By Jim Merriam, Owen Sound Sun Times
I ‘m not against green energy. My various rants about wind turbines in this space have led some folks to believe that I’m some kind of cloak and dagger lobbyist for the coal industry. You know, stop the wind turbines in favour of coal-fired power plants. Not so.
I support efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions. Climate change is upon us in the form of wild weather — if you don’t believe me ask the residents of Joplin, Mo., or many other spots around the globe — and at least some of the causes are man made. That’s not science; it’s common sense.
Even though I support green energy I strongly oppose Ontario’s Green Energy Act (GEA) because it’s about one more loss of freedom in a long list of losses of freedom under this government. Under the GEA provincial bureaucrats can force wind turbines anywhere they bloody well please.
Furthermore, the safety and efficiency of the turbines is in question. The development of wind farms has far more to do with profits for offshore corporations than it ever will be about benefits for the people of Ontario.
Then there are the economic issues. One of the Dalton Gang’s main arguments in favour of the Green Energy Act is the job creation associated with wind farms, solar arrays, etc.
Figures released by the C.D. Howe Institute show that each such job will cost the taxpayers of Ontario a whopping $179,000. Surely there are more efficient ways to either create or, more importantly, save jobs.
Let’s look back at the closing of the glass plant in Owen Sound as an example. Based on facts that are in the public arena, that closure went down in part because new investment was needed. A big factor seems to have been the need for a $20 million retrofit of the glass-making furnaces.
For the sake of this discussion let’s say a $20 million forgivable grant, or gift if you prefer, from the province would have saved the plant. With 170 jobs at stake at CPI alone, that would have been a net cost of about $117,647 per job saved. Significantly less than $179,000.
And that’s just direct jobs. If each worker helps create one more job in and around the community in the service industries, construction, retail, education, etc., the cost per job would drop to $58,823. (Obviously an optimistic number.) But under that scenario you would have a savings of $120,177 per job.
There are those among us who might argue that the government shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing businesses and industries. But that’s exactly what the politicians are doing with the green energy plan, so why not with existing industries?
In addition to the savings, communities would be calmed all over the place. In Owen Sound and area there would not have been the upheaval caused by the loss of 170 jobs. Plus the more serious disruptions in areas where wind farms are being built would be avoided altogether.
I’m sure I’ve missed all kinds of important issues in this little scenario. But supporting existing industries, working to keep jobs from disappearing, seems to be a far better use of our money than building wind farms at high cost and dubious value.
Jim Merriam appears in The Sun Times Wednesdays and Saturdays. firstname.lastname@example.org