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General News · 8th May 2009
Barry Saxifrage
I strongly support Klahoose's clean hydro project in their traditional territory of Toba. We need it to help protect our environment and our future.

Big Oil currently powers most of our lives in BC. This dirty power is destroying our environment and climate for generations to come while also thrashing our economy. We desperately need cleaner local energy alternatives now. I'm glad the Klahoose ensured this local clean electricity alternative was built to the high environmental standards they have championed in Toba for years.


Less than a quarter of the energy we use in BC is clean electricity. Our dirty secret is that we in BC power our lives primarily with fossil fuels. And most of that fossil fuel energy is imported Big Oil.

For example, we are totally dependent on Big Oil for all our transportation. Our entire electricity production is less than the oil energy we use just for transportation. To transition our cars, trucking, public transit, buses, ferries, boats, shipping and travel options to climate sustainable energy in time, we will need lots more clean electricity very soon.

To put our fossil fuel challenge in perspective, it will take 110 additional Toba-sized big clean energy projects to replace just half the energy we get from fossil fuels today. Those that favour small scale home generation instead might be surprised to learn that it would require 250,000 homes with solar panels tied to the grid to create the same amount of clean power as Toba will. And, it would take another million solar paneled homes to create the power Bute’s proposed clean hydro project would provide. So far BC has only 20 such homes.

Clearly, the multi-billion dollar Toba run-of-river hydro will produce a lot of clean local power compared to BC’s pathetic small scale alternatives. Yet it will take a clean energy project bigger than Toba to replace the dirty power from Campbell River's Island Cogen electricity generator. That local brown power project is the fourth largest emitter of future-destroying CO2 in BC: half a million tonnes every year. And yet nobody is protesting to stop that local environmental disaster of an energy project.

Protesting clean power projects like Toba while not reducing our huge dirty fossil fuel burn is a recipe for disaster on many levels.

We use a LOT of fossil fuels in BC. And our fossil fuel burden is causing a LOT of problems.

The fossil fuelled threats to our lives, climate, rivers, oceans, forests, salmon, wallets and future are rapidly becoming dangerous. We are deeply vulnerable.


Fossil fuel emissions are accelerating climate chaos which is thrashing BC ecosystems.

Climate warming has released the native pine beetle, killing 155 telephone poles worth of mature BC pine for every person in BC. That’s several logging trucks of dead BC forest per person caused by fossil fuel use. Imagine the pile for Cortes residents: 150,000 phone poles heaped up in downtown Mansons. The Vancouverites' share would be 100 million logs dwarfing the landscape with a new logging truck arriving every minute...24/7...for years and years to come.

The largest old-growth study ever done found that BC’s most protected, stable, old-growth forests are dying twice as fast as just 17 years ago. The reason: climate change. There is no protecting old-growth, or any mature forest, from our fossil fuel emissions except to stop them soon.

BC glaciers are rapidly disappearing as BC warms quicker than the global average. The coastal BC snowpack is in freefall decline from climate change and is predicted to become 80% less in coming decades unless we stop fossil fuel emissions. Already streams and rivers across BC are showing rapid shifts in spring flooding, lower summer flows and overheating. That means decreased hydro production in summers.

It also means death to many river ecosystems, salmon and fish runs. Another recent study showed climate changes have so altered the Georgia Strait that 90% of the young Chinook and Coho that were surviving a couple decades ago are now dying. From spawning beds to open ocean, salmon are getting hammered by climate changes. Wild salmon and fossil fuel use are not compatible much longer.

Oceans have gotten 30% more acidic from the million tonnes of fossil fuel emissions they absorb every hour. In BC, dangerous acidity levels not predicted until the next century have already appeared. These levels are above what kills larvae of many shelled creatures. Everything from coral reefs to oysters are on the extinction chopping block.

