Coal Fired Electricity Generation

Canadian public opinion is solidly against environmental pollution that directly impacts personal health.  Greenhouse gases (GHG), generally referred to as pollutants, cause global warming over the longer term but do not directly affect personal health.  So the public is less concerned by higher levels of GHG.

Many commentaries by government and non-governmental organizations frequently focus on environmental pollution caused by use of fossil fuels for industrial activity, ignoring the longer term consequences of global warming.  These commentaries do not distinguish between direct public health consequences and longer term risks.

A recent study of the Ontario Green Energy Act published by the Fraser Institute was in this category.  Based on a 2005 consultant’s paper, the study concluded that the environmental goals of the Act, including reduction of GHG, could have been met by more effective pollution control equipment on coal-fired electricity generating plants.

The Ontario Environmental Commissioner immediately issued a rebuttal of the study under the caption “Fraser report on the Green Energy Act misses the mark.”  

The Commissioner, who is very familiar with Ontario legislation, observed that a key purpose of the Green Energy Act was phasing out of the use of fossil fuels in energy generation.  The Act was not directed at industrial pollutants from coal fired plants, although a side benefit of phasing out this form of energy generation would be a reduction in these pollutants.

The author of the Fraser Institute study, Ross R. McKitrick, a Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph, referred to “climate change” only twice in a 42 page study, and then without commentary on climate change issues. As Professor McKitrick is a denialist this failure to characterize properly the fundamental purpose of the Green Energy Act is not surprising.

The Canadian public deserves better information. For further commentary of direct and indirect effects go to Climate Change and Public Health.

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