This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
I’ve been invited to speak to a class of journalism students. My presentation this afternoon will be 20 minutes long followed by 40 minutes of discussion. Here are a few ideas I hope to communicate:
GREEN ENERGY POLICIES HAVE CONSEQUENCES
Last January two people aged 76 and 79 were found dead inside their “freezing cold” UK bungalow. The woman, who was wheelchair-bound, was being looked after by her husband. It appears he collapsed in the hallway and, because there was no one to bring her food or water, she then perished in bed.
It’s unclear what role, precisely, the cold played in this couple’s demise, but official UK government statistics say that, in 2009 alone, the death rate among the elderly during the coldest months of the year shot up by 10,000 cases. This is because many of society’s most vulnerable struggle to pay their heating bills. A news article explains:
As fuel bills have soared over the past six years, the number of households in “fuel poverty” – defined as having to spend 10 per cent or more of their income on power and heat – has risen five-fold…
Last year’s unusually cold British winter produced other disturbing news stories – about the young family that burned furniture to keep warm, and about pensioners burning books in their fireplaces because used hardcovers are cheaper than fuel.
Even in the world’s wealthiest countries, therefore, people suffer when energy prices rise. In the UK alone, as many as 7 million households may not be heating their homes adequately because they can’t afford to do so.
This isn’t just a UK problem. Here in Ontario, Canada our hydro rates will have doubled between 2003 and 2011 – and may well double again during the next five years. The poorest among us will experience real hardship as a result of these increases.
A big reason for the price hikes is green energy policies. Governments around the world have been subsidizing wind and solar power projects that aren’t yet ready for primetime. This kind of power costs consumers several times more than power that is generated by traditional sources means.
SO-CALLED GREEN ENERGY HAS ITS OWN PROBLEMS
Have you heard about the school in the UK that has decided to turn off its windmill? The school received a government grant to install the wind turbine and is legally obligated to keep it running for five years. But students have been so distressed by the number of birds that get sliced and diced during recess and lunch hour, that the authorities have shut it down.
And it’s not just birds that are affected. Windmills alter air pressure in a manner that causes the lungs of bats to explode. Noise complaints regarding wind turbines are also increasing. Last year, an Illinois judge ruled that a wind turbine can operate only Monday to Friday between 9 am and 3 pm – after nearby homeowners went to court over the noise.
Some wind turbines don’t work in cold weather. Experts say the kind of small windmills being installed on urban homes actually consume more energy than they produce and therefore amount to counter-productive status symbols. Other experts say wind is such an unreliable source of power it really should not be relied on.
CONNECT THE DOTS
It is now reasonable, therefore, to pose the following questions: