Is it time for Canada to claim environmental hero status?

Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are well below the world average and despite a resource extraction economy, our air pollution improvement is among the best in the world—so why are we made to feel so guilty?

Recently, I discussed to how politicians continue to “virtue signal when advocating for renewable energy.  And sometimes, they omit facts. That might be because the omitted facts fail to support the “virtue” they are promoting, like a clean green environment, or maybe, the politicians don’t feel the need to discuss  cost/benefit or examine that closely.

New information has come to light as to why politicians leave out the facts sometimes.

On December 19, 2018 an article by Philip Cross published in the Financial Post on renewable energy was blunt in its lede: “StatCan just exposed how worthless ‘green’ industries are to Canada’s economy” — that was exactly what many have long suspected.  Mr. Cross  detailed how false or exaggerated information is fed to politicians by proponents of ventures (wind and solar power, for example) and how those politicians in turn, embarked on “virtuous” actions, based on those supposed facts.

They issue press releases which are then gobbled up by the media for the masses to digest.

Excerpts from the Cross article highlight the failings of those “green” industries. 

“Environmental and clean-technology industries accounted for a puny 3.1 per cent of Canada’s GDP in 2017. More importantly, StatCan noted that this ratio has remained relatively stable since 2007 when the data began. The green economy’s share of GDP stagnated for 10 of the biggest years for pro-green policies and hefty government support, and against historically slow growth in the rest of the economy. If the green economy cannot flourish in these circumstances, it is doubtful it ever will.

The green economy is even less important for jobs, contributing only 1.6 per cent of total employment. If clean-tech and green-tech are the jobs of tomorrow, as their boosters tirelessly claim, then our job prospects are bleak indeed.”

A few weeks after the StatCan report, another discovery the media apparently missed (or ignored) came to light.

At some point in early 2018, just before the Wynne-led Ontario government lost the election, Global Affairs Canada issued a 144-page Voluntary National Review in respect to the 2030 Agenda.  The “Agenda” was a precursor to The Paris Agreement and the synergies in respect to aligning issues related to climate change are significant.

Here are a just few examples:

  1. “The Government of Canada is committed to supporting the poorest and most-vulnerable populations affected by climate change and has committed $2.65 billion in climate finance by 2020-2021 to help developing countries transition to a lower-carbon, climate-resilient economy.”
  2. “The Investing in Canada Plan allocates $9.2 billion to provinces and territories for green infrastructure investments to support mitigation projects, build infrastructure to help communities respond and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, and build other green infrastructure that supports a healthy environment, including water and wastewater infrastructure.”
  3. “Significant investments are being made to develop a national network of charging and re-fuelling stations for alternative fuel vehicles. This infrastructure will enable Canadians to use lower-carbon or zero-emission vehicles.”
  4. ”In addition, Canada is working with its continental partners on the North American Renewable Integration Study (NARIS). By 2019, NARIS is expected to identify the key opportunities and challenges of integrating large amounts of wind, solar and hydro capacity into the North American electricity grid.”
  5. “Clean, non-emitting electricity systems will be the cornerstone of a modern, lower-carbon economy. Several programs have been introduced to support this goal, including initiatives to reduce the use of diesel in rural and remote areas, including for Indigenous communities, and support renewable power technologies, such as geothermal, tidal and offshore wind projects.”

Those five examples are a demonstration of the current Canadian government’s belief that simply spending billions of Canadian tax dollars in Canada and around the world will somehow impact climate change.

Climate change advocacy via continued virtue signaling about a carbon-tax is being challenged by several provinces; however, Canada’s federal government seems intent on causing further damage to Canada’s economy despite the evidence on “green” fails by StatCan.

The “Voluntary National Review” suggests how the spending will be paid for: “… revenues from oil and gas production will help fund the lower-carbon transition.” Clearly, “revenues from oil and gas production” is a reference to the “carbon tax” which will increase substantially over a short time period, affecting all Canadians and pushing our economic prospects down as those “revenues” a.k.a. “carbon taxes” drive up the price of everything we consume.

The “Review” references other reports/studies, for example, The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and a report on health, the “Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project [which] ranked air pollution as the fourth-leading risk factor contributing to early deaths (6.9 million deaths worldwide) each year. In Canada, the GBD ranked air pollution as the 11th leading risk factor for premature death.”

