Fake Greens, Big Oil, and suffering Ontario: will the hicks mobilize?

One of the most exciting scenes in literature occurs in All the King’s Men, when Willie Stark rebounds from the psychological trauma of realizing he’s been duped, by the “fellows in the striped pants” from the city, into running for governor. The striped pants’ plan was to use Willie, a small-time country lawyer, to split the rural vote so their big city candidate could waltz up the middle into the governor’s mansion. Willie’s rebound occurs on a stage where he is supposed to deliver yet another dreary stump speech about state taxes to an uninspired rural farm crowd. But instead of delivering the boring stump speech, he says this:

I’m not going to read you my speech. I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a funny story. Get ready to laugh. It’s about a hick… Yeah, like you. He grew up like any other mother’s son on the dirt roads and gully washes… He knew all about being a hick… he knew what it was to be a hick, summer and winter…  And some of the public leaders down in the city knew that and they rode up to his… place in a big fine car and said how they wanted him to run for Governor. Oh, they told him and that hick swallowed it. … listen to me, you hicks. Yeah, you’re hicks, too, and they’ve fooled you, too, a thousand times…

By the end of the speech the crowd is in a frenzy and Willie, though he still does not win this particular election, is on his way to a spectacular career as a populist politician in a poor southern state.

I’m waiting for a candidate in the current Ontario election campaign to say something similar about the provincial Green Act. This piece of legislation forces Ontario electricity rate payers to pay an already rich and extremely well connected cabal of phony environmentalists and gas-industry lobbyists to build enormous, and enormously inefficient, wind farms in an effort to pretend that the province is “going green” in electric power generation.

The past week, July 18 to 22, proved that wind power is an utter waste of money. In a crushing heat wave, with every air conditioner in the province running flat out, wind generators’ output was minuscule and erratic, and often declined in peak periods—exactly when it is needed the most. Yet the Green Act forces Ontarians, including low income senior citizens on fixed incomes who live in downtown high rises and are thereby blocked from participating in this phony green get-rich-quick scheme, to pay top dollar for this low quality electricity.

Wind farms are more public relations props than useful generating stations. Drive north on Highway 21 from Tiverton Ontario to Port Elgin. On your left, you’ll pass first the Bruce nuclear plant, then the Underwood wind farm. Unless you are aware of the Bruce plant you won’t see it; it’s off the highway over a hill. But you will see Underwood, you cannot help but see it—it is huge. It stretches for kilometers. Just by taking it its sheer size, you could be forgiven for believing that wind is a significant contributor to Ontario’s power supply.

The “greens” are actively colluding in expanding the market for natural gas in Ontario. With their allies in the fossil fuel lobby, they have played us Ontarians like we are a bunch of dumb hicks. And maybe we are.

But you would be wrong. Between Monday July 18 and today, the average output of each of the six operating units at the Bruce plant was 736 megawatts. By comparison, the average output of the entire Underwood wind farm was 31 megawatts. Individual units in a plant that you cannot see from the highway produced on average more than 23 times what that entire wind farm—which you can see—produced.

Who owns Underwood? Why, Enbridge—a major gas distribution company. Wind cannot provide power reliably, but gas can. The push for wind power is actually a push for gas power. That is why companies like Enbridge are in the wind game. Which means the Green Act is not green. It’s gas industry blue.

The “green” lobby in Ontario knows this. Other than the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, which is a gas-industry funded group, you will never hear any of the mainstream green groups admit it. But they know it.

The “greens” are actively colluding in expanding the market for natural gas in Ontario. They make a big deal out of complaining about the skyrocketing greenhouse gas emissions from the Alberta oil sands. The number one source of oil sands GHGs is natural gas, which is used in steaming bitumen out of sand as well as in manufacturing the hydrogen that lightens the heavy crude. But the very same phony Greens who pretend to oppose oil sands GHGS fully support using the very same GHG-emitting substance in Ontario.

The Green-Gas cabal has done an amazing job of persuading the current Ontario government that they are a significant political constituency whose policy demands must be heeded. But this cabal is not a significant constituency. It is simply a group of rich and well connected people blessed with huge PR funds and expertise. The Green Act is their crowning achievement: it is the product of a determined, well-funded multi-year PR campaign. Through the FIT rates enshrined in the Green Act, they have gotten the government to force us rate-payers to pay for their PR campaign. They have fooled the province of Ontario like we are a bunch of hicks.

