Google kills birds

“the real charlatans are businesses that use climate change as a pretext for corporate welfare…”

Here is an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal, on the effect of subsidizing “renewable” power sources such as wind and solar, and how good intentions are being kidnapped by corporate greed. The result? No benefit to the environment, massive “profits” to huge corporations, and actual damage to wildlife and landscapes.

This is what happens, Michael Trebilcock wrote in Dirty Business, when “governments pick winners and losers.”

An excerpt from the WSJ piece follows:

Our headline has the virtue of being true—as we will explain—unlikeGoogle executive chairman Eric Schmidt ‘s assertion this week that people who oppose government subsidies for green energy are liars. The real charlatans are businesses like Google that use climate change as a pretext for corporate welfare. …

Consider Google’s pledge to fund over $1.5 billion in non fossil-fuel energy. Yet Google derives most of its energy from non-renewables on the grid because it says that “while our data centers operate 24/7, most renewable energy sources don’t.” Data centers consume a lot of power, and renewables can cost three times as much as fossil fuels. It’s no coincidence that Google’s server in Iowa is located near one of the cheapest sources of coal-fired power in the Midwest.

Also not a coincidence is that nearly all of Google’s solar and wind farms are located in states with renewable-energy mandates, which create opportunities for politically mediated profit-making. For instance, California requires that renewables make up a third of electricity by 2020. Google has invested about $600 million in California’s solar plants such as the Ivanpah system in California’s Mojave Desert. Ivanpah is the world’s largest solar-thermal project, which is the target of environmentalists.

Dozens of federally protected desert tortoises have been displaced or killed. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that Ivanpah’s “power towers”—which burn natural gas—incinerate about 28,000 birds annually. The death toll is disputed by others, but Google has made taxpayers complicit in its avian-cide. The $2.2 billion bird fryer was funded with a $1.6 billion federal loan, which Google and its business partners plan to repay by applying for a federal grant.

The do-no-evil company has invested $157 million in a wind farm in California’s Tehachapi Mountains, which has killed thousands of birds including federally protected golden eagles. Google’s renewable portfolio includes a $275 million investment in two wind farms in Texas that are partly responsible for the construction of $7 billion in new transmission lines. The Texas Public Utility Commission estimates the lines will cost ratepayers on average $72 per year. Google has about $60 billion in cash and short-term investments sitting on its balance sheet.

Most of Google’s renewable investments qualify for a federal investment tax credit that covers 30% of the cost. Its $450 million investment in rooftop solar-systems also benefits from state incentives such as “net-metering” laws. This hidden subsidy compensates ratepayers for power they remit to the grid at the retail rate, which can be three times as much as the wholesale price of electricity. Net-metering allows solar companies to charge higher rates to homeowners who lease their panels, and thus for investors like Google to reap larger profits. …

The point is that Google behaves like all other self-interested businesses—which also means that it bends to the political winds. Unions and progressive groups have been bullying corporations for years to abandon ALEC so the left has less political and intellectual opposition in the 50 state capitals. Earlier this month they wrote to Google denouncing ALEC’s “extreme views,” which “include denying climate change.”

Perhaps Google figured it could gain political benefit by joining the liberal smear campaign against ALEC. But Mr. Schmidt shouldn’t disguise his company’s mercenary motives behind false and trendy appeals to green political virtue.


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Dirty Business: what to remember in the election campaign

From all-candidates’ meetings to the response from citizens when canvassers go door-to-door, and columns and letters in the media, one of the key concerns in the Ontario election is energy—what has happened in how the government managed power generation in Ontario over the last 10 plus years, and specifically, the reasons behind the government’s rush to wind power.

Former CEO of the Ontario Power Authority Jan Carr wrote recently in The Financial Post that the “power industry was aghast” at the government’s awarding of the sole source power generation contract to Samsung, as it was a company, Carr said, with “no demonstrated expertise in either wind or solar” and the contract was awarded without competition. To this day, Carr wrote, the Samsung contract stands as an example of government procurement at its absolute worst.

So, what else went on? (Is going on…)

For one thing, as the Auditor-General said in his report in 2011, the government never did a cost-benefit analysis of its use of renewable sources of power generation—and it’s sure not going to do one now. Instead, it used devices like the “Clean Air Benefit” to hide the expenses of its policies. And the policy is now costing everyone: electricity bills are rising dramatically, causing problems for consumers and business alike.

The government maintains the fiction that people were dying from pollution from the use of coal plants to produce power, when in fact Ontario’s air quality has improved steadily, and what remains is due to transportation, and pollution from south of the border. (It also said that closing the coalpower plants would save $4.4 billion a year in health care costs, begging the question of where that money is now.)

The government maintains the fiction that wind power is a less expensive, cleaner form of power generation, when the truth is, there are many costs to large-scale wind power that have been hidden, such as the need for backup power generation because wind power is intermittent, and produced out-of-phase with demand, and the fact that some producers are now being paid not to produce power (struggling little firms like Enbridge, TransAlta, Brookfield, and GDF-Suez), which is costing ratepayers in Ontario millions.

The government maintains the fiction that there are no health problems resulting from the noise and vibration (infrasound, low frequency noise) produced by the wind power generators, despite the precautionary principle in public health of taking no action if there is any question of harm to health, and hundreds upon hundreds of complaints of excessive noise. The government’s own lawyer, speaking at the Ostrander Point appeal in January, actually told the court that, “a few people may get headaches” and a few animals and birds may be killed, but that wind power was such an important public infrastructure that these things don’t matter.

