Friday, 26 July 2013

The National Energy Plan as Environmentalist Holy Grail

Every few years, some Canadian environmentalists campaign vigorously for a national energy plan in the mistaken belief that it is not only achievable, but will reduce carbon pollution. Since this pursuit deflects their focus from Canada’s ineffective climate policies, it is a welcome gift to carbon polluters and their political operatives. And, amazingly, decades of failure have failed to dampen enthusiasm for this Holy Grail quest.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

BC’s carbon tax after 5 years

In 5 years, debates about BC’s carbon tax have generated much heat and little light, but Stewart Elgie and Jessica McClay of the University of Ottawa have just released a good effort to rectify this situation. Comparing fuel consumption (gasoline, diesel, propane, fuel oil, etc.) in BC with the rest of Canada, before and after the imposition of the carbon tax, they detect a significant change. Prior to 2008, BC’s petroleum fuel use changed in lock-step with the rest of Canada. But afterwards it fell 17.4% per capita in BC while rising 1.5% in the rest of the country. They also noted that BC’s economy performed as well or better than other provincial economies, a partial response to the much-touted argument that BC’s economy would suffer terribly because of the tax. (Stephen Harper repeatedly claims that carbon taxes destroy economies, with zero evidence in support – which some people would call lying.)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

"The necessity of coal expansion" and other delusions

In my July 16, 2013 op-ed in the Vancouver Sun I counter arguments for rapid expansion of coal exports from North America by showing how these are based on self-serving arguments that ignore the resulting increase in carbon pollution – which scientists show we must do everything to decrease, not increase. Today, without regulations here and abroad requiring carbon capture and storage, expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure can only mean increasing carbon pollution and hence global warming. But it need not be so. Our only chance is if we refuse to expand coal mines and coal exports unless coal purchasers are not increasing carbon pollution. In the case of using coal to produce steel, we have the technologies today to capture and permanently store about 90% of the CO2 emitted from steel mills, and a range of industry, government and independent estimates suggest that this would gradually increase the cost of steel production by 10% over twenty years. Instead, those who would benefit by rapidly increasing carbon pollution offer countless rationales for starting this new coal mine, expanding that coal port, etc. 

In upcoming blogs and op-eds I will be writing more on what I call the “This particular fossil fuel development is necessary” delusion – a chapter in my draft manuscript, which currently has the working title “Deluding Ourselves.”