Friday, July 22, 2005

Stop eating that food! We're not growing any more!

The line between news and unpaid political advertisements for the NDP is always blurred in the London Free Press, and Chip Martin delivers on the equivo-advocacy. Howard Hampton, leader of the Ontario soviet, addresses the energy problems in the province:

Instead of spending billions for new nuclear power plants, energy-short Ontario should retrofit poorly insulated apartments and homes and replace old refrigerators, Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton told London civic leaders yesterday.

[…] He estimated it will cost about $14 billion to retrofit all poorly insulated apartments — the same as the cost of two nuclear plants.
If we're going to compare government energy programs, then in other words it will cost twice that at least. As usual with socialists, the perceived problem is with demand not supply — rationing is always the result of socialist rationality. What perplexes me is how rationing has come to sound so rational to so many of us who would not identify themselves as socialists — it would seem we have become so accustomed to the idea of regulated self-sacrifice in the name of arbitrary authority and irrational political decisions in the guise of economic planning that the idea of self-sacrifice in the name of personal economy or what an individual holds dear to himself appears now secondary. It's also important to remember that the altar of sacrifice on which we are expected to lay ourselves here is not dedicated to the celebrated red herring of conservation but to the preservation of a public monopoly on power generation and distribution — in other words, the retention of power in the hands of bureaucrats and union workers to determine the methods, structures and protocols of energy production — an ideal that Howard Hampton promoted in much of the last election's campaign despite the fact that this monopoly has been responsible for the vicissitudes of Ontario's energy supply. If you can't make it, stop people from using it. And what's a little central economic planning without some regulation thrown in.
Hampton said the provincial government should require retrofitting and insist all new homes be built to R2000 energy-efficient standards.

The money, he said, is available from the many [provincial] pension funds looking for long-term returns. He said homeowners and apartment dwellers would repay the capital cost of conversions on their monthly utility bills.
Couldn't we just let them pay the cost of their energy consumption? How soon I forget! There's not enough electricity being generated for them to consume. And too simplistic as well, I suppose, when you can just take other people's money and spend it for them.

Nowhere in the article are Hampton's suggestions for increasing the supply of electricity — that's because there aren't any. In the spirit of capitalism, then, I'm with Gods of the Copybook Headings:
[T]urn up the juice. The current inadequate supply of electricity in the province of Ontario is a direct result of government control of both the production and distribution of power. While generations of Ontario political leaders were able to keep expanding the electrical power supply at a pace broadly equal to that of demand, over the last two decades this has not been the case. Environmentalist panic over nuclear power, and the increasing pressure on provincial fiscal resources from health care and education, have combined to limit the amount of funds directed toward building new plant.

Expecting a return to the golden era of Ontario Hydrio is at best naive. A private sector solution is the only viable alternative at this point. By continuing to turn down the AC we delay the inevitable and shift initiative for solving the problem from the government back to us. It's not our fault that we consume too much, it's their fault they don't produce enough. Any possible environmental issues are separate to this. There are ways of generating more power cheaply and without adding to air or water pollution, the money simply hasn't been invested. Crisis, sadly, is sometimes necessary to bring about change. Better rotating black outs now than something far worse a year or two down the line.

5 comments:

Brent Gilliard said...

Spending $14 billion (over $1000/Ontarian) to insulate homes and apartments is a stupid idea. If people payed the full price of electricity, they would use less of it (and some of them might even insulate their homes without government subsidy.

But it can't hurt to push conservation either. In the short term, we are stuck with too many air conditioners and not enough power plants.

Modifying supply and demand seems easier than trying to solve our electricity needs with just one or the other.

Robert McClelland said...

Just so I can be clear on this, what you are saying is that you are in favour of wasting electricity.

David MacLean said...

"If you can't make it, stop people from using it. And what's a little central economic planning without sme regulation thrown in."

That's exactly what they did with healthcare in the 1990s. That worked out well, didn't it?

MapMaster said...

Robert,
There seems to be some confusion between the terms "waste" and "consume."

James said...

There is some interesting information on the Ontario Hydro and the Ontario electricity news articles pages.