And maybe we are.

So: will a Willie Stark emerge from one of Ontario’s political parties and break this cabal?

[With great respect to Noel Polk, who in 2001 published a restored version of All the King’s Men in which Willie’s last name was Talos, I prefer Stark, which was the last name given in the version published in 1946. I have not read the restored version, so cannot give an opinion on its merit relative to the 1946 one.]

7 comments for “Fake Greens, Big Oil, and suffering Ontario: will the hicks mobilize?

  1. Lynne
    July 24, 2011 at 16:10

    There will be no Willie Stark emergy from the ranks of the NDP. I was deeply disappointed to read this letter from Andrea Horwath and Peter Tabuns to the Green Properity Initiative, another mobilization of the green troops to defend the Liberal Green Energy meme. The NDP is promising an even more outlandish ‘No-Energy’ energy policy, with the bonus being their distaste for nuclear energy. If you have any doubt whatsoever that the ENGOs are rallying together, click the link to the actual letter and its recipients.

    http://www.northumberlandview.ca/index.php?module=news&func=display&sid=9441

    • Steve Aplin
      July 24, 2011 at 17:46

      Lynne, yes very disappointing. Why don’t they just tell Clarington and Greater Oshawa they don’t want those thousands of high paid jobs building new reactors at Darlington, you know, the ones that will revitalize the whole region. They’re more comfortable hanging the economic future of the province on low-paid McJobs in renewables that can neither power the province nor survive in a non-fixed market.

      I guess this anti-economy anti-nuclear stance is the price Andrea pays for having a Greenpeacer in her caucus.

      Now she knows how Howard Hampton felt.

  2. Ernest Horvath
    July 24, 2011 at 21:37

    Thank you Steve.
    I think all the Eco Groups , the IWT developers and of course the Ontario Liberals don’t quite understand the Energy Act will not be accepted.
    The only reason this hasn’t been stepped up a notch is the upcoming election.
    If anyone that is elected , anyone , that doesn’t work with our rural groups , they are going to see a new kind of politics for Ontario.
    We are done..we expect these political to listen .

  3. July 24, 2011 at 22:22

    Steve: The Ontario Green Energy fiasco could be summed up by quoting a line from an old National Lampoon album called Radio Dinner in which a character acting as John Lennon hysterically complains about Mick Jagger stealing the spotlight…”its just a lot of fooking boolsh_t!

    • Steve Aplin
      July 24, 2011 at 22:34

      Nobody: Magical Misery Tour, I remember it well. I’d put a link to the YouTube clip, but it’s a bit profane and I like to think this is a respectable blog!

  4. Maury Markowitz
    August 11, 2011 at 16:19

    According to the EAI and DOE, since 1980 the levelized cost of wind power has fallen from 35 c/kWh to about 6 to 7 c/kWh (and just over 5 cUS/kWh in Europe). NREL’s excellent study on widespread financing considerations puts current pricing between 7.4 and 5.4 c/kWh.

    In that same period of time, according to the CBO, the levelized cost of nuclear went from 5.2 to 7.2 c/kWh. EIA puts the current price at 6.1, MIT put it just under 8. For comparison, OPG used 7.7 c/kWh in the last reports I saw.

    So based on these histories, in 10-15 years one would expect wind to be slightly cheaper than nuclear. This is precisely what the EIA’s studies have consistently concluded.

    The NDP position seems perfectly rational.

    Prepare for argument switch…. NOW!

    • Steve Aplin
      August 11, 2011 at 16:37

      Even assuming those numbers are right, wind cannot supply 24/7 power. To compete with nuclear we would have to factor in the cost of “backup” power from gas plants.

      Even in the current era of cheap, cheap gas, the total Global Adjustment so far this year for the roughly 1,600 MW of NUGs capacity in Ontario (all natural gas) was 85 percent of the GA for OPG’s regulated hydro and nuclear facilities, which represent some 8,500 MW of clean baseload power.

      i.e. the NUGs got a $571 million top up, and OPG, with more than five times the capacity, got a $664 million one.

      Add the cost of parallel “backup” gas to the “cheap” wind and we’d get a fairer and more appropriate comparison with nuclear.

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