Monday, November 14, 2016

The Future is Clean & Electric - No Need to Expand Ontario's Natural Gas Delivery System

The following was submitted as a Letter to the Editor of the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal.  It was published on Sunday, November 20th, online as: "Don't expand reach of natural gas."


Re: “Natural gas: most important investment in rural Ontario,” letter to the Editor of the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal, from Neil Currie, General Manager, Ontario Federation of Agriculture; November 12, 2016.

For Canada to meet international commitments made in Paris in 2015 - to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and hold global warming at between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius – there must be a concerted effort to curb the use of all fossil energy.  In this new reality, there is no case that can be made for expanding the use of fossil fuels in preference to relatively clean electrical energy.  Ontario has invested heavily in expensive but clean nuclear power.  Recently, Ontario inked a deal with the Province of Quebec to import clean hydro-electricity.  With Ontario’s on-going investments in the renewable energy sector, and with the closure of coal-fired electrical generation plants, our province has been a leader in clean electricity.  However, more work needs to be done if Ontario is going to continue to do its part to help reduce emissions from dirty fossil fuels.

Real climate champions don’t build fossil fuel pipelines.  That’s the message being received by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Kathleen Wynne.  While fossil energy will continue to have a role to play in Ontario’s energy mix in coming decades, it must be one of decreasing importance over time.  Building new pipeline capacity for an expanded natural gas delivery system – one which is intended not just to compete with clean electrical energy, but in some cases to replace it – is just not in the cards. Those concerned about the climate crisis as I am sincerely hope that our leaders understand the new reality which Canadians find ourselves in.

While the price of natural gas may be low in comparison to electricity at the moment, keep in mind that it is artificially so thanks to the real costs of carbon pollution never having been included in the price tag.  In part, Ontario’s Cap & Trade program, which will put a price on carbon pollution, will begin to incorporate a small part of these costs – costs which are currently being paid for by taxpayers rather than by polluters.  When the price of carbon pollution rises to $50 a tonne, natural gas will look a lot less attractive as an inexpensive energy source.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture is right to be concerned regarding rising energy prices experienced by all Ontarians – and especially by those living in rural areas.  However, in light of Canada’s climate change commitments – and indeed because of the very real crisis which climate change poses to our health and the well-being of our economy – the solution can’t be to travel back in time to the previous century and build more extensive fossil energy infrastructure which will only ultimately exacerbate the problem of climate change.  Clean, renewable, local electrical energy is the choice for the future – and it’s the only choice that our governments should be considering investing our hard-earned tax money in.

(opinions expressed in this blogpost are my own and should not be considered consistent with the policies and/or positions of the Green Parties of Canada and Ontario)

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