When Alberta’s Environment Minister Shannon Phillips proudly proclaimed the province was still standing on the second day after the carbon tax took effect, she probably thought she was exuding confidence.
In poker, that’s the “tell” – the sign something is amiss.
Make no mistake about it, the NDP government of Premier Rachel Notley is gambling – big time.
It’s betting that the carbon tax is going to be something Albertans are going to come to accept because ultimately the money raised is going to be put to good use creating so-called green jobs.
That’s always the promise – jobs. We’ve heard it time and time again. Renewable energy creates good, clean jobs.
The thing is that it never really seems to work that way. Europe’s been at it for more than two decades and unemployment remains stubbornly high.
What the proponents of “green” growth forget is that the value of any project is in the end result.
In other words, the goal ought to be in producing a good or delivering a service that is inexpensive and creates value for the greatest number of consumers.
For example, hand-built cars are labor intensive, but the cars produced are out of the reach of the vast majority of people.
We could employ a veritable army of people shoveling snow, but again the cost would be exorbitant.
So touting green jobs, in and of itself, is meaningless. If the labor costs render the final project uneconomic, it is uneconomic regardless of the number of jobs created.
That is why harnessing fossil fuels created so much prosperity. The amount of energy contained in barrel of oil or a cartload of coal is phenomenal. It was a good investment, no ifs, ands or buts.
The same can’t be said of renewable energy – wind or solar. It is simply too unreliable to be of much use.
Spending capital on building wind turbines and solar arrays just to create jobs is pointless if the end product – electricity – is too expensive when it is available.
Proponents, of course, argue that wind and solar are cheap.
That’s not true. Every single megawatt of electricity produced by wind or solar has to be backed up by a fossil fuel powered plant. There is just no getting round that hard reality. The wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine.
So if the NDP think that they can get to the point where renewable energy is producing 30 per cent of the province’s electricity, it’s a bad bet. It’s going all-in on a pair of deuces.
It’s a good way to go broke.