My Clean Break column for Friday (published online today) explores the importance of demographics when creating and implementing energy policies, such as time-of-using pricing. My observation over the past few years is that those most vocal against green energy and time-of-use plans tend to be folks on fixed incomes — i.e. mostly seniors — who are understandably worried about higher energy costs and how they, along with other costs of living, are rising relative to incomes. If the baby boomers are just beginning to enter their retirement years, staying at home more (meaning using air conditioning and heating more) and many are struggling to survive on fixed incomes, what does this mean for energy policy?
I asked demographer David Foot, author of the well-known book Boom, Bust and Echo, and he confirmed there is a strong tension between the wants and needs and concerns of baby boomers and the kinds of energy policies and program we so desperately need. But, as he said, boomers occupy the largest voting block, they tend to vote more often than generations after them, and this means politicians can’t ignore their concerns and need to design programs carefully and equitably. As you’ll read in my column, as people age they tend to use more energy per capita. Our aging bodies, quite simply, need to be kept cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. If energy prices are rising and a greater per cent of the population will be spending their days at home, how will this impact the silver tsunami and attempts to get a handle of greenhouse gas emissions?
Not to generalize. There are plenty of folks in this demographic willing to make the sacrifice, even if it affects them more than others. But those wanting equal treatment have a point and they should be heard. Food for thought.
NOTE: I see the folks over at Wind Concerns Ontario have seized on the column and misinterpreted its message, suggesting that I am “eagerly awaiting boomers to die off.” They’re a venomous, very angry bunch over there — at least those who do the postings and comments — but this only undermines their own efforts. There’s no room for mature debate or constructive comment over there. Either you support their view or you’re an idiot, a word they frequently label on me. And people want them to be taken seriously?
Of course, my column is actually pointing out the legitimate concerns that baby boomers have and how current policies are failing to appreciate them. I actually wrote the piece because of concerns my mother, who is a retired first wave boomer on a pension, expressed regarding the difficulty of paying rising power prices. The message of the column is that blanket programs can miss the mark and more care must be taken to craft them.