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New Energy Economy

By Peter Tabuns, MPP
NDP Environment Critic

Good evening,

Thank you for coming out tonight. Your work against Ontarioís nuclear plans is important. Many, many people across Ontario agree with you.

On their behalf, Iíd like to say thanks.

You know, itís a good barometer that there are people like you in Peterborough.

Because Peterborough, as you might know, represents Ontario like nowhere else does. When McDonaldís wants to launch a new food, it tests it here first.

And when Peterborough votes, it votes for winners. Always.

So if Peterborough is opposed to exploring for uranium, thatís music to my ears.

And if giants like McDonaldís listen to you, I think Dalton McGuinty should, too.

Because facing the challenges Ontario faces, we canít afford to be stuck with old-time thinking.

Those challenges are large.

A climate crisis. A loss of good jobs. An oil and gas crunch.

And we canít afford to stay stuck with the old choices.

Coal or nuclear. Nuclear or coal.

There are new choices that let us rise to new challenges.

Like efficiency. Renewable. And good old fashioned hydro.

The really good news is they cost less, too.

So this evening, I want to flip the debate.

Flip it so the question isnít will we keep the lights on by changing the climate, or keep them on with nuclear power...but how we can keep them on, save money and save the climate, too.

What Iíd like to talk about is how.

How can we move to a new energy economy?

What do I mean by that?

Well, first I mean that the emphasis is on new.

That means we donít keep paying money we donít have for the most expensive energy technology there is. Nuclear.

Every time you get a hydro bill, you pay the nuclear debt of the old Ontario hydro. Itís in the billions, too.

Thatís right. We havenít yet paid for the nuclear plants we have. But Dalton McGuinty is so captive that he wants us allóevery farm, business, house, apartment, school and hospitalóto pay $70 billion more for a new electricity system with nuclear at the core.

Others say it could be three times as much.

Itís safe to say, then, that whatever people might think about nuclear safety, thereís no argument on price.

Here in Ontario, we spend around $100 million a day on energy.

How much energy do you think we import into Ontario?

I mean, we have energy in Ontario. We were built on affordable, renewable hydro power. We have Niagara Falls for crying out loud.

A quarter, nope.

Half? Not even close.

Try 90%. Thatís right, 90%. Every day, tens of millions of dollars go straight out of Ontarioís pockets and into someone elseís.

Millions a day that isnít invested in Ontario, in our future. Instead, itís sent to some of the worldís richest places.

Saudi Arabia. Texas. Alberta.

And in return, what do we get? Smog that kills thousands. Climate change. And fewer jobsÖpartly, because Albertaís oil is driving the Canadian dollar up. And costing Ontario jobs.

But until we change our thinking, this cycle will continue.

Nuclear advocates say that the smog and climate change is why their power is needed.

Letís say theyíre right. We urgently need emission-free power.

Say, wind power. Using solar power. Geo-thermal power. Small-scale, renewable hydro power. Or simply using less energy to begin with.

They all create no emissions.

So why are we stuck in the false choice between coal and nuclear? When instead, we could ask whatís the most job bang for our buck?

Iíd like to propose ways to spend much less than we will on nuclear, and still meet Ontarioís energy needs. While creating jobs. Many right here.

Itís a new energy economy. And it doesnít rely on massive power plants somewhere. It relies on generating power, well, everywhere.

And it begins with using less energy, period.

Thatís just what Manitoba is doing. There, the province gives low-interest loans to homeowners for energy efficiency. People insulate. Get better windows. Put in geo-thermal heat pumps.

Then, they pay back the loan on their hydro bill. They use less energy, so the bill doesnít go up. And when the workís paid off, the savings are theirs. Forever.

Now, imagine what that would do for construction workers and trades people. How it would help families make ends meet.

Nuclear advocates say we need to spend billions, extract uranium, and find a way to deal with toxic waste because we need all the power we use today.

Iíd say we can have the same standard of living, lower energy bills and lower energy demand by doing what Manitoba does, what Europe doesÖand embrace efficiency.

The next question is where to get the power weíll still need.

