Ontario’s Liberal government used Friday’s wall-to-wall media coverage of Egypt to announce yet another climb-down from its vaunted greenenergy schemes. About the only thing left of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s obsession with converting his province from carbon energy to wind, solar, hydro and biofuels is sharply higher consumer energy prices. These higher rates will be with Ontarians for decades after Mr. McGuinty’s ecodreams have faded from memory.
It’s the worst of both worlds: Ontarians will be getting very little new “green” energy, but will be paying dearly for it. Perhaps it would have been smarter to stick with hydro and coal – and lower prices – from the start.
On Friday, the Ontario government announced it would build no wind-power turbines in the Great Lakes or any other freshwater sites around the province. Apparently, the technology is unproven. If the Ontario government is to be believed, the decision was purely scientific, and had nothing whatever to do with the turbines’ unpopularity with landowners and cottagers who would have found their views and moorages blocked by the unsightly towers.
Those of us cynical enough to think the Ontario Liberals backed down from wind power because it was wildly unpopular in rural ridings at risk of falling to the Tories in this fall’s election should be ashamed of ourselves, according to Energy Minister Brad Duguid. The Liberals’ reasoning was as pure as the driven snow. He told the Toronto Star: “There isn’t a lot of science on freshwater offshore wind…. We need some time to review the science and we don’t have it today.”
Huh? Aren’t scientific reviews something you’d want to have in the drawer before committing billions of tax dollars to an alternative-energy megaproject? If the science wasn’t there, why were turbines part of the McGuinty government’s green-energy blueprint in the first place?
Add this failure to last fall’s reversal on the Oakville, Ont. gas-fired power plant, and last week’s admission that small-scale solar-power plants are impractical to replace large-scale generation, and it’s easy to argue that Mr. McGuinty and his cabinet leapt before looking when they passed their Green Energy Act in 2009. After encouraging thousands of Ontario farmers and other landowners to build small-scale solar projects, the McGuinty government has figured out there is no practical way to connect all these new solar panels to the provincial power grid.
Imagine the justifiable hue and cry from shareholders if a private power company bet its future on freshwater turbines or backyard solar panels without doing due diligence first.
The originating folly was a prime example of environmentalists’ “magic-wand” thinking. Why has solar energy not replaced a large percentage of our coal-fired power already? If you follow environmentalists’ logic, the simple answer is that no politician has stood up and voiced the incantation needed to magically make it so. It has nothing to do with practical considerations such as the ones Ontario’s government has run into headlong, i.e. that it costs more to hook 10,000 rooftop solar panels to the grid than can be saved by generating power in this new-fashioned way.
Why haven’t wind energy and corn mash replaced oil? According to greenies, it’s simply a lack of political will. In order to please their friends in the carbon economy, politicians have refused to take the small, simple steps that would put our economies and way of life on the path to emissions-free sustainability.
The problem is that the necessary steps aren’t actually small or simple. And as the example of Ontario shows, they end up costing taxpayers billions of dollars.
Witness the way voters – especially young, urban voters – fell for Barack Obama’s promise of two-million new ecojobs if he was elected in 2008. Almost no one asked where and how these exciting new careers would be created. Supporters needed no explanation. They took it on faith that merely saying it would make it so.
This mentality is rooted in anti-market, pro-government indoctrination. It is based on economic ignorance, and fed by the smug notion that one’s self-identified moral superiority makes every utopian idea possible merely because one has dreamed it.
Such thinking assumes that conspiracies exist among industrialists to suppress viable technological alternatives, and it presumes that governments are both more competent and less self-interested than businesses and the marketplace.
Why do environmentalists scoff every time economic assessments of eco-treaties and regulations predict massive job losses? Because many have no idea what it takes to create a job. They never see that some economic ideas are more practical than others, which is why some succeed and others fail.
In the case of alternative energy, they believe that non-emitting sources are already feasible, it’s just that Big Oil leans on its political friends to help it keep the public unaware or frightened of the possibilities.
That is just the kind of thinking Dalton McGuinty and his Ontario government were infected with when they envisioned the province’s greenenergy future.
Now, Mr. McGuinty is beginning to see the fallacy of its green dream, and is back-peddling as fast as he dares.
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