Huron-Bruce needs federal leadership on industrial wind

A position statement on industrial wind turbines

By Grant Robertson, NDP Federal Candidate for Huron Bruce

I admit I was excited by the first few industrial scale wind towers going up in our area.  We took our kids to see them regularly because we wanted them to see the beginning of what we thought would be a positive future.  Boy was I naive.  There is some solace in knowing I was not even close to alone in this hopeful naiveté – including the act of taking children to see the construction.

While Ontario Coordinator of the National Farmers Union I took a lot of criticism for being the first prominent rural Ontarian to begin to question where we are going as a province with regard to industrial wind and some very undemocratic aspects of the Green Energy Act.  Leadership is never easy and I took a lot of public and private abuse for just bringing up those issues. But if you are in public life for the right reasons, taking a stand is really not all that difficult.  And I am speaking out again because remaining silent is not an option if you care about our communities or our shared future.  As a federal candidate it would be easy to try to hide from this issue, but that’s not me, nor is it leadership.

I want to be clear.  I support alternative and renewable energy 100%.  It is and will increasingly need to be a major part of the mix for electricity generation in years and decades to come as the need to try and move away from fossil fuel energy production is clear.  But the Ontario government has completely messed up, not just alternative energy in this province, but all generation; you need only look at your hydro bill to figure that out. 

The most vulnerable amongst us should never be asked to pay the lion’s share of the cost of fixing societal problems.  But this is exactly what we are doing as we jack up hydro rates, since it will be the poor, seniors, working families and low and middle income workers who will pay a disproportionate share of the costs of the failed McGuinty power schemes.

There are many problems with this rush to industrialize wind energy, but I want to focus on economics and community control.

The cheapest way to build new generation is to not build it.  The fundamental failure of energy policy over almost two decades has been the lack of serious conservation programs and incentives.  Oh we have done a bit around the edges, but it has been mostly window-dressing and left most of the cost burden on the individual, and as we know life is getting more and more unaffordable already, so finding the upfront cash for serious conservation measures is out of the reach for most modest income folks.  Before we build new generation we need to be using what we have more efficiently.  This will not only save energy, it will save average people a lot of money on their electrical bills.

That’s not to say we do not need to invest in new generation or re-furbish what we have.  That’s a given as things wear out, needs change and production techniques improve.  We need to find ways to dramatically reduce smog and other air pollution and reduce our need for fossil fuels.  This need is part of what makes the Liberal government’s energy plan so backwards and frankly deceptive.  We are not replacing dirty coal with clean wind.  That is a complete and utter attempt to mislead Ontarians.  What we are really doing is replacing dirty coal with dirty natural gas because both wind and solar, as intermittent producers, must be paired with another generation source to ensure you can heat your home at 3 am on a -30 degree night.  Heating your home is not an option, but wind- due to its very nature, is not available 100 per cent of the time so a ‘back up’ is crucial and that paired energy production source tends to actually be needed a lot of the time.  So let’s be honest with each other.  What we are really doing is replacing fossil fuel with fossil fuel.  We are replacing coal (which pollutes) with gas which causes fine particle pollution that is at least as dangerous (and some researchers say even more dangerous to human lungs).   We are spending untold millions to replace a fossil fuel with a fossil fuel.  That makes no environmental, health, economic or even common sense.

We are also missing the boat in terms of real economic growth for Ontario.  Individual generation of our own energy would benefit the economy far more than the current plan of industrial wind developments.  Whether as an individual or a business, by creating our own power first and foremost, we would be dramatically reducing our costs after we paid for the installation.  At today’s soaring electrical rates that pay off would come sooner rather than later.  We would reduce the need for costly new generation, but we would also be able to store some of the excess energy we produce for later needs since the technology exists for small storage, but not province-wide or even regional energy storage.  That technology is here right now and with government investment it would have driven down the price and spurred innovation.  But our federal government is so intertwined with big oil they do not want you to reduce your costs or dependence on fossil fuels.  By having our own net-metered solar panels and to a lesser degree small-scale wind, we could have saved money, reduced corporate tax giveaways, reduced pollution, not imposed industrial wind sites on communities and neighbours that don’t want them and created more local and lasting jobs.  This is something I will work hard to promote, not just for the jobs it will create and the positive impact it will have on our environment, but also because it will save families, seniors, working people and local businesses a lot of money on their energy bills, making life a little bit more affordable.

