Wednesday, March 02, 2016

It's a Stacked Deck. Hint: Deal From the Bottom.

Prime minister Trudeau and his provincial counterparts are gathering in Vancouver (naturally) today for talks on climate change and clean technology. The idea seems to be to get a consensus from the premiers on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and implementation of carbon pricing, i.e. carbon tax.

Will there be some miraculous breakthrough? I wish, but I doubt it. Some, like Saskatchewan's Poindexter, Brad Wall, will refuse to accept a carbon tax saying the time isn't right (and, for Wall, never will be). Others will be looking for wiggle room and weasel words, the 'goodie bags' of confederal politics.

Of course, we'll just have to wait and see - and hope. But I'm reminded of a passage written by Larissa MacFarquhar in an article for The New Yorker, "What Money Can Buy." In just a few, brief sentences, she manages to encapsulate reality that would require paragraphs, even pages for lesser scribes to convey:

The urge to change the world is normally thwarted by a near-insurmountable barricade of obstacles: failure of imagination, failure of courage, bad governments, bad planning, incompetence, corruption, fecklessness, the laws of nations, the laws of physics, the weight of history, inertia of all sorts, psychological unsuitability on the part of the would-be changer, the resistance of people who would lose from the change, the resistance of people who would benefit from it, the seduction of activities other than world-changing, lack of practical knowledge, lack of political skill and lack of money.

Looking through MacFarquhar's compendium, it's hard not to see where each of our political leaders would fit in there. Lack of money-induced failure of courage is the one that most worries me. Almost all of those afflictions seem to stick to some and, yes, I mean Brad Wall.

I'm thinking that Justin's Sunny Ways won't be worth a dam on this one. Let's see if he's willing to go full Droog on Wall, pour encourager les autres.


Hugh said...

I was looking at StatsCan gasoline and diesel sales in BC. They haven't gone down since 2008, when the carbon tax and carbon offsets were started.

You click 'add/remove data' to select province, years:

The Mound of Sound said...

That, Hugh, raises the question of 'why not?' If the surcharge/carbon tax isn't deterring consumption then does it need to be improved, perhaps increased? Are there other causes for fuel consumption to increase, i.e. would the numbers have been higher yet but for the carbon tax? You really have to delve into this, get to the bottom of what's going on, or else the stats can be meaningless or misleading.

Hugh said...

Cars do get more fuel-efficient over the years, but the BC population has grown a bit, and there are more cars and trucks on the road (mostly gasoline and diesel).

The gasoline tax is 6.7 cents per litre. I figure people just pay it.
It doesn't seem to affect most people's driving habits, IMO.

The BC govt is trying to say that the carbon tax works, that emissions are dropping in BC, while at the same time we have GDP growth. There you see the insane mania for GDP growth.

BC GHG emissions may have dipped a bit in 2009 due to the banking/financial fraud meltdown in 2008. But I reckon emissions are not going down significantly.

So the carbon tax we have in BC is just window dressing. They would have to raise the carbon tax incrementally to something like $1.00 per litre. Even then many people would just pay. Maybe buy a Honda civic.

The Mound of Sound said...

The thing is, Hugh, you're just going on gut instinct. I'd prefer to see a researched analysis of what's really going on and what it means.

Hugh said...

Governments and central banks are afraid of slow or negative GDP growth. They're also afraid of deflation.

Any decisions they want to make about GHG emissions will be influenced by their fear of these things.

The reason, I think, is because of all the debt that has built up.

They deal with debt with GDP growth, and targeting inflation at about 2%. That's why they seem to be panicked that there is now not 2% or more GDP growth. As if a steady-state economy would be a big problem.

Toby said...

These are a bit dated but they show different approaches.

France launches radical green tax on bigger cars

Tax horsepower

We have to stop the consumer race to have the biggest, most powerful vehicles manufactured.

It would also be nice to shut down drive-thru coffee line ups.

Hugh said...

You're right. It would be interesting to see a study done of people's driving habits.

rumleyfips said...

ipolitics , this morning, has an article about the disasterous business case for Energy East. Anyone who invests will lose money. The Enegy East problem will be solved by the invisible hand of the market ; now that is ironic.

The Mound of Sound said...

@ Rumley - I've dealt with the dodgy economic viability of dilbit pipelines, especially in this rapidly transforming energy market. I've struggled to answer why industry and governments are so aggressively pursuing this with world oil prices in the tank and the long-term outlook relatively dismal.

My guess is that they're all concerned about their balance sheets. All the big energy companies know that, once they have to begin wiping the vast majority of their proven fossil fuel reserves off their balance sheets, they'll be seen as borderline insolvent and they'll never find another investor/lender while they'll be beset by shareholder lawsuits against the companies, their directors and their executives. When this thing goes down there'll be blood all over the deck. And so the "business as usual" image becomes doubly important to maintain. Whistling past the graveyard.

Do you have a link for that iPolitics item?

Hugh said...

Interesting article here:

The Mound of Sound said...

Great article, Hugh. I can't be surprised that the BC Libs (in name only) would institute something and then game it to the point where it's meaningless. The conclusion is encouraging - carbon taxes don't impair an economy, at a sufficient level they work and they're worthwhile provided the funds levied aren't diverted for political purposes.

Hugh said...

I still don't get it.

If the BC govt were to implement a carbon tax which was high enough to be effective, it would reduce GDP. So they won't do it.

The Mound of Sound said...

Go back and read the article you just sent me. You keep coming to a conclusion that's not demonstrated factually. The fellow who wrote that article says as much.

rumleyfips said...

Google ' the business case for Energy East just fell apart'.