Electricity as an Ontario election issue: what is reality?

Readers of this blog may have noticed my disdain for the mainstream environmental movement’s take on electricity investment in Canada. I think the greens are a bunch of Luddite misanthropists (see article). They either don’t understand basic things about modern electricity systems, or they do understand them and advocate policies that are harmful nevertheless. Either way, I don’t want them advising governments.

But they are advising governments. I have to admit, my disdain is tinged with jealousy. The greens have successfully framed the environmental debate as a David versus Goliath story, with themselves as David. They have managed to get professional bureaucracies in both Toronto and Ottawa to come round to their put-on-a-sweater-and-turn-down-the-thermostat prescription for saving the planet.

Worse, they are the go-to people when the major media vehicles need “the other side of the story” on an energy or environment piece. This is a real achievement, given the fundamental weakness and impracticality of their arguments.

Like I said, my jealousy at their success turns me greener than the three main parties in the Ontario election campaign purport to be. But I’ll try to rise above this, and look for an objective explanation of their success.

The greens are poor, and rely on federal and provincial funding. Or at least that’s what they want their media interlocutors to think. So if they’re poor, then they must be committed idealists, intrepid seekers after truth. Therefore their arguments deserve as much play as those of their opponents, who are acknowledged industry spokespeople. Politics is about who gets what, especially in a democracy. So is reporting about politics.

But there are times when fairness isn’t fair. Al Gore points out that climate skeptics get as much media play as pro-Kyoto scientists. Is this fair? No, say Gore and his supporters. The Kyotophiles have science on their side. The Kyotophobes are just a bunch of shills, bought and paid for by companies in industries threatened by Kyoto implementation. The media should know the difference.

I’m wondering if it’s the same with the Ontario electricity debate. It should be obvious by now that conservation and renewables—the greens’ answer to coal- and nuclear-generated power—cannot cover more than a minuscule amount of our power requirements. It should be obvious that anybody who says they can play a bigger-than-minuscule role is either not telling the truth or doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. Given this, at what point do we stop listening to them?

Whatever that point is, I think it will be soon. David-v-Goliath is archetypal and powerful, but it’s wearing thin. But if it continues to prevail, there are options for the pro–status quo. One of the supposedly poor green groups, the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, is backed with natural gas money. The actors playing David and Goliath could switch roles. Or the one playing David could be touched with scandal.

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Randal Leavitt
16 years ago

I think the anti-nuke types also like to tell scary stories. Scary stories are thrilling. And since they are only stories we don’t have to do anything in real life to deal with them. One can continue driving the kids to school, and watching TV while eating food out of the fridge, and later that evening blog out another rendition of the nuke plant that ate Manhattan. I think this is why they enjoy hearing the same things over and over again too – scary stories are even more exciting when you have to anticipate all that approaching evil. Pointing out that these scary stories don’t correlate with reality does not phase the anti-nuke types at all – they already know that. They just really like to be harmlessly scared. This is OK as long as it really is harmless. But we are now faced with a dilemma – coal or nuke. People who’s minds are full of scary stories might make the wrong choice in the real world. Somehow the message has to get out there that these nuke facilities are not very scary. I know that pumping out such a message is not fun, not as much fun as scary stories, but it needs doing.