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The news articles below can be used to encourage discussion about the challenges faced by communities like Brochet as they work to make a future for their children.
For copyright reasons, the following news stories are summaries rather than verbatim copies of the original newspaper articles. They include comments and questions that are designed to model critical thinking through analysis, so that students can get into the habit of reading critically themselves. For example, how informative is the article? Does it clarify issues? Does the writer display bias? Are any questions left unanswered? What new information is revealed? How does it add to the topic at hand? Is the reader left hanging? Readers should also consider the biases of the person summarising the article. Did he deliberately leave anything out? Was his interpretation of the news story helpful? Was he leading the reader in any way?
This article by Larry Kusch focused on issues connected with electrical service to four remote communities in Northern Manitoba. At present, Lac Brochet, Brochet, Tadoule Lake, and Shamattawa still rely on diesel generated electricity. However, provincial climate-change legislation could change that. Passed about a year ago, this legislation required Manitoba Hydro to come up with a plan to reduce or eliminate altogether its reliance on diesel fuel in these communities. In its report, Hydro looked at alternatives, like “wind power and the construction of a tiny hydro generating station to serve Brochet and Lac Brochet,” but opted for a plan to reduce greenhouse gases by “maximizing the use of biodiesel (in place of diesel fuel) and investigating ways to make the diesel engines more efficient.” It also recommended “continuing discussions with the four communities and Ottawa on ways to supply them with cleaner power.”
Jim Rondeau, provincial Minister of Energy, indicated that he planned “to discuss the various options – including extending the grid – with the federal government.” Apparently, “it was unlikely that any expensive alternative to diesel power would be implemented without Ottawa picking up a large part of the cost.”
Kusch then explained the cost and impact of each of the alternatives. Wind power would cost between $21 to $40 million to install in the four communities and reduce diesel consumption by 20 percent.
A small hydro generating station for Brochet and Lac Brochet would cost $34 to $63 million for a 60-amp service. However, it wouldn’t produce enough power to heat the houses electrically and a diesel generator would still be necessary as backup.
A costlier local hydro generating station ($36 to $68) would produce a 200-amp service in both communities, but the diesel generators would still be necessary in both places as backup.
Extending the hydroelectric power grid to the four communities would cost about $225 million. Ten years ago, nine other communities were connected to the power grid for $154 million, a cost shared by Ottawa, the province, and Manitoba Hydro.
Discussion: Although the claim that hydrocarbons like diesel fuel are the cause of global warming, there is little scientific evidence to support this widely held belief, and temperatures throughout the world in 2009 suggest that the earth is more likely to be cooling for reasons that climatologists don’t yet understand completely. Nevertheless, why is the fear of global warming helpful in this instance to four remote Northern Manitoba communities? Consider the options. What are the pros and cons of wind power? In the long run, which of the two hydro-electrical generating plants would be most cost-effective for the service it provides? What are the pros and cons of extending the power grid? What do you think of the option to use bio-fuels, considering high cost of producing bio-fuel as compared to fossil fuel and the fact that the production of bio-fuels takes land out of food production? Which of the various options would you choose and why?
Last updated : February 1, 2010