Commentary by Sam Arnold|Telegraph Journal August 3, 2022

Premier Higgs made one astute statement as reported in a recent Brunswick News story (Feds, Atlantic provinces aim for energy deal by end of year):

“The goal out of this [agreement] is to have something that’s overarching by the end of the year. We agreed to the whole validation of the requirements, the timing, and the ability to supply energy in a way Atlantic residents can afford. It entails the four provinces to have an overarching look at our energy requirements and not just one-offs.”

The Atlantic Loop is a logical choice for New Brunswick and the other eastern provinces, providing the Indigenous people – the Innu of Sheshatshui and Inuit of the upper Lake Melville and Rigolet, and other Indigenous people in Labrador who were forced to give up so much for the Muskrat Hydro Project. They must be properly compensated for the loss of their traditional hunting and fishing territory.

With federal support the Atlantic Loop can surely become a centrepiece for reliable hydro power for many years to come, if it is backed by other renewable energy providers along with energy storage and energy efficiency in the electricity grid. A federal-provincial partnership can help Canada and the provinces achieve 100 percent clean, affordable, reliable electricity by 2035 without the need for nuclear or fossil fuels, according to a new study by the David Suzuki Foundation. Other similar studies have come to very similar conclusions. Renewable energy together with the Atlantic hydro Loop is the ultimate energy solution for the Atlantic provinces.

But surprisingly what the premier has said publicly does not consider or include the most advanced and most affordable renewable energy sources for a realistic energy future. They are seemingly not in his narrow field of vision. Instead, Higgs wants to develop an LNG export terminal near Saint John that will likely be years too late to be of any benefit to Germany or anywhere else; he wants to end the shale gas moratorium that has been in place since 2014, but which would result in certain legal and social unrest; he continues to advocate for the development of two competing small modular nuclear reactors at Point Lepreau that hold very little probability of success, and yet at enormous cost and additional provincial debt.

Not only are these projects scientifically, fiscally, timewise and environmentally counterproductive, they are far more costly than solar and wind, that are now the most accessible and lowest costing for further quick development. Clearly the overarching affordable energy solution that the premier says he is searching for is directly in front of him, and yet he is seemingly still unaware or in denial.

The climate crisis is indisputable. The frequent natural warnings with severe weather events, heat waves, droughts and floods are becoming increasingly vociferous globally. It is demanding the active participation of every person to reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions, but especially that of the elected leaders and the private and corporate sector.

We well know what the chief causes for climate change are, and there are numerous solutions to lessen its impact, with more being developed every day. Technological innovation is advancing faster than expected, with more efficient and cost-effective renewable energy and energy storage methods continuing to come onboard. But the time for decisive action cannot be delayed.

It needs to be said that the climate crisis is closely connected to the healthcare crisis since climate change endangers both the physical and mental health of New Brunswickers. Addressing the climate crisis is one way to reduce the number of patients seeking health care and can therefore benefit both chronic problems simultaneously.

Mr. Higgs needs to start doing his job as premier more realistically or step aside and allow someone with an open mind and a good sense of what is best for everyone’s future. We need a leader who can secure needed energy that “Atlantic residents can afford” without exacerbating the climate emergency any further.

Sam Arnold is a retired music teacher, environmental advocate and member of the Sustainable Energy Group.