Often the sobriquets attached to politicians are unflattering. Mr. Dithers, the moniker once assigned to former prime minister Paul Martin, comes to mind. But every once in awhile they can be complimentary and apt, such as the nickname that was long ago given to B.C. Energy Minister Rich Coleman – Mr. Fixit.
Mr. Coleman has held six different ministries since the Liberals assumed power in 2001 and along the way he has developed a reputation for successfully grappling with the seemingly intractable. Most recently, he was put in charge of devising a strategy to ensure the power-thirsty needs of a trio of proposed liquefied natural gas plants – among a number of other energy-zapping projects in the planning stages – are met.
It was a task fraught with potential controversy.
On Friday, Mr. Coleman unveiled his plan, which involves scrapping former premier Gordon Campbell's pledge to have the province be energy self-sufficient by 2016. There was simply no way that was going to be possible if the province hoped to met the energy demand of not only these three new LNG plants but a series of mines due to come on stream this decade as well as shale development in the works.
Surprisingly, Mr. Coleman's plan was met with little resistance. Even leading environmental groups such as the Pembina Institute applauded the government's vow to use clean electricity to power the first two LNG plants, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Neither could the New Democratic Party opposition find much wrong with the plan, which besides powering plants has the potential of powering the provincial economy as well.
While Mr. Coleman did a good job of making his proposal sound viable, there is nothing about it that is guaranteed. There is still the potential that the power needs of all of these various projects could affect BC Hydro rates, which would not thrill British Columbians. To help ensure that doesn't happen the government says it will insist the LNG developers contribute money for the infrastructure development that will be needed to supply energy to each operation.
We'll see how those negotiations go.
And, of course, there is the always-mercurial energy market that could play a role in future plans as well. The natural gas market has had its ups and downs in recent years. Shale gas development hammered prices for awhile. Also, there are a number of countries striving to get into the LNG business on a major scale, which could also impact revenue projections for developments in B.C.
But those are bridges yet to be crossed. For now, the B.C. government has to be happy that its new energy plan met with such little resistance. And for a premier desperately looking for some good news, Christy Clark has to consider that a win.