EnergyBC.ca seeks to dispel misconceptions

Three UVic students and an earth and ocean sciences professor have teamed up to create EnergyBC.ca, an unbiased online resource for energy issues in B.C. The website launched on Feb. 27 and received over 4000 visits by March 29.

Designed by UVic history student Andrew Farris — who also wrote and researched for the website — EnergyBC is meant for the general public and explains the province’s energy sources, uses and issues using citable material.

Project lead Michael Whiticar, a biogeochemist at UVic, realized the need for such a website a few years ago when B.C. offshore hydrocarbon development was a hot topic.

“There was a large group of people who really were concerned about the issue but did not know if they were getting the right facts from the various interested parties like the government, industry, environmental groups and so on, because everybody sort of puts their own foot forward and has their own particular agenda,” said Whiticar.

Without a vested interest one way or another, Whiticar spoke with different groups and created a small website on the issue. “I got so much feedback from people saying, ‘This is just what we needed to hear. We want the facts and nothing but the facts with no spin.’”

He says he aims to do this with EnergyBC – to provide the best facts and present issues weighed from every angle.

“[We do it by] looking at a lot of information from difference sources, seeing where things and agree and don’t agree and try to see why. We looked a lot at the published literature that has gone through a review process,” he said. “We also try to talk to as many stakeholders on a particular energy as much as possible.

Simi Heer, manager of media relations and issues management for B.C. Hydro, said in an email that B.C. Hydro’s energy consumption learning site is quite different. “After a quick glance at energybc.ca, it seems the two serve a different purpose,” wrote Heer.

“I wouldn’t have done [EnergyBC] if there was something else out there that’s acceptable,” said Whiticar.

UVic writing and environmental studies student Charlotte Helston and Colin Etienne, a UVic earth and ocean sciences student, also wrote and researched for the website. Farris, Helston and Etienne were all on board as co-op students but are no longer working on the project. Whiticar isn’t sure if the website will be updated any further than it stands now.

“It would be nice to have updates but it takes resources,” said Whiticar, who used co-op funding and residual funds from his other research to pay his co-op students. “We’re getting through the first launch first. I wanted to assess whether anyone would be looking at it.”

And it seems people are. According to Whiticar, the website gets about 100 visits per day, most of which come from Google searches.

“It means there’s some latent interest. I’m kind of happy about that,” he says.

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