by Grant Robertson, Owen Sound Sun Times
Sometimes you just can’t keep silent when you hear and see people trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the public.
That became the case for me when listening to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s energy minister, Brad Duguid, on a recent edition of the Bryan Allan call-in show on CKNX AM 920 and in reading some letters to the editor in various local papers over the past few weeks.
I have a long track record of involvement with protecting our environment in both the private and public sphere. I was doing things on environmental issues long before it was cool or trendy. I am quite prepared to compare my commitment to the environment and protecting our land, water and air from pollution to anyone’s.
I am growing quite weary with the insistence from supporters of the failed McGuinty industrial wind experiment that if you question the Green Energy Act you are somehow against green jobs, alternative energy or, it seems, Christmas or anything else they feel compelled to throw in to try to discredit anyone asking questions.
It has been clear to me for some time that the McGuinty and Duguid schemes are bad for taxpayers, bad for the environment and bad for our economy over the long term. Listening to Minister Duguid’s attempt to mislead on a number of issues, including potential energy deals with other provinces and the wasteful practice of paying others to take our excess power, leads me to believe that they really just don’t care about any of those impacts.
Let’s start with the environment. Wind energy, even on the industrial scale, is an intermittent power producer because, of course, the wind doesn’t blow all the time. So it must be paired with other more conventional forms of production.
The preferred production method appears to be natural gas. Most of the easily reached natural gas is gone. To acquire large volumes of natural gas these days, industry has to do what is called ‘fracking.” This is a process by which they send huge volumes of water, mixed with some very toxic chemicals, under extreme pressure deep underground to fracture the bedrock and release the gas.
To make matters worse, our shale gas deposits border or are in the watersheds for lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario. It is dangerously stupid, yet every time you see a turbine not turning it is this potentially very environmentally damaging process that will be at the heart of keeping our lights on in the future.
“Green” energy, when practiced on this scale, is a myth. Industrial scale production gets us industrial scale problems. It is that simple.
At the beginning of the last century, when electricity began to be produced on larger scales for home, farm and business uses, it was clear to the people at the time that this new resource should be owned by and produced for the people of their communities and the province as a whole. They took great pains to form public power authorities so that no one could gouge or unduly profit from what they knew would quickly become a cornerstone of their future well-being.
For every so-called green job government claims it has created, many more will be lost through jacked-up energy costs and resources leaving our community. The pretense of green jobs is a false economy.
People of the past understood that electrical power would become a necessity. They understood that profiteering off of people and business was a very real concern. Today the McGuinty government and its allies are supporting that profiteering at your expense.
I am not against profit — we strive for it in our business. What disturbs me is when governments allow a necessity like health care or energy to be open to gouging profiteering by those with no long-term interests in our communities.
If you want to know what that kind of control in the hands of a few private companies will be like in the future, go fill up your car’s gas tank.
All of this could have been avoided. We could have had a system that was smaller scale and wider spread. We could have had a system where individuals and businesses could have produced their own power and stored some of it for off production times thanks to scale.
We could have had a system that allowed people and businesses to net-meter their energy production, allowing them to sell back to the grid excess power, thus promoting conservation and better efficiency — and creating real and long-lasting green jobs while saving us money on our energy costs and doing something long term on issues like climate change.
We could have had a system that didn’t run roughshod over local communities, neighbours, municipal governments and individuals, but instead respected local people enough to allow them the right to decide and shape their future.
We could have had a system that didn’t divide neighbours and communities, but instead helped all of us work together to create 21st century electrical generation that reduced pollution, saved us money on our bills and created long lasting local jobs.
I care about the environment. I care about our economy. I care about our communities and their futures. That’s why I oppose these industrial wind schemes that are imposed on our communities.
We are rapidly approaching the moment when it will no longer be possible to fix the problems the McGuinty scheme is creating. It is time to admit mistakes in the Green Energy Act and chart a more positive future with all the cards on the table, not the constant bluffing I have been seeing coming from Minster Duguid and the McGuinty government.
Grant Robertson, Paisley