What the government has done is get energy policy almost completely backwards. This government has subsidized huge companies with taxpayer dollars, trampled over local communities, and dismissed, almost in stamp-your-foot childish terms, anyone who raises any objection of any kind.  They point to their supposedly strict guidelines even though they lag behind most other jurisdictions around the world.  They attack professionals who raise cautions based on their expertise.  They claim job growth that is mostly short term or use over-blown estimates that have not materialized.  Communities that try to find ways to create power for themselves and to keep the benefits in their community have often been denied their applications.  In short Ontario is doing little for the environment, little for communities and failing in our long term energy needs.  And our federal government has shown no leadership, or even basic understanding of the possibilities for a positive future by investing in Canadians instead of off-shore mega-corporations.

A government that must remove community control in order to ram through a project is not acting in the best interests of people.  They are in fact working in the best interests of insiders, donors and big business.  Communities have a right to shape their future as they see fit and to decide whether or not they want this type of development.  As someone who has a long public and private track record on protecting our water, fighting pollution and trying to ensure the long term health of our land I know that one of the tools of those who threaten these things is to remove control from local communities.  Their idea of consultation is to come into our communities and tell us what they are going to do; not ask us what we want and need.  You and I have seen this tactic before many times.  It is distressing that those who should know better are supporting a government that is trying to hoodwink us.

There is a progressive, forward looking way to address alternative energy.  We could have a green future that promotes positive growth and jobs.  We could have an approach that respects and empowers communities and the concerns of those having to live amongst these developments.  We could have an approach that is a net positive for our environment, instead of political game playing and sleight of hand.  We could have an approach that actually addresses fossil fuel use and doesn’t just change from one dirty polluting type to another dirty polluting type. 

When I naively got excited about the first towers going up, my vision was not of a system where local control was removed, where big money corporate interests would control everything, where renewables were just being fed into the grid to support excess consumption and where our system would be based on private profit paid for by some of the most vulnerable in our society.  Ontario has gotten industrial wind energy totally wrong.  They have turned the vision many of us shared and hoped for on its head.  I will not stay silent when leadership is so sorely needed.  I have always been focused on finding solutions- and solutions are possible on industrial wind issues- but they won’t be found by political grandstanding or denying that there are not real problems effecting real people in real communities.

This is the sort of thing that got me involved in public life in the first place.  In 2003 I was convinced to enter public life in part because of the concern I had over the way our energy and hydro system was being changed.  We have moved away from a power at cost model for the people of Ontario to now one that is based on private corporate control with built in guaranteed profit.  As someone who runs a farm business I sure wish we could get such a sweetheart deal that guarantees us a high profit level and were our products must be bought at that high profit level no matter what.  Certainly the experience of January the 1rst, 2011 where we actually had to pay American customers to buy our excess power off of us shows how odd our hydro system has become after 10 years of pushing for privatization under the Conservatives and Liberals.

With a system becoming so backwards in terms of priorities we need a breather on further construction of industrial wind sites until we get this right, as it is soon approaching the time when we will not be able to fix many of the problems.  Communities that do decide they want to invest together in alternative energy production need supports put in place to ensure they can benefit from these projects directly and that they are done in the manner and locations as they see fit to protect rural ways of life, the landscape and the shape of their community’s future.  That is going to take leadership and it is going to take a federal government that gets involved to provide assistance, direction and vision not meet our future needs and to protect our environment for generations to come.

