Algoma_Steel_CKL-scaled

Fact check: is Ford underselling the benefits of ending Ontario’s coal-fired steelmaking?

The steel industry is the province’s largest source of emissions. The benefits of weaning it off coal would be even bigger than the premier has stated

Doug Ford isn’t known to use a lot of statistics. He generally stays rosy in his public comments, relying on promises and wide assurances as opposed to cold, hard facts. And since climate change rarely came up during the campaign, he didn’t need to have a set of numbers handy about how he planned to address it. So it was interesting to hear Ford use one statistic over and over again: that transitioning Ontario’s steel industry from coal-powered furnaces to electric ones would reduce emissions equivalent to removing one million cars off Ontario’s roads. 

The Narwhal decided to do the math with a little help from Dave Sawyer, an environmental economist with the Canadian Climate Institute. We discovered that the emissions reductions from this transition would actually be more than what Ford was touting repeatedly — double, actually.

Let’s assume, Sawyer says, that an average Ontario household drives 16,000 kilometres annually, emitting close to three tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from their car. Ontario’s two largest steel plants emit a collective six megatonnes (or six million tonnes) of emissions in the same time period. 

That means transitioning Ontario’s steel plant furnaces to electricity will be the equivalent of removing two million cars from the road, not just one. 

This doesn’t mean Ford is 100 per cent wrong. The Ontario Progressive Conservatives have offered a $500 million contribution to the almost $1.8 billion price tag of phasing out coal-fired steelmaking, with the federal government giving $400 million (it’s unclear where the rest of the money will come from). So maybe Ford is only taking credit for the emissions reductions that will come from already earmarked government funding — which seems confusing. We can’t say for sure, since the Ontario PC Party didn’t respond to The Narwhal’s request to clarify its calculations. This phase-out was one of few climate initiatives in the Ford government’s pre-election budget proposal, so expect to hear this number often. Ontario’s steel industry is the largest source of emissions in this province, so we’ll keep monitoring the progress on this and the possible impacts on industry, and the environment.

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Investigating stories others aren’t. Diving deep to find solutions to the climate crisis. Sending journalists to report from remote locations for days and sometimes weeks on end. These are the core tenets of what we do here at The Narwhal. It’s also the kind of work that takes time and resources to pull off.

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We hear it time and time again:
“These are the stories that need to be told and you are some of the only ones telling them,” John, a new member of The Narwhal, wrote in to say.

Investigating stories others aren’t. Diving deep to find solutions to the climate crisis. Sending journalists to report from remote locations for days and sometimes weeks on end. These are the core tenets of what we do here at The Narwhal. It’s also the kind of work that takes time and resources to pull off.

That might sound obvious, but it’s far from reality in many shrinking and cash-strapped Canadian newsrooms. So what’s The Narwhal’s secret sauce? Thousands of members like John who support our non-profit, ad-free journalism by giving whatever they can afford each month (or year).

But here’s the thing: just two per cent of The Narwhal’s readers step up to keep our stories free for all to read. Will you join the two per cent and become a member of The Narwhal today?

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