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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Ignatieff's environmental plan is a bust

Yesterday I wrote a post concerning the need for Michael Ignatieff to take more policy risks. I joked that he should look into a carbon tax. I want to state for the record that it was a joke. I never thought that the Liberals would be silly enough to bring up the environment again.

The policy that they are proposing is not a carbon tax but it has a lot of the same problems, but I will get to that in a minute. This is the policy according to The Globe and Mail:

Undaunted, Mr. Ignatieff, in a speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade, laid out a three-pronged approach to making Canada a global leader in clean energy by investing in new technologies and new industries; by upgrading the energy infrastructure through a so-called “smart” energy grid, and by making the federal government – the nation’s largest employer and customer – a model of environmentally responsible behaviour.

"Investing" in new industries? You mean making industries out of thin air? I wonder how well that has worked for wind power these last ten years? Seriously if a new "green" industry was economically viable they wouldn't need government "investment." Millionaires and billionaires would be clamouring all over themselves to get in on the ground floor. Mr. Ignatieff isn't proposing an "investment" that would pay out dividends but a subsidy that will be yet another drain on the treasury.

I am not going to even ask what a "smart energy grid" is. I'm just going to go straight to the question of how much is it going to cost:

When asked after the speech what his program would cost, Mr. Ignatieff said it was “not huge in dollar terms” and would have a multiplier effect in creating new jobs and tax revenues.

Hang on didn't he also say that the government--the biggest employer and customer--would be implementing these new green programs? Then doesn't that mean that they will be using tax dollars to both pay employees and purchase the products. Let me just take a look at my economics 101 textbook here...oh yeah that means zero economic gain. Excuse me while I go bang my head against the wall for a few minutes.

The most galling part of this is that at the same time as proposing new spending of untold billions, the Liberals are attacking the Conservatives on the deficit. Now yes, attack the Conservatives, they deserve to be taken to task on their bloated ever-expanding budgets. But please don't propose such idiotic spending increases at the same time.

Besides the policy being stupid, in fact, it is stupid politics as well. Didn't the last election show that people care more about the economy than about the environment (hurray enlightened self interest)? Mr. Ignatieff had a response to that:

“The key point I’m trying to make today is that this is not marginal to an economic strategy,” he said. “This is a key piece of it for us.”

Oh yeah you tried that line in the last election too, and it didn't work. Now that the economic situation is worse, you figure it will work this time?

People aren't stupid. If you say the government is going to spend billions of dollars on "green jobs." People think to themselves, "I am not in a green job, I am not trained for a green job, I'm not totally sure I know what a green job is. Therefore I have no interest in the government giving my money so that someone else can work."

When people said that you needed to take risks, Mr Ignatieff, they needed to be more specific. You need to take smart risks.

Posted by Hugh MacIntyre on October 14, 2009 | Permalink



What else do you expect? The man is being told by his "economic advisers" that only spending makes an economy grow and that savings is a bad thing. Under this theory, it doesn't matter who spends, as long as someone does.

He can also claim that he is saving the environment. His "advisers" are telling him that the only way to make "green" technologies economically viable is to invest more capital. So if the private is unwilling to, then the government should.

Until the general public understands that this is pure bullshit, Iggy has no reason to do anything else.

Posted by: Charles | 2009-10-14 9:45:19 AM


I'm certainly not supporting the liberal (or any) party, but you've got to get informed about some of the wind power investments currently underway. Where I come from, in southwestern Ontario, there have been hundreds of windmills springing up. When I moved away seven years ago there were three.

The smart energy grid is the only way that small electrical producers can take advantage of small scale hydro and wind projects. The current electricity grid in Ontario, for example, is far behind that of Germany or France, where small entrepreneurs can hook into the grid at any convenient location.

I have friends who own small hydroelectric projects, and they say that Canada's grid is a major limitation to green energy. The current grid is not designed for small producers, and reaches capacity with only a few small green projects. The remainder of the people who want to sell green energy to the grid are blocked out.

Our current grid is set up for a unidirectional flow from huge power plants outward, not a web of producers.

Furthermore, new hydro projects are so small that large companies just have too much overhead to be working on them. Meanwhile, many smaller producers could be making a pretty penny.

Posted by: Peter Braul | 2009-10-14 6:36:22 PM

If I'm not mistaken, Ontario Hydro offered 19 cents per KWH for the latest invitation for wind farms. Gee what a deal for the consumers! That's about 4 times the cost of natural gas fired plants for unreliable power that has to be paired (through a preferably smart grid) with reliable power (hydro or thermal). I heard that Europeans are paying much more than that for wind. Isn't being "green" wonderful.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-10-14 11:47:29 PM


The only reason that wind power has grown in Ontario is because the government has been activily encouraging it. Left to the market, I doubt that these windmills would have gone up. And by left to the market, I mean left to the decision making power of the people. I don't want the government spending our money on things that we aren't willing to pay for on our own.

Posted by: Hugh MacIntyre | 2009-10-15 5:57:35 AM

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