The GBD report compares data from 2007 to 2017 and provides + or – percentages. For Canada, the drop in the “air pollution” risk factor was negative 17.5% and appears to be one of the biggest drops of any country. Surprisingly, Poland which gets 80% of its electricity from coal, shows a drop of 14.4%. China was up by 1.7% whereas India was down 2.7% and the USA by 5%. Germany (the bastion of renewable energy) was down by only 2.7%. This data suggests Canada is a leader in reducing air pollution.

As one would expect, the Review says a lot about GHGs and climate change, and laid out reputed accomplishments and future plans. The Review also lectures us, telling us to use less: “The best energy is the energy we do not use. By doing more with less, Canadians can significantly reduce GHG emissions, save money, improve their environment and make their homes more comfortable.”

Most of us heard similar lectures by the Ontario Liberal government (Premier Wynne once chided Ontarians for being “bad actors” when it came to electricity use) and we did consume less. However, we failed to see any savings. In fact, we paid more for less!  (Voters didn’t buy the non-truths, judging from the election results last June.)

On the issue of GHG emissions the data available is extensive and varying.  A simple Google search on list of countries by carbon dioxide emission provides almost 8.7 million hits. Canadians are generally told they contribute 1.6% of Global GHG and from what was available in reviewing some Google links, that appears to be in the ballpark.

One measure where Canada seems to stand out favourably is in the measurement of “Emissions (kg) per $1,000 [US$] of GDP” despite our dependence on agriculture, energy, forestry and mining which collectively represent over 50% of our exports.  Canada’s emissions were 301.0 kg/$1,000 of GDP versus the world average of 490.8 kg. The USA is 324.2 kg and China is 1,235.0/kg. France stands out as the lowest at 110.5 kg and Uzbekistan is the highest at 1960.9.

Taking all this into account, and with the knowledge that Canada is leading the world in reducing air pollution while actually being a low emitter of GHGs in respect to our GDP, and despite our dependence on extraction of natural resources including oil and gas, the question is this — why is the Government of Canada demanding a carbon tax from us and penalizing us domestically with useless intermittent renewable energy and massive conservation spending? With only 1.6% of global emissions we are unable to save the world.

It’s time to let the rest of the world and their 98.4% of emissions catch up!

PARKER GALLANT

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Honesty, virtue and energy policy (3)

The previous two articles in this series pointed out how the mayor of the city of Georgetown, Texas and the former Ontario Liberal government endorsed the use of renewable energy to try to reduce emissions and save money for taxpayers. Led by environmental lobbyists (Pembina, Environmental Defence, David Suzuki, Al Gore and others) and proponents of wind and solar power generation, the politicians laid out the “facts” to persuade the public that doing so would both save money and create jobs.

The problem was, only some of the “facts” were presented and many of them were less than truthful!

Alberta-bound spin

What happened in Georgetown, Texas and Ontario has moved west to Alberta and the execution similarities are remarkable. In an article from the Calgary Herald November 24, 2016 the NDP Environment Minister announced, “We have chosen to incentivize new investment in clean energy and improve Albertans’ health by eliminating dangerous air pollution” and announced an agreement to pay $1.4 billion to shut three coal plants earlier than planned.

A government webpage titled: “Phasing out coal pollution” carries a message similar to what we were virtue signaled by Premier Wynne and her Environment Ministers noting: “Moving to more renewable energy and natural gas will protect the health of Albertans — especially vulnerable groups like children and seniors — and save money in health-care costs and lost productivity.”

Environmental push

Similar to what happened in Ontario in 2005 when a study was released about health costs (Liberal politicians claimed the cost was $4.4 billion annually) related to Ontario’s coal plants, Alberta politicians were handed a similar study. It was produced by Pembina Institute, the Asthma Society of Canada (ASC), Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Lung Association, and claimed the use of coal power cost $300 million annually in health costs. Using the 2017 Alberta census population figures for 2017 that works out to about $70 per resident. Using the 2005 census population figures for the Ontario study results in a cost of about $350 per resident. Something seems askew in the two claims, but in both cases, it provides the unverified “facts” politicians require to “virtue signal” and drive up electricity prices.

