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Energy & Infrastructure

Natural resources are, and will continue to be, a crucial component of the economic well-being of British Columbians. To advance BC's prosperity, we must responsibly develop new forms of energy resources and build the necessary infrastructure to connect them with global markets. The Council’s work supports the efforts of businesses and governments to develop resource projects, energy systems and transportation networks in a way that minimizes the environmental impacts and maximizes economic benefits for communities and BC’s job creators.

Finlayson, Ragan Op-Ed: We need a serious discussion about congestion pricing (Vancouver Sun)

In the past year, public debate in Metro Vancouver has focused heavily on how to pay for new transportation capacity. But there is a critical missing piece in this mobility puzzle. Improved transit services and more investment in roads are needed but they aren’t enough. Experience shows that we can’t just build our way out of gridlock. We won’t solve the problem of traffic congestion without also changing the underlying incentives. That’s why we need a serious discussion about congestion pricing.

This summer’s transit referendum was about how to pay for new transit investments. Its failure doesn’t signal that people are happy being stuck in traffic; nor does it signal that we are using our current infrastructure efficiently. There are several things that pretty much everyone agrees with regarding transportation in Metro Vancouver. First, traffic congestion is extremely costly: time lost in traffic costs people and businesses in the region at least $1.4 billion per year. Second, more and expanded public-transit options are necessary, as are maintenance, repairs and upgrading of existing roads and bridges. Third, those transportation investments somehow will have to be made, for neither businesses nor residents can afford to live without them indefinitely.

Another point of agreement is that traffic congestion is getting worse. Given that Metro Vancouver’s population is projected to grow by about million people over the next 25 years, one can easily imagine how bad things could get. As population and port activities increase, container truck traffic will also grow. Who pays for the time that trucks spend idling on backed-up highways and arterial roads? These time delays raise costs for businesses and increase prices for consumers. We all pay for traffic congestion.

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Winners and Losers from the Slumping Loonie...Through a British Columbia Lens

In the final months of 2012 the Canadian dollar was trading slightly above parity with the US greenback. Nearly three years later, one Canadian dollar is worth ~76 US cents. This marks an unprecedented depreciation of the Canadian currency – more than 25% in a bit less than three years. A decline of this speed and magnitude has significant economic implications.

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Finlayson Op-Ed: Renewables, fossil fuels will share energy landscape (Business in Vancouver)

Is the world in the midst of an accelerating migration away from fossil fuels toward much greater reliance on carbon-free energy? If one takes seriously the speeches of many politicians or the content found on the web sites of environmental advocacy organizations, the temptation is to answer “yes.” The reality, however, is more complex.

Important shifts in energy production and use are under way, but the magnitude and timing of any overall global “energy transition” are apt to be less dramatic than many believe.  Growing energy demand, the vast scale of the world’s existing energy system, and the tens of trillions of dollars of embedded capital that underpin it all stand in the way of rapid change.  

That said, there is evidence of an incremental move away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source, in favour of low/no-carbon forms of energy.  Over time, natural gas and renewables will comprise rising proportions of the world’s energy supply, while the shares of oil and coal will decline.  However, because energy demand will be increasing and natural gas use is expected to double by 2040, this does not necessarily equate to an absolute reduction in the quantity of fossil fuels in the global energy system in the short- to medium-term.   

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Some Reflections on the Global Energy Transition

Is the world in the midst of a rapidly accelerating migration away from fossil fuels, toward a much greater reliance on carbon-free sources of energy? If one takes seriously the speeches of Environment Ministers or the content found on the web sites of many well-known environmental advocacy organizations, the temptation is to answer “yes.”  The reality, however, is more complex.

In this edition of Environment and Energy Bulletin, Jock Finlayson analyzes the recent projections of three well-respected sources - the International Energy Agency (IEA), the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) and British Petroleum (BP).  He concludes that for the world as a whole, there is certainly evidence of an incremental move away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source, in favour of low/no-carbon forms of energy.  However, looking out over the next two decades, the trend-lines point to a real, but far from revolutionary, energy transition, one that is unlikely to entail an absolute reduction in the quantity of fossil fuels produced and consumed globally by 2035 or 2040.

