Gregor Robertson's green obsession should be a grave concern for Vancouver taxpayers trying to make ends meet.
Lost in the hubbub over housing prices in the Lower Mainland this summer was the Vision-dominated city council rubberstamping its Renewable City Strategy, committing Vancouver to completely eliminating natural gas within city limits by 2050. Robertson wants a 70 per cent cut in natural gas use by 2020, and 90 per cent gone within 10 years.
This will cost individual residents thousands of dollars -- and was approved by Robertson and his council without any thought to the affordability crisis in Vancouver. This plan will make it more expensive for people to heat their homes and to buy things from businesses in Vancouver, and it means higher taxes to cover rising costs for hospitals, schools and buses.
Today, 56 per cent of all energy used by homes in Vancouver comes from natural gas, mainly to heat rooms and water. FortisBC has more than 108,000 customers in Vancouver -- including homes, condo buildings, medical centres, restaurants and schools.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson speaks at a conference in the Casina Pio IV at the Vatican, Wednesday, July 22, 2015.(Photo: AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
There are only two energy alternatives that could realistically replace natural gas -- a district energy system run by the city, or electricity. Both are roughly the same price. Even with the news that FortisBC is hiking its natural gas price by $82 per year for the average residential customer, natural gas is still far cheaper than these alternatives.
Based on BC Hydro and FortisBC rates and average energy usage, a single-family home could see a $1,400 per year rise in energy bills if it moved from natural gas to electricity -- and that's on top of the up-front cost (likely thousands of dollars more) to convert or replace water heaters and furnaces.
It gets worse. In commercial, institutional and industrial buildings, 37 per cent of energy comes from natural gas. That means higher prices for customers, who will have to pay more to help business and restaurant owners foot the bill for the conversion and higher ongoing energy costs.
Hospitals are huge users of natural gas, not just to heat their buildings, but to sterilize equipment. A mid-sized hospital saves as much as $600,000 per year by using natural gas. Force them to use electricity, and more tax dollars will be needed to fund them.
Robertson and his green gang know all this - and they don't care.
More than a hundred schools use natural gas in Vancouver. The Vancouver School Board could need another $3.6 million per year for higher electricity costs.
Vision Vancouver is coming after vehicles, too. TransLink has been buying natural gas-powered buses for a few years, but Robertson's plan may soon force them to buy fuel-cell buses -- at more than twice the price. You can bet TransLink will be asking taxpayers for more money to cover it.
Robertson and his green gang know all this -- and they don't care. "The discovery in North America of large quantities of shale gas has now caused the price to crash, and this low cost is expected for years to come. What is not included in this price are the health and environmental damages caused by climate impacts from burning large amounts of natural gas," their Strategy says.
That will come as a surprise to taxpayers who have been shelling out for carbon tax on their natural gas bills for nearly a decade. And all this money will be spent by Vancouver residents to address less than 2.5 of the 732 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions released in Canada annually -- one-third of one per cent (and Canada's emissions are only 1.6 per cent of world emissions).
Vancouver taxpayers should demand City Hall scrap the plan to outlaw natural gas. And if Robertson refuses, the provincial government should step in and remind Vision of the need to cut the cost burden on Vancouver residents.
Otherwise, the greenest thing about Gregor Robertson's Vancouver will continue to be the stacks of money needed to live there.
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