Political spin supported by wind power proponents                                                                                                                                     Alberta Premier Notley’s decision to phase out coal plants resulted in seeking out “more renewable energy” in the form of 600 MW of wind power generation. When the winning bids to the REP (renewable electricity program) were announced, the Premier was front and centre stating “It’s a new record for renewable energy pricing in Canada — the lowest price Canadians have ever seen, right here in Alberta.” The Premier went on to say in mid-December 2017: “Alberta isn’t only a leader in the [fossil fuel] energy that we are going to get to Tidewater. We are also a leader in renewable energy, and we are going to show our fellow Canadians, and the world, that economic growth and environmental responsibility can, and must, and will go hand-in-hand.”

Well, now it appears Premier Notley’s promise to get “fossil fuel” energy to Tidewater will not happen on her watch so that is just one “fact” she won’t be delivering on before the upcoming provincial election. Premier Notley went on to say: “In fact, our process was so competitive and so many companies wanted to invest, we got a 20-year price of 3.7 cents a kilowatt-hour.”

As one would expect, wind power trade association and lobbyist CanWEA (Canadian Wind Energy Association) was eager to get the word out, couched in language that made the announcement as wonderful as the Premier made it sound. Robert Hornung, CEO of CanWEA made it sound simply spectacular: “By attracting investment in the wind energy projects announced today, Alberta is diversifying its economy, driving economic growth and creating much-needed jobs in multiple sectors such as engineering, construction and local services.”

That sounds similar to what he said three years ago when he claimed: “Ontario’s choice to be the leading wind energy market in Canada has returned many economic benefits,” added Mr. Hornung, “As other jurisdictions consider a greater penetration of wind energy in their electricity systems, ‎this study clearly shows that the economic benefits associated with wind energy development are significant.” Pure fluff for the then Ontario Liberal government.

While the foregoing sounds impressive Premier Notley left out an important fact related to certain bonuses built into those contracts which include (RECs) “renewable energy certificates”.   Specifically, those RECs have a significant value which the recipients will be able to sell for revenue, boosting their income and the cost of electricity delivered to Alberta ratepayers. Those RECs will be tradeable in a market established in California in 2007.

From the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System: (WREGIS) we would point out the following in a Q & A posting: “WREGIS issues one REC for each MWh of renewable generation. WREGIS accounts are similar to bank accounts; Certificates are deposited and managed within these accounts. Certificates can be transferred, retired, or exported to a Compatible Tracking System at the discretion of the certificate holder.” The value of a REC varies widely but as laws or regulations add such things as “carbon taxes”* to industries, (companies being charged a “carbon tax”) they can instead purchase an REC as an offset to the carbon tax and purchase it for less than the “tax”!

The monies will flow directly to those renewable energy companies.

What the foregoing suggests is the “20-year price of 3.7 cents a kilowatt-hour” may be a lot more as the future value of a “carbon tax” climbs over the $20/50 current cost, making the REC offset much more valuable than in today’s market. In summary, electricity prices will rise!

As politicians keep “virtue signaling” while only releasing selective “facts” we taxpayers/ratepayers must keep a vigilant watch.

PARKER GALLANT

*Current carbon tax in Alberta is $30/tonne and will increase further in 2021 to $40/tonne.

CanWEA makes promises it can’t keep

CanWEA’s ramping up rhetoric

While Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), was all smiles at the trade association’s recent conference and exhibition in Calgary he must be concerned that the world is wising up to the unabashed conclusion: industrial wind turbines do nothing more than drive up electricity prices!  At the start of the conference Hornung launched “A Wind Energy Vision for Canada”, full of selective information aimed at rallying those present so they push the agenda and keep the gravy train rolling.

The CanWEA “vision” says nothing about how wind power projects affect humans by generating audible and inaudible noise along with infrasound or how they are responsible for killing birds and bats or even how they need back-up power when the wind is dormant.  The latter means the costs of delivering a kilowatt hour (kWh) of generation needs fast response back-up power at the ready to ramp up within minutes. Failing available back-up generation (usually natural gas) to respond to IWT cyclical, intermittent and unreliable generation would impact electricity grids causing brownouts or blackouts.

