Dear Mr. McGuinty;
There are always unforeseen adverse consequences when a public figure refers to any section of the electorate using a trivializing, derogatory term. “NIMBY” is particularly offensive to the growing numbers of people across this province who oppose the government’s wind turbine policy.
By now you must be aware of the proliferation of public dissatisfaction you have directly provoked through this inept choice of words and, more particularly, the proposed aggressive legislation to remove public discussion and input into local planning from affected communities.
These objections come from conscientious and diligent citizens who believe it is their public duty to question misdirected government policy. They are not mindless luddites who are questioning the massive construction of industrial wind turbine facilities across our province simply because they “do not like them”.
On the contrary, they are well-informed, well-educated taxpayers from many different professions—doctors, lawyers, university professors, teachers, farmers, autoworkers, electricity professionals, journalists, artists and engineers– who have spent a great deal of time doing their research.
For several years now they have been trying to share information with you and your ministers on the wind turbine issue. Their warnings have been consistently ignored. (Is it government policy for the Minister of Energy never to reply to letters from the public?) They have attempted to explain how a flawed energy policy relying on unpredictable, overly-subsidized, premium-priced, non-base load wind energy will need to be backed up with the construction of additional publicly funded stand-by fossil-fuelled plants which rely mostly on volatile-cost and limited gas reserves. The addition of more wind energy to the grid will also require huge additions to the transmission system at enormous public expense. This will inevitably lead to a staggering increase in consumer energy costs with consequent detrimental effects on business and employment. Is this an appropriate time to burden our industries even further?
Many of your voters have tried to make you aware that international experience with industrial wind developments has raised health and safety issues, problems with noise and environmental degradation. The media are already pointing to unacceptable health problems for people living too close to wind turbines in Ontario. Wouldn’t it be better government policy to protect rural residents from this unnecessary abuse by simply requiring wind turbines to be sited well away from people’s homes and a long distance from sensitive natural habitats?
The Government of Nova Scotia (February 2, 2009) is now requiring a setback of 1.44 km from non-participating properties, and 1.2 km for project participants (http://www.gov.ns.ca/nse/ea/glen.dhu.wind.farm.asp).
Unfortunately, there are serious consequences to an approach which ignores legitimate input from concerned citizens. It jeopardizes the economic recovery of the province, the continued success of the Ontario Liberal Party and the health of our participatory democracy.
Would not a public apology for your remarks and a modification of government policy to take into account these very understandable concerns be a good first step to resolving a problem which now has the potential to become more worrying each day, especially as a new election approaches?
I am sure that during your medical sciences training at McMaster University, you came across the concept of evidence-based medicine—a criteria for evaluating the usefulness of any project. As you know there must be unequivocal evidence of positive results, cost effectiveness, proven practical applicability and certainty of the absence of harmful side effects before a new technology can be applied. According to a recent report by the Fraser Institute, “Resource planning ordinarily requires analyses of the benefits and costs of all available sources of electricity generation. Yet the Ontario Power Authority failed to conduct economic analyses to determine the most cost-effective mix of future energy supplies.” Is it not time to pause in the mad rush to build more subsidized wind power as the State of California has done, so that we can first do some credible epidemiological studies of the health effects on those living nearby?
Would it not be wise to investigate the real economic cost/benefit and actual CO2 emission savings based on the records of presently installed commercial wind energy facilities in other jurisdictions before jeopardizing our grid stability with a further imbalance of unpredictable wind energy?
(Der Spiegel recently reported that “German CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a single gram” despite all their wind turbines. In factGermany has had to build many more coal and gas fired plants. On
December 28, 2008, U.K. Telegraph reported that the Advertising Standards Authority has forced the British Wind Energy Association to
cut by half its false claim of the amount of harmful carbon dioxide emissions eliminated by using wind turbines. (This is even without adding in additional CO2 emissions from the necessary back-up facilities). Isn’t it time our government began scrutinizing the claims of the wind turbine lobbyists?
Can we afford to ignore international biologists who warn that our precious natural habitats are being irreversibly degraded by inappropriately-sited wind energy projects? Is it really in the interest of Ontarians and our grandchildren for the Ministry of the Environment to continue to refuse requests from citizens to escalate environmental reviews for wind turbine projects as Minister Gerretsen conceded in a recent W-FIVE interview, has been the case for all 19 projects in Ontario? Surely this is not a way of getting votes.
Public investment in wind turbine manufacture as a job creation policy seems a bit far fetched when at present all the established manufacturers are experiencing such big downturns. Wind turbine installation jobs are very temporary and few local people are ever employed. In fact many installers are sent in by manufacturers—often from outside Canada. Neils Gram of the Danish Federation of Industries states: “In green terms windmills are a mistake and economically they make no sense”. When asked recently if wind energy could ever replace coal fired plants, Bob MacDonald of CBC radio’s Quirks and Quarks stated “wind ain’t gonna do it”. The Fraser Report notes that “the government of Ontario is either ignorant of the latest clean-coal technology or, worse, has opted to ignore it in favour of courting ‘green’ voters.” Is there not greater export potential in developing clean coal technology?
It always takes courage to stand up to powerful commercial lobbyists. Many Ontario citizens have already displayed that courage. We are now looking to you, our Premier, to join us and support our efforts. I have attached below a few reflections on European experience with wind energy—items that you might not have seen because of your busy schedule. I trust they will be useful to you in revising your approach to this issue. I am also attaching a pdf file from the U.K. Centre for Policy Studies. I urge you to read it at your earliest convenience.
Friends of Arran Lake