The energy forecast was fair in the 1950s, 60s and 70s when energy costs were low and declining. Now the clouds are rolling in and Canadian society is stumbling in its efforts to transition to renewable energy. A constructive national conversation is critical to our ability to navigate looming climate and energy transition challenges. Media corporations have a responsibility to contribute to that conversation.
Three things are guaranteed this century.
There are numerous examples of problems in Canada and around the world growing beyond the capacity of governments to deal with them.
- Large climate changes such as more powerful and frequent storms and severe droughts will severely stress human societies
- Fossil fuels will cease to be our primary energy source
- The real cost of energy will continue to rise
We must get off fossil fuels.
- We can do it ourselves within 35 years in order to reduce the impacts of climate change on civilization
- It will be done for us in 50 – 80 years when supplies of fossil fuels are substantially gone.
All of these considerations were absent in coverage of Ontario electricity costs. Instead, the media merely stoked discontent about the difficulty of change. Certainly no one embraces higher costs or lower availability of any critical commodity. But the pain involved in the transition to renewable energy must not be amplified to the point of bringing necessary change to a halt. The media are not handling electricity prices in a responsible manner because anything that conflicts with their mantra of endless growth is torn apart
An egregious example of destructive journalism
Global News carried the story of one consumer who was being financially crippled by rising electricity rates. She illustrated this with a hydro bill for $954 for April. Her bill for March was $3662. Surely this should have been a flashing red light to the Global News team. The consumer averaged 5kWhr every hour of every day in April – a huge amount of power for a home. March usage would have been 4 times higher.
- No climate change or energy trend context was presented.
- The journalist didn’t ask what this large amount of energy was being used for.
- The journalist didn’t ask what conservation methods had been employed.
- The reports highlighted a real problem but offered no constructive options just condemned the entire pricing process.
Amplifying a personal crisis before the camera was clearly more important than presenting the whole story with its comprehensive facts in a constructive manner.
The end result was a takedown of the renewable energy strategy and we are left with:
- The move to renewables slows, conservation incentives are eliminated and energy costs are subsidized by 25% by the tax payer. This is exactly the worst outcome.
- Young Canadians will have to deal with the costs of reducing consumption and transitioning to renewables in a much shorter time frame in the future.
Total Electricity Supply and Costs
** GA is the Global Adjustment essentially levels the cost of various sources with subsidies to equalize the cost to the end user. It also includes political financing of gas plant relocation and conservation programs.
Infrastructure costs have been ignored by successive governments but energy systems must be maintained and updated. This is expensive. The penalty for failure to maintain a power grid has come into sharp focus with the extreme events in Puerto Rico.
What we are left with is a twisted energy strategy. A clear direction to replace non-renewable fossil fuels with renewables combined with large scale conservation measures has been tarred and feathered.
Superficial and sensational reporting makes it impossible to develop forward looking national policy. Witness the level of political “debate” in our legislatures.
Despite the increases in the real costs of energy we have seen in the past 20 years, history will show that we are still in the golden era of energy availability. In this fair weather, nothing should distract us from using this relatively cheap and abundant energy to prepare for a very much more challenging future. We need to take climate change seriously and understand its broad impacts. Corporate media coverage, rather than masking the problem, must be a critical part of the solution.
Endless growth and subsidized consumption are not the path to sustainable progress.