The combination of wildfires along the U.S. Pacific Coast, two simultaneous hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, melting glaciers and peat bog fires in Canada, and an unusually hot summer in Europe has raised global warming fears to frenzied proportions.
Environmentalists are urging political leaders to legislate the rapid phase-out of fossil fuels.
Curiously, the most extreme call for action came from the future king of England. Prince Charles urged a “warlike footing” that would require the implementation of a centralized global authority to save the planet from catastrophic climate change.
Just how such an unelected regime would exert power over the Earth’s 7.8 billion inhabitants wasn’t clear.
The California and Oregon wildfires turned into a United States election issue, with Joe Biden pointing to Donald Trump’s pro-oil industry policies as a cause – even though American greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by over 14 percent since 2005.
Meanwhile, led by China and India, Asian emissions have doubled over the past decade and continue to grow.
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Overall, less than a third of global emissions now come from Western developed countries. China, India, Vietnam, South Africa, South Korea, the Philippines and Japan, all signatories to the Paris climate accord, are in various stages of constructing 1,800 coal-fired power plants. If Canada were to disappear from the face of the Earth, those new plants would replace our 1.6 percent of global emissions in just a few months.
Despite that reality, the federal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau continues its ideologically-driven crusade to replace fossil fuels with so-called green energy, mainly wind and solar.
The government’s throne speech virtually ignored the economic destitution its anti-oil policies have wrought in Alberta. Even the potential market access of the Trans Mountain Pipeline was couched in terms of providing a bridge to a fossil-fuel-free paradise.
That green energy fixation was the focus of the Sept. 26 “Climate Issue” of the Globe and Mail. Columnist David Berman asserted that the cost of wind and solar power have “become attractive next to fossil fuels generating assets, particularly coal.” As evidence, he cited Tucson Electric Power’s phase-out of coal-fired electricity generation.
U.S. Energy Administration data show that coal-fired plants are indeed being phased out, but they’re being replaced by natural gas. In fact, wind and solar provide less than one percent of Arizona’s electricity requirements.
Fellow columnist Eric Reguly stated that Canada’s share of renewables – i.e. hydro, wind, biomass, solar and ethanol – is above the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. But as is often the case with selective fact statements from green power advocates, he fails to mention that Natural Resources Canada data show wind and solar accounting for just 2.3 percent of Canada’s electricity supply in 2019.
The widely respected BP world Energy Outlook 2019 shows that, despite hundreds of billions of dollars invested, wind and solar contributed the same two percent of world energy supplies, while the contribution of fossil fuels has actually increased to 84 percent.
Germans know the hazards of pursuing a green power utopia all too well. Their country’s decade-long attempt to replace coal and nuclear with wind and solar sent electricity costs soaring to the second highest in the European Union. Despite hundreds of billions of euros invested, the unreliability of wind and solar necessitated rehabilitating coal-fired power plants. In an ironic twist, the coal is sourced from the U.S. and is available only because of the conversion of American power plants to natural gas.
Ontario’s former Liberal government led by Dalton McGuinty also implemented a German-style green power, with equally disastrous results. Coal-fired power plants were shuttered and the planned expansion of nuclear plants cancelled. The government signed 25-year locked-in windmill and solar contracts at several times existing rates.
Electricity prices in Ontario more than doubled, taking the province from one of North America’s lowest-cost power jurisdictions to among the highest, with prices more than twice those in other provinces. As beleaguered homeowners struggled to pay their electricity bills, manufacturers decamped to low-cost states like Georgia and the Carolinas. And Caterpillar, United Steel, Heinz, General Motors, Navistar, Kellogg’s, John Deere, Kraft Foods, Unilever and Bacardi closed some or all of their Ontario plants.
Then there’s the impact on the land. More than 8,000 wind turbines were built, requiring three acres each on average. Many are near bird habitats, causing locals to label them “bird blenders.”
And that’s only part of the story. Because (surprise!) the wind blows irregularly and solar panels are useless during Ontario’s long, dark winter nights, several new natural-gas-fired power plants were needed to back up those unreliable wind and solar facilities, pushing power prices even higher.
The only winners from this made-in-Ontario fiasco were the so-called “green-preneurs,” who became very wealthy as a result of those locked-in power contracts.
The moral of this sad story is that the federal Liberal government’s plan to replace fossil fuels with wind and solar is technically impossible and economically disastrous.
Moreover, phasing out the oil sands would simply hand the market to such sterling global citizens as Russia and Iran, even as it threw more than a million Canadians out of work and destroyed the country’s largest source of wealth generation and export revenues – all at a time when that wealth generation is needed more than ever.
Trying to solve any problem with a fix that defies the laws of physics is bound to fail.
What can Canada actually do to reduce global emissions and help the economy?
That, dear readers, will be the subject of next month’s column.
Gwyn Morgan is a retired business leader who has been a director of five global corporations.
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