Friday 22 January 2010

Bipole disorder: the great debate?

When I found out that all three Manitoba leaders would get together and debate the building of the contentious Bipole III hydro transmission line, I thought: Great! Finally we can get everything out on the table, and see how the government's lame explanations hold up against a relentless pounding of facts and logic. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend. No problem, thought I ... I'll just read about it the next day or see what happened on the news.

So where is the news? There was nothing on CTV last night, nor on their web site, and the only thing on the Free Press is a mere stub of a story by Bruce Owen that you have to dig to find, and looks like it could have been written without even having witnessed the debate.*

Why is this story not important to the media?

Imagine if the government went to every household in the province and demanded $1000 from every man, woman, and child for a special one time tax -- let's call it an "expediency tax". So they collect all this money -- over $1billion dollars of it, and they pile it up in a field; then Premier Selinger climbs on top of the pile of our hard-earned money, drops his pants, and takes a crap on it. They they light it all on fire and bury the ashes in the Brady landfill. Don't you think that might garner some attention from the press? Don't you think people might be a wee bit upset about that?

THAT is the exact equivalent of what the province is doing here. Between the bipole III debacle, and the province's insistence that the City of Winnipeg wastes $400k to remove nitrogen from their waste water, which most scientists agree will do nothing, the province is blowing a cool Bil, to no economic or environmental gain.

Some people are outraged. People like myself who have taken the initiative to learn about what is going on, but the media needs to expose this redonculous waste of money so that everybody realizes that the Premier is crapping all over their hard-earned tax dollars; and they need to stay on top of it until the government is forced to explain the real reason why it is doing this, and hopefully reverse course. Instead the media is inexplicably fluffing this issue.

Anyhow ... that's my rant for today. If you know of a report or twitter feed or something that describes what happened in that meeting, drop me a comment if you would. I will go through my usual blog list when I get a chance.

*update: I found a more descriptive article by Owen on page B2 of the dead-tree edition of the Free Press.

**** Friday video ****

Why don't they make six minute videos anymore?


Anonymous said...

Perhaps someone can prove this wrong, but people tell me the worry is that U.S. power customers could boycott Manitoba Hydro over environmental concerns if the line is built on the east. Also that it is too hard to make deals with all the First Nations on the east side. If this is wrong, someone please let me know.

cherenkov said...

To answer the first part: The one useful new bit of information in the Freep story was this: "McFadyen also released a letter from Manitoba Hydro that he said indicates the Hydro sees no risk to its exports arising from an eastern route." And it really doesn't make sense that they would boycott it for environmental reasons, when it is more environmentally friendly that the west side route, and cleaner power than what they're using now. This argument is complete and total BS.

next part: yes, making deals with some of the first nations will be a pain in the ass. Others want the hydro line to come through, for the jobs. But likewise there are native communities along the other route that need to be dealt with, and many many more land owners, which means an enormous amt of negotiating and expropriation. Plus, what is the rational for forbidding Hydro from investigating the Lake Winnipeg option? It will be expensive, but more direct and very few negotiations required.

Anonymous said...

along with the ridiculous increased cost associated with the west side route...there will be very substantial power losses (I've heard an increase of 30% vs the east side route) with the length of the line..which isn't very environmentally friendly at all...ugg.

Anonymous said...

this is incredible. brodbeck raised the issue but really, you are right, this is too quite for a hefty 500 Million increase in costs.

I'm amazed at how silent it is.

Anon I think that has been disproven when Wowchuk couln'dt confirm any organization that referenced not buying power.

I mean, is she lying ? If so, shouldn't she resign ? This is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

A submersible cable presents certain challenges, but that shouldn't negate a well researched proposal. There has been trenching advances which allow cables to be buried closer to shore but the real cost is the cable itself.

But till they actually study it, we won't really know and , thats just not responsible.

cherenkov said...

@anon2: yes, there will be substantive power loses. I have seen several estimates -- most between 28 and 70 MW. Even using the lower estimate, as I showed in a previous post, this waste of "clean" power could equate to an additional 500 million lbs of CO2 in the atmosphere each year ... if you're concerned about that sort of thing. Plus, of course, all of the lost revenue.

@MrNo: "till they actually study it, we won't really know " -- Exactly. They haven't even given it a serious look. There's no excuse for that..

Anonymous said...

Wifey saw the video and she told me I had to stop using Prince's dancesteps.

