Tuesday 13 October 2009

A fitting way to go

Doer announces $10-M UNESCO trust fund

The Manitoba government is contributing $10 million towards a new trust fund in support of winning a UNESCO World Heritage status for the east side of Lake Winnipeg.
The protection of the boreal forest and the rivers that run through it is the main reason the Doer government opted to build a new hydro transmission line down the west side of the province rather than the shorter route down the east side.
The Free Press staff writer made an error in the above quote. Protection of the boreal forest is not the reason, but the excuse. I suspect the reason has more to do with political expediency: not having to negotiate with stubborn Indians. Negotiating with chief Bushie could get especially ugly. Don't want to go there if you don't have to, and you don't have to if you have a bottomless well of money to draw from.

Regardless of the actual reason, it is bad policy, but it sums up Doer's tenure nicely: solve problems by spending money, and to hell with the environment.

As you know by know, the west side route will cost something like $410 million more than the east side route, through the proposed UNESCO site, plus the additional costs of preparing for the UNESCO designation like the $10m mentioned above, and the half-mil for land use plans. You should also know that the longer route means greater lines losses (waste) of electricity, which will add millions more to the tab via reduced sales to the US. These have been estimated at between 28 and 70 MW. According to this report, 1 kwH of coal-produced power produces 2.095 pounds of CO2. At that rate, using the lower estimate of line losses, Doer's west side route will add 513,861,600 lbs of CO2 to the atmosphere each year if you assume that the lost power would have been sold to the US where it would displace coal power.

So to summarize: hundreds of millions of dollars wasted, and hundreds of thousands of tonnes of pollution spilled into the atmosphere each year. Sounds about right.

I was going to write a letter to UNESCO urging them to reject the request for heritage status, to remove the lame excuse for choosing the west side route, but then I read this:
An official submission to UNESCO should be made by 2012.
2012? They can't reject something that hasn't been submitted! Submitting it in 2012 should ensure that the west side route is already under construction if UNESCO rejects our request. So, we are committed to wasting all this money and electricity for an application for a designation that has not yet been submitted, may not get approved, or may have been approved in spite of a transmission line. Yet, Gary has a reputation for being a "green" and fiscally responsible Premier. No wonder he smiles a lot.

Farewell, Gary.

**update**: I may need to revise my pollution calculations:
MANITOBA Hydro's Bipole III transmission line could be even longer than predicted, with one proposed route sending power 66 per cent farther than the rejected path down Lake Winnipeg's east side, according to a draft map


Mike Waddell said...

Rarely do I comment on blogs but this one moves me to do so.

With only a few days left in his tenure as Premier, Gary Doer could have made better use of ten million dollars.

How about a "trust fund" to ensure that the communities within our province which have boil water advisories get the chance to have clean water?

Anonymous said...

Why not, write the letter. Go public with the "facts". Unesco needs to see the report as do other greens.

Agree Mike, the 10 million could have been used better.

cherenkov said...

Mike: thanks for the comment. Clean water is not very glamorous.

Mr.N: UNESCO has already gone on record as saying that a transmission line would not preclude heritage status. I don't know what else they can do until they receive a submission.

It would be great to see both the financial AND environmental cost of this decision become better publicized. There is a misconception that this is being done to protect the environment, which is a bunch of BS. (where did I put that bsometer?...)

Mike Waddell said...

You are welcome. I can't help but wonder if politicians, or aspiring politicians like myself, worried less about sexy and kept things simpler what kid of world might we live in.

Did you see this?

CBC e-blast for Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009.

Lights Out? CBC I-Team investigation airs Thursday, Oct. 15

Is Manitoba Hydro underestimating the amount of electricity available and could we lose power in our homes as a result? Hydro insiders allege in a report filed under the province’s whistleblower legislation that blackouts are a very real possibility

Hear the exclusive I-Team story tomorrow on CBC News: Winnipeg at 5, 5:30 and 6 p.m. and on Information Radio from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. on CBC Radio One 89.3 FM

cherenkov said...

I did not see that yet, but I'll try to catch it. Perhaps if Manitobans paid market rates for Hydro we would not be among the biggest users of electricity in the world, and we might better able to meet our export commitments. (Perhaps we should not over-commit in the first place.)

Mike Waddell said...

Perhaps instead of calling spending lots of money on fancy gadgets for homes "Power Smart" why not sell people quality clothes line kits at cost.

How about rewarding people for putting new wood stoves in their homes to reduce power usage?

How about rewarding people for off peak usage?

Just a couple of thoughts of policy that would make some real sense and reduce power usage very quickly.

Ed said...


"why not sell people quality clothes line kits at cost."
- they can only be used part of the year and then this tax payer supported utility would be taking business from actual businesses.

"How about rewarding people for putting new wood stoves in their homes to reduce power usage?"
- the city does not want people storing wood on their property due to disease concerns. also, wood stoves don't make as much sense in an urban context due to storage and emissions issues.

"How about rewarding people for off peak usage?"
- hydro would have to install new meters in everyone's house that are capable of tracking time along with usage and then forwarding that information to the corporation. these meters are not cheap.

Mr.N if you ask most greens they'll tell you that instead of investing 100s of millions in hydro dams up north and massive swaths of power lines we should be investing in renewables closer to where the demand is and conservation efforts. Market prices and inverted rates are where to start.

Mike Waddell said...


Thank-you for making the time for good discussion. It is refreshing to actually see another poster who is willing to have dialogue as opposed to the usual drivel that happens when posters disagree.

Concerning clotheslines...

They are useful for at least six months of the year and can be used year round. If taking business away from actual businesses is the issue simply allow for individuals to buy the clothesline themselves from a business and then send in the receipt with the Hydro payment and receive a credit.

I am going to disagree with your concerns about wood heat.

There are still 400,000 people, give or take, who do not live in Winnipeg in our province which leaves a considerable number of households which could be affected by switching to a renewable fuel.

Regarding the concerns about wood storage and disease... Pellet stoves would alleviate that concern instantly.

Later in your post you mention switching to renewables as being the answer to building large hydro dams and lengthy power lines. Solid fuel heat would do just that.

Your thoughts about the cost of meters being expensive is answerable with the thought that there are a raft of government programs now targeting things such as low volume flush toilets, programmable thermostats, free insulation for homes, etc etc.

Have a two pronged approach where every new home built has to have a new style meter. At the same time offer a rebate such as those being offered for every other imaginable MB Hydro Power Smart upgrade for a new meter for a house being renovated.

The original point still stands, in that the 10 million is a bad announcement made to shore what appears to be a bad policy decision on Bi-Pole III.

Anonymous said...


In the short term, investments in dams and hydro lines is as clean as we can expect to generate massive amounts of poweer.

How we use that power is a different issue as is generating power from "green" alternatives.

The point here, is spending hundreds of millions more and as Cheren illustrated, losses of millions more just because we are allowing a government to go the longer route.

Personally I am of the opinion nuclear energy can provide a solution if some major issues can be resolved. We lost 30 plus years in research due to three mile island.

For manitoba, Hydro is a good resource to exploit. That being said, perhaps we aren't leveraging our expertise as well as we should.

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