The run-of-river debate in British Columbia is pitting environmentalist against environmentalist.

Personally, I’m not too keen on the idea of exploiting every wild river for the sake of overblown concerns about climate change. On the other hand, I find the anti-growth undertones of some of the opposition to the projects troublesome. Still, Michael M’Gonigle is right to question the eagerness of governments to squash all opposition to their schemes.

To ensure the success of avowedly green energy projects, governments in British Columbia and Ontario now promise to pay big subsidies for more power, and they have rewritten provincial legislation to prevent local communities from deciding whether they want these development proposals. In contrast, in the United States, the federal government is looking at new forms of neighbourhood governance that might refashion all forms of resource and energy use at the community level.

Like wind, the energy that might be generated from run-of-river turbines is a pittance relative to our overall energy needs. While improving efficiency (aka conservation) is an important first step in the transition to the post-carbon world, energy deprivation is not a solution for the long term. Bob Metcalfe has it right when he argues for “a squanderable abundance of cheap and clean energy with which to grow free and prosperous.” Any ideas how we might get it?

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