This depressing list of BC eco-unravelings goes on and on. And climate change is just getting started. It is way past time to dramatically reduce our fossil fuels use to save the ecosystems we love and rely upon. "Saving our Rivers" requires ending our fossil fuel use quickly.

Our local Toba clean hydro provides an alternative to eco-killing fossil fuels.


Our huge reliance on oil has left us economic hostages to Big Oil for the majority of our energy. All our oil is sold to us by giant IPP corporations at whatever the market price demands.

In comparison, local clean energy IPPs, like Plutonic-Klahoose partnership in Toba, provide citizens of BC with fixed-price contracts for 40 years. We know we have affordable and clean energy from them.

But we have zero control over the price Big Oil IPPs will charge us over the next 40 years. We are at the mercy of the Big Oil, peak-oil, global-energy-competition, carbon-restricted marketplace. If you are worried about global greedy corporations holding you energy hostage, emptying your wallet and trashing your environment...then you want off fossil fuels as fast as possible.

Our local Toba clean run-of-river hydro power provides an alternative.


We promised as a nation two decades ago at Rio to cut our fossil fuel emissions. We didn't...we used lots more.

We promised as a nation ten years ago at Kyoto to cut our fossil fuel emissions. We didn't...we used lots more.

The latest figures for 2007 show that we Canadians have increased our emissions 26% since 1990. That is far more than even the Americans. Worse we are accelerating our fossil fuel use. Even this deep recession didn't stop us from increasing fossil fuel emissions last year.

It is time we start keeping our climate pollution promises. Something big has to change in our approach to energy in BC. The calls to halt clean power while removing penalties from dirty power won’t do it. Europeans use half the energy and fossil fuels we do. They do it encouraging clean power and charging themselves double what we do for dirty energy.

Toba clean power can be part of a solution.

Many of us also promised to support Klahoose in sustainable economic development in their traditional territory. The Klahoose battled for years against eco-damaging extraction in Toba including blocking logging and stopping water export schemes. Now they have fashioned a clean energy path to a hopeful future. I support this. How about you?


Oddly, our community has been outraged over one clean energy proposal after another, yet we show no similar protest against our far greater dirty energy projects and use.

We have recently rallied to kill off a big local clean wind power project. The fight was so bitter the companies involved said they would never consider working in our area again. Meanwhile USA is pursuing a clean wind future. Even in deep recession record numbers of new wind power projects are being built from the Columbia River to the Texas oil patch. There are now more clean wind power jobs than dirty coal jobs in USA. But here in BC, citizens demand, and the NDP will enact, a total moratorium on these kinds of clean wind projects and jobs.

Also our community has recently rallied to kill two big local tidal power proposals. Again the NDP will enact a total moratorium on these tidal power projects and jobs.

And now we are irate over a series of local clean hydro projects and jobs in First Nations’ territories. Our regional director voiced public concern. Quadra's regional director said the most important thing his constituents could do all year is protest, not dirty fossil fuels, but a clean power project. Our MLA wants a total moratorium on all independent clean power projects in BC regardless of First Nations’ wishes, local clean energy job losses or our dirty energy promises.

With all that effort to protect our environment from clean energy impacts, you would expect an equal effort to stop the larger and nastier dirty energy impacts. But no.

The dirty secret is that for decades in BC we have promised to cut our dangerous dirty energy use but have instead increased it year after year. We’ve had an effective moratorium on new clean power for years. We’ve avoided pricing dirty fuels at their real costs, preferring to dump our climate-toxic emissions into the environment instead. The result has been to make us some of the biggest climate polluters on the planet. And some of the most vulnerable to foreign Big Oil prices and restrictions.

