinformed that she doesn’t realize changing out coal-fired plants for natural gas costs billions of dollars? Even if the coal-fired power plant can be converted to natural gas, you need to order these special natural gas turbines to suit your needs. As Manitoba energy expert and author Vaclav Smil pointed out in a lecture at McGill University for the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design, there are only a handful of companies in the world that make gas turbines. These are high precision units that take time to build, test and install. And they cost millions of dollars.
Furthermore, once you have a gas turbine, you need gas pipeline infrastructure – hooked up to a suitable source of natural gas. More billions of dollars for infrastructure. If you are not as lucky as natural gas-rich Alberta, you will have to import natural gas. You may have to order LNG tankers from some distant place like Qatar, like England did during its winter 2013 power crisis (because it had phased-out most coal plants – in fact it had to restart a shuttered coal plant to make it through).
Then you need an appropriate LNG terminal, storage…etc, etc, etc. Billions and billions and billions of dollars.
Where will poor countries get this money from?
By contrast, if people have a sack of coal and a fireplace or grate, they will be set. Though this is not the optimal use of coal in terms of health, it is the way the West developed and liberated peasants from hours of scavenging for wood and dung.
And if your country has a natural gas plant, for Pete’s sake, stop there. Adding wind and solar will only cause carbon dioxide emissions to rise and of course, the more wind and solar you add, the more conventional natural gas plants you will have to add.
As you can see from this short discussion, the Minister’s ‘plan’ faces enormous challenges. I don’t think any critical thinking has gone into it. Poor countries cannot adopt such measures unless the West finances them to the hilt – even then – there will not be sufficient natural gas infrastructure to go around for years and years. Not to mention, this is a case of transferring massive amounts of Western funds to developing nations on a scale that would bankrupt the West and in the meantime, would not address the desperate needs of sufficient food, basic sanitation, pumped well water – many of which can be met with simpler local solutions.
Certainly, wind and solar, except in selective applications, are not the answer. Why not? Isn’t wind and solar ‘free’? Haven’t prices come down? Aren’t they on a par with coal?
No. No. And no.
See Part Three
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