Green policies offer fascinating case study in the difference between real PR and fake PR

If you promise something, you should deliver it. And sooner rather than later—especially if you engage in questionable PR tactics to win your case. I have argued in favour of governments financing both wind generation and nuclear generation (see article), but not because both are equally capable of providing zero-carbon electricity. They are plainly not equal: nuclear provides large-scale, cheap, on-demand power; wind provides small-scale, expensive, erratic power. Comparing the two is like comparing a top-level NHL hockey player to a mosquito-level beginner.

Now I love mosquito hockey. I used to play at that level myself, and there was nothing more important for me as a player than being cheered on by my family and friends. But even in my wildest pre-teen megalomaniac fantasies I never thought I should get the same paycheck as, say, Wayne Gretzky.

And yet the so-called green lobby, which pretends to offer solid energy policy advice, advocates something along these lines for the wind power industry. Though wind currently contributes only a minuscule amount of highly unreliable electricity to the Ontario grid—as I write this, Ontario wind generators are contributing one-tenth the electricity for which they are rated—wind companies are being paid twice the going rate for electricity.

Is this worth it? The greens insist wind is an essential component of any climate change strategy, and that the pricey feed-in tariff is necessary in order to get the industry to the point where it is contributing significant amounts.

This is where public relations in the service of a good cause just breaks down. Wind can never contribute baseload (i.e., on-demand) power, no matter how many thousands of gigantic wind turbines there are. This means there must be massive amounts of backup power that are instantly available when the wind stops blowing. And that means natural gas. And for every kilowatt-hour it generates, natural gas emits 550 grams of carbon dioxide, which is a powerful greenhouse gas (GHG).

All of which means that when the greens call for wind, they are really calling for natural gas. When Ontarians read newspaper headlines in 2015 saying that provincial GHGs are as bad as they ever were, they will wonder how they were so badly fooled by those who said wind is the answer to climate change.

That’s the difference between responsible and irresponsible PR. Nuclear can and will deliver the goods, wind can’t and won’t. So when nuclear advocates call for a climate change solution that includes wind, they are playing a responsible PR game. Anti-nuclear greens who call for wind are just not telling the truth.

2 comments for “Green policies offer fascinating case study in the difference between real PR and fake PR

  1. August 28, 2009 at 15:52

    Excellent article. Kudos!

    The wind industry is not exactly known for their integrity and honesty. Six families near Melancthon were quietly bought out by Canadian Hydro Developers and made to sign gag orders…Meanwhile CHD kept insisting there are no problems.

    Spin, spin, spin. Details here: http://windconcernsontario.org

  2. August 28, 2009 at 17:02

    After reading several of these kinds of reports on Wind Energy, I don’t understand why the Ontario public is not in an uproar and pushing down their MPP’s doors. We need to stop this madness. I have been researching this subject now for over 2 years, and no where can I find that wind 1) can add significant supplies of clean energy which is technically, economically and environmentally sound, 2) can meet the standards of existing electrical sources for reliability, predictability, dispatchability, cost and environmental impact. 3) will provide long term “green” jobs that will not displace jobs in other sectors 4) will not burden economic growth with disproportionate electricity rates and tax benefits 5) will not put people in harms way due to infrasound and low frequency noises 6) not atrophy the land base needed for production of our food 7) add to farmers bottom line for long term sustainability of the family farm 8) most importantly, cannot materially reduce GHG emissions. Based on all of this, then why are we allowing this McGuinty gov’t to move ahead on the GEA and its draconian policies which stiffle the input from those who must live with these inefficient, inexcusable, excuses for green energy, especially when these so-called green businesses are seeking such large public monies ? What will it take to get the Ontario public to speak up about how we are being abused? More information? Try http://www.windconcernsontario.org. Will the public go there ? Probably not. Because they won’t take action when they are being poorly represented. Let me fill you in; Bureaucrats and gov’t officials interpret this apathy as a green light to go ahead and squeeze you for even more.

    What I can assure you is that when the province puts Billions of dollars on the table (like they are doing here) lobbyists such as CanWEA go to Toronto and write letters, send in donations, smooze our officials with clever PR etc. In response our gov’t officials, whose sole purpose is to serve the public, knee jerk react with no scientific adjudication of the claims, just a simple “how does the public view this and will it get me votes”

    So that’s your choice: get educated and speak up to represent yourself, or let self-serving profiteers continue to run our government.
    All I can do is hope Ontario gets the message soon before we add further to our economic crisis with ill conceived funding to a sector that has been tearing apart rural communities, families and their homes.

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