Time for a big change. We need to price energy like Europeans to eliminate waste. And we need to create lots more clean, climate-sustainable, local energy projects like Klahoose’s Toba run-of-river projects to help replace our future-killing fossil fuel.
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Wake Up To The World !
Comment by Robert Carter on 15th May 2009
The whole idea that "run of river" power projects are "green" is ludicrous. How much carbon is emitted just building the roads, putting up the hydro poles, building the sites and flying around in helicoptors ??? There is nothing stopping more people moving to BC, building bigger houses and consuming more power so all these projects like Plutonic's is just a stop-gap measure. I ask once it worth it compromising the wilderness factor around all our streams and rivers for the relatively small amount of power produced ? Not a chance. I'd rather see the government cutting big cheques to native bands across the province than encourage them to embark on megaprojects like "run of river" power generators. And btw, once TATA Motors starts selling its $2000 cars around the globe it won't matter what we do in this part of the world. It's over....
Comment by Barry Saxifrage on 13th May 2009
Jim, I'm unclear how I'm misrepresenting your comments.

Your published Area C Regional Director's Report from January 30, 2009 asked your constituents to attend a meeting protesting Bute Inlet clean power project. In it you said:

"This is the most important thing that you could possibly do this year."

It sure seems you are saying protesting this clean power project is more important than protesting against other power projects such as the dirty Island Cogen plant in Campbell River (fourth dirtiest in BC) or that dirty Gold River trash burner.

"Ruin of river" is cute. I think we are all trying to prevent that. My point is that the science shows clearly that fossil fuel emissions are ruining our rivers, fish, forests and oceans for millenia to come. The impacts from Klahoose-partenership clean power projects in Toba are tiny compared to the already recorded climate impacts. We can't prevent "ruin of river" without dramatic cuts in dirty energy use. Saving them requires including fossil fuel emission reductions in the "plan".

Where have I been on working to cut our fossil fuel emissions? Well, I spend a couple hours a day for the last few years, unpaid, reading the science, doing research, publishing articles, creating charts, meeting with energy and political leaders, writing to politicians and agencies, making presentations, building carbon calculators, submitting proposals and everything else I can think of try to get our political leaders and society to change course on fossil fuel emissions in the few remaining years the scientists say we have left.

Interested folks can read some of my writings and charts on the website Carrie and I created about carbon issues at

Jim, I look forward to working with you on shutting down lots of dirty energy use in our area.
a wake up call, barry!
Comment by jim abram on 12th May 2009
i hope you will put as much energy into stopping the municipal waste burning facility planned at gold river that will puke out 100's of tonnes of CO2 annually, as you are putting into misinterpreting my comments. all of your pet ruin of the river projects will be meaningless in light of this project.... and it has been in the proposal stage for years... where were you?....
go barry!
Comment by ian king on 6th May 2009
i think barry has a lot of balls for bringing up such a subject were cortes is so spit. i would have to agree, we need to look at the big picture, bigger than b.c. that the economy is based on exploiting mother nature, that we need to choose the lesser of two evils, oil or water, both will bites us eventually but the water later for sure. the klahoose has full right to move forward as they have been surpressed buy all governments for way too long. it is there land and they should do what they feel is best, we really have no right to tell them what to do after what has been done to them. i don't care g.e ndp liberals, what ever. we cannot sit here and say no while coal fires burn away. does not matter what you say, if you are hooked to the grid(hydro) you are supporting plutonic, coal, large dams by creating the demand.
Comment by Barry Saxifrage on 6th May 2009
Nat, I've read Cox's letter to the editor you mention so I'll gladly respond to that.

First of all Mr. Cox never once addresses the underlying threat of climate change and fossil fuel threats. So his summary position for "those in favour" is totally missing the main point. Why?

Next Mr. Cox makes a number of statements about the projects that are not correct or misleading according to the info i've found.

1) Cox says Plutonic is financially controlled by GE. Yet GE holds 49% of Plutonic stock so it is not in control. If you don't want a clean power industry in BC fine. But if you do, like Europe, USA, Japan and other regions do, then you are going to have private companies involved. Just like we do for our food. We don't limit our food production to just government unionized farmers.

