by Connie Woodcock, Toronto Sun
There was a pale green and grey brochure from the Ontario government in my mail last week. Its low key message: “Electricity prices are changing. Find out why.”
Wow, there’s a surprise. Who knew? I guess they think I might not have noticed yet that my bill is nearly double what it was three years ago.
Inside, it burbles on ungrammatically about Ontario electricity prices going up “like in a lot of places around the world,” the need to build new infrastructure, shut down coal generating plants and find cleaner sources of electricity.
Then it tells us that although prices will be going up more than 7% a year for the next few years, the government wants to “help manage costs.” Right, that’s the 10% they’re knocking off bills, the tax credit some seniors may receive and an energy credit available only to Northern Ontario residents.
I wonder how much this self-congratulatory little publication cost to tell us what we already know: That we’re choking on our energy bills and it will only get worse.
Such hypocrisy. Yes, electricity rates are going up in many places — but nowhere higher than in Ontario, studies have shown.
There’s another example of the province’s hypocrisy surrounding electricity that’s been bothering me for weeks.
It started with the mid-January release of Ontario’s air quality report for 2009 which showed our air is getting cleaner. In fact, three major pollutants — nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide — were down between 40 and 64% since the turn of the century. There were only three smog advisories in 2009. Last year’s stats aren’t out yet but 2010 didn’t have many smog days either.
Wouldn’t you know it, the government quickly patted itself on the back for the good numbers. It’s all because of the province’s clean air efforts, including shutting down those evil coal-fired generating plants, according to Ontario Environment Minister John Wilkinson.
“We made that important decision that it was more important to have cleaner air even if clean air costs a bit more because it’s better for all of us and better for our children.”
La la la. Yet another tune from the green energy hymn book.
And everyone from the media to the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, an anti-coal lobby group, let him get away with that — not once but over and over as the report was publicized.
Kudos go out to the NDP’s Peter Kormos for at least pointing out it’s more likely the recession, which shut down factories all over Southern Ontario, that really cut the pollutants. But even he was ignoring the obvious, as we’ll see.
The province’s claim was repeated last week when the Living City Report Card, prepared by the Greater Toronto CivicAction Alliance and the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, was released. The report credited the coal plants’ closures with the huge reductions in carbon emissions and sulphur in the city since 2005.
Still, the obvious answer was ignored even though it was splashed all over the biggest U.S. newspapers at roughly the same time as the environment minister was claiming bragging rights.
The U.S. energy department reported on Jan. 14 that the recession has led to massive drops in American greenhouse gases since 2005. And at the same time a utilities consortium said when demand dropped, the utilities cut back production from their most inefficient plants — the old, heavily polluting coal fired stations — and produced more energy from cleaner gas-fired plants.
Since Ontario gets at least 50% of its pollution from the U.S., it seems likely that high American unemployment — not Ontario’s clean energy policies — is the biggest reason our pollution is dropping.
But of course, you’ll never hear that from Queen’s Park.