It’s called schadenfreude, the satisfaction you get from someone else’s misfortune. Some Albertans may be feeling it this week after the referendum in Maine that rejected a Hydro-Québec transmission line through their state.
Projected to generate $10 billion US for Hydro-Québec over 20 years, the project, known as the New England Clean Energy Corridor, would cut a 233-kilometre path through northern Maine, increasing the company’s energy exports to the U.S. by a third.
After a vigorous campaign, a collection of environmentalists and fossil fuel interests (the main competitors of hydro power), cheered on by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, defeated the proposal 60-40. The opposition was founded in fear of damage to Maine forests compounded by resentment against “foreign corporations.” Hydro-Québec’s partner in the project is a Spanish-owned company that bought out the local utility in 2007.
For years, Albertans have bridled at Quebec’s resistance to proposed oil projects such as the Energy East pipeline which was intended to carry crude oil from Alberta and Saskatchewan to refineries and ports in New Brunswick and Quebec. So resistance to the export of Quebec energy may offer a certain smug satisfaction to at least some Albertans. Schadenfreude in action.
The situations are not quite comparable however. Resistance to oil pipelines is part of the struggle to reduce greenhouse gasses. Halting the Hydro-Québec project, on the other hand, will result in more greenhouse gasses, not fewer. According to the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the project would reduce emissions by up to 3.6 million metric tons per year, the equivalent of removing about 700,000 cars from the road. To the voters of Maine that apparently doesn’t justify cutting a path through their forests.
Whether or not the project goes ahead will ultimately be up to the courts or the government of Maine. Although the government has supported the line to date, in light of the referendum its prospects are now dim.