2) Cox says that federal taxpayers will give Plutonic $400 million for these BC projects. The actual deal with Ottawa's ecoENERGY program is to give Plutonic a penny per kWh in clean energy incentives. Giving incentives to clean energy producers is standard practise everywhere. It encourages clean energy production over dirty energy production. And 1 cent per kWh is super cheap as these programs go. California pays many times that amount.

3) Cox says BC Hydro is contractually obligated to pay four times current rate for the power generated by Plutonic. I don't see how that math works. I pay BC Hydro 8 cents per kWh right now and I've read that Plutonic will sell power to BC Hydro at guaranteed rate of about 10 cents per kWh. That is a tiny bit more, but not 4 times. And most importantly it is very inexpensive compared to other new clean energy options. That is the entire point of the BC Hydro Clean Power call that Toba run-of-river is part of. BC Hydro asked for clean power proposals and took the cheapest ones. It costs a LOT to create new clean power. Nobody is creating it for less or they would have been selected instead of Toba. Anyone who thinks we can get enough new clean energy sources for less than Toba price is dreaming. Californians pay up to 40 cents per kWh for new clean power.

4) Cox says BC Hydro will sell the power to California at a loss. Huh? BC Hydro is constantly horse-trading power all over the place to buy low and sell high. It is a key reason our rates are so low. The only reason California would buy our power is if they are willing to pay more for it. And right now they are willing to pay what new clean power costs. And we are not. But that will change quickly as we are forced off of fossil fuels one way or the other.

BC has clean electricity for around 20% of our energy use. Most of our energy is fossil fuel and most of that is Big Oil. To replace even a fraction of our Big Oil suck and spew we will need lots more clean electricity soon. Believe me there will not be any left over for export if we hope to transition off our dirty energy in time.

And we are going to have to pay more for clean energy than we do for dirty energy which we currently refuse to pay the real costs of. We are per-capita among the world's worst climate destroyers. It is way past time we start paying what clean energy really costs.

And when we join areas like Europe, Japan and much of the USA in paying conservation-level, clean-energy-encouraging kWh prices we will be thinking how lucky we are to have such inexpensive, guaranteed low price, clean electricity sources in our mix.

Mr Cox says Toba power is a bad deal. I say it is a very good one both for our wallets and our rivers, fish and environment.

Nat, I'm happy to respond to specific questions you have.
Something Doesn't Seem Right
Comment by Nat King Cono on 6th May 2009
Dear Barry,

While I appreciate your passionate appeal, this development in Toba just doesn't seem right for me. Check out the first letter by David Cox on page 5 of the most recent Discovery Islander at this link:
How can this project be justified, even from an economic point of view?
The issue is also addressed at about the six minute mark in this obvious piece of NDP propaganda,, but the merits of what is being argued also seem contrary to your advocacy of this project. Any response you have is greatly appreciated.
Many thanks,
Well said Barry
Comment by Chris Hatch on 5th May 2009
I find it unconscionable that our region has become a hotbed of anti clean energy activism right in the middle of the climate emergency. And, as you point out, almost no activism at all against all the fossil fuels.

Maybe we need one of those campaigns like they ran against the NIMBYs in Europe last decade showing all the people in the developing world that we have endangered and whose societies we are unraveling and contrast them to the relatively benign wind farms, run of river, and other projects being opposed in our area.

This reactionary stuff has been building for awhile now. The province is focused on run of river more than wind thanks mostly to us and other communities that have run off wind energy projects over the past few years.

Now we have activism against run of river in direct opposition to the world's climate scientists, Royal Societies, Academies of Science, etc.

Its kind of charming that we're all such independent thinkers that many don't give a hoot what the scientists have to say -- But not so charming when it turns out we're enabling the most fossil fuel intensive population on the planet (aren't we even a little embarrassed to be so much worse than even the yanks under Bush?). Not charming at all when it's my kids that are on the line and even the modest energy conservation, renewable energy and carbon restriction plans we get on the books come under attack.