The CanWEA “vision” links to an October 1, 2018 posting on their website that brags about a variety of different issues, making claims like as “New wind energy would help keep Ontario’s electricity supply reliable, as well as more affordable.” And, this one: “Canada can get more than one-third of its electricity from wind energy”.  CanWEA backed this up by saying: Other jurisdictions around the world are proving this – for example, Denmark now produces more than 44 per cent of its electricity from wind turbines on an annual basis”.

What they fail to mention is that Denmark has the most expensive electricity costs in the EU with prices equivalent to Canadian $0.45cents/kWh.

A “Vision” claim                                                                                                                           The “vision” makes many claims that are spurious, including this one about environmental sustainability: “Wind energy does not produce greenhouse gas emissions, air or water pollution, nor hazardous, toxic or radioactive waste.”

That is superficial. Why? The intermittent and unreliable nature of wind requires it to be backed up with responsive generation generally in the form of natural gas or coal plants.  This is evident in particular in Germany (electricity prices are the 2nd highest in EU) where a recent article stated “Despite the billions spent on wind and solar, the country is still hooked on coal, relying on it for almost 40 percent of its electricity. Coal provides the backup power needed when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun isn’t shining, something that will become even more crucial when the last nuclear plants close in 2022.” The claim that wind turbines don’t produce greenhouse gases may be somewhat true, but due to their unreliable nature they cause greenhouses gases to be generated by their back-up fossil fuel plants.

The CanWEA statement suggesting wind turbines don’t cause “air or water pollution” can also be easily disputed. The spinning blades kill birds and bats and produce a range of noise emissions(audible and inaudible) which are linked to health problems.

We have also seen how construction and operation of turbines may be involved in the contamination and failure of wells as noted in Chatham Kent where well water was affected.   Hydrologist Bill Clarke noted: “Simply stated, wind towers, for generating electrical power, should never have been constructed over the extremely fragile contact aquifer of the Kettle Point shale” where 19 families experienced distinct, observable changes in their well water, which expresses itself as cloudy and often includes dark particulates.

It should also be noted that while the fuel powering the turbines is non-polluting, the average 400 tons of cement securing the turbines towers and the turbines and generators along with those blades are simply full of both toxic and hazardous waste, some of which is not recyclable!

More rhetoric                                                                                                                                  CanWEA wasn’t finished with the bombast.

On November 1, 2018 their blog carried this post: “Cancelling renewable energy contracts in Ontario will negatively impact investor confidence”!  Why? Well, the lobbyist group said, “Investors rely on the rule of law and contract rights when they scope, build and operate projects in the province. Calls for cancelling contracts and stranding assets shakes investor confidence and risks undermining Ontario’s investment climate – and at the wrong time and for the wrong reason.”

CanWEA naturally ignored the fact that the rebellion on Ontario electricity prices was caused by renewable energy (wind and solar) being granted first to the grid rights and long-term contracts with prices exceeding what other markets were paying.  Those excessive electricity costs have driven investment out of the province in droves commencing with the passing of the Green Energy Act when, shortly after passing, Xstrata announced it would close its Timmins smelter and move it to Quebec.  One of the reasons for the closure was the high cost of electricity.

In a further effort to colour the costs to Ontario’s ratepayers of wind turbines, CanWEA proffered this reputed benefit: “The province’s wind sector will generate $12.5 billion in investment in Ontario in the 2006-2030 timeframe. Along with that investment will come 64,500 person-years of employment, $4.6 billion in earnings for Ontarians, and an additional $6.2 billion in provincial GDP.”

But that claim does not note the investment will extract approximately $45 billion from ratepayer’s pockets over the 24 years “2006-2030,” meaning the claimed investment will be returned four-fold!  Likewise, those 64,500 person-years of employment with the claimed $4.6 billion in earnings amounts to a miserly $3,000 per job when spread over those same 24 years.

The time has come for companies involved in industrial wind projects to pack their bags and find another country with gullible politicians!

PARKER GALLANT

Canada’s wind power lobbyist re-energizes its spin


September 3, 2018

The Comber wind power project in Ontario: intermittent, unreliable power. Alberta, are you watching?

A recent posting by Robert Hornung, President of the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), occurred shortly after the Ontario government passed an Act to terminate the White Pines wind power project.

