Congratulations to Kathleen Wynne for winning the Ontario Liberal party leadership race and becoming Ontario’s first female premier. Among the soon-to-be premier’s 12 million constituents are some 500,000 men and women who woke up on this gray late-January day without jobs. That number would drop by several thousand pretty much immediately, if premier Wynne were to give the nod to provincially owned Ontario Power Generation to go ahead with two major projects of vital importance: the Darlington nuclear refurbishment and the Pickering B Continued Operations Initiative.
These two projects, plus the new nuclear construction that is called for in the provincial Long Term Energy Plan, are the perfect marriage of economic stimulus and environmental responsibility. Nuclear plants are huge job creators, and don’t dump any pollutants into the atmosphere. This is in marked contrast to the allegedly clean wind and solar, which because of their inherent unreliability must piggyback on carbon heavy natural gas. Gas plants, as you can see in Tables 1 and 2 in the left-hand sidebar, dump literally thousands of metric tons of pollution every hour. Much of that pollution winds up in the world’s oceans, turning them more acidic.
Gas plants come with another major drawback, and one that relates directly to the reason why Kathleen Wynne will wake up tomorrow as Ontario’s premier. Gas plants make hugely unpopular neighbors. They are not well liked by people who have to live near them. That is because everybody knows the danger of residential natural gas leaks. Every so often, a gas leak leads to an explosion which leads to the evacuation of entire neighborhoods. Residents of areas slated for a new gas-fired generating plant worry, rightly, about the size and consequences of an industrial gas explosion. It would be much worse than a residential one, which is already bad enough.
It was exactly this consideration that led to a strong local backlash against a plant sited in Mississauga, in Charles Sousa’s riding. Sousa, a Liberal, was in danger, because of very strong opposition to the plant, of losing his seat in the 2011 provincial election. So Liberal campaign officials decided, days from the election, to cancel the construction project. Sousa ended up winning.
But Sousa’s victory, which helped the Liberals squeak into a minority government, came at a price. And the price wasn’t just money, though the monetary price is rumoured to be enormous. A big part of the price for cancelling the Mississauga gas plant was paid by a number of senior Liberal cabinet ministers, including the soon-to-be-former premier, Dalton McGuinty. These ministers paid with their careers. That is why there was a Liberal leadership race on Saturday. That is why Kathleen Wynne will be sworn in as premier some time later today.
Gas-fired plants are part and parcel of the Green Energy Act that cost the Liberals their majority government in the 2011 election. The GEA pretends to be about wind and solar, but really it is gas that will make most of the electrons vibrate in the wires. As mentioned, gas is allegedly clean but actually comes with half a kilogram of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas and ocean acidification agent, for every kilowatt-hour of electricity it generates. Again, see Tables 1 and 2 to see how this shakes out hour by hour.
With CO2 waste on this scale, gas and wind/solar are clearly a highly dubious “environmental” pairing. And politically they are nothing but trouble.
Premier Wynne should steer clear of this trouble. She should give the area around Oshawa an economic gift by saying yes to Darlington refurbishment and Pickering B life extension. In so doing, she would be giving the city of Toronto another quarter century of cheap, reliable, carbon-free power to run subways, hospitals, and schools. And she would be doing Ontario a favour by generating lots of income tax revenue from all those high paid jobs.
Ontario needs jobs, it needs revenue, and it needs lots and lots of electricity. Darlington and Pickering have proven over decades they can deliver all three, simultaneously, in a neat package. And they can continue to deliver all three. It just takes a nod.