COLUMN: Earth Hour here more esthetic than actual

Apparently, during Earth Hour Saturday, BCers “saved” 136 megawatts of electricity. So what I want to know is, where are we saving it?

Apparently, during Earth Hour Saturday, British Columbians “saved” 136 megawatts of electricity.

So what I want to know is, where are we saving it?

British Columbia, to the best of my knowledge, gets virtually all of its power from hydro generation. And while I’m not an electrician, I don’t know of any way to “save” electricity, other than in a battery.

Therefore I have to conclude that rather than save we simply consumed, for one hour, a bit less than we normally do.

The water, I’m sure still flowed through the turbines at the Bennett Dam, and all other hydro operations in B.C., unrelentingly generating electricity that to a small degree was “wasted.”

Just the same, it was an admirable effort and yes, we dined by candlelight Saturday, switching off most devices that consume power. Because of that, perhaps we did save a few cents off our hydro bill, though the cost of candles probably more than made up the difference. And admittedly, we probably could have done more – the computer was still “alive,” as were the electronics that run the TV and the yard lights that operate off a photocell.

However, much as British Columbians like to pride themselves on leading in green initiatives, the only way we really would have made a savings was if we reduced the amount of oil or coal or natural gas that was consumed. So unless Burrard Thermal was running full tilt up to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, nothing other than awareness – needed, I will concede – was achieved in this exercise.

However, the event was labeled “Earth” hour so if, by our example, other regions and nations that rely on fossil fuels or nuclear generation to create energy did as we did, then it was a success.

In this province of enormous bounty, we pride ourselves on the ability to consume clean energy, while at the same time exporting “dirty” energy in the form of coal, oil and natural gas. The argument supporting such trade, of course, is that to maintain the standard of living to which we are accustomed, we must sell our natural resources.

There are those, and their numbers are growing dramatically, who argue that we must stop selling fossil fuels; that only by leaving the products in the ground will we ever clean up the Earth, reverse climate change and once again make it a happy planet.

Conversely there are those who contend that if we do that, we will rapidly devolve into the Dark Ages, literally and figuratively, with such things as education, health care and social services dispensed through shamans by the light of campfires.

Both arguments appear to have merit.

If we stop delivering goods to the world, someone else will step into the void and soon the cry of activists will be against the lack of services due to lack of revenues to support them.

All this is not to say we shouldn’t try to do our bit by turning off the lights more often, though in B.C. that act is more window dressing than reality. What would have far more impact would be to park our cars for an extra hour every day, or permanently turn down the thermostat. It might make us feel better, but will that change China’s current relentless demand for “dirty” energy supplies?

On the other hand, China may soon adopt its own curbs on fossil fuels because, unless it does so, that country’s air pollution will soon reach a point of literal unlivability for its citizens, least of which is the impact to global air quality.

markrushton@abbynews.com