In last month’s provincial election, the B.C. Liberals won on a platform of creating wealth and jobs through developing and selling natural gas to off-shore markets.
Sounds good in principal. Who wouldn’t want to see good-paying jobs, a robust provincial economy and a reduced provincial debt?
If this has worked for the last 150 years, why not continue? Because an even better opportunity has been squashed that could provide far more (and local) good-paying jobs and provide an even greater source of income to both the province and local economies.
Such a plan would have both immediate and long-term benefits that would help our pocket-books and the environment.
It turns out the number of jobs and economic output created when embracing ‘green’ technologies and efficiencies are three to eight times per dollar invested in the development and export of fossil fuels.
What are these ‘green’ jobs? They are found in four areas: building retrofits to improve energy efficiencies (potential: at least 100,000 jobs); forestry (value-added jobs and more sustainable management equals 10,000 plus new jobs); robust and integrated public transportation that reduces costs (more than 200,000 person-years building the systems and tens of thousands of permanent jobs running them); and sustainable energy production and energy efficiency measures (up to eight times more jobs per million invested).
Results: far more jobs and benefits for our province. (For more information visit www.greenjobsforbc.org/ and http://betterfuturefund.ca/.)
Contrast these long-term, local jobs and an improved environment to fossil jobs that will (as is typical in third-world countries) mean people will have to relocate to temporary towns or camps and send their money home, work in the highly destructive business of removing valuable surface water and inject it into the earth with highly toxic chemicals (potentially poisoning people’s wells), and flood another valley to provide the required huge amount of hydro electricity.
In addition, B.C. will be competing with other countries that are preparing to extract far more natural gas, thus flooding the international market and squashing the province’s plans to pay down its growing debt. Our province’s return on investment will turn out to be dismal. And once the gas is gone, so too will the jobs.
Thousands of these local sustainable jobs have been lost in the last two months due to the loss of government incentives – incentives that are more than paid for through taxes received from the improved ‘green’ economy.
Many of these workers are now headed to Alberta, leading to more closed schools, depressed local economies and more.
We could do better.
Ian Gartshore chairs the non-profit Energy Solutions for Vancouver Island.