GOLDSTEIN: Climate protesters actually demanding global blackouts

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Let’s examine how Canada’s most successful project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would never have happened if the climate protesters marching on the streets at the UN climate summit in Glasgow had their way.

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Between 2003 and 2014, the Liberal government of Ontario under premier Dalton McGuinty eliminated the use of coal to produce 25% of its electricity.

As the Liberals noted, this was single largest reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in North America at the time.

It made the Ontario government the first jurisdiction in North America to eliminate coal-fired electricity.

It was the primary reason Ontario achieved its 2014 emissions reduction target of 6% below 1990 levels, as well as helping to reduce smog days in the province.

And none of it would have happened if we had listened to environmental protesters and ill-informed politicians.

Here’s why.

While the McGuinty government attributed its environmental success story largely to its disastrous and ruinously expensive program of developing wind and solar power, those were actually bit players in eliminating coal-fired electricity because neither can provide base load power to the electricity grid on demand.

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What really eliminated the use of coal was nuclear power, natural gas and hydro power.

Nuclear and hydro power do not emit greenhouse gases.

Natural gas — ironically used in Ontario to back up unreliable wind and solar power — is the cleanest burning fossil fuel.

And all three are under relentless attack by environmental protesters and know-nothing politicians.

Even the UN says nuclear power is a key component to achieving net zero emissions by 2050. But in Canada, the NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Green party, along with Greenpeace and other environmental groups, oppose nuclear energy.

That includes not just nuclear power plants but small modular reactors known as SMRS — which the federal government and Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan are considering as one way to reduce emissions.

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In Ontario, politicians sitting on 31 municipal councils have irresponsibly called for eliminating the use of natural gas in the province’s energy mix by 2030.

The province’s Independent Electricity System Operator, which manages the provincial power system in real-time, says this would “lead to blackouts and … increase residential electricity bills by 60%.”

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Even hydro power — long considered the gold standard of clean energy — is now under attack by environmental groups for destroying local ecology, endangering forests and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

Voters in Maine last week rejected by a margin of 59% a plan by Hydro Quebec to build a 233-km transmission line exporting hydro power to New England, which the utility said would eliminate three million metric tonnes of emissions per year.

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But Bradford H. Hager, an earth sciences professor at MIT, wrote in the Bangor Daily News last month that “between 1971 and 2011, Hydro Québec flooded thousands of square miles of forestland, killing the trees that had been removing carbon from the atmosphere, these flooded trees and soil decay releasing substantial CO2 and methane for decades.”

Hydro Quebec insists it will complete the project despite the fact a previous attempt to run the transmission line through New Hampshire was scuttled by local opposition.

In the real world, no form of energy production is without environmental consequences.

The problem is if we cut emissions by abandoning practical solutions such as nuclear and hydro power and natural gas, while relying on intermittent wind and solar power to replace them, what will inevitably happen is global blackouts.

lgoldstein@postmedia.com

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