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Jock Finlayson Presentation
Does Canada have an Economic and Environmental Carbon Bubble?
Presented to the Eco-Pragmatism Summit, Vancouver, June 15, 2015

On June 15, 2015, Jock Finlayson participated in a panel debate with Jeff Rubin focused on energy and the economy.  Jock's presentation included a review of the top global oil producers, Canada's place as an energy exporter and  global energy consumption trends. He also looks at energy transitions and some implications of lower fossil fuel prices.

 

 

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D'Avignon Op-Ed: Great News for British Columbia

Remember June 11and 12, 2015. We will look back on this 24 hour period years from now as a point in which B.C. started to see a material change to its economy. Specifically, it was when some $44 billion worth of investment decisions were made in two separate projects that will strengthen B.C. as a significant player in two global sectors: energy and shipbuilding.

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Finlayson Op-Ed: Canada flirting with recession (Troy Media, Business in Vancouver)

The latest economic growth report from Statistics Canada casts a cloud over the country’s economic outlook for 2015.  Real gross domestic product (GDP) fell at a 0.6 per cent annualized rate in the first three months of the year, considerably worse than even forecasters of a pessimistic bent were expecting.  Digging into the details, it is clear that the slump in global oil prices is taking a measurable toll on Canada’s energy-centric economy. 

Non-residential investment plunged by 15 per cent in Q1, led by sharp cuts in capital-spending by the oil and gas industry.  In recent years, the energy sector has accounted for more than one-third of all non-residential investment, as well as for roughly one quarter of Canada’s merchandise exports.  So the epic downturn in oil and natural gas markets is dampening overall private sector capital outlays and weighing heavily on Canada’s export receipts.  

Harsh winter weather also played a role in the gloomy Q1 report -- consumer spending came in below consensus, as many Canadians apparently decided to stay indoors.

Economists define a “recession” as two consecutive quarters of declining real GDP.  We are half way there, and some recent economic data signal further softness into the second quarter. 

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Rethinking Social Licence to Operate -- A Concept in Search of Definition and Boundaries

This edition of Environment and Energy Bulletin,  guest authored by David Bursey, a partner with Bennett Jones LLP, examines the evolution of  Social Licence to Operate (SLO) in the approval of resource development projects and its recent rise in popular use.  It then considers how the concept relates to political governance and law.  Finally, it assesses the implications of how SLO is being applied – for good and for bad, but most often without a proper context.

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Presentation:
Ken Peacock presentation to Construction Council of Vancouver Island
Building BC for the 21st Century

On May 13, 2015, BCBC Chief Economist Ken Peacock presented to the Construction Council of Vancouver Island's first annual Capital Project Forum in Nanaimo. In his presentation, Ken makes the case for increased infrastructure investment due to its strong economic impact and the role infrastructure plays in enabling access to foreign markets and improving quality of life. With the current climate of low interest rates, now is an opportune time to borrow capital in order to finance essential infrastructure projects. The presentation also looks at a variety of financing options from both the private and public sector, and notes the need for a long term infrastructure development strategy to ensure we keep pace with the global economy and our shifting demographics here at home.

This presentation is based on the Business Council's November 2014 whitepaper on infrastructure policy and financing, Building BC for the 21st Century, authored by Ken Peacock and Jock Finlayson.

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Whitworth Op-Ed: Liquefied Natural Gas is a Generational Opportunity (Vancouver Sun)

The debate about the future of liquefied natural gas in British Columbia is generating plenty of heat, but often too little light. A casual observer can be forgiven if he or she is just a bit confused about whether LNG will come to B.C.

Strip away the rhetoric, however, and a truth remains: In a growing world economy hungry for cleaner forms of energy, the market for B.C.’s natural gas remains strong.

