April 19, 2012

“Ontario is on track to have the highest electricity prices … in North America”

Scott Stinson explains why Ontario consumers are facing huge price hikes for electricity over the next 18 months:

It’s no secret that Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals have placed a huge bet on growing a green-energy sector by subsidizing the production of renewable energy. Although energy bills have been steadily rising since the party took power in 2003 — the average cost of a kilowatt of electricity was more than 30% higher last year than it was five years ago — the Liberals have somewhat masked this fact by handing a 10% rebate back to consumers with the euphemistically named Clean Energy Benefit, which also happens to utterly contradict the conservation incentive that should be part of a switch to a greener grid.

Electricity costs, though, are set to spike.

“Ontario’s power system is fuelled by consumers to the tune of about $16-billion a year,” says Tom Adams, an energy consultant who has written extensively on electricity and environmental issues. “That number is headed for $23-billion or $24-billion soon, by 2016,” he says in an interview.

[. . .]

Mr. Adams notes that when the Green Energy Act, with its guarantees of above-market rates for wind and solar electricity known as feed-in-tariffs (FIT), was introduced in 2009, the Liberals said electricity costs would only be impacted by about 1% annually. We now know that rates for consumers are rising by 9% a year. “The government says about half of that is due to Green Energy, but if they were being honest it would be more than that,” Mr. Adams says.

The coming increases, meanwhile, which can partly be attributed to locked-in contracts for renewable energy, are also a result of a host of other factors, from new generation capacity being introduced to phase-out costs of existing facilities to new transmission capacity being added to the energy grid.

The (richly deserved) end of the Tory era in Alberta

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:53

Unless all the polls are way off, the election in Alberta will see the eternal rule of the Progressive Conservatives finally come to an end. But as desperate times call for desperate measures, the Tories have unleashed the last of their secret weapons to hold back the Wildrose barbarians — perhaps the most embarrassing political video ever posted. David J. Climenhaga saves you the pain of watching the video:

If you have any doubts left there are only four more sleeps before the end of the Progressive Conservative Era in Alberta, look no further than the video and website called “I never thought I’d vote PC.”

Whether or not the PCs under Alison Redford had anything to do with this vain effort to encourage hip, edgy young people to vote for the clapped out Conservative party in a last-ditch effort to prevent a Wildrose Apocalypse, there could be no surer sign of the imminent demise of the once mighty Tory dynasty.

I mean, really, telling young voters you understand why they’d “rather gouge their eyes out than vote Conservative” in an effort to get them to vote Conservative is just … embarrassing.

[. . .]

After this pathetic excuse for a Tory campaign, the tattered remnants of the Alberta Conservatives have less dignity left than Saddam Hussein when he was hauled out of his hidey-hole in Tikrit by the soldiers of the U.S. Fourth Infantry Division! This little video squib is just the final excruciating evidence before our eyes notice that the moribund Conservatives’ best-before date has passed.

I’m not kidding about the quality of the video — I couldn’t make it past the first minute before feeling too humiliated on behalf of the folks who made it and I had to shut it off. If you want to watch it in all its cringe-inducing glory, David has it embedded on his site.

The Bahrain Formula One: it’s just a car race

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Middle East, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:58

Tim Black writes about the real reasons for protests against the Formula One race in Bahrain:

The way some politicians and commentators are talking, you would think that the fate of Bahrain hinged on whether or not this weekend’s Formula One (F1) grand prix goes ahead. Cancel it, and Bahrain’s repressive monarchs, the Al Khalifa family, will have to face up to the failings of their autocratic reign. But proceed with it and F1 might as well have crushed the Bahraini people’s democratic aspiration itself.

[. . .]

Ecclestone’s assessment of the state of Bahrain is certainly questionable. While life does go on for the 600,000 people of this tiny gulf state, there is little calm beneath the surface. Instead, the conflict between a politically and economically disenfranchised Shia majority and the ruling Sunni monarchy continues to simmer. Saudi troops may have helped Bahrain’s own security forces to quell the most explosive manifestation of this conflict last spring, but the arrests, torture and sometimes killing has continued. In the past fortnight alone, three teenagers were shot dead.

Yet as Panglossian as Ecclestone’s view of Bahraini society is, his larger point still stands: ‘it is not [F1’s] business running the country.’ And that’s the problem: too many commentators and politicians are so ‘wrapped up in their own bubble’, to quote Webber, that they believe that the question of whether or not a car race is staged in Bahrain is incredibly important; it is their business running the country. The grand prix is no longer just a car race: it has become a vehicle for exhibiting one’s moral credentials.

[. . .]

This seems to be the prevailing rationale behind the calls to cancel the grand prix: it is all about showing disapproval, striking a moral pose. Bahrain, a country increasingly seen, thanks to the press offices of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as a photo-essay in state brutality, is little more than a convenient background against which to act righteous. Of course, the calls for F1 to boycott the Bahrain grand prix are not recognised for their essential vainglory; they are presented as compassionate. For the advocates of a Bahrain boycott, those willing for the grand prix to go ahead are the callous, self-interested ones. By staging the grand prix, they are tacitly approving of, and legitimating, the rule of the Al Khalifa family.

But who does this disapproval benefit? Who is this display of moral opprobrium for? It’s certainly not those in whose name the grand prix could be cancelled: the disenfranchised majority in Bahrain. After all, if the grand prix does go ahead, it won’t legitimate or validate the regime in their eyes. For those indulging in running-street battles, for those with no political freedom, for those who experience life under the al-Khalifa autocracy on a daily basis, the presence or absence of F1 will make little or no difference. Their lives will still be marked by a ruthlessly enforced unfreedom.

