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Atlantica alternative 

Tim Bousquet gives that stupid trade deal a second swift kick.

The dream that Halifax will become a megaport for Chinese trade to the American Midwest is laughably stupid, and yet Nova Scotia's political and business elites are falling over themselves promoting the "Atlantica" idea in the name of our supposed economic future.

Meanwhile, they ignore the best and fundamentally pragmatic way to build the local economy: reducing our reliance on imported fuels. In fact, the province doesn't have an energy policy, at all. The same people who can tell you exactly how many imaginary trucks will carry how much imaginary trade on an imaginary highway to Buffalo can't tell you how much fuel we'll be using five years from now, or where it's going to come from.

What gives?

Well, there's big money in this Atlantica nonsense—for the well-connected. Each year about a million dollars sloshes through the corridors of the "think tank" promoting Atlantica: a right-wing outfit called the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS).

That money serves to line up a gaggle of university administrators for the sell—Saint Mary's, UCCB and Mount Allison are all represented at AIMS and, along with Dalhousie University, those institutions have any number of publicly funded researchers doing Atlantica-related work. Like all good members of the managerial class, these academics know how to milk the consulting cow.

Meanwhile, politicians line up at the trough, using their Atlantica bonafides to entice big dollar support from the AIMS-connected companies that are well known for fleecing the rest of us: Scotia Bank, Fortis Properties, telecom companies and the like.

Oh, let's not forget the big power companies, who are heavily represented at AIMS: Nova Scotia Power, Irving, Newfoundland Power and Maritime Electric.

Power companies are, of course, in the business of selling power. The more they sell, the more money they make, so at every turn they'll oppose policies that help reduce energy consumption. Those are exactly the policies that save the rest of us money, and bring about real, not imagined, economic growth.

Those policies also will help move us to a greener future, as we switch from dirty imported fuels to clean and locally produced energy.

Larry Hughes, a prof at Dal, has been writing about energy issues in relative obscurity for over 30 years. Hughes has all sorts of sensible policy ideas, but I'll mention just one: using the Tufts Cove power plant as the foundation for a Scandinavian-style district heating system.

Like all power plants, Tufts Cove is only about 30 percent efficient, and all that waste heat is simply dumped in the harbour. We could instead use it to heat pressurized water that is piped around the city, which homeowners could tap into with simple heat exchangers. Such a system could heat every building on the Halifax peninsula, Hughes figures. We'd have no need for furnaces or fuel oil to heat our homes, saving us plenty of money.

But instead of pursuing a district heating system, the elites are pushing an absurd natural gas system on us. The gas could just as easily be burned at Tufts Cove and the waste used for district heating. But if things go the way our betters want, we'll continue burning highly polluting imported fuel oil at Tufts Cove, and each of us individually will additionally burn natural gas in our basement furnaces.

Some people, no doubt, will make a lot of money selling us fuel we don't need. They tend to be the same people backing Atlantica.

Needless to say, Hughes doesn't often land big consulting contracts. There's no money in saving regular people money.

New ideas for saving money on energy? Email:

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