Turns out Ontario’s painful coal phase-out didn’t help pollution — and Queen’s Park even knew it wouldn’t – by Ross McKitrick (Financial Post – January 18, 2017)

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Ross McKitrick is a professor of economics at the University of Guelph and a senior fellow at the Fraser Institute. His study “Did the Coal Phase-Out Reduce Ontario Air Pollution” is available at fraserinstitute.ca.

The federal Liberal government plans to impose a national coal phase-out, based on the same faulty arguments used in Ontario — namely that such a move will yield significant environmental benefits and reduce health-care costs. One problem: those arguments never made sense, and now with the Ontario phase-out complete, we can verify not only that they were invalid but that the Ontario government knew it.

Together with Fraser Institute economist Elmira Aliakbari, I just published a study on the coal phase-out in Ontario and its effects on air pollution over the 2002–14 interval. Our expectation was that we would find very little evidence for pollution reductions associated with eliminating coal. This expectation arose from two considerations.

First, ample data at the time showed that coal use had little effect on Ontario air quality. Environment Canada’s emissions inventories showed that the Ontario power generation sector was responsible for only a tiny fraction (about one per cent) of provincial particulate emissions, a common measure of air pollution.

Further, a study by the province in 2005 showed that a majority of local particulates originated from U.S. sources. Another study done for the province predicted that eliminating coal would have extremely small effects on urban particulate levels. Taken together these reports provided a credible basis for predicting that a coal phase-out would only have a small effect on our air quality.

They also showed, based on the results of retrofits then underway at the power plants, that the same air quality improvements could be obtained at a fraction of the cost by installing scrubbers on the smokestacks, rather than shutting the coal-fired plants down.

For the rest of this column, click here: http://business.financialpost.com/fp-comment/ross-mckitrick-turns-out-ontarios-painful-coal-phase-out-didnt-help-pollution-and-queens-park-even-knew-it-wouldnt

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