Sunday, June 28, 2020

On exclusionary measures

Even as Scott Moe and his party have declared they're determined to let people die on Saskatchewan's streets for lack of funding, and warned that there's nothing but further real wage cuts on the horizon for public servants, they've managed to find public resources to keep pushing nuclear power - no matter how clear it is that the public is rightly opposed, and there's no rational economic basis to do it

So how can we explain the Saskatchewan Party's insistence on ignoring the potential to completely transform the province's grid to a renewable one by 2030, and instead dedicating scarce resources to an unproven technology might at best begin to be available as a more costly alternative at that time? 

One obvious difference between renewable energy and nuclear power arises in terms of the inputs. While renewable energy requires only a one-time installation and subsequent maintenance, nuclear power would match its fossil fuel predecessors in requiring a constant supply of fuel - ensuring continued reliance on a rip-and-ship economy.

Any reasonable observer would see that as reason to avoid nuclear. But a government which has never overcome its addiction to oil seems bent on finding an alternate vice.

We can also add another distinction to the mix, particularly compared to the Saskatchewan NDP's Renew Saskatchewan plan for distributed renewables.

Particularly as work continues to be done on storage options, the essence of any system based on renewable energy is one of interconnection. Since no one location can rely on constant solar or wind energy, energy security comes from a willingness to build and tie into a larger, more stable system than can be built in a single community (or even province).

And with that come some opportunities: for activists and community organizations to influence who benefits from power development, and for unions to organize a workforce which can be expected to remain in place over a relatively long time span.

In contrast, to the extent modular nuclear power has any plausible niche, it's as the form of energy most easily disconnected from the people and structures around it.

Looking to build a mine and associated company town which can maintain a plausible threat of picking up and leaving at any time? A luxury bunker for the wealthy which goes out of its way to minimize any ongoing connection to the rabble outside? Those are the scenarios where there's an obvious advantage to a single power source which is highly concentrated, easily moveable and suited for operation apart from any wider grid.

In other words, Moe's fixation on nuclear power figures to ensure that neither the generation nor the operation of Saskatchewan's future power system benefits anybody beyond the investor class more than can possibly be avoided. And voters will have their choice this fall between a party offering systematic benefits for everybody, and one looking to make sure power (in every sense of the term) is even more concentrated in the hands of the few.

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