The Limits to Growth scorecard, 40 years on

Filed under: Books, Economics, Environment, History, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:00

Ronald Bailey tots up the hits and misses from that 1972 dystopia manual, The Limits to Growth:

Industrial development: World GDP stood in real 2010 dollars at about $19 trillion in 1972 and has tripled to $57 trillion today. Average per capita incomes rose in real dollars from $5,000 to $8,100 today. Just to explore how incomes might evolve between 1972 and 2000, the researchers simply extrapolated the current growth, investment, and population growth rates to calculate GDP per capita for 10 large countries. They stressed these were not “predictions” but added that if one disagreed then one was obligated to specify which factors changed, when and why. A comparison of their extrapolations with actual GDP per capita (in 2010 dollars) finds U.S. GDP per capita $56,000 versus actual $44,000; Japan’s per capita GDP was projected to be $120,000 versus actual $46,000; the now defunct USSR would be $33,000 versus Russia’s $2,200; and China’s per capita income was supposed to grow to $500, but was instead $1,200.

Population: The Limits researchers noted, “Unless there is a sharp rise in mortality, which mankind will strive mightily to avoid, we can look forward to a world population of around 7 billion persons in 30 more years.” In addition, they suggested that in 60 years there would be “four people in the world for everyone living today.” In fact, average global life expectancy rose from 60 to nearly 70 years. On the other hand, the global fertility rate (the average number of children a woman has during her lifetime) fell from about 6 per woman in 1970 to 2.8 today and continues to fall.

[. . .]

Food supplies: According to the data from the Food and Agriculture Organization, global food production has more than tripled since 1961, while world population has increased from 3 billion to 7 billion. This means that per capita food has increased by more than a third. The latest figures from the United Nations show that as world population increased by a bit over 10 percent between 2000 and 2009, global food production rose by 21 percent.

[. . .]

Nonrenewable resources: Probably the most notorious projections from the MIT computer model involved the future of nonrenewable resources. The researchers warned: “Given present resource consumption rates and the projected increase in these rates, the great majority of currently nonrenewable resources will be extremely expensive 100 years from now.” To emphasize the point they pointed out that “those resources with the shortest static reserve indices have already begun to increase.” For example, they noted that the price of mercury had increased 500 percent in the last 20 years and the price of lead was up 300 percent over the past 30 years. The advent of the “oil crises” of the 1970s lent some credibility to these projections.

To highlight how dire the situation with nonrenewable resources was, the MIT researchers calculated how quickly exponential consumption could deplete known reserves of various minerals and fossil fuels. Even if global consumption rates didn’t increase at all, the MIT modelers calculated 40 years ago that known world copper reserves would be entirely depleted in 36 years, lead in 26 years, mercury in 13 years, natural gas in 38 years, petroleum in 31 years, silver in 16 years, tin in 17 years, tungsten in 40 years, and zinc in 23 years. In other words, most of these nonrenewable resources would be entirely used up before the end of the 20th century.

[. . .]

Environment: In most of the Limits model runs, the ultimate factor that does humanity in is pollution. In their model pollution directly increases human death rates and also dramatically reduces food production. In fact, as the world economy has grown, global average life expectancy has increased from 52 years in 1960 to 70 years now. It must be acknowledged that globally, pollution from industrial and agricultural production continues to rise. But the model assumed that pollution would increase at exponential rates. However, many pollution trends have not increased exponentially in advanced countries.

Consider that since 1970, the U.S. economy has grown by 200 percent, yet the levels of air pollutants regulated by the federal government have fallen by nearly 60 percent. For example, in both the U.S. and the European Union sulfur dioxide emissions have dropped by nearly 70 percent since 1990. Recent data suggests that sulfur dioxide emissions even from rapidly industrializing China peaked in 2006 and have begun declining. Earlier studies cite evidence for a pollution turning point income threshold (purchasing power parity) of around $10,000 for demands to reduce this form of air pollution.

Pentagon sleuths foil Anglo-Canadian military plan

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Military, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:09

The story of Ensign Chuck Hord’s memorial portrait in the Pentagon, with both British and Canadian military angles:

In a Pentagon hallway hung an austere portrait of a Navy man lost at sea in 1908, with his brass buttons, blue-knit uniform and what looks like meticulously blow-dried hair.

Wait. Blow-dried hair?

The portrait of “Ensign Chuck Hord,” framed in the heavy gilt typical of government offices, may be the greatest — or perhaps only — prank in Pentagon art history. “Chuck Hord” can’t be found in Navy records of the day. It isn’t even a real painting. The textured, 30-year-old photo is actually of Capt. Eldridge Hord III, 53 years old, known to friends as “Tuck,” a military retiree with a beer belly and graying hair who lives in Burke, Va.

[. . .]

Capt. Hord at the time was director of the Multinational Interagency division, a new Pentagon office designed to coordinate military logistics between the U.S. and its closest allies.

Office colleagues say Capt. Hord developed close bonds with his British, Canadian and Australian counterparts. Their office boasted its own beer fridge.

Several of Capt. Hord’s work colleagues attended the 2004 party, including a British captain who smuggled the portrait into his car and put it on display at the office. Capt. Hord, amused, called it an act of “buffoonery.”

[. . .]

Back on the wall in the office, visitors often asked who it depicted. “They all looked at it and said, ‘Man, what year was that? It looks like the 1800s,'” said Canadian Lt. Col. Brook Bangsboll.

That was the light-bulb moment. On one of his last days at the Pentagon, Lt. Col. Bangsboll went to a jewelry shop to have a brass plaque engraved, egged on by colleagues and co-conspirators. “We didn’t know what to do so we said, ‘Let’s just lose him at sea,'” Lt. Col. Bangsboll said. “It makes it interesting and kind of mysterious.”

He kept the circumstances of the ensign’s death vague because he thought some nosy Navy historian would spot the ruse if the plaque cited a specific battle.

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