17 December 2010

Muskrat Falls: Internal contradictions

Nalcor headman Ed Martin is supposed to be selling the Muskrat falls plan for the Conservatives to help their re-election bid.

He is talking up the economic wonderments of a power line from the island of Newfoundland into Nova Scotia.

One of the things such a line makes feasible, Martin claims, is a thermal plant to turn natural gas into electricity.  Natural gas is currently so cheap that American generators are selling electricity from their gas plants in the United States to New Brunswick.

But, as the Telegram reports,

Martin said converting natural gas to electricity would also require a small gas turbine plant and a lot of study.

“Our focus right now, no question, is the Lower Churchill … and that’s going to be a five- to six-year construction project.

“We’d have to see if gas was there, we’d have to run the economics, it would be sometime after that. But, once again, five or six years is not that long a time.”

“There” is onshore at Parsons Pond.  But there is also gas offshore Newfoundland and Labrador so it is not like there is a shortage of available gas nor is the idea of using the gas to fire a generator such a novel idea.

However, note that Martin says that gas generation is something to be studied down the road a ways, once the Lower Churchill is done. “We’d have to run the economics, it would be sometime after” Muskrat is up and running.

Gas-to-electricity generation is not green but it is a lot less environmentally damaging than burning diesel at a plant like the now infamous one at Holyrood.  Don’t forget that the main use for the power at Muskrat Falls is to replace the evil generators at Holyrood.

So with all that firmly in front of your eyes, note that Kathy Dunderdale keeps insisting that all the alternatives to Muskrat falls have already been studied and that the Falls option is the cheapest. As she said on the last day of a very short session of the legislature:

“Mr. Speaker, they are going to have to pay a lot less for Muskrat Falls power than for any other alternative that is available to the people in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker…”

“We have considered all of the options available to us…”

So if Ed Martin hasn’t already studied the cost of generating electricity from natural gas – by his own admission, no less – then how can Kathy Dunderdale say that Ed Martin has already studied replacing Holyrood with gas generation and found that such a plan would cost more than $6.5 billion?

Well, she can’t. 

Not unless Ed Martin is fibbing.

And if Ed isn’t fibbing then that means that Kathy Dunderdale is fibbing or doesn’t understand her briefings.

Now there’s a shocker.

- srbp -