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EDITORIAL: Don’t fall for Either/Or(wellian) thinking

Last week, we told the story of a man driving his electric vehicle through the Dempster Highway to the Arctic Coast and back, a hazardous journey for the most well equipped of vehicles.
Comments and Views from the Inuvik Drum and Letters to the Editor

Last week, we told the story of a man driving his electric vehicle through the Dempster Highway to the Arctic Coast and back, a hazardous journey for the most well equipped of vehicles.

Judging by the response in our comments sections, at least a few of our readers heads’ exploded. It was like watching Luke Skywalker learn Darth Vader was his father all over again.

This week, an update about the TUK M-18 natural gas well, which will be supplying diesel and propane fuel to the region for the next half century.

As mentioned last week, an aggressive push to electrify as much of the NWT’s fleet of vehicles is an important step to both reducing the cost of living in the North and slowing the onset of permafrost melting, coastal eroding climate change at the same time. If you have a company truck that never leaves the town limits, it makes sense to convert to an EV when it’s time to replace it. You’ll have a more powerful truck with 100 per cent torque you plug into the wall at night, never needing to gas up and cutting maintenance costs to a minimum. It’s a net money saver and with massive subsidies offered by both the federal government and Arctic Energy Alliance the price is right. I personally am seriously considering budgeting for an e-bike as a lifelong tool.

However, even all that will leave gaps as many households will likely not be able to convert over as quickly as businesses. I would be surprised if fossil fuels didn’t remain a regular part of life for the Beaufort Delta for decades to come.

One area in particular I see staying with fossil fuels are snowmobiles in the winter time. While electric snowmobiles may be a possibility for nearby cabins, the only off-grid charging network you’re going to find is your own. Anyone who has to travel any real distance in the darkness is going to be burning gasoline or diesel. Even if you could charge your EV snowmobile at the cabin, unless you have your own wind turbine chances are you would be burning gasoline or diesel to charge it anyway. EVs would made economic choices for racing, but the lack of a noisy engine probably would be a turn-off for most braaaptists.

So there is clearly a place for projects like TUK M-18, which will still reduce greenhouse gas emissions solely by cutting thousands of kilometres off the journey of each litre of fossil fuel burned in the Beaufort Delta.

But anything focused towards life in our endless summer days can and should be oriented towards harnessing the effectively infinite and free energy of the sun. As reported in this paper, entire cabins with refrigerators, freezers and man caves can operate on solar power alone in the summer. If you’re privileged enough to live in a community serviced by hydro-electric power — can we get a dam up here please? — you can get your EV charging station pretty much for free.

I would advise those who can to get their charging stations now even if they aren’t planning to buy an EV to expand potential options later in life.

Don’t fall victim to “either/Or(wellian)” thinking. Manipulating voters into believing only one option is possible is a time-honoured trick of politicians seeking power.

Energy does not care how loyal you are to it.

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Sick of reading my opinions? How about some of your own? Send us a guest column on what you would do if you were premier of the NWT.

About the Author: Eric Bowling

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