Fresh Takes

$10 billion deal to export Quebec’s surplus hydro power threatened by greens

Some environmentalists are upset that rights-of-way for power lines will threaten Maine’s forests. First, the transmission lines will mostly use existing infrastructure, so that average clearance will be an additional 75 feet (25 meters). Given that Maine is 90% forest, of course, ribbons of clearance through forestland may well be good for diversity—new flowers can grow in clearings that couldn’t grow in deep forest, while animals can travel further in search of food, mates, or dens.

Beyond that, the bigger issue is that Maine, and New England, must get their power from somewhere. Surplus hydro power from existing plants is the most environmentally benign power imaginable—if the energy isn’t sold, the water has to be dumped anyway. While the hydro plants have already been built, unlike solar or wind, whose construction entails enormous carbon footprints.

If the activists prevail, Hydro-Québec may be left with plan B: export some of the power to New Brunswick and pray they figure out some way to export the remainder elsewhere, likely with higher environmental impact and higher costs.

Voltaire once said, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Greens need to realize there are real trade-offs in real life. If you want green power, you have to make it easy for green power to be used.

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