McGuinty has led us all down the green energy garden path

By Ross McKitrick
Stratford Beacon Herald

Anyone remember the Sprung Greenhouse fiasco? In 1987, Newfoundland Premier Brian Peckford attempted to boost local employment by subsidizing the building of a massive hydroponic greenhouse operation that its inventor, Philip Sprung, said would turn the province into a world leader in green produce. His plan had failed in Alberta, but in Peckford he found a gullible partner willing to abandon common sense and start signing over other people’s money.

During the construction phase the premier pointed with pride to the hundreds of jobs apparently created. Meanwhile the province kept signing cheques and promising that cucumbers and economic renewal were on the way in equal measure.

Cucumbers did start appearing. The problem was each one cost $1.10 to grow, and the wholesale market price was just over 50 cents. The greenhouse went bankrupt and ceased operations by 1990. The jobs vanished, and the tiny province was left with $14 million in debts to pay.

Never forget: jobs are created by profitable businesses, period. Industries reliant on subsidies do not generate jobs, they destroy them. Subsidies create short-term jobs that have to be financed by new taxes on profitable activity, which drives away long-term investment and ends up costing jobs.

People in Ontario ridiculed the Sprung fiasco at the time. But I guess we didn’t really learn anything, for now we are madly building our own versions of the Sprung greenhouses. This time they are called wind turbines.

Their salesmen have found in Dalton McGuinty their own Brian Peckford. They convinced him we can become a world leader, not in green produce, but green energy. Common sense has been jettisoned and the cheques are flowing.

We already have green energy. Most of our electricity comes from non-emitting hydro and nuclear generation, at a fraction of the cost of wind-and solar-generated power. By the government’s own data, Ontario air pollution has fallen dramatically since the 1970s through the use of scrubbers and automobile technology (check it out at of our remaining smog precursors originate in the U.S. An expert report to the government in 2005 — which was promptly marked “Classified,” but a copy of which I obtained — showed that closing our two coal-fired power plants would make no measurable difference to summertime smog levels, especially since they would require gas-fired replacements.

Wind turbines, like solar panels, can generate electricity but they require backup gas generators to compensate for the fluctuating yield.

And, like Sprung’s cucumbers, those green electrons don’t create jobs, they annihilate them. Wind turbines don’t run on wind, they run on subsidies and rigged prices, or “feed-in-tariffs.” Green energy will only be a source of jobs the day the industry can produce electricity at competitive market rates and still pay its own bills.

Ontario was not the first region to fall for the scam. Spain did years ago. Recently an independent analysis showed the plan destroyed 2.2 jobs for every one created. Over the past month Spain has slashed subsidies for green power producers and capped the size of the sector. France has also begun eliminating subsidies in the wake of a report showing that, after the temporary, subsidy-driven construction jobs end, the price hikes and tax increases will lead to long-term declines in jobs and growth. And Germany — producer of half the world’s solar electricity — just announced accelerated cuts in solar subsidies in response to the same economic realities, with hints the subsidies may not survive a scheduled review in 2012.

Everywhere it’s the same story. Green energy salesmen bamboozle gullible governments into signing cheques in return for empty promises of jobs and growth. As the bills mount, prices rise and the economy sags, the inevitable unravelling begins. It will happen here too. The only question is how many jobs will disappear and how much economic hardship we will put up with before having the common sense to shut the scam down once and for all. Ross McKitrick is a professor of environmental economics at the University of Guelph; senior fellow of the Fraser Institute; member, Academic Advisory Board, John Deutsch Institute, Queen’s University, Kingston, and member, Academic Advisory Board, Global Warming Policy Foundation, London, U.K.

11 thoughts on “McGuinty has led us all down the green energy garden path

  1. But for the work and efforts of Mc & Mc in Guelph & Toronto we would not have had a fighting chance in this scam. Also Donna L. in Toronto has done exceptional work on the global warming/climate change/IPCC fraud.

  2. Ontario is fast becoming the poorest Province in the Dominion thanks to McGuinty and fellow idiots.

    Remember that when your grandchilden ask “what happened?”

    Nice legacy Dalt!

  3. David,

    Didn’t this Ontario new green energy plan come out in 2007? In which case the U.K. plan is older. Not sure when Australia took up their green energy plan.

  4. Barbara
    Ontario Green Energy Act adopted 2009. No evidence that large amounts of public comment was reviewed at all. Legislation forced through regardless of reams of submitted evidence, documents, reports and warnings. Ontari-ari-ari-woe

  5. Exactly right! Just brought over from Europe and imposed on Ontarians and this is going to cause the same problems here as it has in the U.K. Energy poverty here as well.

  6. A pleasure and honour to have Ross McKitrick weigh in on the wind power debate. He slayed the “Hockey Stick” and now (hopefully) the wind turbine will fall to his logic and analytical skills.

  7. Ross McKitrick has determined industrial wind turbine developments to be a scam and he is only skimming the surface. Looking deeper he would determine that industrial wind turbines produce a useless product that is not only expensive but due to the erratic fluctuation (changes within 5 minutes or less) has little ability to provide much power to the grid and more likely provides no power to meet consumer demand. The small amount of erratic power does not reduce the amount of reliable sourced power that must be purchased and deployed to meet the predicted demand. As no one can predict what the wind will provide it can never be considered a supplier. Building industrial wind turbines is a complete waste of effort and money if providing power to the consumer was expected.

  8. It’s already been proven that IWTs are a waste of taxpayers money,yet this nonsense continues on because of the enormus sums of money to made from so called “green” energy.

    Since Ontario only has ~ 700 turbines installed we do not yet have enough informaion to convince the general public that these wind scams are bad ideas or perhaps we just can’t get this information out to the general public.

    The government has to prove nothing and we have to prove everything.

    Perhaps the unfortunate events taking place in the U.K. will convince the general public that “green”energy is a bad idea and it’s very unwise to bring this situation to Ontario.

    Also we won’t have to deal with translation problems as the U.K. events are printed in English. U.K. has ~3100 turbines which yields a lot more convincing negative information on why we don’t want turbines in Ontario.

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