Note; is it me or is Prince about the only guy who can make riding a bike look funcy.

The Traveler said...

Yes this knee jerk piece of work by the local losers called the NDP, needs to be stopped. As it is against all good and moral judgement .

unclebob said...


What I ran this week - I think the whistle blower and the east or west controversy will merge as a credibility issue. two parts


Last week an interesting drama played out in Manitoba’s Provincial Court. On Tuesday, Manitoba Hydro had a motion before the Court dealing with the consultant they hired to assess hydro’s relative financial risks in carrying out their massive schemes. This action was all about the now famous, fired whistleblower who said that Hydro’s warm and fuzzy assurances were invalid and unsound.

The problem is that Hydro named the whistleblower’s company in the motion which would allow people to know who she is and that is against the law. So instead of the defendant standing up against Hydro we had Counsel Rocky Kravetsky for the Ombudsman’s office joined by Counsel for the Public Utilities Board.

Hydro was cornered and a bit contrite. What they appeared to want to do was to get Judge Burnett to shut the door by slapping a gag order on the media and to redact or undo backwards Hydro’s major boob of releasing the name publicly when they had agreed it was to remain confidential. But the horse had already left the barn when they already named the company publicly by bringing the motion.

The skeptical judge told befuddled Hydro that gag orders are to be issued “rarely” and required “exceptional circumstances” and that he had not seen such circumstances yet. The issue was compounded by the problem that the major media had not been properly notified to oppose. The matter was put over to Friday. Our little publication stayed home that Friday to avoid getting swept up with the majors. So as it stands we know the titillating details and could report the name but more importantly lets look at what Hydro doesn’t want you to hear and what really is at stake.

Although it is important to protect whistleblowers, it is a darn sight more important to protect ratepayers against an elephant sized reckless Hydro driven by a bumbling political agenda. That is presumably why the Utilities Board was there. When a crown corporation starts to tinker and tamper with future supply service agreements, which put Manitobans at risk, that is serious business and, as we wrote in a previous editorial on this issue, depending on the secret contracts, the penalties for failure to supply can be astronomical. That’s why the whistleblower was screaming.

unclebob said...

Part two

The problem is that Hydro has gone beyond the business of producing power and started producing secret business deals acting like the American banks whose leveraged paper produced such massive failures that the government had to bail them out. Hydro sells to the northern part of the American grid which allows various state entities to leapfrog south a little of each their own power supplies numerous times over. At the end of multiple jumps, in California, under high usage, discretionary power is probably ten or more times our price here. If we fail to supply at the start of the chain, the Hydro contract would typically specify that we get punished to the tune of the losses of the guys at the end of the chain. The Utilities Board, trying to look into that issue, to date has been stonewalled by Hydro. They should rightly be concerned. In fact they should be in outright panic!

Locking up data is almost exactly the same syndrome as we saw with Climategate where the maneuvering, massaging and outright hiding of data allowed the perpetuation of bad public policy by means of a gigantic, but oft repeated, lie.

Unfortunately big institutions like fat happy and extravagant Hydro tend to become a law unto themselves. They can afford multiple sycophants and so called communication people to smooth over things and keep the resistance down to a dull roar.

Open analysis is exactly what is at stake here too. What does Hydro want to keep under wraps? Does the data from the risk assessment really say Hydro sucks? If not why would the whistle blower take the personal risk of raising the flag and worse, would she want the small minds and partisan biases at Hydro or worse still her direct competitors or anyone connected with them, to be part of the evaluation?

Expect some serious mud flinging here.
This one, and its political implications, could be worse than Crocus.

cherenkov said...

Interesting point about the leapfrogging and potential penalties, if true..

unclebob said...

Those type of arrangements are typically called "take or pay" and can be very dangerous.

I fear that Hydro officials are much too naive about these things.

cherenkov said...

I doubt that they are naive, but I don't doubt that they may have been pressured into signing on to agreements by the Doer Government, which may have resulted in less-than-ideal arrangements.

Anonymous said...

Cheren even if they are sophisticated, as uncle bob does a good job of explaining, whats the benefit ?

Is the only benefit that by agreeing to the shell game we get to sell more power ? Makes no sense to me why we would put ourselves at risk in such a manner. Perhaps if they were paying double the price, I'd roll the dice.

cherenkov said...

Perhaps one of the coming inquires will provide some answers.

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