Thursday, September 16, 2010
What's So Wrong With Ontario?
I've decided to poke a sharp stick in the eye of what I call Wind Power Witch Hunters, especially the gang from Ontario who are waging a relentless assault on wind turbine electricity with every joule in their bodies.
Some of their arguments almost seem to make sense. That's mainly true when those arguments are taken at face value in isolation of troublesome things like facts. It's when you pick your head up and look around at what others are doing that the Wind Power Witch Hunters' arguments begin to wobble and collapse under their own weight.
Now I've always felt badly for Ontarians because they don't live in Beautiful "Supernatural" British Columbia. But I've never thought the worse of them for it. Somebody has to live there and parts of the place do have some charms. And I do believe that Ontarians have shown that, when it comes to technology, they're as good as any.
But, if you listen to the Wind Power Witch Hunters, wind turbine energy in Ontario doesn't work. It's a disaster. It's inefficient. It's expensive. It only works when it's not needed. It causes spasms and fits to anyone within eyeball distance of it. Shit, oh dear.
So I figured if wind turbine energy doesn't work for Ontario, high-tech Ontario, it must be just as disastrous for other jurisdictions that use it, right? When I started looking I found out that was - wrong. The Asians are showing it's wrong. The Europeans are showing it's wrong.
Let's take France for example. The French have an ambitious programme to wean themselves off fossil-fuel generated electricity. That entails relying on wind, solar and nuclear power. The were at 7% renewable energy in 2004 and they expect to reach 20% by 2020. Their target is to have 20% renewables, 25% nuclear and 55% coal power by 2020 with steady reductions in coal afterward.
The French are also big on another renewable, biomass. After Finland and Sweden, France is the biggest user of fuel wood. Some 40% of their residential heating is wood fueled.
To help the transition to renewable energy from coal-fired generators the European Union is shutting down coal production. Well it's not actually shutting down coal mines. What it is doing is banning subsidies for coal production. Without substantial state subsidies, coal makes a lot less sense.
Subsidies. The Wind Power Witch Hunters like to point accusing fingers at wind turbine energy subsidies. It's funny how they totally ignore subsidies for coal and oil just as they like to keep associated costs such as climate change and health consequences off the fossil fuel books.
The New York Times has an interesting piece today on coal subsidies in Europe and how America's fossil fuel industry is furiously fighting Obama's plans to end generous tax credits and subsidies in the U.S.
“If we want to lower our carbon emissions, why on earth — of all industries — does the coal industry get this preferential treatment?” asked Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s commissioner for climate action. Coal is often referred to as a “cheap” fuel, but that designation is not always accurate, energy analysts say. In some places where coal is used, cheaper resources are now available, and the label does not take into account the pollution caused by burning coal.
The European Union’s emissions trading system effectively forces power companies to pay for some of coal’s excessive emissions. But even in the United States, where no such penalty exists, generating electricity from wind turbines, which draw on local resources, may be cheaper than importing coal in some places.
I guess it shouldn't be surprising. The fossil fuel industry - Big Oil, Big Gas, Big Coal - have waged a massive and dirty campaign to undermine global warming science. Is it realistic to expect them to sit by and not use the same dirty tricks on alternative energy development? I'd love to find out if they're involved in this virulent anti-wind power campaign in Ontario. I just find it hard to believe that Ontario is the only place that wind power isn't viable.