PREMIER Gary Doer worries about “the senior citizen in West Kildonan (who) will not be able to turn around on a dime and invest in a geothermal heating system” (Province defends plan to subsidize natural gas, Free Press, Nov. 19).
To help her, he is willing to subsidize the gas consumption of a Tuxedo mansion at the expense of a poor northern resident in an electrically heated home. Or he would increase the debt load on the next generation, who will also inherit a more energy- and carbon-constrained future.
Reporter Mia Rabson is mistaken in saying that the Public Utilities Board “advised the government to look at doing just that.”
First, PUB’s advice was directed to Manitoba Hydro and Centra, not government. And what they did advise is spending on conservation (demand side management) measures to reduce gas consumption and “smoothing” the rate increase by carrying part of the natural gas expense forward in hopes that prices would subside later.
Subsidizing the gas commodity itself increases the flow of Manitoba’s dollars to Alberta and our greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Subsidizing conservation reduces both of these and pays a double dividend to Manitobans by investing in jobs and businesses in the efficiency sector and lowering home and business energy costs for the long run, not just during the period of subsidization. For a government that prides itself on leading the Kyoto charge and stimulating the new sustainable economy, subsidizing general gas consumption is a retrograde measure and a bad solution to the energy burden of the poor.
There are better alternatives well-known in other jurisdictions that have addressed their own energy crises. Some we have already through Power Smart but there are additional measures to pursue.
Peter Miller, senior scholar at the University of Winnipeg, is a PUB intervenor for Resource Conservation Manitoba and Time to Respect Earth’s Ecosystems.