The province's green energy plan is turning Ontario into a green police state
Financial Post: Terence Corcoran - March 10, 2009
This is our third day with Ontario’s new Green Energy Act (GEA), a likely model for similar policy moves across Canada. We begin with a brief look at the latest in green police-state thinking. It’s modelled on the war on tobacco and the war on drugs: the war on carbon.
The tobacco model is an acknowledged inspiration for Ontario Energy Minister George Smitherman. “Like the Smoke Free Ontario Act that came before it,” he said in a speech, “the GEA will build on municipal leadership, uploading responsibilities to Queen’s Park.” That’s green talk for a major power grab. From Queen’s Park, green police will be dispatched across the province, armed with “uploaded” powers, to search out energy inefficiency and carbon abuse, and to invade homes in search of unregulated appliances and illegal beer fridges.
The main target, though, appears to be businesses — buyers, sellers, lessors, manufacturers—who may be trafficking in appliances or engaging in practices contrary to mandatory conservation and energy efficiency laws. (See extracts from the GEA search-and-seizure provisions here.)
No carbon reduction
The objective of the GEA, which turns Ontario’s electricity market from a low-cost system to a whatever-it-costs regime, is allegedly to reduce the province’s carbon footprint. But no carbon-reduction targets have been set or will ever be set, no doubt because it is highly unlikely any significant reductions will occur.
It is a myth that solar and wind power have no carbon emissions, as news reports often say.
The main policy vehicle for renewable power is a massive subsidy regime. The subsidies will take the form of feed-in tariffs, following Europe’s lead. The main impact of such policies in Europe has been soaring prices for electricity and energy, and a carbon footprint that’s as big as ever. It just costs twice as much, with electricity prices that are double and triple North American rates.
One reason Europe’s carbon emissions remain high is regulatory exemptions that allow industries to escape carbon limits. Another is that wind and solar require construction of parallel fossil fuel plants, mainly carbon-emitting gas plants. A 180-megawatt windmill farm requires 180-megawatts of back-up gas power to be built to cover the load loss when the wind doesn’t blow. No wonder the gas industry likes Ontario’s new green power grab.
Europe’s electricity prices are also high because wind and solar require major expensive transmission grid investments. Ontario’s plans appear to make such grid upgrades mandatory, with the costs passed on to all consumers.
If countries such as Denmark are green energy models, take a look at what that means in Denmark. Residential electricity rates there, all costs and taxes included, are 41¢ a kilowatt hour, compared with 15¢ in Ontario. And Denmark has low transmission costs and no legacy debt albatross around its neck. How high will Ontario rates go when it goes green too?
Carbon tax too
Ontario is a member of the Western Climate Initiative, an association of provinces and U.S. states aiming to bring in a cap-and-trade carbon emissions scheme. “Carbon pricing is coming to North America just a surely as night follows day,” Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said recently.
The alleged and highly touted purpose of carbon pricing, via a direct tax or through cap-and-trade regimes, is to force up the price of carbon-based fossil fuels to make sure they fully incorporate their environmental costs. It’s a market mechanism, allegedly designed to harness the power of market forces to drive environmental change. With market-based fully priced carbon, brought on by taxes, there would be no need for massive regulation to reduce carbon emissions and promote renewable energy projects.
But this is turning into a Big Green Lie. Ontario, along with the United States and the rest of Canada, will get what Europe already has: massive carbon taxes and massive regulation and subsidies for renewables. The effect will be to drive up the price of every form of energy, whether it’s based on carbon, wind, solar, biomass or flatulating cattle.
Who’s pushing for all this? Not the people. The major backers of green power tax-and-grab regimes are hundreds of businesses that stand to collect billions in subsidies and tax benefits from solar, wind and other alternative energy forms.
Business groups, with major lobbying and legal backing, are in cahoots with green activists, who, in turn, are sleeping with government bureaucrats and politicians.
Let’s follow some money. There’s the Ontario Green Energy Act Alliance, the major lobbying effort behind the new green police state. It self-describes its origins: “The Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA), together with other leading trade associations, environmental groups, First Nations, developers, manufacturers, farmers and landowners, is initiating a campaign to create the Ontario Green Energy Act.”
Among the backers of the alliance is the Pembina Institute. The institute’s former climate campaigner, Robert Hornung, is now head of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, which in turn gives money to Pembina. Pembina writes glowing reports on renewables.
Pembina also receives money from the Ontario Power Authority, the Ontario Energy Board and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
Another alliance backer is Environmental Defence, the radical Ottawa-based activist group headed by Rick Smith. Last year, Environmental Defence received $500,000 in funding from the government of Ontario. It would appear that one source of that money was the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, which is largely funded by Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government. Rick Smith recently resigned from the Greenbelt Foundation, where he was a director.
Another Green Act Alliance backer is the Ontario Clean Air Alliance. It gets money from local community groups, such as the York Region Environmental Alliance, which is largely funded by the agenda-driven Ontario Trillium Foundation, which spends Ontario lottery cash. The Clean Air Alliance also counts the Energy Action Council of Toronto as a member. Its major backers include the Ontario Energy Ministry and the Ontario lottery operation.
In summary, the Ontario government pays millions of dollars to environmental activists and corporate interests to lobby the Ontario government and agitate for the Green Energy Act, which act serves the interests of the agitators.
And just in case the political connections might be lost, the Ontario Clean Energy Act Alliance’s Web site provides a handy link to the Ontario Liberal Party — not the Ontario government, but the Liberal Party — Web site that highlights George Smitherman and Dalton McGuinty. The Web link says: “Paid for by the Toronto Centre Provincial Liberal Association.”
So a final question on Ontario’s new Green Energy Act: What’s the
definition of corruption?