The Canadian government has produced yet another thingy that claims to be a plan to reach some virtuous climate goal. But it is important to realize that despite the soporifically plausible prose, documents like these draft “Clean Electricity Regulations” are not based on probabilities known to be reasonable through real-world experience or actions of a sort the state has shown an aptitude for performing. It is instead the soothing background noise of a mental universe where words take the place of deeds and doubt is equated with sabotage. In this world, by no means limited to Canadian governments or to the issue of climate, practitioners flourish by polishing a self-deceptive and ultimately useless talent for incorporating an endless series of optimistic assumptions untethered to real-world experience into a flow of soothingly vacuous rhetoric and PowerPoint slides that hides from you, and much of your audience, that none of the things you describe are going to happen, spontaneously or as the result of diligent efforts you also show very little sign of knowing how to undertake.
Everything is fishy about this plan. Even the fact that the regulations were released in draft form as part of supposed public consultations that will not lead to any meaningful change in the government’s approach. Indeed, they probably can’t, as the notice insists under “Past engagements” that “Environment and Climate Change Canada engaged extensively with industry, utilities, experts, provinces and territories, Indigenous organizations, and non-governmental organizations to design the CER.”
So unless those consultations were inept, insincere or both, the regulations already incorporate the wisdom of “experts”, wise aboriginal elders, activists, and two layers of politicians and bureaucrats. What’s left to say?
Especially since the announcement also invites us to “Learn more about the Government of Canada’s broader electrification strategy and how we’re powering our future with clean electricity” so the fix is pretty much in. Aka they are convinced they already figured everything out, being incredibly wise and smart as the stunning success of their other policies proves, including on climate with regard, say, to GHG emissions where they have missed every target ever set in the history of Canada, and of course their two-billion-tree scheme in which it has proven difficult for them to find trees.
Nevertheless they know exactly how to triple electric power generation within 12 years. So they will let a few rubes vent, while privately scoffing and checking their social media feeds, then go ahead with their marvellous plan.
Evidently they know all and see all. Environment Minister Guilbeault declared breezily that “Keeping electricity rates affordable across the country is at the core of this vision so there are only minimal impacts felt over a decade from now” and also told reporters he and his cabinet colleagues were giving provinces “a lot of time to prepare”. For what is in these guidelines and will still be there after the cosmetic consultations.
Even the related “Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement” did admit that four provinces that rely on coal and natural gas for electricity will face higher prices, projecting that by 2040 the cost per kilowatt-hour would go up 3.9 cents for households in Nova Scotia, 1.2 in Alberta, 0.9 in Saskatchewan and 0.4 in New Brunswick. You get the idea? All so precise, plausible and harmless… until you realize that nobody on this planet could have told you back in 2006 what the price of power would have been in any of them, or anywhere else.
Likewise, the National Post reports:
“Environment and Climate Change Canada officials said in a technical briefing that the national average household energy bill would increase by between $35 and $61 per year when the regulations are adopted by 2040, although the government says that only two per cent of this increase would be the result of the regulations. It also projects that the increase would be offset by savings when consumers reduce their dependency on fossil fuels, for instance the savings from the cheaper cost of recharging an electric vehicle (EV) compared to filling up with gasoline.”
Riiiight. This won’t hurt a bit. But if these people really knew how to forecast the cost of recharging an EV in 2040, they wouldn’t be working for the government, they’d be making a killing in futures markets. It is their skill at making a series of optimistic, boss-pleasing wild guesses sound like sober analysis that butters their bread, so it’s what they do. (Another memo said it would cost more but didn’t put any numbers on it, nice work if you can get it.) And Guilbeault himself does not exactly have a proven track record in private business, having been an activist, government advisor and consultant (often simultaneously, naturally) all his adult life before entering politics. He talks as though he knows what goes on in the real economy. But he has never been there.
Of course the analysis statement also projected “significant new investment” in power generation in each province. And claimed to know how much there would be, how efficient it would be and all the knock-on costs. Right down to $14.9 billion in new costs even in Ontario by 2050. Not $15 billion. Not $15.1. $14.9. Twenty-seven years from now. And you know that how?
Another report, by the Public Policy Forum, took a different view, noting that “Electricity demand is forecast to double by 2050. To meet it, supply will have to grow an astounding two to three times today’s volume.” It offered the usual collectivist rhetoric, such as “Canada is going all in on electricity” as though it were not, primarily, the obsession of a party with a minority in Parliament but a supine and even further-left partner. And while it burbled on in consultant-speak, turning wild assumptions into tame probabilities across the board, it did concede that:
“The Conference Board of Canada has put the cost of the clean electricity transformation before us at $1.7 trillion, nearly the size of the entire Canadian economy in 2023. Université de Montreal’s Canada Energy Outlook report estimates the price tag at $1.1 trillion, although that did not include such infrastructure expenses as charging stations.”
And then, retreating to a familiar castle in the air, it proclaimed that “Incredibly for the national Project of the Century, there is very little economic modelling publicly available.”
Economic modelling being almost as reliable in predicting as climate modelling, we won’t hold our breath. But it’s going to cost a fortune, depends on unproven technologies, lacks genuine public buy-in especially in Western Canada, and will only get worse as the various assumptions unravel. As anyone who reads government budgets for a living knows will happen even though they generally make their modeling publicly available. So again, if they were a bit better at making their own finances work out, we’d be more willing to believe their blithe assurances that ours will... despite their diligent efforts to raise the cost of the fuel we have, to force us to use the fuel they wish we had.