03 July 2007

It's the bit they don't say that kills you

There's yet another piece on Newfoundland and Labrador in the Globe. Today's topic is the Lower Churchill project, which may become part of the Summer of Love election campaign just as it was in 1998 under Brian Tobin.

But here's a comment from PetroNewf chief executive Ed Martin that leaps out for the unstated bit:
"But with respect to the maritime route, it is a viable alternative [to shipping power overland through Quebec]. It's a hands-down viable alternative from a technical perspective."
Technically, engineers can put the proverbial arse back in the proverbial cat.

Technically, engineers can run a single strand thinner than human hair around the globe at the equator and tie a knot in it with tweezers, via remote control from the moon, while blind folded and being distracted by the voice of Lucy Liu's efficiency expert in the original Charlie's Angels (it's a nerd thing).

But is it viable financially?

That's where the answer typically comes up with a simple and emphatic "No!"

200 megawatts shipped all the way from Labrador to Rhode Island? Ya gotta be kidding.

The cost of the land lines down through New Brunswick, Maine and into Massachusetts alone would make the thing dodgy. Add in the underwater cabling to both the island of this province and to the mainland and you have a pretty costly venture.

All of that will be borne, supposedly, by a block of power that is actually less than the power block used annually by two industrial projects in western Labrador.

Now for his part the Premier calls this Rhode Island thing "very,very" crucial and "very, very" something else. When politicians use words like "very" and then use them repeatedly in relation to the same thing (always positive), you can usually be concerned that there is more than a little exaggeration on the go.

It's a verbal nose pull.

And so is Ed Martin's emphasis on the technical feasible of the sub-sea route.

The real question is whether it will be financially viable.

And that's not a poser for engineers.