Business as Government, Government as Business

A discussion with my son Justin about Independent Power Projects in British Columbia got me thinking about the mess we have created, and perpetuate for ourselves.   A contentious issue in BC is allowing private corporations to own and run IPPs on rivers in relatively pristine wilderness.   Justin feels that private business should not be involved in something as important to the public trust as power generation, at least or in particular, insofar as it  involves operations in environmentally sensitive areas.  My position (generally) is that with the exception of a very few highly sensitive areas (like health-care and education), that governments should regulate, not run.

Unfortunately, neither position works very well.  Private interests in a public concern would be fine if, and only if, governments would provide effective regulation and enforcement.  Governments owning and running a number of enterprises that are important public trusts would be fine if, and only if, they ran them efficiently.

Apparently, each IPP on its own, has only a small impact, but the government has not properly assessed the cumulative impact of these projects – which could be devastating to local ecosystems.

The punchline, that Justin delivered near the end of our conversation, is that BC has no need for more electricity.  The province is already a net exporter of power.

So you really have to ask yourself, what in the world are they doing mucking about in these pristine environments?  I thought business was for profit.  Governments ought not be.

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