Whither our energy future?


When New England’s state governors and Atlantic Canada’s provincial premiers gather, as they are inclined to do every so often at a suitably picturesque venue along the northeastern seaboard of this continent – where they may gaze into each other’s eyes, which mirror their own – they most often talk of stronger trade ties, better cross-border relations and, of course, energy agreements, always energy agreements.

So it was earlier this month in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where the usual suspects assembled to conduct their usual business for their usual day. The evidence that these meetings produce anything truly tangible or productive is scant, but they do tend to generate good headlines.

Here, for instance, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant’s assertion that the province must push ahead on an export-oriented LNG terminal to handle all that natural gas in the ground he’s not pulling up around here (because, don’t you know, it could be perilous to his political health) ran above the fold in provincial newspapers.

What didn’t is a piece which postulates that New Brunswick is ideally suited to chart an entirely different course for its energy future and, possibly, for the entire northeast and rest of Canada.

So, then, here is that piece:

Almost nowhere in Canada does the wind blow more constantly and hard than it does along New Brunswick’s coasts. In fact, a wind map produced in 2007 by scientists at the University of Moncton definitively proved that steady breezes could support nearly all of this province’s in situ energy demands, and then some. Wind is, obviously, a zero greenhouse-gas-emission option. More than that, the research required to commercialize it would rejuvenate the high-tech manufacturing sector here, providing good-paying, year-round jobs to (at least) complement seasonal employment in traditional resources industries.

Similarly, almost nowhere in this country do the tides ebb and flow with greater power and regularity than they do in the Bay of Fundy. For decades, the western world has owned the ingenuity (if not always the technology or the will to develop it) to produce thousands of megawatts of clean, emissions-free power.

Scotland is, arguably the market leader. Last year, Edinburgh-based Atlantis Resources Limited announced that its “MeyGen, the world’s largest tidal stream development, has agreed terms for a funding package to finance the construction of the first phase of its ground-breaking 398MW tidal array project in the Pentland Firth, Scotland. When fully completed, the MeyGen project will have the potential to provide clean, sustainable, predictable power for 175,000 homes in Scotland, support more than 100 jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and deliver significant, long-term supply chain benefits for UK economy.”

Of course, if we don’t believe in Scotland, what shall we then say about Sweden? According to recent piece in The New Yorker by staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert, “In some parts of Europe, what has been called ‘conscious uncoupling’ (between gross domestic product and greenhouse gas emissions) is already well along. Sweden, one of the few countries that tax carbon, has reduced its emissions by about 23% in the past 25 years. During that same period, its economy has grown by more than 55 per cent.”

Oddly enough, the steam engine found its first industrial purchase in New Brunswick where in the early 18th Century it was modified to produce the timber that built the British navy.

Innovation was good enough for us then, when our political leaders didn’t simply gaze placidly into each other’s eyes; when they took a main chance and changed the world for the better at that time.

Now that we know better, will they change it again?


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