Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/6/2011 (2210 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In Suzuki slams PC Bipole stand (May 28), Premier Greg Selinger, in speaking about David Suzuki's support of the NDP decision to force Manitoba Hydro to abandon the east side for Bipole III, is quoted as saying "The point he makes is that you can argue and bicker about the numbers, but we're talking about a priceless asset."
A statement that the boreal forest is priceless needs to be cast in the light of some facts. In an attempt to put a value on that part of the boreal forest that will be the subject of an application for its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Pimachiowin Aki organization commissioned the International Institute for Sustainable Development to conduct a study of the area.
The IISD reported in November 2008 that it had been able to identify benefits, the maximum total value of which works out to $33.14 per hectare. For the 1,000 hectares that would be required for a Bipole III right-of-way passing through the proposed UNESCO site, the total quantifiable benefit of the required area would be $33,140.
The sources accounting for more than 80 per cent of this figure were: food harvested from fishing, removal and breakdown of water pollutants, regulation of atmospheric carbon and, somewhat ironically, water supply for producing electricity.
The study did identify additional benefits referred to as "ecological services" but was unable to quantify them. Included in these unquantifiable ecological services were the spiritual and religious values of the land.
Others were water supply, filtration by trees and flood prevention because there is no reliable experience in these areas. It must be these unquantifiable benefits that earn the boreal forest its "priceless" moniker.
For a quantifiable benefit of only $33,140, the NDP would force Hydro to spend an additional $1 billion on a west-side line that they knew six years ago will cause Manitoba's entire hydro system to function less efficiently than an east-side line and that has more social and environmental disadvantages than it seeks to avoid. The annual debt servicing cost on $1 billion over the next 50 years can be expected to be in the range of $70 million based on today's interest rates.
At $33,140, the quantifiable benefits represent less than 0.05 per cent of the $70 million additional annual cost of a west-side line. Selinger expects us to take it on faith that the $33,140 plus the substantially greater unquantifiable benefit will together produce an annual figure of $70 million to pay for this costly decision.
The $70 million is an annual cost. It's an unnecessary additional cost above and beyond the cost of an east-side line and above and beyond the cost of the converters required to terminate the line wherever it is routed. It has to be paid every year and every month by Hydro ratepayers for the next 50 years. It will not be paid for by Americans as Selinger frequently claims.
Dean emeritus (engineering)
University of Manitoba