Remember taxpayers also cover anything above and beyond $75 million in liability if anything ever goes wrong with a nuclear power plant.

Iím not saying it will. Only that if an economic model is based on carrying less than adequate insurance, itís not a good model.

Doesnít work for cabs. Trucks. Restaurants. Airlines. But for the nuclear industry, they couldnít do business if taxpayers didnít cover their risk.

Anyway, the next question is how to generate power we can afford. Here, we should look to economies just like ours.

In Pennsylvania, theyíre using new energy to create new jobs.

Pennsylvania is a lot like Ontario.

Its north is resource-rich. In its case, coal. The south has a struggling manufacturing sector.

But is Pennsylvania doing a Dalton? No. Itís negotiating contracts with wind turbine makers to locate in their state.

But in Pennsylvania, 1,400 people work in wind turbine factories. Another 3,000 will build the parts for solar panels soon.

This is old hat to Denmark, where the wind makes them rich. Back in the 70s, it decided one oil crisis was enough. And tiny Denmark built the wind industry.

Today, it employs 20,000 Danes. They make the blades. They make the towers. And they export billions of dollars worth.

Now, maybe Iím naÔve. But if Ontario can make axles, or cars, or engines, it can make wind turbines.

For Ontarioís economy, itís good news. And the less money that leaves Ontario, the more there is in Ontarioís economy.

Right here in Peterborough people work in the nuclear industry. Those same skilled people could be the ones making tomorrowís wind turbines if Ontario had the commitment to making the transition. One that would employ people in the emerging energy technologies of the 21st century. Not working in an industry that is heading for the sunset. Many argue that there is a nuclear renaissance going on. I predict, setting aside the environmental issues for a moment, that the already emerging factors of delay, cost overruns and potentially safety scares will cut short this renaissance.

Which brings me to Ontarioís electricity scandal.

Iíve covered the price tag of rebuilding it in nuclear style over the next 20 years. Thatís $70 billion.

Now, no matter what you think of nuclear power, letís imagine we put money first into making Ontarioís factories the most energy efficient in the world.

That would protect a lot of jobs. It could do for electricity costs what health care already does. Namely, make Ontario a more attractive place to hire people.

We know it works. Ití works all over Europe. The energy that factories use anyway is turned into steam and electricity that powers surrounding cities.

If today weíre still paying for yesterdayís nuclear power, wouldnít it make sense to prepare for tomorrow? By turning factories not only into employment centres, but into power generating centres, too?

Thereís no silver bullet for Ontarioís manufacturing sector. But making businesses pay less for power comes pretty close.

So, who forgot about protecting our manufacturing sector when he drew up our power plan? Who didnít ask, what can we do to use the best technology that we can get in the 21st century to make power and keep jobs in Ontario.

The genius is Dalton McGuinty.

And thanks to him, Ontario is on track to build one of the most expensive electricity systems anywhere.

Itís like having the best damn typewriter going at the dawn of the computer age.

Spending billions on a fancy new horse buggy just as Henry Ford invents the assembly line.

Or, with your betamax debt still not paid off, borrowing more money to buyÖa VCR.

Itís madness. And itís time the madness of overlooking Ontarioís promise ends.

Because there are energy jobs beyond coal, oil, or nuclear. Jobs like building solar panels.

London already makes them. Why canít Peterborough?

But that kind of change isnít going to come if Ontario goes broke looking for uranium and then spending billions to irradiate it.

We urgently need to turn the page on the old thinking.

And write a new chapter in Ontarioís energy policy.

Because Ontario isnít populated by bad people who reject good choices, but good people with tough choices.

So we need to be imaginative, and build better opportunities and a new energy economy while weíre doing it.

I know that wonít be easy. But know it is harder if we stay trapped in the no-win choice between coal that pollutes so much we canít afford it. And nuclear that costs so much we canít afford it.

We can face the future with a pragmatic, workable position. One that says we are in this economy together. In an environmental crisis together. And can walk and chew gum together, too.

I look forward to working with you in arguing for and then implementing good ideas that work. And I deeply hope Peterboroughís onto something in your concern about nuclear power.

Thank you.