I support alternative and renewable energy production but I will not remain silent as we lurch towards a costly energy quagmire based on privatization, greed, misinformation, the undermining of local democracy and communities and that puts us on the road to just replacing one fossil fuel with another- never solving anything, but driving up your costs as a family or a business.  As your MP I will work hard for programs that will help you reduce your heating costs by providing meaningful assistance for insulation, air tight windows and more efficient and renewable heating through an NDP revamped ecoEnergy retrofit program and helping you produce your own energy dramatically reducing your hydro bills.  Just like the NDP campaign to make home heating tax free, one of my primary goals is to find ways to make life more affordable and reducing energy costs could be a big part of that.  We should be putting communities that want to find solutions to our problems first, not last, in terms of supporting their aspirations for their futures.  This is where we should be putting our taxes, not making insiders and large corporations rich at our expense. 

Public life is about leadership.  Leadership means standing up for you and our community.  It is not turning tail and hiding because the issues are controversial.  I have a long record of putting the needs of our community first.  As your MP I will continue to stand up and be counted.  I will not hide on a backbench or hope controversial issues just go away.  What is happening in our community with industrial wind is simply put- wrong.  We need to stop, take a breather and fix it before it is too late.  But beyond that we need to work together to find ways to meet the real problems we are facing in terms of fossil fuel use, soaring energy prices and protecting our natural heritage for generations to come.  Leadership is about standing up, but even more important leadership is about finding solutions that work for us and our community.  It is time for a new kind of leadership in Huron-Bruce, leadership that cares about you.

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For those who are interested in seeing the entire position statement you can visit Grant’s Facebook page, Grant Robertson for Huron-Bruce MP. Grant is encouraging anyone who wants to make a comment or ask a question to do it on Facebook as he wants to be as accessible as possible to the people of Huron-Bruce. For those not online you can request a copy of the statement by contacting Grant at 1-855-353-5609

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http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=843500374#!/note.php?note_id=190930567602093&id=159065580810272

31 thoughts on “Huron-Bruce needs federal leadership on industrial wind

  1. Thank you Grant, for speaking out/up,and being honest, after learning the realities of wind power. Now, if you can educate
    your leader,and fellow NDP reps,it will be fantastic. This will do
    wonders for your reputation! Please keep it up. Ontario needs
    more pols. like you, my friend! You`re right on the button!
    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!! Doug.

  2. “I want to be clear. I support alternative and renewable energy 100%. It is and will increasingly need to be a major part of the mix for electricity generation in years and decades to come as the need to try and move away from fossil fuel energy production is clear.”

    To be perfectly honest Grant, this is the first time I have heard anything sensible from any member of the NDP EVER!

    However, what you obviously FAIL TO UNDERSTAND is that “alternative energy” however deployed CAN NEVER HAVE ANY EFFECT WHATSOEVER AT REDUCING FOSSIL FUEL USE! This is an irrefutable fact based on physics and chemistry NOT politics!

    Millions of small scale residential installations are as equally USELESS as thousands of the industrial variety and will consume as much or more resources to deploy. To be of any net benefit to either environment or economy, alternative energy MUST be small scale only. A “niche” market. This assertion involves nothing more then basic mathematics.

    The energy density of “alternative energy” sources is just too damn small to ever be of ANY large scale commercial use. This is why it has been an abject failure to this day and will continue to be forever!

    If you cannot understand this simple fact, you cannot understand ANYTHING about energy in ANY form!

    If you intend to have influence over public energy policy you need to please EDUCATE YOURSELF as I have been doing for over twenty years and continue to do so!

    B.B.W.

  3. BBW

    Who cares?

    He’s opposed to Industrial Wind Turbines. Last time I checked that’s what we’re all about.

    Which side are you on?

  4. Wouldn’t it be great if we all built our own vehicles – if we all grew our own food, if we each built our own television?

    No.

    There is no significant demand growth, and decentralized electricity production cannot defy the basic laws of economics and production.

  5. I am on the side of true democracy and true green energy.

    However as I’m sure your aware by my many posts on this topic, that DOES NOT include wind, solar or biofuels OR governance of the corporate variety!

