March 28, 2014

“Worthwhile Canadian Initiative”

If you don’t know the joke in the head, it’s referenced here.  But the item below can be found in The Dish, Andrew Sullivan’s blog (which inspired this format), that he in turn excerpted from Grist.  I’m reprinting it because (a) it’s an important story, (b) it’s getting play in the States – which is how Canadians know one of our initiatives is worthwhile.


The carbon tax in British Columbia has been a success:

If the goal was to reduce global warming pollution, then the B.C. carbon tax totally works. Since its passage, gasoline use in British Columbia has plummeted, declining seven times as much as might be expected from an equivalent rise in the market price of gas, according to a recent study by two researchers at the University of Ottawa.

That’s apparently because the tax hasn’t just had an economic effect: It has also helped change the culture of energy use in B.C. “I think it really increased the awareness about climate change and the need for carbon reduction, just because it was a daily, weekly thing that you saw,” says Merran Smith, the head of Clean Energy Canada. “It made climate action real to people.”

It also saved many of them a lot of money. Sure, the tax may cost you if you drive your car a great deal, or if you have high home gas heating costs. But it also gives you the opportunity to save a lot of money if you change your habits, for instance by driving less or buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. That’s because the tax is designed to be “revenue neutral” — the money it raises goes right back to citizens in the form of tax breaks.

Overall, the tax has brought in some $5 billion in revenue so far, and more than $3 billion has then been returned in the form of business tax cuts, along with over $1 billion in personal tax breaks, and nearly $1 billion in low-income tax credits (to protect those for whom rising fuel costs could mean the greatest economic hardship). According to the B.C. Ministry of Finance, for individuals who earn up to $122,000, income tax rates in the province are now Canada’s lowest.

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  1. I caught this in the Atlantic Cities this morning and was really pleasantly surprised the extent to which its been effective. Its still only one of the most basic steps to tackling the problem but getting over the first hurdle of pricing carbon is a big one in most jurisdictions. That it’s had a much deeper impact in terms of people’s daily behaviour and economics choices, without proving to be a drain on the economy was not something I was expecting.

    On the other hand the first thought that sprung to mind was how completely at odds now the carbon taxation policy is with the road building policy of Christy Clark’s government. This idiocy and lunacy (the only words I can use in polite company to describe what is transpiring now in BC’s government) that is being passed around as policy by Clark and her ministers means that two of the key levers any government has to effect the economy (taxation and infrastructure) are now effectively pulling in completely opposite directions.

    Sadly, now would seem to be the time to start a betting pool on how long until Christy Clark begins to quietly rein in the carbon tax in order to encourage a few more drivers onto all these big shiny new highways and bridges. Any time the choice has been between timidly going forward and throttling into full reverse, Premier Clark has always chosen full reverse. And what a tragic waste, after BC has proved that there is a way forward for all of us.

  2. I’m sure I’ve read that the Carbon Tax has been revenue negative (tax breaks exceed the amount collected) and that the heaviest carbon producers have received some of the biggest tax breaks enabling them to continue to dumping carbon into the atmosphere at the same or even higher rates than before. Add subsidies to oil and gas producers and we, the ordinary people of BC, are quite literally paying big oil to pollute our world.

  3. Without oil this world would collapse as food prices would triple, people would starve and wars would result. Carbon tax makes sense for urban dwellers who have alternatives to cars. It does not work in rural BC or even lower mainland where a car is a necessity.

    Christy Clark’s road and bridge investments are a economic necessity as Vancouver and area, with over 30 harbors, is a vital transportation gateway for Canada, and without roads goods cannot move. The NDP destroyed BC’s economy in the 90’s and this investment is just catch up work. Highway 1 to Alberta east of Kamloops is still not twinned, and that should be a national priority, coupled with a $60 road toll. We need more investment here, not less.

    Yes, we also need more public transit investment and yes, we should also toll roads as road use is too cheap.

    Global “warming” is a myth. Polluting the air less, of course, makes total sense, but what is the alternative to oil without destroying today’s economy immediately ? Are people willing to receive 50% less wages and pay triple for food if carbon taxes are taken to far higher levels ? E-boats, e-trucks, e-planes and even e-cars are pure fantasy in today’s world with 8B people.

    A more sensible next step is tolling roads used by cars and trucks, rather than carbon taxes as even electric cars use roads and pay zero carbon taxes, and that would not be sustainable.

    1. “Without oil this world would collapse”

      The problem is that it’s looking more and more like with oil the world will collapse for a different set of reasons. I think we need to start implementing policies to motivate people to shift their dependence away from so much oil. No, it can’t be done all at once – but it CAN be done a bit at a time. And we need to get started yesterday.

      1. we are starting .. electric cars, Solar Panels, solar farms, wind energy, Ron of the river power plants, nuclear power plants, LNG, more fuel efficient engines etc

        as oil gets more expensive more and more of these other sources of energy make more and more economic sense but looking at the food chain, for example from tractor to plow the field to tractor seeding the field to tractor used for harvesting to truck shipping it to boat shipping it to truck delivering good to grocery stores shows you that a weaning off oil is a long LONG time off ., likely a century .. and with Asian and African and S-Americans catching up to first world living standards we will use more energy the next few decades, not less and the overall percentage of oil and gas within the energy mix will shrink in relative but not absolute terms. a thousand barrels a second is what we consume ..

  4. Remind me again of the increase in Whatcom County retail sales since 2008. And what was the start date of that global financial crisis…?