COLUMN: Is gas-fired generation a better long-term solution?

Despite having travelled extensively in B.C., I have been to the Peace Country but three times in my life...

Despite having travelled extensively in B.C., I have been to the Peace Country but three times in my life. Once in the dead of winter looking for work, once to cover the opening of the Bennett Dam and once during the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Highway.

It is an awesome land, powered by agriculture and the oil/gas industry. A place where, if the winters weren’t so long and cold, and it wasn’t so very far away, I wouldn’t mind living.

But, like most British Columbians, the considerably milder climate and diversity of employment opportunities keeps me mainly in the tiny triangle of dense population that is the Lower Mainland. And the relative remoteness of The Peace keeps most people from ever visiting it, and thus completely off their NIMBY radar.

That perhaps, is why 10,000 or more acres of viable farmland, much of it considered among the best in the country, will be acceptably flooded by the Site C dam. We all want and need the power it can generate, and since the 83 or so kilometre reservoir is out of sight and thus out of mind for most of us, there is little opposition outside the Peace Country.

Yet, down here in the “centre of the world” most attempts at eliminating farmland are met with great hue and cry. Take Delta, for example.

There is a great gnashing of teeth and political hand wringing over attempts to pave over farmland for industrial purposes next to Deltaport and on the Tsawwassen First Nation lands. Throw in the proposed housing development on the former Spetifore (now Southlands) farmland adjacent to the Tsawwassen village, and the crescendo of concern escalates.

Funny though, that Delta seems more than content to bury prime farmland under greenhouses that use not one speck of Canada’s number one soil. The argument, I suppose, is that greenhouses are providing agricultural products. But couldn’t they just as well be located on former gravel pits?

Of course, there is the long-term possibility that those greenhouses could be removed, and the land beneath them returned to productivity.

I remember decades ago meeting then-Premier Bill Bennett at a coffee party hosted by former MLA Bill Ritchie.

I asked Bennett about the environmental losses caused by huge hydro dams on our rivers. His shrugged reply was that dams could always be removed. Uh huh.

Let’s be clear, however, I am not against hydro generation, and we do need the power that Site C could produce. But is losing that much agricultural land and wildlife habitat environmentally better or worse than the greenhouse gases that would be produced by natural-gas-fired power plants?

As I understand it, some or all of the proposed LNG plants on the north coast will use gas-fired plants to generate the energy required to liquefy the product for overseas shipment.

Why not, with all the bounty of natural gas that B.C. holds, build gas-burning power plants instead of, in my mind, perpetuating old technology by constructing hydro dams?

I’m certain with proper scrubbers and advancing technology, the gas burners could and would become clean, efficient and have a minute footprint in comparison to a dam and reservoir. And if the Asian LNG market ever fails, or is supplanted by home-developed sources, British Columbia will have a boundless supply of gas for electrical generation already adjacent to the power grid that supplies the Lower Mainland.

And unlike dams, should they ever become obsolete, they are far easier to decommission.

markruston@abbynews.com

Just Posted

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Dancers from the Sts’ailes First Nation perform the eagle dance at a welcome banner dedication ceremony on Thursday, June 10. “Ey Swayel” is a Halq̓eméylem term translated as ‘a good day.’ (Adam Louis/Observer)
VIDEO: ‘A good day’ for Agassiz school as Sts’ailes welcome banner is dedicated

Banner hangs above the school’s entrance, welcoming students, staff and visitors

Missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs was found deceased on Thursday evening (June 17).
Body of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs found

Hobbs was reported missing Monday after leaving his job site in Langley

UFV athletes were honoured for their strength and perseverance during the pandemic. (UFV photo)
Fraser Valley athletes recognized in year without sports

UFV Cascades athletes honoured for strength shown during the pandemic

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Surrey Fire Service battled a dock fire along the Fraser River late Friday night (June 18). It was on Musqueam Drive, near Industrial Road, around 10:45 p.m. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Fire engulfs pier on Surrey side of the Fraser River

Dock has reportedly been unused for a long time

People in Metro Vancouver can expect to experience a short wave of heat just in time for Father’s Day, according to Environment Canada. (Black Press Media files)
Short-lived heatwave headed for Metro Vancouver this weekend

Temperatures are expected to be up to 10 degrees higher than average Sunday and Monday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read