Ian Johnson CBC News
The past couple of days have been full of news about Ontario’s energy future. Close to 200 different alternative energy projects were announced, intended to yield 2,500 megawatts of power.
The big emphasis is on wind power. Premiere Dalton McGuinty claims that 20,000 new jobs, both direct and indirect, will be created, at a total cost of $8 billion.
That’s a lot of money, which is why a business columnist is weighing in. And whether you live in this province or not, this strategic direction profoundly affects you. I’ve got some bad news: Ontario’s energy policy decisions are 100 per cent wrong-headed and the best hope is that other provinces will learn from the error of our ways.
This all started with a decision to replace coal-fired plants. It was a decision based on the belief that CO2 emissions are responsible for global warming. On more than once occasion, I have expressed my skepticism about this theory. That’s what it is – theory, not fact. But like they would say in a Court of Law, for argument’s sake … let’s accept this to be true: CO2 emissions lead to potentially calamitous climate change, and every jurisdiction should do everything in its power to reduce CO2 emissions. The question, then, it seems to me, is what should a province like Ontario do to reduce its carbon footprint, and supply the necessary energy to power a developed economy?
This province’s approach has been to replace coal with other sources, like wind. There are any number of problems here, the first of which is that wind power is not economically viable. The proof is that the government is subsidizing the sector, to the tune of $8 billion. It can’t compete on a level playing field with other technologies that exist today, including clean natural gas and nuclear … alternatives that could meet our energy needs more effectively. Because the problem with wind is that it doesn’t always blow.
And let’s talk about these “20,000” jobs for a moment. If you do the arithmetic, it works out to $400,000 per job – the most ineffective use of public funds since the auto bail-out!
Ah… the auto bail-out. Remember that? It was about subsidizing a manufacturing industry that creates more CO2 emissions than any other sector. And that’s both comically ironic and tragic.
Enlightened energy policy begins… and ends… with conservation. The technology exists today to make our car fleet 50 per cent more efficient. The technology exists today to reduce power consumption in our homes by up to 75 per cent. This is where scarce resources could and should be directed.
And who pays for this truly horrible public policy? Everyone in Canada. Because my province, Ontario, already a have-not, has just dug itself into that much deeper a hole that everyone in this country is responsible for helping us get out of.