Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Corporate interests rank above citizens' interests

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Monday, November 17, 2014

LNG export policy will damage BC businesses and consumers

A large organization of employers in Australia wants governments to subsidize businesses crippled by large price increases for natural gas. Ai Group says governments have to moderate the consequences of decisions to approve export facilities that connect Australia to global gas markets. When LNG plants start to function, wholesale gas prices are set to more than double, even quadruple, by 2016, depending on the volume of gas diverted to feed the export plants.

Gas prices will explode due to Queensland exports, Sydney Morning Herald, October 2014
"Cassandra Goldie, chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, said the smallest of price rises would disproportionately hit the most vulnerable groups…

"A BIS Shrapnel report showed rising gas prices would lead to one in five heavy manufacturers shutting down within five years and total manufacturing production being reduced by 15.4 per cent by 2023, cutting 91,300 industry jobs…"
Through higher consumer prices and by massive taxpayer contributions to energy companies, Australian citizens are pummelled by the fossil fuel industry. It receives $10 billion a year in subsidies and seems exempt from Prime Minister Tony Abbott's proclamation that corporate subsidies were ending.

If BC Liberal plans proceed, the same results are inevitable in British Columbia. Being 4,000 km further from Chinese markets than Australia and totally dependent on new relationships with foreign intermediaries and marketers, a western Canadian LNG industry has inherent disadvantages.

The already subsidized industry in BC wants near cost-free access to gas stocks consumed to power liquefaction and for gas destined for export. Industry also wants accelerated write-offs so that taxpayers absorb capital costs of plant and equipment. The BC government has already offered electricity at cost well below the price paid by BC Hydro to private suppliers feeding power to the provincial grid. LNG players expect the public to pay for transportation and utility infrastructure and they demand relief from local and provincial taxes and for governments to shortcut or eliminate review processes, environmental regulations and barriers to importing labour and materials from overseas.

It is fairly simple to understand potential costs of establishing and maintaining an LNG industry. It is more difficult to identify and quantify the benefits.

In a tax regime that aims to realize a share of facility profits, there is great flexibility in defining those, particularly when transportation, re-conversion and marketing costs - most of it spent in foreign lands and virtually unverifiable - will absorb a major portion of end-market gas prices. British Columbia taxpayers will inevitably experience "Hollywood accounting" that enabled ten blockbuster movies to take in more than $6½ billion collectively while declaring nothing in profits.

Clearly, jobs will be created if LNG plants proceed. Construction will result in temporary employment for both Canadians and foreign workers but the numbers are not dependably calculated and probably cannot be because each facility will utilize offshore manufacturing and final assembly in British Columbia. It is certain that the ratio of permanent jobs for each billion dollars of capital investment will be uniquely low, when compared to alternative sectors. LNG liquefaction is highly automated as well as capital and power intensive. Positive social and economic returns to British Columbia are likely to be meagre.

Fossil fuel follies: Massive subsidies underpin oil, coal exploration, RenewEconomy, November 2014
A new study [The Fossil Fuel Bailout] has found that G20 nations, including Australia, are providing $US88 billion ($A102 billion) a year in subsidies just for fossil fuel exploration, despite vowing five years ago to phase out such support.

Australia features prominently in the report, accounting for $US3.5 billion ($A4.05 billion) of the subsidies. These are for fossil fuel exploration in increasingly remote areas (offshore and inland) for projects that depend significantly on the provision of public infrastructure.

The report “The fossil fuel bailout: G20 subsidies for oil, gas and coal exploration” was prepared ahead of next week’s G20 meting in Brisbane, where climate change has been relegated to a “discussion point” and is not on the official agenda, and where major fossil fuel companies are expected to argue the case for yet more subsidies.

Tony Abbott agrees with them, saying coal is the “energy of the future.”

But the report by the London-based Overseas Development Institute and the Oil Change Institute slams this investment as a “double folly” – saying that the investment in new fossil fuel exploration is both uneconomic and unsustainable.