    Any government energy policy that chooses for whatever reason to ignore the facts is BAD government policy. Should this result in the construction of IWTs, taxpayer bail-outs for corporate greed or grants of dubious merit to even more dubious people is in my opinion, not only BAD policy but undemocratic as well!

    If one is going to “oppose” something, one should at least be fully cognizant of what it is they are opposing or do you enjoy paying not only to have your health harmed by IWT’s but to have your pockets emptied subsidizing 80 cent/kwh solar?

    I have been doing literally decades of research to ensure what I post about energy is accurate.

    I make no apologies for my diatribes.

    B.B.W.

  6. It’s great when a politician has the courage to admit they were wrong about something, an even greater thing when they do it publicly! Grant deserves a two thumbs up. The last time I checked, being against industrial wind tubine developments didn’t make one against “renewable energy”.

  7. Boy, you can sure tell this is all being read by the pro-wind lobby.

    Look at the thumbs down.

  8. Thank you Grant for speaking out regarding energy and alternative solutions that are currently failing us, and to know opposition is sure to make opposing remarks to downplay your “take action approach”.

    Make your words stick by action, media and movement forward for us citizens of Ontario. I do believe corporate profit is leading the way into a smokescreen attempt to fool us citizens, which we continually pay for.

    I am sorry that people need to find something within a positive approach and sidestep the attempt, it sounds as though broke-by-Wind is focusing on a popularity contest instead of focusing on a positive approach to fix a serious problem.

    B.B.W. stop picking a fight and use your knowledge to assist and teach the wisdom you feel you warrant the attention of, we’re all on the same team as Ontarians, as Canadians.

    Let us unite for our ecological goals rather than allow us to be blown away by corporate profit (pun intended)

  9. If an NDP’er in my riding has the same state of mind,with the guts to admit his faults and change without all the spins and true man that is willing to help the people and not the big rich Corporations. I will vote again only for a guy or gal like this. Thanks Grant for being open and honest and hope you get in.

  10. Grant, you’re my hero. Maybe now the Tories will get off the fence. The middle of the road is no place to walk. You’re apt to get run over.

  11. Someone running for office says and does the right thing and all some of you can do is attack. Thanks so much for making the job of fighting back against industrial wind harder. Really appreciate that.

    I know Grant from his work in the NFU. He is the kind of person we all say we want to enter politics. He says what he means and he means what he says. You might not always like what you hear from him, but you will get it stratight. He is not afraid to stand up and be counted regardless of the price he might pay personally – he educates himself and takes on the issue. He scared the bejeezus out of many in the elite when he was the Ontario head of the NFU exactly because of this. Did you know he was the only farm leader to challenge the HST too- at a time when other farm groups were lining up to fall on their knees in praise of the tax grab.

    If we are ever going to get anywhere on this and other issues facing rural Ontario this is the kind of person – regardless of party – we need to get behind and elect.

    Attacking is not only undeserved in this instance, it is bad strategy. Here we have someone who has gone way out in front on this issue in ways far more direct than any other politician in Ontario in some ways and the lesson will be to other candidates don’t rock the boat because no matter what you will do you will be attacked -even by those who say they want politicians to take a stand on this issue.

    This kind of nonsense discredits us all and the issues surrounding industrial wind.

  12. The FRICKEN NDP support wind power! The way politics works in Ontario/ Canada is you need to vote for the party platform NOT the individual – we do have party whips. It’s good that he has personally admitted, that his prospective has changed but the fact is he is representing a party who don’t share the same views as himself.

  13. Any building that is made airtight is harmful to the occupants if they remain in that building for any length of time. The oxygen gets depleated and CO2 builds up.

    Gas appliances need oxygen to opperate efficiently or you can get CO/carbon monoxide build up. The gas burns inefficienty and produces less heat so more gas has to be used. You don’t get complete combustion without an ample supply of oxygen.

    Just look up what happens in submarines when they are required to stay down too long with no new supply of fresh air. Submarines are sealed or airtight.

    A supply of fresh air from leaks in the building is essential to good health. So it is necessary to heat even small leaks.