The government maintains the fiction that property values are not affected when communities are invaded and transformed by huge power projects, in spite of numerous studies by practitioners of real property valuation (Lansink, Luxemburger) that show significant property value loss. Even the study done by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation or MPAC, which professed to show no loss in assessed values, actually showed a 25 percent loss, in its deliberately selected data.

Several of the writers featured in Dirty Business detailed all these concerns:

Michael Trebilcock, professor of Law and Economics, University of Toronto: “This combination of irresponsibility and venality has produced a lethal brew of policies.”

Ross McKitrick, professor of economics, University of Guelph: “If the goal [for the Green Energy Act] was to promote industry and create jobs, it is guaranteed to fail.”

Tom Adams, energy analyst: “Urban Ontario, including city-bound journalists, are largely unaware of the corrosive effects some wind developments are having on communities, neighbourhoods, even families. This is expropriation without compensation.”

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Kathleen Wynne’s “safe hands”

It’s a big weekend for the ruling Liberal Party in Ontario, with their convention in–where else?–Toronto. They are making sure they are election ready, as are the other parties. Kathleen yesterday revealed her approach: these are difficult times for Ontario, she says, and its not time for new ideas…it’s time for “safe hands” to guide us through.


Dirty Business documents the genesis of the Green Energy Act which was the foundation of the terrible situation Ontario finds itself in now: power bills causing poverty among citizens, electricity bills driving the manufacturers who remain out of the province, and a bizarre situation of surplus power produced at times out of phase with demand, so it must be exported at bargain-basement prices.

Aren’t you mad yet?

Get your copy of Dirty Business, see how it all started, and be informed on the energy situation in Ontario.

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The indefensible Green Energy Act

It’s been a busy week in Ontario for power issues. The Green Energy Act came under fire at Queen’s Park as the government tried to amend legislation to fix the illegal parts related to domestic content (which, it turns out, they know was illegal back in 2010 but did it anyway).Best quote of the day: PC Energy Critic Lisa MacLeod said that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne would be named Business Woman of the year…in Massena NY, which benefits from Ontario’s bargain-basement sell-off of power surplus to our needs, to neighbouring states.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli admitted that the province is spending over $1 B a year or $22 B over the next 20 years on wind power.

To celebrate, we’re making you a special offer on the book that explains how all this got started: Dirty Business. Until March 22, we’re offering you a second copy of Dirty Business for just $2.20 when you buy one at the regular price of $8.99, plus shipping. That means, your second copy is practically free.

And no, it’s not McGuinty-nomics…we mean it!

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Michael Trebilcock called it: hydro bills will go up

As people all over Ontario open their first electricity bills of 2014 (which don’t even reflect the increase effective January 1st) and are shocked to see a significant increase in the amount added to the amount owing, we recall the words of Michael Trebilcock in Dirty Business.

No comprehensive and professional analysis of the feasibility of the proposed amounts of renewable energy has been done to highlight potentially more cost-effective alternatives to renewables, such as further developing Ontario’s hydro resources, importing clean electricity from other jurisdictions, using “clean” coal or a more aggressive conservation policy. Evidence-based policy making by expert agencies has been replaced by government, by political expediency or personal hubris.

And now here we are: increases galore, with as much as 42% forecast for the next five years (Parker Gallant, Vic Fedeli and others think it will be much higher), businesses crying foul, energy poverty beginning to be seen among our more vulnerable populations, community organizations like churches and rinks saying they cannot continue, and citizens are saying, why can’t we buy cheap hydro from Quebec?

Why indeed.

What else is the foundation for Ontario’s current and very political energy situation? Ruthless marketing by the global wind power lobby? The failure of Ontario’s agencies to regulate prices of electricity? The complete absence of any business plan whatsoever?

Get your copy of Dirty Business and find out!

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Power in Ontario: wind power costing hundreds of millions

Contributing Editor Parker Gallant was interviewed this week on Ottawa radio station CFRA by journalist Rob Snow, and commented on recent moves by the Ontario government to pay wind power generators, even though their power is not needed.

Ontario continues to process applications for yet more wind power projects, and has approved huge projects on the average of one a week through this summer.

As Parker commented in one of his chapters in Dirty Business, Ontario’s tourism slogan is, “There’s no place like this!” Never more true than now, as Ontario shakes its head in sadness and disbelief.

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CBC Radio 1: paying operators to keep their wind turbines off

Dirty Business: the book:

Here is the interview with Bob Chiarelli on CBC’s As it Happens, on the recent decision to pay for curtailed production of wind power. You will be aghast.

Originally posted on Wind Turbine Locations, Maps, Lawsuits, Setbacks:

You may still be able to listen to the interview here: Sep 12 (Part 3)

ONTARIO WINDFARMS    Duration: 00:07:03

It’s every lazy employee’s dream: getting paid to not do work.

It may sound far-fetched, but this week, the Ontario government will start paying wind-farm operators to not produce energy, and to keep their wind turbines off. And the province says that this plan will actually save Ontarians money, in the long run.

To explain how that’s possible, we reached Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli in Toronto.

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