The future is going to be a lot of fun in Ontario. Just a few years from now, millions of us will be liberated from our evil fossil-fuelled transportation network. Millions of government-subsidized electric cars will whisk us silently to work. Our buses will run on biofuels. Our retrofitted geothermal-powered homes will keep us warm at prices much higher than today's natural gas (which would be banned). Vast tracts of land will be diverted to solar panels, which will transform the sun's rays into clean, green, righteous energy – as soon as we can figure out how to store it and attach it to the grid. Unicorns will frolic in our gardens, and pigs will fly.
Ontario's new draft Climate Change Action Plan is a breathtaking work of fantasy, wrought by folks who evidently never met an engineer, an economist, or anybody else who knows how the real world works. Glen Murray, the Environment Minister, is a notoriously Big Thinker. There is nothing necessarily wrong with government ministers who majored in social work and community development. But they absolutely should not be allowed to run amok unsupervised.
The provincial government will reduce our carbon footprint by micromanaging every aspect of our lives and our economy. Its plan will throw our auto and energy industries into chaos, and further enrage every small town in Ontario, whose rights have been trampled by German salesmen selling giant industrial wind turbines. It will drive some of the highest electricity prices in North America even higher.
Not everyone will lose, though. The Action Plan will be a gravy train for subsidy seekers, lobbyists and hawkers of green schemes, who show up in droves whenever free money's being handed out.
It's hard to pick out one wrong thing with this plan, because all of it is nutty. Let's start with electric cars. The plan says 12 per cent of all new cars should be electric by 2025. (The market share of electric cars in Canada is currently 0.35 per cent.) How will this happen? Subsidies! You too can drive a Tesla.
There's just one thing wrong with electric cars. Even when they're subsidized, people don't want them. They are high-cost and low-range. They take forever to recharge, and we would need a massive investment in infrastructure to keep them fuelled. But hey! As soon as those problems get fixed, which is no time anyone can foresee, I'm there.
Our Environment Minister actually believes that Ontario, which supplies less than 1 per cent of the global car market, should become a global hub of electric-car manufacturing. Unfortunately, auto manufacturers appear to have different views. But at least no one can accuse him of thinking small.
Our provincial government aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. How realistic is this? Maybe not so much. Back in 2008, Google announced an ambitious plan called "Clean Energy 2030," which called for weaning the United States off oil and gas for electricity generation by 2030, and reducing oil use for cars by 44 per cent. A few years later, Google gave up and pronounced the plan undoable. But what does it know?
At least the Ontario government has a track record of green investments. The Green Energy Act, which subsidized thousands of wind towers across the province at ruinous expense, will wind up costing Ontarians an extra $170-billion for electricity between 2006 and 2032, according to the Auditor-General. The greening of the economy was supposed to produce thousands of green jobs, which never did materialize. But as we watch our hydro bills soar, at least we have the satisfaction of knowing we are single-handedly saving the planet.
Some people argue that saving the environment is such an urgent task that bad ideas are better than no ideas at all. At least it's a start! These people should come to Ontario, where unicorns frolic in the gardens and the manufacturers are moving south. The one sure way to shrink our carbon footprint is to shrink our economy. The way things are going, we could be very good at that.