Opinion Editorial

Wesleyville: here we go again...


There it stands. Five miles west of Port Hope. Its derelict hulk a monument to waste, to bad planning and to faceless corporations. Faceless taxpayer-funded corporations accountable to nobody but themselves.

It's called the Wesleyville Generating Station. A misnomer since it generates nothing -nothing unless you consider contempt and criticism a source of energy. If so, Wesleyville is a high-wattage success story.

Wesleyville was built in the mid-1970s, supposedly to meet an anticipated demand for electricity that Pickering Nuclear and later, Darlington, wouldn't be able to meet. Unlike Pickering and Darlington, Wesleyville wasn't going to be powered by frantic sub-atomic particles banging into each other and creating heat, but by oil. Bunker-C oil, to be specific -the molasses of the fossil fuel world -thick, sticky black goop that requires steam just to make it fluid enough to unload it from freight-train tank cars.

Funny thing, though: one of the reasons Wesleyville was built, believe it or not, was to counter the mid-70s OPEC Oil Embargo, the short-lived wake-up call that saw North Americans lined up for gas the way Albanian peasants of the period lined up for stale bread.

The Ontario government of the day panicked. Aiding and abetting the panic was Ontario Hydro, all full of can-do attitude and money to burn. We The People needed Wesleyville. We needed it so bad that it was essential if we were to be spared energy Armageddon. Throw the farmers off their land. Expropriate whatever needed expropriating. After all, what's a few hundred ruined lives where energy security is concerned?

So there it stands. Foisted off on a public that knew better but whose voice was drowned out in the heyday of Hydro expansionism.

A couple of weeks ago, a story titled 'Bluffs residents fight wind turbines' ran inThe Globe & Mail.Written by Anna Mehler Paperny, the story bore all the hallmarks of environmental sermonizing. Residents of the Scarborough Bluffs were, in the opening paragraph, compared with Cervantes's obsessed Don Quixotes, "tilting at a hypothetical windmill". Halfway through the article, Ontario Energy Minister Brad Duguid entered the picture with a damn-the-torpedoes declaration decreeing that it doesn't matter in the slightest what Bluffs residents or the City of Toronto's executive committee decides, the project will go forward. The last word came, naturally, from York University environmental studies professor Mark Winfield, who intoned, "I think the potential is enormous and the benefits are enormous. The biggest danger in some ways is, frankly, the derailment of some of these efforts."

That's right. Just like Wesleyville a generation ago, the Government of Ontario knows best. And best, in this case, is wind-generated power -even it it's unreliable and not cost-effective. And even if a sizeable part of the population is, for any number of reasons, dead set against it.

After all, what's a few hundred ruined lives where energy -- especially wind energy -- is concerned?

Rather than forever change the landscape with mechanical monsters straight out of The War Of The Worlds, maybe we should concentrate on other sources of renewable energy such as the perpetually scolding forefingers of the environmental lobby. Or the overheated excitement of pipsqueak environment ministers who know so much more than we do.

Wesleyville is there for all who care to see it and for all who don't. It should be preserved and rededicated as The Ontario Museum Of Government Incompetence, a place of quiet reflection where "enormous" potential and "enormous" benefits are considered in the shadow of Wesleyville's enormous, idle smokestack.

And there it stands. Just standing there. djchrist@cogeco.ca