The growing nightmare of McGuinty’s green-energy dream

by Lorne Gunter,  National Post

As my colleague Kelly McParland pointed out in a post on Sunday, the Ontario Liberal Government used Friday’s wall-to-wall coverage of Egypt’s revolution to announce yet another climbdown from its vaunted green-energy 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. Higher power rates will be with Ontarians for decades after Mr. McGuinty’s green dreams have faded from memory.

Ah, the worst of both worlds: Ontarians will be getting very little new, “green” energy, but will be paying dearly for it. (Do ya think maybe it would have been smarter to stick with hydro and coal – and lower prices – from the start?)

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? Apparently not if you’re the vote-desperate, eco-fashionable McGuinty government.

Add this failure to last fall’s reversal on the Oakville 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.

But if the money you’re throwing around isn’t your own, and if you can order up billions more after you whiz the first batch away, and if the shareholders (in this case Ontario taxpayers) can’t reach out and fire you immediately, why would you worry about something as trivial as knowing in advance whether your multi-billion-dollar projects are feasible?

This is a prime example of what I call environmentalists’ “magic-wand” thinking: All that is needed for green technologies to replace existing energy sources – all that is needed to produce billions in green profits and millions of new, green jobs – is for government to wave a wand over an environmental problem.

Why has solar energy not replaced a large percentage of our coal-fired power already? If you follow environmentalists’ logic, the miraculous carbon-free energy future is not already our reality simply because no politician has stood up and voiced an incantation to make it so. It has nothing to do with practical considerations such as the ones Ontario’s government has run into headlong, i.e. 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, cow farts 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 ways of life on the path to emissions-free sustainability.

Witness the way voters – especially young, urban voters – fell for Barack Obama’s promise of two million new eco-jobs 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 a feeling that one’s self-identified moral superiority makes one’s every idea possible merely because one has thought it, along with millions of other progressive-minded individuals.

It is both smug and fanciful.

Such thinking assumes great 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. Everywhere there are nasty free-marketers looking to defraud an ignorant public against whom the only guardians are noble politicians and public-good bureaucrats.

Why do environmentalists scoff every time economic assessments of eco treaties and regulations predict massive job losses? Because they 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. Instead they believe that all ideas are equally doable and the ones that succeed were selected purely political reasons. In the case of alternative energy, they believe that non-emitting sources are already feasible, it 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 it envisioned the province’s green-energy future. It fancied itself uniquely qualified to wave the wand and change Ontario forever, without effort, exorbitant cost or economic dislocation.

Now, instead, it is beginning to see the fallacy of its green dream and it is backpeddling as fast as it dare.

16 thoughts on “The growing nightmare of McGuinty’s green-energy dream

  1. I think Lorne touched all the bases!

    A green energy race to the bottom as more dominoes fall…


  2. Bravo Lorne Gunter!

    Let’s hope a lot of Ontarians take up the “magic wand” entrusted to them at the ballot box and wave it away from all-things “Liberal” on their ballots this October.

    For the Liberals, it was a relatively effortless wave of the “magic-wand” to screw over “thousands of Ontario farmers and other landowners” with plans “to build small-scale solar projects”.

    The “magic-wand” needs to wave all of the proposed onshore industrial wind turbine projects away just as swiftly!

  3. I have a few quotes for McGuinty…

    Too soon old, too late smart….

    Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.
    Winston Churchill

    The latter is what McGuinty discovered far too late…

    This next one is for the Liberal MP’s who stood by though they knew better…

    An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
    Winston Churchill

    I think disbanding the IPCC is a bad idea. Instead, I think that we should take the IPCC to the crossroads at midnight and pound an aspen stake through its heart, stuff its head with garlic, and scatter the remains to be disinfected by sunlight so it can never, ever rise again.
    Willis Eschenbach

    (Willis comments regularly at the WUWT blog)

    Now why is the last worthy of note? It is a great process for what remains of the liberal Green Energy Policy.

    This would also, I think, be the ideal fate for the Ontario Liberal Party.

    As I noted above, too many Liberal MP’s stood by while the Green Energy damage is done. I am aware of part discipline and the function of the party whip. I am aware that McGuinty was very keen on the idea of Green Energy. Neville Chamberlain was keen on the idea of peace.

    As for the MP’s from the NDP and the Conservatives, I hope they will consider this as well. Many of us view them as no less culpable.

    Sometimes things just don’t work out.

    There are some nice resorts in Norther Ontario Mr Premier. Just use your provincial travel agent and booking office. Your secretary has the number. She is waiting for your instructions. Inquire while you have a choice of where to go. There are other less comfortable facilities which could house you — many citizens would prefer they be used to contain you.

