Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A closer look at the Green Shift

Read it here.

As I keep saying, I think the carbon tax is the single best environmental policy we can undertake. By taxing polluters directly for their emissions, you provide a clear incentive for polluters to pursue more eco-friendly practices. And with the increased revenue, the government can implement tax breaks that will help to offset expected increases in consumer prices.

Will it mean higher costs for the consumer? Yes. Well, maybe. It depends what kind of consumer you're talking about. For example, the consumer who leaves their television on all day and sticks with incadescent light bulbs will obviously pay more for electricity. But the consumer that is conscious of their power consumption, turns their television off when it isn't being used, and switches to compact flurorescent light bulbs will likely save a lot of money.

Gasoline is not set to be taxed, nor is diesel (at least not for the first year), and the reasoning behind that is that there are already taxes on motor fuel. Take that at face value if you want. Or not; personally, I think gas and diesel should be taxed much more heavily.

Look, I'll be honest, I'm a bit of an environmental extremist. Few things make my blood boil like reading about unsustainable farming/fishing practices or energy policies that literally consist of "more drilling". And I think anyone who poaches endangered animals for profit should be doused in barbecue sauce and thrown into a cage full of rabid hyenas.

So yeah, I'm biased. But the truth is that we'll need to start sacrificing if we want to continue to live unsustainable lifestyles. We may think it's cheaper to not have a carbon tax, but in the long run, it isn't. The costs associated with climate change and other environmental destruction are simply enormous, and they are not reflected in today's consumer prices. The market just isn't that effective in conveying the real costs of finite resources and unsustainable business practices.

The point of this isn't to take more of your money and give it to the government to waste, but to encourage a greener lifestyle. To make people think before they choose a hamburger instead of a salad, before they take the car out for a 1 km trip, before they buy the McMansion 50 miles outside of the city instead of a condo closer to their place of work, before they buy the SUV instead of the compact.

A significant Green Shift needs to happen at some point if we are to remain a viable civilization. Whether Stephane Dion is the guy with the right plan is up for debate, but at least his heart is in the right place.


Anonymous said...

What happens if someone, in a small town, needs his car to go places, Doctor shopping, etc, and on a fixed income, cannot afford new car, He will be punished, even though his car has good gas mileage

Deb Prothero said...

People in small towns and rural areas will have extra help from the Green Shift which will more than make up for the extra charges.

Would you rather have Harper's plan which will charge $65/tonne of carbon emissions without any relief proposed for anyone?

At least the Green Shift is a balanced approach.