    Too many elected officials lack an adequate knowledge of science.

    Mr. Robertson should update his science knowledge befre he speaks.

  14. Having read all comments, I would add that, after the standing ovation and a thousand bravos, I would pose the following question to Mr. Robertson:

    Given the dire harm harm perpetrated by industrial wind development in Ontario, are you willing to call for a complete moratorium on industrial wind development – today, right now, immediately?

  15. Yes, he is asking for a moratorium, right now before it’s too late:

    With all of the rapid expansion of industrial wind sites Robertson says, “we need a breather on further construction of industrial wind sites until we get this right, as it is soon approaching the time when we will not be able to fix many of the problems.”

  16. B.B.W

    Please help us understand your view that ALL renewable energy is bad. It concerns me that someone like Grant can post such an articulate, positive message to us and you would be so negative as to dismiss it’s entire contents because you disagree with one point.

    The only way to store excess energy with todays technology is in small battery cells. Right? There is the argument that the metals needed to produce these cells are not good for the environment. Could you please shed some light on this.

    I personally believe that in order for people to change their view on consuming energy, it must be made clear to the individual. Having control of a small wind or solar unit that is only for YOUR home and seeing exactly how much we consume will dramatically change consumption levels. The jobs created would be good, local, long lasting.

    Any FACTS you can give are greatly appreciated.

  17. DoTheMath

    ****************
    “Having control of a small wind or solar unit that is only for YOUR home and seeing exactly how much we consume will dramatically change consumption levels.”
    ****************

    I think it’s up to you to prove that that is a “good thing”. Behavior modification is a whole ‘nother discipline.

  18. Yes, but you do need ventilation and it is required in all public buildings as they must have fresh/outside air brought in.

    The air which is ~20% oxygen will be depleted in a sealed/airtight building over time and the rate of decline will depend on how fast the oxygen is depleted and how large the building is.

    If gas appliances are in use they can deplete the oxygen supply and if incomplete combustion occurs you will get CO instead of CO2. It’s best to have enough oxygen for complete combustion and lower gas costs. It’s also safer.

    Passive houses depend on solar heat and at northern latitudes solar heat is not very practical. Not many people want to live with a basement full of batteries for energy storage.

    Fresh air is also very beneficial for peoples health. In closed buildings germs spread much more easily. Hence the need for fresh air circulation.This dosen’t mean you leave the doors open in winter.

    It’s the amount of CO2 in the blood that controlls breathing and not the amount of oxygen. CO can also be measured in blood. This is why the amount of CO2 is kept track of in submarines.

  19. Do the math: (and anyone else who thinks I’ve lost my marbles)

    In order for any form of energy to be “green” it must have as small as possible “life cycle” environmental foot print. In order for this to be the case, it must have huge energy density, massive bang for the buck if you will. Otherwise, the resources required will quickly negate any initial environmental benefit.

    As an example, I’ll use my own:

    I live on an 18 acre piece of property that includes about 12 acres of mixed mature forest. I heat with wood. When my wife and I designed and built our house we knew this was going to be the case and we went ga-ga on insulation, installing 50% more then was required by code. We also took full advantage of passive solar and situated the house facing 210 degrees south, south-west. As a result we can heat our 3300 sq/ft house with 3 full cords of wood per year. We have oil backup but the oil always ends up in the fuel tank of my diesel tractor. The thermostat is set at 65oF and the furnace very rarely runs, maybe four times/year. One of my neighbors lives in a small log house he also built himself; it’s about 1200 sq/ft. He uses more wood than I do.

    Now, it became very obvious very quickly that my 12 acres of forest could not sustain even that low level of wood consumption. Luckily, my father in law lives just across the road and he fortunately has 250 acres of mixed mature forest. Sustainability of my “biofuel” heating system is no longer in question.

    Lets apply that to a battery backup system for a residential off grid electrical installation. The only currently viable technology for this is lead acid batteries. OK, literally billions of these are made every year and the lead can be recycled almost forever. By what factor can that number be increased before it is no longer sustainable?

