On July 1 2008 I filled up my rental car in Parksville British Columbia, in preparation for a trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island. That gasoline cost upwards of $1.50 a litre, and was the most expensive gasoline I have ever purchased. Part of the cost on that day was a new provincial carbon tax, which had become applicable only hours before.
I thought at the time, especially when I was on my way back from the west coast and the fuel gauge was edging distressingly toward empty and all I could think of was how much it would cost to refill the tank, that the tax might actually work.
The BC carbon tax won immediate accolades from the green crowd, of course. It has been enthusiastically endorsed by academics and even some businessmen; see this Globe and Mail piece from 2014. The BC provincial government congratulated itself, of course, in this summary of the effects of the tax.
But as far as sales of gasoline and diesel are concerned, I really don’t understand what they are cheering about. What effect has it had on retail sales of the two major road transportation fuels?
Does it look as if the tax had any effect at all on British Columbians’ consumption of gasoline and diesel?
Cut to today, January 17 2017, eight and a half years after BC’s carbon tax came into effect. Ontario, in its never-ending quest to please the same crowd that cheered the BC tax, has embarked on a cap and trade scheme.
The usual crowd has applauded, and unfortunately many of those in the media who cover this issue have steered well clear of the question of whether the new scheme will have any effect at all on emissions of CO2, you know, the stuff that is the target of the scheme.
Here is Ontario energy demand, in realtime, together with the CO2 implications of that energy. Note I said energy demand. You’ll notice something a lot of government leaders and energy/environment commentators seem to forget: not all energy is electricity. It is just one category among three in Ontario, during the daytime never the biggest in any hour, and on cold winter days usually the third-biggest.
Click on CO2. You will see that no matter what time of day, no matter how many kWhs of electricity demand there are, electricity CO2 emissions are always the smallest. By far.
On that basis we should be heating with electricity, shouldn’t we. All of the current heat demand could, in theory, be met with electricity. No Nobel Prize-worthy science breakthrough would be needed for electricity to provide just about every kWh of heat that is required.
The problem, in practice, is cost. Click on Cost rate. Note how the bars change.
That is why most people do not heat with electricity—unless they have no choice.
Canada’s prime minister recently had an uncomfortable moment out in public with one of those people who has no choice but to heat with electricity: a woman from Peterborough who told him she pays over $1,000 a month for electricity.
She is in penury because of this.
The PM’s answer was to blame the provincial Ontario government, and to remind the woman that the federal carbon tax has yet to kick in—i.e., if she thinks things are bad now, just wait.
I am amazed that nobody brought up the fact that the woman uses the cleanest fuel by far to heat her home. She is actually doing what everybody should do and perhaps what everybody would do if prices had not been jacked up so ridiculously high. She is out on a limb on her own, being financially penalized for living far more cleanly than even our tropical-island-hopping PM who uses a private helicopter, powered with fossil fuel, to hop from one tropical island to the next.
Carbon tax, and cap and trade, is—just like wind and solar—pose and posture at public expense for the benefit of phoney greens who for some perverse reason have gained political influence and mainstream media favour.
It has nothing to do with reducing carbon.