Thursday, 15 October 2015

Canadian climate policy and your vote

“Policy academics are cheap dates.” One of my mentors, professor Aiden Vining, loved saying that. His point was that we policy academics will gladly pay for our own dinner if we think that a politician, of any political stripe, wants our advice. This explains why, in my 30 years of climate policy research, I have willingly advised Conservatives, Liberals, NDP and Greens, sometimes when in power, sometimes in opposition. Once, a politician actually paid for my dinner – at McDonalds.

I have learned some things that are relevant to this federal election. One lesson is that climate policy is really, really hard. Our political system has strong incentives for politicians not to implement effective climate policies. To be effective, policies must either price CO2 emissions or regulate CO2-causing fuels and technologies. These compulsory policies impose short-term costs (real and perceived) on some people, some of whom will wage war on the guilty politician. As in all wars, truth is the first casualty: the climate policy and its implementing politician will be blamed for completely unrelated misfortunes by these people, powerful backers, and a media that loves attacking politicians.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Canadian Climate Policy Report Card: 2015

Executive Summary
Over the past three decades, governments in developed countries have made many commitments to reduce a specific quantity or percentage of greenhouse gases by a specific date, but often they have failed to implement effective climate policies that would achieve their commitment. Fortunately, energy-economy analysts can determine well in advance of the target date if a government is keeping its promise. In this 2015 climate policy report card, I evaluate the Canadian government’s emission commitments and policy actions. I find that in the nine years since its promise to reduce Canadian emissions 20% by 2020 and 65% by 2050, the Canadian government has implemented virtually no polices that would materially reduce emissions. The 2020 target is now unachievable without great harm to the Canadian economy. And this may also be the case for the 2050 target, this latter requiring an almost complete transformation of the Canadian energy system in the remaining 35 years after almost a decade of inaction.

Canadian Climate Policy Report Card: 2015

A critical challenge to preventing the harms from human-produced greenhouse gas emissions, especially CO2 from burning fossil fuels, is that elected representatives face weak incentives to implement effective climate policies and strong incentives to implement no or ineffective policies. There are several reasons.page2image2912

First, significant CO2 emissions reductions require ‘compulsory policies’ – regulation of technologies and energy forms and/or pricing of CO2 emissions – and these are seen to cause immediate costs for some even though the long-term benefits for society exceed these costs. These immediate costs would begin during the mandate of current politicians, and have significant political risks, while the benefits of avoiding climate change will mostly occur after the career of current political leaders.

Friday, 29 May 2015

BC and LNG: Better Late or Never

By Mark Jaccard and Tom Gunton
Originally appeared in the Vancouver Sun October 14, 2014

Our LNG discussion has certainly changed from 2013, when Christy Clark’s “Debt-Free B.C.” slogan promised voters huge tax revenues from exporting the “world’s cleanest LNG.” Industry calls the shots today, threatening to invest elsewhere unless government quickly delivers on tax breaks, minimalist royalties, and environmental deregulation. It’s a sobering time.

Increasingly, one hears our government has moved too slowly, just as a prospector arriving too late to a gold rush. But this argument reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of today’s natural gas market. It can have potentially harmful repercussions for our economy and environment. Here is why.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Pipelines, Politics and Perjury

Here is the announcement for my my VPL talk to be held Thursday Feb. 5, 2015 at 7 pm at the Vancouver Public Library.  Click on it for a larger view.

Here is the VPL link.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Understanding oil demand, oil prices and climate

It is amazingly difficult to get people to understand that if humanity acts seriously to reduce CO2 emissions, the price of oil would fall to very low levels - and stay there. In this op-ed in the Globe and Mail in December 2014, I explain the competitive drivers of oil prices, and why these prices have been really low for most of the past 100 years, even though human self-deception has most people thinking otherwise. In future op-eds and blogs I will present our research of the last two years on the path and level of the price of oil.

Oil Prices: A Lesson in Markets

Mark Jaccard
Globe and Mail, December 1, 2014

For 27 years in my graduate energy seminar, I’ve struggled to convince bright master’s and PhD students that oil prices might actually result from competition rather than a price-fixing conspiracy of oil companies and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel. But this year, my task was easier.

We start by reviewing several commodity prices – potash, lumber, copper, oil – which show that the oil market is not atypical. We see that all oil producers receive the same price, which is usually at or above the production costs of the most expensive suppliers, such as Alberta’s oil sands and North Dakota’s shale and tight oil. Low-cost producers, like Saudi Arabia, get more profit from each barrel.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Vancouver’s municipal election and pipelines

It seems ironic that people who argue vaguely that we should all do our part against accelerating carbon pollution will then react to specific efforts by saying “sorry, wrong jurisdiction.” The Canadian government cannot act because climate change is a global problem, so we must wait for all countries to act simultaneously. Nice. And even though we know that carbon pollution goes up as we expand fossil fuel infrastructure, like oil pipelines, the government of B.C. should not try to stop the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline because this is federal jurisdiction. Ditto municipal governments, like that of Vancouver and Burnaby.

We know where this leads. Everyone shirks their responsibility, and we stay on course for a catastrophe.

This is why the municipal elections in Vancouver and Burnaby are important. In both cities, we have municipal governments that understand their responsibility. In both cities, these governments are challenged by opponents who are saying “sorry, not our jurisdiction.”

If you want to stop oil pipeline expansion to metro Vancouver as part of the climate effort we must have, remember to blame yourself next Saturday if you waste your vote so that the pro-pipeline parties attain power.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

My invited review of Naomi Klein’s book in Literary Review of Canada

My review of Naomi Klein’s book is now up on the website of the Literary Review of Canada, and will appear in the November 2014 print edition.  Please distribute by e-mail, twitter (@MarkJaccard) and Facebook to people who might be interested.

Below is my blog that provides some elaboration.

Notes to accompany Jaccard review of Klein book: This Changes Everything

October 14, 2014

What is Klein’s thesis? What is the contribution of her book? I think she would say that her book demonstrates that we must change capitalism if we are to succeed against the climate threat: “system change, not climate change.”

But to convince us of her thesis she needs to show: (A) why efforts that do not involve profoundly changing capitalism have not worked and will not work; and (B) why her proposals will work and why they “change everything about our economic system.”