  4. We all knew Smitherman was crackers when he jammed the GEA down our throats. Now the rest of the party is finally listening to the people instead of the eco-nuts that are in the liberal party. Remember though this moratorium is for 2 years in the hope that they get re-elected. Vote smart

  5. BD:

    I think Smitherman has no significant background in Science. I believe that is the issue..

    I believe that this cartoon was created the day That George Smitherman became Mr. Minister-In-Charge of the McGuinty Energy Fun-house..

    I wish I could embed it as it sums up the abilities of the people in the Technical portfolios.

    Swallow any coffee or other liquids and put down any sharp objects BEFORE you click the link.

    I accept no responsibility for destroyed keyboards or stained monitors.

    Never attribute to malice or insanity that which can be explained most easily by incompetence!

    ENJOY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 😉

  6. David I always enjoy your sense of humour. I have no science background and the same level of education as Smitherman and I knew enough from reading for the fight against turbines to know that what he wanted done was impossible. Why did the rest of the caucus follow along ? I’m sure many of them knew it was impossible also, they just needed the backbone to protect their constituents, not their standing in the party

  7. If all Wind Turbine Construction was stopped this minute the really sad thing is that Rural Ontario has been literally DESTROYED for many many decades. McGuinty’s “legacy” will live on many years after he has slithered away to a job working for one of the “grifters” who made a boat load of money off the hard working slobs that voted for this “megalomaniac!”

  8. The Ontario wind energy fiasco won’t be over til the “fat lady sings” so keep going!!!

  9. BD:

    I got thrown out of High School one year short — never graduated — and I knew better than Smitherman… so I take your point

    Of course I got a little more education somewhat later…. but it still hasn’t helped. 😉

    But of course you have a connection to reality, and, you are not the Minister of Energy are you? Would you even take the portfolio? Would you consider yourself qualified?

    I do not consider myself qualified to be the MoE — but I do enjoy Making Fun of Mr. Music and poor old George. Comedy is open to even us uneducated bus — like me.

  10. I still want to know how much all of these studies are going to cost everyone? They have to have a study for every problem. It’s going to cost a fortune. A study to study the study. You can NOT fool the people with the phony industry studies. Stop the turbine spending, before there’s a global depression.
    I am sending my money to the Legal Challenge Now Underway Against
    the Global Wind Industry.

  11. Silence Dogood:

    Studies are not cheap. I have done a few and bought a few, and I help a family group that does them on a regular basis. They provide scientific studies that at the final step have to pass muster as a legal document for investors. The documents must be replied upon and falsehoods cost you your license, your job and your reputation — and usually lead to bankruptcy of small firms that screw up. … if that can set the stage…

    Now those studies can lead to $100’s of millions of expenditure and may involve changing ecosystems, moving towns, creation of new towns and highways water systems and power systems…

    Almost like say IWT’s?

    Now an inadequate study often wastes the investment. You may proceed with the wrong information, or perhaps you won’t proceed because the studies indicate a far greater risk than was actually there.

    And adequate study leads to one of two things….

    No work — because the risks outweigh the benefits… or the study simply proved you don’t have the facts… and so on…

    If the study is “positive” then the work goes ahead — but only if the benefits FAR outweigh the risks…

    So most projects die an unnatural death.

    A good study shows how you got your results….

    Your assumptions.
    Your Calculations
    The risk you weighed….

    This comment was made on Climate Audit recently by fellow named Jeremy:

    “At this point the only explanation left is that The Team (Referring to Mann, Hansen et al) tends to operate with a mindset that method doesn’t matter, only results matter. I’ve seen this kind of mindset in other groups in entirely unrelated fields of science. It’s sad when you see it, and very frustrating to deal with. Science is about your method and why it is closest to reality, always has been. Some people don’t get this and think that they’re being clever by discovering a method that gets them the result they want, rather than thoroughly justifying that same method.”

    Does that make sense?

  12. “Why did the rest of the caucus follow along ? I’m sure many of them knew it was impossible also, they just needed the backbone to protect Why did the rest of the caucus follow along ? I’m sure many of them knew it was impossible also, they just needed the backbone to protect their constituents, not their standing in the party”

    Why, after last Fri do they still go along with the McGuinty cool-aid?
    Rural Liberal MPPs have been tossed overboard, with the greater survival of Liberal fortunes assigned to Toronto and other cities. How much backbone would be required, facing certain defeat in Oct,. for rural MPPs to force the issue with cabinet and maybe support a non-confidence motion? Carol Mitchell please call home.

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