“Despite the widespread perception that renewables are costly, our research reveals that finding new fossil fuel reserves at home and abroad is costing Australian tax-payers $A4 billion a year,” Oil Change International’s Director Stephen Kretzmann said.

“Scrapping these fossil fuel exploration subsidies would begin to create a level playing field between renewables and fossil fuel energy.

“Five years ago, Australia and other G20 governments pledged to both phase out fossil fuel subsidies and take action to limit climate change. Immediately ending exploration subsidies is the clearest next step on both fronts…”

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Similarities, including the price

For roughly the same amount Pavco paid for modifications to BC Place, Poland built, from the ground up, Stadion Narodowy, a 58,145 seat arena and conference centre with similar retractable roof technology and parking under the heated, matural grass pitch for almost 2,000 cars. It opened in January 2012.

There is one other likeness to BC Place: the roof of Poland's national stadium leaks.


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Friday, November 14, 2014

More than LNG subsidies, consumers to pay higher prices

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, October 2014:
There are new warnings that gas prices will skyrocket as Queensland's huge LNG export projects start production next year.

The independent think tank, the Grattan Institute, has predicted that some households could see their gas bills jump by hundreds of dollars annually as the $60 billion a year export industry takes off.

Grattan Institute energy program director, Tony Wood, said consumers may face gas price increases over the next few years of more than $300 annually.

The report has found that high gas users in Melbourne can expect price rises of about $435 a year.

Mr Wood said manufacturers are expected to face even bigger increases.

"If you're a small business - a drycleaner, a baker or something like that - you might use in the order of about 4-500 gigajoules a year, and that would mean you're up for a gas bill increase of something like $2,500 to $3,000," he told AM...

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Thursday, November 13, 2014


Oil’s dive set to transform LNG market, The Financial Times, November 14, 2014
BC taxpayer
"The downward spiral in oil prices is poised to shake up liquefied natural gas…

"The 30 per cent plunge in crude since the middle of this year, to below $80 a barrel this week, is likely to have a big effect on LNG… By early next year, crude’s slide should be reflected in LNG prices.

"The prospect of lower gas prices to Asia has ignited debate over the viability of new LNG projects planned in Australia and the US…

"This week Beijing signed its second big agreement of 2014 to purchase gas by pipeline from Russia, in volumes that in time could compete with LNG…"
BC Liberals promised that LNG would be worth billions. That may yet be true except the money will be overseas, in the accounts of foreign energy companies.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

You can't handle the truth: BC Liberals - Updated

Site C not necessarily a slam dunk: Bennett, Business in Vancouver, October 15, 2014
"Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett says he is still torn on whether his government should give the green light to BC Hydro’s $7.9 billion Site C hydroelectric dam..."
Vaughn Palmer quoting Bill Bennett, The Vancouver Sun, October 17, 2014
"Despite the rumours to the contrary, government has not made a final decision on Site C. We are definitely not in the ministry of energy biased toward one choice or another. No one should think that we have made a decision to build Site C, because we haven’t."
Meanwhile, in the real world, Partnerships British Columbia issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to three shortlisted proponents for Site C worker accommodation as part of the selection process for building worker accommodation at the Site C dam site.
"The design, construction, partial financing, operation and maintenance of two temporary accommodation camps for the Site C Clean Energy Project (Site C). The two camps — one located on the north bank and one on the south bank of the Peace River — would provide accommodation and recreational facilities for the majority of workers at the dam site for the duration of the Site C construction period."

Above published November 11, 2014

Update November 12, 2014

Request For Proposal (RFP) #1951, BC Hydro and Power Authority, BC Hydro and Power Authority, Site C Dam

Site Preparation - North Bank
The purpose of this RFP is to select a proponent who will be responsible for site
preparation on the north bank of the Peace River at the site of the proposed dam and
surrounding project area. Any work contemplated under this RFP is subject to a provincial
investment decision to proceed to construction of the Project. No construction will begin
unless all relevant approvals are in place.