Mr. Hornung’s post on the CanWEA website contained these statements.

“Maintaining investor confidence in the Ontario marketplace is important for Ontario’s short- and long-term economic prosperity. The Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) shares the Ontario Government’s commitment to an affordable and reliable electricity system that benefits Ontarians. CanWEA notes that wind energy projects in Ontario are an important source of sustained revenue for municipal and Indigenous partners. Ontario’s wind energy projects are providing long-term, stable pricing for Ontario ratepayers. Wind energy is now the lowest-cost option for new electricity supply in Ontario, across Canada, and throughout much of the world.”

It is ironic that Mr. Hornung, on behalf of CanWEA’s members, would claim they share the “commitment to an affordable and reliable electricity system” while suggesting “Maintaining investor confidence in the Ontario marketplace is important”.

Is he unaware Ontario has lost many good manufacturing and processing jobs due to the high cost of electricity, or has he simply chosen to continue to spin the fallacious claim that wind power projects have not played a role in driving up the operating costs (electricity rates) of the numerous large and small manufacturing and processing plants that have either closed or moved to other jurisdictions?

CanWEA, leaving behind its effect on Ontario’s economic well-being, appears to be moving on to greener pastures, promoting the same spin to politicians who buy into their claims. Now that they have sucked Ontario dry, they are headed to Alberta where Premier Notley has signaled her plan to close the 6,300 MW of coal plants and replace two-thirds of them with 5,000 MW of renewable energy, including 4,500 MW of industrial wind turbines (IWT).

CanWEA in yet another post on its website seems excited at the new prospects and boasts: “Wind energy developments are making positive and lasting social and economic contributions in communities across Alberta.”

With that in mind, it is ironic that at 11 AM on August 20, 2018, the 1,491 MW of wind turbines in Alberta delivered just 5 MWh* of power to the grid — that’s about 0.33% of their capacity.

Needless to say, similar occurrences have been seen in Ontario and many other places around the world where wind turbines have been constructed. This clearly demonstrates power generation from wind is both intermittent and unreliable, and must be backed up with reliable generation in the form of hydro or fossil fuel generation.

CanWEA buttresses their claims with promises of jobs and prosperity in yet another recent posting on their website. “Wind energy will also generate jobs and other benefits for Albertans, as a recent Delphi Group report demonstrates. And it can be an important part of a broader economic diversification strategy for the province, with the total potential for local project development and construction spending alone reaching $3.6 billion by 2030.”

If you actually read that report, you’ll find it suggests most of the estimated $8.3 billion spending ($1.8 million per MW) will actually occur elsewhere. Alberta produces very little of the materials required to erect wind turbines so the local jobs created will be temporary, in the planning and construction phase. In fact, the report suggests only 15,000 person-years of employment will be created for the $3.6 billion planned to be spent on planning and construction. The report also suggests 714 jobs may be permanent during the O&M (operations and maintenance) phase; however, even that seems optimistic as that would suggest one permanent job for every six MW which at a 2-MW average would represent only three turbines. In fact,the standard is one technician per ten turbines.

With the recent negative Superior Court ruling on the Trans Mountain pipeline build, and Premier Notley’s plea for action by the federal government, it is obvious her government will soon experience a lack of anticipated revenue to execute both her social programs and the provincial climate plan. The slowdown in royalty revenues will push Alberta into further debt. For that reason, it is not enough that she has pulled out of the federal climate plan and should, if logic prevailed, also cancel the provincial climate plan.

I found it stupefying that Premier Notley said “The time for Canadian niceties is over. We are letting other countries control our economic destiny. We can’t stand for it.” Is she suggesting the National Energy Board and the Superior Court are controlled by “other countries”?

Premier Notley should have cancelled the provincial climate plan including replacing coal generation plants with unreliable wind and solar power generation if she really wants to make her point, instead of blaming others.

The time has come, alright: time for Canada’s politicians to stop believing the spin from lobbyist CanWEA, and instead act in the best interests of Canada’s ratepayers/taxpayers. Politicians need to show us they aren’t controlled by those foreign-controlled entities granted contracts to erect symbolic industrial wind turbines.

PARKER GALLANT

*Thanks to Steve Aplin who posted this info on his twitter account: https://twitter.com/SteveAplin