The March of Large Stupid Ideas

The coverage of Ontario’ s energy policy in the Post today by the incomparable Ross McKitrick leads me to reflect upon the invincibility of stupidity.

Essentially, the government of Ontario has pursued an energy policy predicated on reducing dependence on fossil fuels, substituting more expensive and unreliable wind power for coal and natural gas, and paying for the lot by raising prices. Who benefits? Small groups of investors in wind farms, close to the regime. Sound like Venezuela? Who loses? Everyone but the small groups of investors in wind farms. McKitrick predicts that Ontario could price itself out of significant manufacturing and processing jobs because of higher electricity prices.

Which leads me too stupidity. The premier of the province, Dalton McGuinty, is one of the most pedestrian dullards to have ever led a Canadian province. He became convinced of this Large Stupid Idea on the basis, one supposes, of the general Opinion climate created by environmental catastrophism ceaselessly propagated in the media. Desiring to Do Something in that earnest stupid way of his, he gutted normal regulatory oversight, common sense, and economic rationality in favour of doing something for future generations, such as loading them with debt and higher prices in the name of being environmentally friendly.

The Germans have an expression for it:

Gegen Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.

Against stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain.

It follows with ineluctable necessity that you cannot make people richer by raising their input costs for so basic a commodity as electrical energy. As McKitrick observes of the Ontario government’s response to his study:

This response is completely inadequate. Ontario, having already lost a quarter of a million manufacturing jobs in the past decade, is throwing away its longstanding competitive advantage in electricity prices for the sake of minuscule environmental benefits that could have been achieved in other ways at a fraction of the cost. Our information about the air pollution consequences of various energy strategies are not pulled out of thin air; we use the same data the government itself uses.

More to the point, the Minister’s (Bob Chiarelli)  response is disconnected from reality. Ontario has always used coal for at least some of its electricity. So do many Canadian provinces, most U.S. states, most of Europe, China and all the other jurisdictions our exporters compete against. Even Germany, which Ontario claims to be copying in its green energy strategy, opened two new coal-fired power plants last year, will open six more this year, and plans six more after that. Ontario is ready to price our manufacturing sector out of business based on an ideologically-driven energy strategy at odds with all our major trading partners.

The environmentalist fallacy of green energy and its policy consequences are catastrophic and they go on and on and on and on.