As CEO of Seaspan ULC and chair of the British Columbia Business Council, I think it is important we remember this when considering LNG’s potential to shape our province for the better.

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Plunging Oil Price Good for the BC Economy in 2015…

The rapid and steep decline in world oil prices has prompted a fair amount of commentary on the accompanying economic impacts. For Canada, much of the analysis points to modestly negative economic implications, stemming from reduced business investment, lower corporate revenues, a decline in the value of exports, and diminished job creation in the oil patch. Lower oil prices also translate into a decline in revenues flowing to the federal government and to provinces like Alberta and Newfoundland.

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An Updated Look at BC’s Inventory of Major Capital Projects

In this issue of Policy Perspectives, we provide a summary of capital spending on “major” projects in British Columbia.

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Finlayson: Low Interest Rates make this a great time to invest in infrastructure
(Troy Media)

Ottawa has the fiscal room to invest in infrastructure projects

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A Note on Infrastructure Investment and Government Debt

The Business Council recently published a white paper on infrastructure policy and financing in British Columbia. One of the points made in the paper is that investing in certain categories of infrastructure assets – particularly transportation, communications and energy infrastructure -- can help to strengthen the foundations for prosperity by boosting productivity, expanding the economy’s ‘supply side’ capacity, and improving the competitive position of local industries engaged in global commerce.

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Release: Business Council of BC White Paper and Nov.7 Summit focus attention on BC infrastructure needs and issues

VANCOUVER, BC (Nov. 5, 2014) - With the economic prosperity of British Columbia and Western Canada relying increasingly on global trade and our ability to deliver goods to foreign markets, the Business Council of British Columbia (BCBC) today released Building BC for the 21st Century: A White Paper on Infrastructure Policy and Financing in advance of its second annual BC Business Summit (Building BC for the 21st Century: Innovation in Infrastructure), to be held on Friday, Nov.7 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. 

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Building BC for the 21st Century:
A White Paper on Infrastructure Policy and Financing

This paper is about infrastructure in BC. It reviews what infrastructure is, the importance and benefits of infrastructure and some of the external and internal factors that are shaping the demand for infrastructure services in the province. It also reviews infrastructure that has been built in the province over the past decade. Despite BC having made substantial investments in large public assets that have served the province and its citizens well, we conclude that additional infrastructure investments are necessary to support residents’ quality of life and improve BC’s competitive position.

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Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions - The Costs Vary By Industry

Policy-makers in a growing number of jurisdictions are committed to taking steps to reverse – or at least slow the growth of – greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are believed to contribute to global warming.

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Climate Progress in BC

If you read the recently released 2014 Progress Report on Climate Action in BC and some of the related commentary, one would think BC is doing really well on meeting its climate objectives. It’s not surprising to see the government pat itself on the back, but the self-congratulation is overdone in the context of the 2020 33% legislated reduction target that was put in place in 2007. We have only run 2.4 km of a 40 km marathon race. It was clear in 2007 that the government of the day was too ambitious in adopting the 33% goal, and the latest data confirm this.

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The LNG Opportunity in BC: Separating Rhetoric from Reality -- Part II

In Part I of this two-part series, we reviewed the main economic critiques of LNG development in British Columbia, concluding that while there are risks and economic uncertainties with respect to LNG in the province, the critics are largely off base with their professed economic concerns. Here in Part II, we address the more analytically challenging environmental issues that have been identified by various commentators who doubt the benefits of LNG.

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Metro Vancouver’s Transportation Choices: How the Mayors got it right and wrong at the same time

Last week the Mayors’ Council, representing 23 local governments in Metro Vancouver, released their long term vision for the region’s transportation system. On many aspects of transportation planning the Mayors’ proposed blueprint moved the region closer to a comprehensive vision that could, conceivably, pass the muster of a regional referendum. To their collective credit, the Mayors for the most part resisted the temptation to play politics with the priorities - the investment side of the plan displays a degree of reasonableness that has often been lacking in transportation debates in the region.

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