Sunday, February 05, 2006

Someone Needs to Lead

Ontario's McGuinty is now backpeddling on his promise to stop using coal plants by 2009. Citing increased demand, and lack of viable alternatives, McGuinty argues we have no choice. I would suggest, that we have reached a stage where government must make "radical" changes on the consumption side. When we talk of alternatives, anything that endangers our health is not a choice, period.

Someone needs to lead and breakout of this neverending cycle of increased demand and continued reliance on untenable sources. Electricity must be viewed as a fixed resource, with legislation aimed at restraints. As it stands now, the only restraint homes and businesses follow is affordability. Usage is primarily a monetary consideration and we act accordingly.

Government needs to apply a formula, wherein a set amount of usage is calculated based on reasonable needs. Homeowner should be allowed a set amount of electricity, based on square footage and heating needs. People that exceed their reasonable allotment could face a high consumption tax at first, outright shutdown for repeated violation. This calculation doesn't have to entail radical changes, merely rethinking our approach to energy. If each home is allotted a fixed amount of power each month, people would be forced into conservation. I don't think we spend much time looking at how we could conserve power, this measure would force that consideration. Should I leave all the lights on? Does that air conditioner need to be set so low? Should I wait and do a full load of laundry? Do I need to have so many Christmas lights that the space shuttle can see my home? Reasonable sacrifices that don't amount to a drastic change in our day to day life.

The calculations for businesses would be somewhat more complicated, but achievable. Nothing is more maddening than watching a news report on electrical shortages and then seeing the brilliant lights of vacant office towers when they do the cityscape money shot. Equally hypocritical, is the news anchor wearing a turtleneck on a plus 30 degree day in July- how cool is the studio? Force industry to find ways to curb their consumption where possible. Offer incentives to bring businesses in line with their calculated allotment.

The final, more troublesome measure, is government must rethink immigration policy. We have reached a saturation point, wherein if we are serious about curbing demand, population is the key variable. Pouring more and more people into a fixed resource is bad math by any measure. We should look at capabilities first and use this figure as deciding factor on what we do about population. I realize this is controversial, especially for progressives, but the current path is a recipe for continued failures- no question.

Someone needs to make some unpopular choices and lead. Reality demands it, and patchwork solutions don't cut it.

1 comment:

Mark Dowling said...

Steve V

Precisely. The problem with so much of the power debate, whether you have McGuinty saying "more power" or Miller saying "make better use of existing power" is not just comsumption/user but total users.

Ontario is growing by what, 100k p.a. in migration alone? And most of those people (like me) are going to Toronto (although for me that's just where my wife's from) and there's no incentives for migrants (Canadian or foreign) to settle elsewhere where the local power grid is less stressed.