Read this before you complain about Ontario’s Cap-and-Trade

Frank Ross with Grid Alternatives, (left) works with youth from The Rising Sun Energy Center job training program as they install solar panels on the roof of a home in Richmond, Calif.

A typical objection from the backers of fossil fuels  (especially those one-percenters profiting from those same fuels) is that renewables are costly and are going to unfairly penalize the poor. They conveniently forget that fossil fuels have been around for a long time and in that time, not much has changed for the poor—certainly not some great humanitarian movement from that one percent. Nowhere is this more evident than in many African countries where poverty areas receive absolutely no service from electrical grids.

However, we don’t have to go to Africa to see this. CBC news pointed out that Betha Dortch and her family in one of the poorest areas of LA had a tough choice on hot days—“stay cool or eat.” If they used the air conditioner, they couldn’t afford groceries.

A real solution

Guess what? A state-funded program that gets its money from California’s cap-and-trade program provided free solar panels for her bungalow. This program applies to anyone who lives in a neighborhood that is designated as disadvantaged. The homeowner is expected to make a small contribution such as feeding the installation crews, but that’s all.

The cap-and-trade program taxes the carbon sources and provides funds so the poor can cope with their energy costs and contribute to mitigating climate change. Otherwise, it’s possible that the poor could be the only ones supporting the grid after all the well-to-do have installed solar panels.

What can Ontario learn?

CBC reported on this program yesterday, more than two years after its inception. Will this information help build support for the New-Year’s rollout for Ontario’s cap-and-trade program? The Ontario government must be sincerely hoping that this program will succeed after the mixed reviews for the Green Energy Act (GEA).

The GEA was planned to reward renewable energy rather than force non-renewables to include environmental and social costs in their pricing. Unfortunately, in spite of some significant successes (coal phase-out, over 4,000 megawatts of wind and solar energy, and thousands of green jobs) the GEA ignored warnings about some of its weaknesses from the German originator and ended up with results that are a cautionary tale for green-minded activists.

Can Ontario redeem its green programs?

I hope that Ontario learns from its own history, but also examines the positive results for California. The government must be absolutely transparent about the costs for cap-and-trade and must ensure that all program’s income goes to renewables and related programs. The citizens of Ontario will not accept any less and any indication that funds from the program are entering the general revenue stream will be suicidal for the Liberals who are already on life support.

The Union of Concerned Scientists  has proposed a list of economic benefits from cap-in-trade programs. The Liberal government must seriously consider these possible benefits and consider realistic steps that could benefit the people of Ontario and establish successes for their green programs.

  • Use rebates to low-income households to offset higher energy prices.
  • Provide assistance to fossil-fuel workers and dependent communities to transition through job training and investments.
  • Invest in renewable energy.
  • Cut other taxes.
  • Reduce the deficit.
  • Invest in “climate resilient” infrastructure.

Ontario can still turn this around, but these steps are absolutely essential. Premier Wynne show us what you are going to do with the revenue.

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