Sun News Column: Energy discussions should be realistic
In a bid to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, Winnipeg’s city council recently voted to look at halting the use of natural gas in the frigid prairie city.
Council wondered if it would be possible for Winnipeg homeowners and businesses to use electric heaters instead of natural gas.
Manitoba Hydro, the province’s power utility, must have had a slight heart attack when asked about such a proposition; Winnipeg gets extremely cold in the winter and residents use a lot of natural gas to stay warm. Hydro noted it would have to double its electricity output to generate enough power to heat everyone’s home with electricity.
Winnipeg is not alone.
The “Ontario Clean Air Alliance,” has boasted that 21 municipalities have signed on to their call for the provincial government to phase out natural gas power plants claiming that solar and wind power could fill part of the gap.
Encouragingly, the Paris-based International Energy Agency’s (IEA) has reported that the cost of solar and wind energy sources is dropping significantly – so much so that they’re now the “cheapest” way of “adding new electricity-generating plants in most countries today.”
That’s great news for consumers. The more options there are for electricity generation in the world the better. Competition is a good thing. It helps drive innovation and keeps costs affordable for consumers.
Of course, there’s one big problem: the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. Importantly, the IEA also projects that the world will need more natural gas in the years ahead. The IEA expects demand for natural gas to grow from 23 per cent of the world’s energy usage to 25 per cent over the next twenty years.
Why? Well, growth is one reason but stable reliable energy sources like natural gas are needed as a back-up to intermittent renewables on cloudy days or when the wind isn’t blowing.
Far from seeking to halt natural gas use, municipalities should consider how natural gas can help reduce emissions.
According to the U.S. government, the CO2 emissions from natural gas are roughly half of what the emissions are from coal and they’re 25 per cent lower than gasoline and diesel.
With that in mind, imagine if more cities followed Calgary’s lead and used natural gas-powered buses instead of diesel buses. Not only would that reduce emissions, natural gas buses are also ten times quieter.
An even bigger benefit would arise if China, India and other south east Asian countries used natural gas from Canada to produce their electricity instead of coal power. Such a change could reduce CO2 and smog levels while helping to create countless new jobs in Canada. (This endeavour is actually underway in B.C., but it could occur on a much larger scale if we approved more natural gas export projects as a country.)
A competitive market for energy products that embraces technology, lowers prices and produces lower emission outputs is welcome. Nuclear, solar and wind are the most obvious but so too is natural gas – and what’s better, Canada has an abundant supply for international customers and even those freezing in Manitoba winters.
Colin Craig is the President of SecondStreet.org, a new Canadian think tank.
This column was published in Sun News Columns on March 26th, 2021. To see article click here.
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