MLA addresses energy at Chamber meeting

Energy was on the mind of Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett as he addressed the Chamber of Commerce at a monthly luncheon last week.

  • Dec. 14, 2015 3:00 p.m.
MLA Bill Bennett at the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday

MLA Bill Bennett at the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday

Trevor Crawley

Energy was on the mind of Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett as he addressed the Chamber of Commerce at a monthly luncheon last week.

Bennett, who serves as the Minister of Energy and Mines, was the keynote speaker for the event, who spoke about British Columbia’s leadership in energy conservation and climate action.

Bennett had two central points to his speech—first noting what the provincial government has done on the energy and climate change while wrapping up with what the future looks like in terms of legislative policy.

He began with a history lesson on Liberal policies concerning the carbon tax, greenhouse gas emissions, renewable and innovation technology funding.

He punctuated his speech many times by noting that B.C. was one of the most progressive jurisdictions in North America on the climate action front. However, he tempered that by noting that it is important to remain environmentally conscious while being competitive economically.

“We are so far ahead of the rest of this country and the vast majority of North America and the world. If we get too far out in front of what we’re trying to do, we could easily find ourselves being uncompetitive in our major industries,” Bennett said.  “Our major industries are energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries.

We sell all our stuff off-shore for the most part, whether it’s mining, oil and gas, forestry, agriculture…

“We have to be very careful that we don’t get out too far. This is going to be a debate over the next year and a half leading into the next provincial election.”

He gave a nod to his namesake—W.A.C. Bennett (no relation)—the former B.C. premier who was instrumental in building major hydroelectric dams on in the Columbia and Peace River regions.

In large part because of those legacy projects, Bennett said 97.9 per cent of B.C.’s electricity is clean. Some of those major hydroelectric dams can generate power for 100 years, he added.

“It’s pretty cool for us to be able to say that. You look around the world, places like Ontario that are trying to get off coal and now Alberta, which has said they’d like to reduce their reliance on coal to generate electricity,” Bennett said.

“You look in Europe, in Germany—the Germans are working pretty hard to clean up their energy. They want to have 50 per cent of their energy clean by 2050. We’re 97.9 per cent clean electricity in this province already.”

For the future, the government has dictated that for new electricity demands, 66 per cent must be found through conservation and not new generation.

“It’s not a bad thing to use less electricity, it’s a good thing,” Bennett said. “It’s not a bad thing to use less diesel and less gasoline. It’s a good thing, intrinsically, to conserve, and a lot of what we’re doing is based on conservation.”

The carbon tax, introduced in 2007, was designed to be revenue-neutral, meaning that the government gives back the amount collected as tax relief, Bennett said.

Despite a few blips on the economic radar during the Great Recession, the provincial economy has fared well with the carbon tax, Bennett said.

“Our economy has grown, our employment has grown and our confidence has grown during the whole time that we’ve had our carbon tax. We were not only the first province in Canada, but the first jurisdiction in the world, to create a wide application of a revenue neutral carbon tax,” he said. “No one else in the country is doing it; Alberta has announced that they’re doing it, but it’s not revenue-neutral.”

Other policies include legislating a minimum of five per cent renewable content in gasoline and four per cent in diesel. Further initiatives include a Clean Energy fund, where companies looking to develop green technologies can apply for grants. Bennett said he just signed off on a $1 million grant for a company near Whistler developing technology that can extract carbon dioxide out of thin air and turn it into a fuel.

In the larger context of moving towards renewable fuels, Bennett says that the world will still be relying on fossil fuel for the time being, but the transition is already happening.

“We are going to have to bridge towards reliance on renewable fuels,” Bennett said. “We’re going to be relying on fossil fuels in our economy, I think, for a very long time. We can argue, and I do argue, with those from the environmental organizations that the transition has to happen faster, that it can happen faster.

It comes down to cost, it comes down to available technology.”

Just Posted

City council deferred moving forward on a proposed development in Wildstone, requesting a meeting with the developer to get clarification on project details. Photo submitted.
Cranbrook city council debates proposed Wildstone development

Cranbrook city council held off on moving forward with a proposed apartment… Continue reading

Interior Health is reporting a COVID-19 exposure at Selkirk Secondary in Kimberley. Bulletin file.
COVID-19 case identified at Selkirk Secondary in Kimberley

Interior Health is conducting contact tracing

Cranbrook Arts will finally open the doors to their brand new gallery space on Friday, June 18th, 2021 at 4pm. To see what is behind these doors, be sure to check out the exhibit, Kootenay's Best, running until Labour Day weekend. (Cranbrook Arts file)
Cranbrook Arts’ inaugural exhibit, Kootenay’s Best, opens this Friday

The exhibit features over 50 Kootenay-based artists and will run until Labour Day Weekend

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

Calvin Dickson photo.
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for East Kootenay

Conditions favourable for the development of thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Grace (left), a caribou that was born in a maternal pen north of Revelstoke, is alive and well said the province. It appears she even has a calf. Maternity pens aim to increase caribou calf survival by protecting them from predation until they are older and less vulnerable. (Contributed)
For the first time in years, caribou numbers increasing near Revelstoke

North herd growing but south herd still concerning

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Kelowna General Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

Three people tested positive for the virus — two patients and one staff — one of whom died

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Most Read