Nuclear progress in Canada: like the western pipelines, it’s all about real property rights

January 19, 2012
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If your energy strategy involves somebody else’s real property, don’t be surprised if that somebody’s legal property rights trump your energy strategy.

CBC Radio’s The Current recently published a very interesting interview with the Canadian federal natural resources minister, who during the interview gives a pretty well-explained account of the government’s support of the Northern Gateway pipeline.

In brief, the minister says that moving oil sands bitumen to markets via that particular pipeline is the quickest and most effective way to diversify Canada’s energy export markets. This federal effort to promote Northern Gateway is of course is in the context of what we might call the Keystone fiasco, in which the U.S. federal government has kiboshed TransCanada’s plan to extend the Keystone pipeline from Okahoma to Texas.

Canada’s government is now feeling a bit of pressure to develop at least one way to get syncrude to refineries without relying on truck transportation. It has been defeated, or at least set back until after the 2012 U.S. presidential election, by the mainstream environmental lobby in the U.S. And that lobby, flush with victory, has set its sights on Northern Gateway.

The Canadian federal government is learning the hard way that land-use issues are a major problem—perhaps the biggest problem—in implementing an energy strategy. The government of Ontario learned the same lesson in the October election, which saw that government barely survive after losing a number of rural districts because of local opposition to industrial wind turbines.

I made that point at about the 21:10 mark in a recent televised post-mortem on the Ontario election; see below.

That lesson is: if your energy strategy involves somebody else’s real property, don’t be surprised if that somebody’s legal property rights trump your energy strategy.

The feds might become involved in another major long-term energy strategy: Ontario’s. This province’s electricity system is in dire need of solid long-term planning. The provincial government also faces opposition from the mainstream environmental lobby, though in Ontario’s case that lobby is less concerned with greenhouse gases than it claims to be in the case of the two western oil pipelines. In Ontario, the environmental lobby is only concerned with replacing coal and nuclear generating plants with ones that run on natural gas (the same fossil fuel that makes the oil sands so carbon-heavy).

As I pointed out in the above debate, nuclear plants are the only major electricity providers whose major expansion would involve no land-use issues and little local opposition.

It is difficult to see what role the federal government would play in nuclear expansion in Ontario: the feds recently sold the CANDU division of AECL to a private buyer. But the feds would certainly be delighted to see Ontario move positively on nuclear.

Let’s just hope they haven’t lost their stomach for battles with Big Environment. As the natural resources minister correctly told CBC, that lobby is made up of radicals who are funded with U.S. money. That money comes from all over the place, including Wall Street.

Since beginning this blog, I have suggested ways for the federal government to make serious moves toward effective environmental policy without bankrupting the country. I have been encouraged by the feds’ willingness to mostly ignore the self-styled enviros, who I believe are simply an obstacle to any meaningful action on most environmental issues.

Ontario is where the first true environmental steps have been taken in Canada, and it is where most progress will be made. Here’s to meaningful fed-prov action on energy and environment.

2 Responses to Nuclear progress in Canada: like the western pipelines, it’s all about real property rights

  1. Paul
    January 31, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    United States has always been the biggest Canada’s buyer when it comes to oil. And what we are now seeing is just a Mr. Obama’s political game and part of his eco-friendly election campaign. It only needs a little while and few minor changes in the US government until the United States realize how much they depend on Canada’s energy resources and then even the “dirty” oil from the tar sands will be sufficient for them.

  2. February 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    “It has been defeated, or at least set back until after the 2012 U.S. presidential election, by the mainstream environmental lobby in the U.S”

    The delay has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with “the mainstream environmental lobby”, and I suspect you are fully aware of that.

    They delay is clearly, as reported in every news story on the topic, due entirely to the political machinations of the Republican party, who put a rider on the bill demanding the approval of a tax bill the President stated he would not sign.

    Win-win for the Republicans, who point to the President being anti-job and gets all the anti-eco lobby to point fingers at him (like you just did right here), and lose-lose for the citizens of the world who are well served by low-cost oil.

    “As I pointed out in the above debate, nuclear plants are the only major electricity providers whose major expansion would involve no land-use issues and little local opposition.”

    As someone that actually *does* live near a nuclear plant, and as someone that goes to all of the local meetings about an actual expansion, let me assure you that there is plenty of local opposition (and no, that does not include me).

    I’ve never seen you at any of these meetings, so again, I must conclude this is more hyperbole.

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Item 1: if Ontario did not have its nuclear generating fleet, last hour’s CO2 emissions would have been AT LEAST:

5,488 metric tons, and the CIPK would have been 366.8 grams

Item 2: Since prorogation of the Ontario legislature on October 15, 2012, provincial gas-fired generating plants have dumped this much CO2 into our air:

14,389,777 metric tons. This is a running total. Every hour, the total increases by the amount of Gas CO2 given in Table 1.

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