Ontario’s Green Energy Fiasco — A Cautionary Tale For The United States

Tom Harris Executive Director, Climate Science Coalition
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For an increasing fraction of the world’s population, the real climate crisis is not the possibility that dangerous human-caused global warming may someday occur. It is the damage being caused today by government policies to supposedly mitigate climate change.

Ontario provides a tragic example.

To reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that activists tell us will lead to problematic warming, Ontario has become the first jurisdiction in North America to permanently ban coal-fired electricity generation. The consequences are important for Americans to note.

In 2002, when coal provided about 25 percent of our electricity, Ontario had the lowest electricity prices in Canada. We were the nation’s powerhouse with hundreds of thousands of well paid, manufacturing jobs.

Today, with no coal-fired power at all, our electricity rates are 318 percent higher and at least 300,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in the last 15 years. Tom Adams, independent energy researcher and former board member of the Ontario Independent Electricity Market Operator explains that, although there were several factors that contributed to this fiasco, closing down coal, a flexible, reliable and moderately priced source of supply, was the single most important cause.

Since America gets 37 percent of its power from coal, the impacts on the U.S. may be even more severe if Hillary Clinton is elected president and she continues the Obama administration’s war on coal. And it is the poor and those on fixed incomes who will suffer the most.

As part of Ontario’s Green Energy Plan, the primary purpose of which is to reduce CO2 emissions, 6,736 industrial wind turbines (IWT) are being constructed across the province. Only 4 percent of our power came from wind energy in 2013 and 1 percent from solar, yet together they accounted for 20 percent of the commodity cost paid by Ontarians.

Besides a significant loss in property value for homes near IWTs, health concerns abound. A particularly tragic example is occurring in West Lincoln, Ontario. Despite public objections, wind developers have received approval to install at least seventy-seven 3 Megawatt IWTs in the region, each as tall as a 61 story building.

Local resident Shellie Correia is particularly concerned. Her 12-year-old son Joey has Sensory Processing Disorder and must not be exposed to excessive noise. Correia explained to the government’s Environmental Review Tribunal, “On top of the incessant, cyclical noise, there is light flicker, and infrasound. This is not something that my son will be able to tolerate.”

The Ontario government apparently does not care and an IWT, 610 feet high, has been erected only 550 meters from their home, the closest “setback” allowed in the province for residents who do not sign lease agreements with wind companies.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne promised her government would not force any IWT into “unwilling communities.” To date, 90 communities have declared themselves as “unwilling.” yet, in the name of stopping climate change, construction is underway, or planned, in many of these areas.

The province, which cites a 2010 report from its Chief Medical Officer of Health that found no direct causal links between IWTs and adverse health effects, has claimed the province’s setbacks are “the most stringent in North America.”

In reality, most jurisdictions in Canada, the U.S., Australia, and Europe require greater setbacks. Two kilometres is commonplace.

In “Adverse health effects of industrial wind turbines,” a 2013 paper in the magazine of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, Dr. Roy D. Jeffery, Carmen Krogh, and Brett Horner explained, “People who live or work in close proximity to IWTs have experienced symptoms that include decreased quality of life, annoyance, stress, sleep disturbance, headache, anxiety, depression, and cognitive dysfunction.”

“The problem is not just cyclical audible noise keeping people awake but also low frequency infrasound which can travel many kilometres,” notes Dufferin County-based Barb Ashbee, who says she was forced out of her Amaranth, Ontario home by the siting of IWTs too close to it.

“Infrasound goes right through walls,” said Ashbee, operator of the Wind Victims Ontario website. “It pummels your body.”

Correia is supported by her son’s pediatrician, Dr. Chrystella Calvert, a specialist in the care of children with developmental and mental health problems.

Calvert said, “I, as a ‘normal brain’ individual would not want this risk [of an IWT] to my mental health (or my children’s) in my neighbourhood.”

Carmen Krogh, Correia’s principal science advisor, wrote in a May 13, 2013 open communication to Canada’s health minister, “Vigilance and long-term surveillance systems regarding risks and adverse effects related to children are lacking. … This evaluation should take place before proceeding with additional approvals.” 

But the approvals go ahead regardless. Stopping hypothetical climate change trumps everything else.

Correia summed up the situation, not just in Ontario, but across much of the world when she asked, “Wynne speaks about ‘protecting’ her granddaughter’s future [in defending her government’s climate change mitigation plans]. Why then, is it not important for her to protect my son, now?”

Climate change activists might argue that it would be worthwhile to let millions of people suffer today to save billions in the future from climate change catastrophe they claim is right around the corner if we do not change the way we generate energy. But then they would be faced with providing convincing evidence that scientists are able to meaningfully forecast future climate states. They would have to show why the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was wrong when, in their 2001 Assessment Report, they wrote, “The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system, and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states is not possible.”

The question that should be put to all climate change activists, people who want to close our least expensive, most efficient power plants in the name of “stopping climate change,” is simple. Are the largely unpredictable problems of people yet to be born more important that the very real problems climate mitigation policy is now causing our most vulnerable citizens? The answer would be most inconvenient.

Tom Harris is executive director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition.