Use of electricity has become gratuitous


By Bruce Rhodes


August 28, 2003


Hats off to The Liberal for publishing articles, editorials and letters about energy-related issues.


The silver lining of this month’s blackout is it can prompt North Americans to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle from an energy consumption standpoint.


For example, I actually enjoyed strolling through Hillcrest Mall last week, visiting those stores that elected to turn off some lights.


This experience, along with being outside at night when the street lamps were off, helped me realize too many places, both public and private, are needlessly bright too much of the time.


Our use of electricity has become truly gratuitous: witness household air conditioners running all night when it dips to 14C outside; witness outdoor lights left on all day.


Provincial subsidies to cap hydro prices encourage wasteful consumption. Exhortations from politicians to voluntarily curb energy use merely reveal the folly of artificially cheap hydro rates.


By contrast, when electricity prices are allowed to reflect their true costs, including pollution costs stemming from generation of electricity from coal and other sources, watch individuals use their own ingenuity to reduce hydro consumption and, thereby, save money. People will gravitate to using push mowers, clotheslines and energy-efficient light bulbs.


 From environmental and lifestyle standpoints, higher electricity prices that reflect total true energy costs will provide much wiser guidance than will governments that preach conservation with one hand and then almost give away electricity with the other.