(Erin modified this a wee bit so that the author’s opinion was more prominently placed up top. This is the discussion in its entirety as of now, comments included, on the state of energy and prices on PEI — long but vital read on this issue. I follow this man’s blog often).

August 03, 2005
Gas Prices on PEI – More whining?

Here is the opening from a recent article in the Guardian (Gary when are you going to make your page linkable?)

I know I live in Paradise but really folks sometimes I wonder. Hello Islanders and politicians – the price of gas is going up. The price of all energy is going up. If we subsidize it – we all lose. With a real price increase then behaviours will change and alternatives will become feasible. PEI’s renewable energy strategy becomes more feasible. We have a chance to break away from a dependence on oil.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005
Islanders in a funk over loonie per litre for gas
By Jim Day, The Guardian

How does a loonie a litre sound?

Not good, Joe Lisi said Monday, just moments after he had his large, gas-guzzling SUV filled at a Charlottetown station.

“That pretty well hits home when you see that happen,’’ he said of the recent hike in gas on P.E.I. putting the price up around the buck-a-litre mark.

“You wonder where is it going to end?’’

Charlottetown gas station attendant Nick Veniot said the high price of gas appears to be on everybody’s mind.

“Not a person doesn’t grumble,’’ he said.

Wayne Vloet, owner of a Shell station in Charlottetown, said motorists tend to use less gas when the price goes up.

Yet one Island motorist, who asked to remain anonymous, feels he is at the mercy of the gas price-setting powers-that-be.

“It’s like this,’’ he said. “I have a car and if I want to drive it, I have to put gas in it.’’

Still, motorists say they deserve a break at the pumps.

Lisi said both provincial and federal governments should reduce their own gas taxes when prices hit a certain point, like, say a loonie a litre.

Liberal Opposition Leader Robert Ghiz agrees.

He is calling on the P.E.I. government to cap or re-consider the new gasoline taxes it introduced this year.
Charlottetown has the highest percentage of commuters of any city in Canada. With more expensive gas we may think about how we work. UPEI is one huge parking lot. With expensive gas, we may teach more online. People might even use a bike? Just summer usage within 15 k of Charlottetown will save you about $700. Who knows what a conservation strategy will save us. I will save half my oil bill this winter by heating with wood.

Come on Robert who gains with subsidized gas prices? Then ask yourself who loses?

I am tired of all this pandering to the whiners. I am tired of leadership that cannot see what is going on. I am tired of debates about trivial things when we face face the crises that we do as a community. I am tired of folks who look always to others for help or blame. I am tired of Islanders who have chosen to forget that their ancestors, with an axe and a horse created a society out of their hard work and determination.

The time is coming folks for us to grow up; to look to ourselves and to own our own challenges.

Posted by Robert Paterson on August 03, 2005 at 11:37 AM in Energy, PEI | Permalink

Interesting points all, Rob. Many of your thoughts mirror my own. Some of your comments do seem (to me)be as naive as Ghiz’s whine about the tax and Binns’ double talk response.

I am not sure that we can expect a single parent struggling along on a fixed income and living in marginal housing to hitch up their horse, grab their ax and head off to the local park and cut down their firewood. High fuel prices mean different things to different people. For you and I, it is an irritant and means that we will spend more on energy than on something else – but we will get by, and we might even conserve. For someone else, it might mean going without something that we consider a basic essential. It is a complex subject which requires a lot of wisdom to sort out – more wisdom than I have.

I have supplemented the heat in my residence with wood for 30 years. I too have reduced my oil consumption by 50%. I am not sure I save any money, though. I bought the stove, like many people, I do not own my own woodlot so I buy my wood, I put gas in the chain saw to block the wood or I pay someone else to do it, my time is worth something (say minimum wage) , and on an on.

…but by gad, I am saving half the cost of oil and spewing a known carcinogen into the neighborhood. At least it is renewal resource (maybe).

I know I sound cynical – and I am. I have seen the energy cycle / alternative energy cycle many times. PEI developed one of the most innovative and fuel efficient wood heading devices that has ever existed. The JetStream furnace was a world leader and now the few examples of it are rusting in some local barns. The Institute of Man and Resources was known around the world – gone to the stupidity of Island politics.

High energy costs will force us to change our lifestyle. However, the impact to many will be more than you may appreciate.

Posted by: Craig Willson | August 3, 2005 02:32 PM

Hi Craig
Of course you are right – this rise will hurt many people. But protecting us from this reality will I think hurt us even more.

I keep asking myself how PEI – with a long history of intiative, self relaince and independence – has over the last 50 years lost much of this culture and become inceasingly a society of victims.

Part of the reason I fear is that our media goes to victim as a first response – the gas story is all victim – not a word about why this is going on or even where this is going.

The second is that our electoral districts are too small and still too rural. More than 1/3 of Islanders live in the greater Charlottetown area and, like Toronto in the context of Ontario, represent the main thrust of the economy. I feel sometimes that we are ruled on PEI by the few thousand “victims” who are the margin in these rural seats between office and not. We see this so often – the interests of victim supersede most other points of view.

Like a drowning person, they have the power to take us all down.

I am not some neo con – but I am saying enough already to pandering to this the worst side of us – the dark side of the traditional and noble Island culture of pride, hard work, self sufficiency and generosity.

If we pay them no heed, their power goes away and the attention gets paid once more to what is important in terms of issues and to people who are prepared to do their part to help and hence take us through the challenge we face

Posted by: Robert Paterson | August 3, 2005 04:15 PM

I’m with you on this one, Rob. I don’t think gas prices are even close to as high as they will rise and if we cushion the blow now, it will only bite us on the arse later.

Craig’s point about different impacts is well taken, but I see that more as an issue of responding to individual circumstances as opposed to a blanket subsidy. The rest of us need to learn to moderate our consumption or pay the (Irvings) piper.

When I was in University, I worked for my mom’s real estate company, selling houses. Time after time, a buyer would look at the purchase, sigh, and say “I don’t know … $35,000 is a LOT of money. And you mean to tell me I’ll be paying $325 a month for 25 years? God.”

I would be as reassuring as I could be. “Ten years from now, this is going to be one of those conversations you laugh about,” I would say. “Fifteen years from now, you’ll shake your head and wonder why you ever thought $325 a month was a lot of money.”

They had every reason to be nervous – it SEEMED like a lot of money at the time. And maybe even WAS. But the one thing we can say with certainty is that what seems like a lot of money now will look, in retrospect, like a pittance.

That’s why I’m hoping that someone, somewhere, will look at the committed investment in wind energy and say “You know what? Screw it. Dumb to stop at 15%. Let’s go to 115% and sell power back to the grid.”

It’s doable. The infrastructure costs about a million bucks a megawatt. I don’t have exact numbers, but my aging memory conjures up a need of about 2000 megawatts for the Island. So, call it 2, perhaps 2.5 billion dollars (presumably shared with the feds in some way).

A lot of money, sure. But in 20 years, when oil is $200 a barrel and economies are collapsing, it will be one of those conversations we’ll laugh about.

Posted by: Nils | August 4, 2005 12:48 PM

You are so right Nils

Iceland with thermal and PEI with wind could be the two societies that make the break from oil.

That is the real choice before us. Do we choose independence or further submission? Who else has that choice?

Posted by: Robert Paterson | August 4, 2005 02:13 PM

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