Government Arrogance and Theft

Rex Murphy, in a column in the National Post http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/12/28/rex-murphy-the-award-for-the-worst-politician-of-the-year-goes-to/, suggested that Dalton McGuinty should be nominated for what he is done to the province. The article is a good read and highlights many of the reasons why Ontario is degrading into a have-not province.

But the reality goes far beyond the major fails Rex lists. Recently, Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley announced some new schemes to ‘lure’ business back while simultaneously threatening citizenry that we will all have to pay to fund the financial incentives these generous bureaucrats are trying to lavish on potential employers. I don’t know about anyone else, but from the perspective of a businessman looking to make a long term investment, Ontario strikes me as a dangerous place, more Afghanistan than California, at least as far as energy costs are concerned. Why would anyone want to invest here for the long term when the basic cost of energy is more volatile and unreliable than the weather forecast?

Meanwhile there is a literal gold rush going on with foreign companies  trying to get in on the rich subsidies Ontario is promising to build wind and solar power plants — with guaranteed access to the grid to add to the already huge surplus of power. Power, by the way, which is being dumped at bargain basement prices costing ratepayers over a billion dollars a year. As for the environment, the gas turbines are burning away to backfill for the variable wind output while the hydroelectric plants are turned way down, being allowed only a fraction of their capability.

This is a gift that keeps on giving — not only is the government exempting these projects from environmental laws, local zoning and the vehement objections of the affected people. But the projects depress property values and rob local governments of tax revenues by statutorily capping their taxable value. I don’t know, but this all smacks of 19th century colonial exploitation — all that is missing are the guns and pith helmets. I am sure that when someone has the courage and persistence to follow the money the story will be fascinating. A pity it won’t do any of us any good. Laughing at their foibles is not so easy when soaring power costs and taxes are crushing your retirement.

But wait, there is more! Has anyone questioned why, with the growing surpluses of oil, we are still legislating higher amounts of ethanol in our fuel? When this first came in the argument was that it would help energy independence. It should be clear by now that this is anything but. Ignoring for the moment the energy costs of producing fuel-quality ethanol and its impact on food prices, has anyone noticed how much more fuel it takes to run a vehical when it has ethanol in it? In my cars, the degradation in fuel economy is roughly proportional to the amount of ethanol — the more ethanol, the more fuel consumed. This makes sense from an engineering perspective — to produce a specific work output requires a specific energy input. Gasoline contains 114,000 btu per gallon while pure ethanol has only 76,000 btu. So a lot more gasoline is being burned for energy independence than it would have been if we left it alone. Makes sense? Then add to this the additional maintenance and equipment replacements that are forced because many engines are harmed by this material. Good for some folks I am sure but likely only them.

We are fond of criticizing governments in other countries that enrich themselves and their buddies, impoverish their country and simply ignore or give lip service to the welfare of their citizenry. Kleptocracies, I think is the term that is used. But when one looks at what has been happening in North America, not just in Ontario (all though these guys have been pretty egregious) you really have to wonder.  The economic hemorrhaging due to high energy costs, government service waste and short-sighted policies has to be a major contributor to our current declining status. Does this show how extensively government has been subverted to rob the public purse for private interests? I wonder.

But one thing is clear — the economic well-being of the  country has been displaced by other considerations. And the concept of serving their citizens seems to be taken from a cookbook. Does make me concerned with how badly it is likely to end — since the democratic process is pretty ineffective. It is hard to not imagine something like the French or Russian revolutions. I weep for my children.