Sunday, June 08, 2008
Stephane Dion and putting a price on carbon
He writes very well about the need to have a good plan to reduce carbon emissions and pollution in Canada. Unfortunately I am disappointed with his proposal. Mr. Dion is widely regarded as an intelligent man with a mind for the nuances of good policy. He's not said to be a politician who thinks in black and white terms, but judging from this article that public image is incomplete at best.
Mr. Dion says we need to put a clear price on carbon emissions. Once we do that, market forces will give us the means to reduce carbon emissions as producers search for ways to lower costs. So far this is a very good argument, but Mr. Dion completely ignores the elephant in the room.
Rising gasoline prices are an obvious example of a rising price on carbon and it's one we're all aware of every time we fill up at the pump, but Mr. Dion does not address this. Rising gasoline prices will affect our behaviour. At some point we will start to consume less fuel and thus emit less carbon. General Motors just announced they will be closing a plant producing trucks, vehicles that they cannot sell as consumers look for cars that use less fuel. This is exactly what carbon taxes are supposed to accomplish, but I don't hear Mr. Dion saying that.
Mr. Dion needs to have the courage of his convictions and say that pains like this are an unfortunate, but necessary part of his carbon reduction strategy, but that he plains to mitigate the pain through other action. (And then give us details on exactly how he plans to do that). Talking as though only "polluters" will have to bear the cost of carbon emission reduction and pretending that these costs won't ultimately be born by "consumers", (i.e. regular Canadians), is either a sign of incredibly naivety or an unwillingness to be honest about the costs and pains of your platform.