The scope of work under the Contract will generally include the following site preparation
(a) excavation and disposal of approximately 3,000,000m3;
(b) quarry development, including riprap production, of approximately 100,000m3;
(c) building of approximately 7.25 kilometres of access roads; and
(e) clearing and grubbing of approximately 115 hectares.

BC Hydro will give consideration to a request from a proponent for a site visit and has
tentatively identified November 18 - 20 as dates for such site visits. To register please
email the Contact Person at

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Heroes and victims

Being troubled by patriotic zealotry and glorification of war, I feel vaguely discomforted by Remembrance Days, particularly when craven politicians take centre stage at memorials. While struggling to find words that conveyed my reservations, I read Stephen Lautens. He mastered the expression that eluded me, offering indisputable truths with Wars, Freedom and Liberty.
"…politicians still describe WWI as a war of freedom and liberty, it wasn't in the same sense as World War Two, when a truly evil government was bent on conquest and enslavement. …It was a war about access to markets and raw materials and the personal rivalries of royal cousins, their generals and politicians…

"…politicians who revel in a resurgent militarism repeat tired phrases long since discredited, because no one will fight for corporate economic interests or the vanity of politicians, but you can still make people fight for freedom and liberty.

"…None of this takes away from the tragedy and sacrifice of the common soldier who inevitably pays the price for war, or our duty to remember the fallen. We simply owe it to them and future generations to be honest about what they made the ultimate sacrifice for and not hide it behind a false politician's slogan of "freedom and liberty".
One piece of school learning remains fresh in my mind despite passage of 50 years. Long ago, I sat in a sparsely populated theatre (Saturday 8:30 am lecture) as a UBC professor of International Studies described an event of 1918. I paraphrase,
As the war that introduced machine guns, flame throwers, poison gas and mechanized armies writhed toward armistice, English officers believed it fitting to end the campaign with a glorious cavalry charge. Instead of honours and accolades, the mounted soldiers were met with an unbroken barrage of machine gun fire from incredulous Germans.
Travelling backroads of Europe, I felt unsettled as we encountered innumerable monuments and memorials that celebrate offerings to the gods of war. I couldn't help but feel the commemorations were there to encourage future generations to be available when more lives were to be expended. If the offer of glory didn't work, militarists ensured that pacifists who cared not to serve as potential cannon fodder were ostracized. British writer Gareth Platt, in World War 1 100th Anniversary: Remembering the Heroes who Refused to Fight, wrote,
"…it took more courage to stay at home than go off and fight. The jingoistic bally-hoo of the early days saw millions of young people flock to the recruiting halls, lured by the promise of glory and adventure. Those that strayed from the flock were forced to look at guilt-tripping recruiting posters everywhere they went, and taunted with white feathers by women in the street."
All reasonable people understand that war may be morally justifiable, as a last resort. However, human experience demonstrates those situations are rare.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A letter to BC Ferries

Republished from the Facebook page of Sean Smith, with permission.
Dear BC Ferries:

I know that you are having a hard time trying to figure out ways to save money. Please, let me help you.
  1. You are not a cruise ship line. You are a bus.

  2. You are not a travel agency. You are the travel method.

  3. You do not need to advertise. You are the ONLY alternative.
So, with these three things in mind, please consider the following.

You need a news stand, not a gift shop. You need a cafeteria, not a restaurant. You don't need slot machines, you need good WiFi and some big screen TV's. You don't need a "marketing department", you need a full-on Social Media and Customers Service department.

You don't need a fancy travel office or vacation planning department, you need a plan to keep actual travel agents informed of what is happening with your ferry service.

I shouldn't see the BC Ferries logo on the boards at Rogers Arena during a Canucks game, or on a TV commercial. Believe it or not, people really are smart enough to figure out that if there isn't a bridge or a tunnel to the Islands, then they will have to take a ferry or a plane.....and you can't get your car into carry-on luggage.

See. I just saved you millions upon millions of dollars.

You're welcome.

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