For the past few months I have been attempting to envision life here in the best province available, without the benefits of having regional industries and populations that count on coal as a fuel for the future.
Yep, I said benefits.
I have also heard the negatives.
Since I am one of about 12,000 who live in the Energy City of Estevan, you can predict my bias, but I will attempt to make a case based on at least a modicum of logic and understanding.
The death knell has been sounded for coal and the coal mining industry, but I’m not absolutely certain yet, as to why there is this current rush to judgment?
Oh, I understand the urgent climate change arguments and within proper parameters there are valid, understandable points made.
But, we have entered not only the environmental, but also the corporate, social and political worlds and words that swirl around this vortex of coal.
You see, I see coal, the mining and deployment of it, in a somewhat different light since it, and the people who are engaged in the business, are part of our immediate communities in southeast Saskatchewan.
I look into a nearby valley and see a host of manicured minor league baseball and softball diamonds that were built by volunteers and equipment from the mining community. These diamonds and surrounding infrastructure have played host to Western Canadian baseball championships in recent years.
I look at past results from record-setting United Way telethons and see how local coal enterprises and their personnel have made these records possible, year after year after year, coupled with their energy producing partners at SaskPower and various local and regional oil industry stalwarts.
I readily recall stirring moments in our history, in the early 1990s, when our community was allowed to burst into the dawn of another century with a new hospital that now includes kidney dialysis and CT scan capabilities as well as upgraded surgical equipment, built in concert with a brand new aquatic and leisure centre that involved a public library, activity rooms, senior’s centre, gymnasium and squash courts, as well as an additional sheet of ice.
Since then, a new events complex and arena has been added, to which the mining industry played no small part.
I glance southward toward Boundary Dam, and wonder what will become of it if coal is banned and the cooling water from this reservoir, fed by the Souris River, is no longer needed. There is a significant community of cottage and year-round homeowners stationed around this vast expanse of fish-filled water, who kind of like living next to its beach and docks.
The nearby Rafferty Dam … same thing. Will their uses and importance be diminished or worse, ignored?
I wonder what will become of our reclaimed mining lands that are supporting new growth. What will be the eventual fate of the powerful Shand Power Station and its sister greenhouse that supplied thousands of sapling trees and bushes to grateful rural and urban communities?
I wonder if the disappearance of coal as fuel in Saskatchewan would make any significant difference in the worldview, seeing as how we are generally seen as rather insignificant partners in most national debates, let alone international circles.
I have been informed that one morning’s worth of takeoffs and landings at Pearson International Airport in Toronto emit as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as what Saskatchewan can muster in a whole year. But still, we must be the poster child for doing the right thing? Will anyone of import notice or care if we do … or don’t?
We need discussion regarding the viability of replacements within the electrical power grid in our province and beyond.
We know C02 and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) capture works on lignite coal-fuelled power plants. We have the results and we have the knowledge that a second generation would cost less than half of what the pilot project cost for construction and operation, while alternative energy sources, I have been told, might still require subsidization.
I believe we must remain real when it comes to discussions surrounding coal and its apparent demise. We have been told that coal has to go, no matter what. I think we need to discuss the what.
What happens next if we wave goodbye to coal without completely understanding the results that will evolve via the replacements and the role they’ll be willing to play in the growth of our southeast Saskatchewan towns and cities?
After all, we know all about coal, both negative and positive. We have been partnered with it over the past nine decades. We need some assurances from those who tout alternatives that the future path is forward on all fronts. Right now I’m not seeing that. Let’s discuss the “no matter what” stuff.