Earth Hour Ontario a Pyrrhic victory, literally

The green lobby’s massive Earth Hour public relations campaign seems to have worked in Ontario. Where last year power generation in Ontario actually increased during Earth Hour, this year it dropped. Unfortunately, power sector emissions went up. And since emission reductions are, or ought to be, the whole idea of Earth Hour, we have no choice but to count the 2009 version as another failure.

Of course that’s not the participants’ fault. They did what they were exhorted to do. But on a system-wide level, the emission intensity of Ontario power—i.e., the amount of carbon emitted per kilowatt hour generated—increased during Earth Hour 2009. For whatever reason, carbon-free hydroelectric generation dropped by over 1,000 megawatts between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. while carbon-heavy gas-fired generation remained relatively constant and coal-fired generation slightly increased.

Regardless. Power generation dropped between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on a Saturday night in March? Big deal. It has dropped during that time on every Saturday in March 2009, and sometimes by much bigger amounts than during Earth Hour. It’s a pretty normal occurrence on Saturday nights.

But let’s assume power generation dropped because of a drop in demand due to people observing Earth Hour. It’s the green lobby exhortations that make me shake my head. Somehow, according to them, electricity use is something we need to cut back on. They would rather we get our light from candles. Do they know that most candles are made of paraffin, which is a petroleum product, i.e., a carbon-emitting fossil fuel?

Those who followed the green advice may be mortified to learn they put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere during Earth Hour than they would have if they had just left their electric lights on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against candles. Combined with a great red wine, say Daniel Lenko’s superb Meritage, candles easily outmuscle electric light when it comes to setting a romantic mood. But Earth Hour is supposed to be about saving the earth. I fail to see how switching to a more emission intensive light form does that.

The answer to climate change is not to revert en masse to Luddism, however romantic that may seem for an hour on a Saturday night. The answer is further electrification, based on low-carbon electricity.

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