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MARGARET WENTE

Ontario's green dream was just a fantasy Add to ...

The other evening I got a robo-call. It was an automated poll. The recorded voice told me to press “1” if I approved of wind turbines, and “2” if I disapproved. I pressed “2” – hard. So have a lot of other people in Ontario.

Across the countryside outside Toronto, wind turbines are spreading like a plague. They are being built over the strenuous objections of folks who live in rural towns, whose rights have been stomped on by the province. They’re chewing up birds. Worst of all, they’re chewing up billions of taxpayer dollars in the name of a green dream that’s nothing but a fantasy.

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Premier Dalton McGuinty has heard the voters speak. In an effort to placate them, the government is going to trim its subsidies to wind and solar development and give the rural folks some say. The bad news is that these changes won’t affect the contracts already in place. Taxpayers will still be on the hook for soaring energy bills for years to come.

The green energy bubble is bursting everywhere. As governments confront the worst economic conditions in decades, citizens are revolting against energy costs that have been artificially inflated by green schemes. Nor are Canadians the only people who object to the despoliation of the countryside. In Britain, where the rural landscape is considered semi-sacred, Prince Philip has reportedly denounced the wind industry as “an absolute disgrace.” More than 100 MPs have written to the government demanding cuts to wind subsidies, which now amount to £400-million a year.

Mr. McGuinty insists that his green energy investments will launch a vast new industry in Ontario, whose products and expertise can then be exported to the world. But the world is losing interest. Besides, green subsidies don’t create jobs – they kill them. In Germany, where the government has invested heavily in renewables, high energy prices are forcing companies to close factories or move abroad. Germany has pumped more than €100-billion into solar subsidies, with disappointing results. Now it has announced that it will phase out support to the industry by 2017 – news that caused solar stocks to plunge around the world. Spain, which is in serious economic trouble, has also decided to stop subsidizing new alternative energy projects.

Everything Mr. McGuinty believed about alternative energy turned out to be spectacularly wrong. Today, despite billions of dollars of investment, the total percentage contributed by wind power to the global energy supply can be rounded out to zero, as wind critic Matt Ridley has pointed out. Wind power is not an efficient source of energy and never will be, because it always needs a parallel backup system for times when the wind doesn’t blow. With its hulking metal towers and tons of concrete footings, it isn’t even green.

Not long ago, the logic advanced by environmentalists was that dwindling supplies of cheap oil –along with breakthroughs in green technology – would soon make alternative energy look increasingly economical. Instead, vast new supplies of gas and oil – enough to keep us running for at least 100 years – are being unlocked by new hydraulic fracturing techniques. The United States has so much shale oil and gas that it could even become energy self-sufficient. The shale gas revolution is also good for the environment, because burning gas emits far less carbon dioxide than coal.

Brown energy – not green – is great for the economy. It is a massive job creator. The new energy boom will create hundreds of thousands of direct jobs, and could also kick-start a renaissance in manufacturing. A new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the National Association of Manufacturers says low-cost domestic natural gas will save $11-billion a year in U.S. manufacturing costs and create more than a million new jobs. To the distress of environmentalists, fracking’s biggest fan is Barack Obama.

It’s too bad that all this news comes too late for the people of Ontario, who’ll have to foot the bill for Mr. McGuinty’s green follies just as the province wrestles with horrific deficits and a bleak economy. Little old ladies on fixed incomes should pray for warm winters – and press “2.”

 
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