    That’s just the batteries. How about the resources needed to build the initial
    source generators be they wind, solar, fossil or bio powered and the ancillary equipment needed to make it all work?

    Grid tied systems will suffer from the same limitations as industrial “alternative” energy installations for the same reasons.

    This is why “alternative” energy MUST remain very limited in order to remain green.

    Now, for the maximum bang for the buck, there is uranium. It is ubiquitous in the earth’s crust and is a large enough fraction of seawater to be considered a resource. For these reasons, it can be found in detectable quantities (micrograms) in the cells of most adult humans. The older you get the more you have.

    One KG of uranium contains energy equivalent to 1 MILLION KGs of coal or 800,000 KG of oil. Now you know why we use nuclear energy in the first place!

    What you likely don’t know is that the reactors we are using like CANDU can only extract 1% of this energy! Yes you read that right; 1% of the total energy uranium contains. The remainder becomes “spent nuclear fuel”

    Well, way back in 1946, Enrico Fermi discovered a way to extract 99.5% of that energy. (Clementine reactor) and actually built a commercial unit call Fermi 1 that went online near Detroit in 1957. Unfortunately, no one had done anything about reprocessing what came out of these units for re-use as fuel.

    Canadian physicist; Dr. Charles Till did that starting around 1984 using an already 20 year old reactor called the Experimental Breeder Reactor Number 2 or EBR II. This was called The Integral Fast Reactor Program. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/interviews/till.html

    What today is spent nuclear fuel can in fact be reprocessed and reused as fuel repeatedly until it contains no more energy and thus, no more waste.

    The energy available to humanity from the earths accessible uranium and thorium reserves can easily supply all of humanity with all of the pollution free energy we will ever need for far, far longer then the estimated remaining life of our sun. ( I have a paper on this out of the U of California Berkley on one of my computers. I’ll dig it out if you want).

    This is not the first time I have posted this information.

    Now you know why I have very little patience for people who rant on at length about “alternative” or “green” energy. The vast majority have no clue!

    The truth is out there if you want to look.

    B.B.W.

  20. Barbara and JK:

    A quick consult of The Ontario Building Code will likely answer any and all questions you may have about building ventilation.

    I used to have a copy but I was compelled to give it to a building “challenged”
    neighbor.

    The NRC is an excellent resource as well…

    I have both an HRV and a “whole house fan”. I use the latter to mitigate AC costs in the summer. Not normally used in Canada (humidity) , but widespread throughout the US.

    🙂

    B.B.W.

  21. What this all boils down to is the levels of O2,CO2 and CO in buildings have to be accounted for. Otherwise life can be in danger.

    Also the spread of germs in buildings has to be taken into account. Circulating fresh air is the best remedy here. So this is not a waste of heat/energy.

    For sure homes can be improved to provide for all these circumstances. Sure am enjoying my solar heat on this cold,windy day. Heats my whole house.

  22. BBW, are you trying to convince a nuclear operator with 30 years experience about the wonders of a CANDU?

  23. Don, the only “Wonder” I have about the CANDU is this:

    I “wonder” why we are still using them?

    Please don’t get me started!

    I may regret it!

    B.B.W.

  24. By Grant Robertson, NDP Federal Candidate for Huron Bruce:
    The cheapest way to build new generation is to not build it. The fundamental failure of energy policy over almost two decades has been the lack of serious conservation programs and incentives. Oh we have done a bit around the edges, but it has been mostly window-dressing and left most of the cost burden on the individual, and as we know life is getting more and more unaffordable already, so finding the upfront cash for serious conservation measures is out of the reach for most modest income folks. Before we build new generation we need to be using what we have more efficiently. This will not only save energy, it will save average people a lot of money on their electrical bills.

    ……..”so finding the upfront cash for serious conservation measures is out of the reach for most modest income folks.”

    Question:
    What in the world is Grant Robertson talking about?
    Re: “up front cash” for “serious conservation”

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