We're considering switching over to Bullfrog Power.
Bullfrog Power is one of Ontario's green electricity retailers. Their power is sourced from wind farms and low-impact hydroelectric. No physical change to your power supply is needed; you access power through the local electricity grid, but you get billed from Bullfrog instead of Toronto Hydro. It's a little more that you pay 9.1 c / kWh for power with Bullfrog. This is higher than the 5.8-6.1 c / kWh from Toronto hydro.
I like this new company but at the same time I'm a little frustrated by the implication that enviros should be paying double for their power. Sustainable development is not an obscure hobby or a luxury for righteous celebrities like Margaret Atwood. It's a huge problem that needs to be addressed through stronger mechanisms.
For example, let's take an analagous situation. Say we have a problem with stereos being stolen in our city. Let's say a lot of stereos are being stolen, and we want to fight this problem in some way. So, option A would be to solve it through economic choice. Call it the free market approach. We'd simply let people choose what kind of stereo to buy. According to economic theory, as long as there is enough demand for non-stolen stereos, the market will supply them. Under the free market approach, government will do nothing and it will get out of the way of the marketplace. Well, the only thing it might do is to facilitate things a little bit.. To help stereo purchasing do-gooders make choices, we might set up little government approved badges, that certify stereos as 'Certified Non-Stolen Stereo Equipment' or 'TheftStar' or something like that.
So what's the problem here? Why is this not a good solution? The do-gooders can buy their certified used stereos from the specialty shops, and other people can buy the cheap stereos from the shady pawn shops. Everybody's happy because they made their choice right?
Well, there are two problems with that solution. First of all, this is actually a very weak and ineffective way of addressing the problem. There is no economic incentive to buy non-stolen property. Stolen property will generally be cheaper because it is stolen property. That's why it's cheap! So if you want to actually reduce stealing, you need something a little more nippy than making sure that the choice of non-stolen things is available. You need a more effective way of dealing with it other than persuasion and market choice and certifications and badges.
The second problem with the market mechanism solution, is that well, bluntly put, stealing stereos is wrong. People who deliberately buy stolen stereos are assholes. Why should my neighbor have the right to buy things that were taken by a thief from my house?
The good news is that we've actually addressed the problem of stolen stereos in a rather effective way in the past. We call this the government regulation approach. We simply define the purchase of stolen stereos as an unacceptable market choice. You want to buy some stolen stereos? Too bad. You don't have the right to buy stolen stereos.
And it turns out that it actually is not too hard to prevent people from buying stolen stereos. And it actually doesn't involve a huge cost or a lot of heavy handed intrusion by government into the average person's life, because it mainly involves regulating people who are in the stereo business. The police visit pawn shops which sell stolen stereos and if they find any stolen stereos, they simply take them away and give them back to their owners. The people who make their living supplying pawn shops with stolen stereos sooner or later get arrested and they are prevented from conducting their business.
So basically that's what I don't like about Bullfrog Power. As a temporary solution, a way to promote sustainable development, yippee it's great. I will happily jump on the bandwagon.
But as a long term solution it's a bad idea, because it's inffective. Most people don't know about Bullfrog, and if they do know about it they may not pay extra for it, because there is no economic incentive. And because it's a moral issue. Pollution affects everybody; we need a more effective solution than some people paying double the price for power, and most people blasting their A/C and paying the subsidized rate for power.