Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘carbon tax

Canada (and BC) can grow GDP and cut GHG at the same time

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I came across this story by clicking on link bait “Something else Donald Trump is wrong about” on Vox. But I decided not to simply retweet that, firstly because we have all seen far too much about that fake tan monster and secondly this is important in both a Canadian and a BC context. (And I thought the people I wanted to reach might be less interested in that attention grabbing headline – “here’s some good news about the planet” seemed better to me!)

The Sarah Palin of BC politics currently occupying the premier’s chair is convinced that LNG is both an economic saviour and a way to reduce GHG emissions. It is, of course, neither.

Our newly elected  Liberal government in Ottawa – elected on promises to reduce GHG and committing in Paris to hold global warming below 1.5℃ – is now wavering. Not only because they allowed the Woodfibre LNG plant to go ahead, despite the very obvious shortcomings of the current (i.e. previous Conservative, Harper driven) EA process. But also because of the re-election of Brad Wall, which was obviously what Catherine McKenna must have been worried about when she started talking about national unity as being more important than the survival of life on earth.

So what Vox did was reprint a table from the World Resources Institute which shows that 21 countries have managed to reduce their GHG since 2000 while at the same time as increasing their GDP.


By the way, the stated reduction in US emissions is has been shown to be wrong, mostly because of the way they have counted methane.

You will notice, of course, that Canada is not among them. BC, of course, had been following a somewhat different track thanks to its adoption of the carbon tax. But that progress has been slowing, as the carbon tax has been stalled, and so much attention is now devoted to exporting fracked gas. Not only is the market for LNG now swamped, so that finding a customer for BC LNG will not be easy despite our generous tax and royalty regimes, but the way that methane leakage from fracking and LNG processing is measured has been updated with better data to show that it has little advantage over coal in reducing GHG.

There is no one answer to how this decoupling has been achieved – but there are some useful pointers in the article you just have to scroll down below that big table. But also there is, in BC, at present, a really good analysis of just how BC can improve its performance. And if you suppose that it might just be possible that none of the proposed LNG plants actually get built, and we elect a government in BC that is actually serious about reducing both CO2 and CH4 emissions – as opposed to just taking credit for past success – then progress does actually seem possible. Although if we try to do both, it’s very unlikely.

At the time of writing, there is still time to make yourself heard as part of the consultation on the BC Climate Leadership Plan. But even so, the table above ought to enough to silence the people who keep talking about growing the economy and saving the environment as though they were at odds with each other.

UPDATE From The Tyee interview with Nancy Oreskes, Harvard climate professor and co-author of Merchants of Doubt

Oreskes said Canada cannot seriously address climate change while also building more giant pipelines to deliver Alberta’s oil sands bitumen or British Columbia’s fracked natural gas to proposed export terminals on both coasts.

“If Trudeau can say we’re going to do all these things,” she said, “that says to me that they have not truly assimilated what is at stake here.”

Trudeau raised eyebrows when he told a Vancouver sustainable business summit last month that “the choice between pipelines and wind turbines is a false one. We need both to reach our [climate] goal.”

B.C. Premier Christy Clark similarly promotes liquefied natural gas as a climate solution: a “bridge fuel” to help China get off dirty coal power.

Oreskes called their positions dangerously “wishful thinking.”

Written by Stephen Rees

April 5, 2016 at 4:58 pm

How to fix Translink’s broken governance

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The need for this article, right now, is almost purely academic. The ruling BC Liberals seem immune to widespread obloquy over not one but a series of scandals any one of which might have brought other kinds of government down. Yes Translink is a problem for those of us living in the region  – and that is, numerically at least, the majority of the BC population. But that is not the way politics works here, and Christy Clark seems able to serve out the rest of her term. And anyway there are plenty of other issues where she is at odds with most of the people who live here, but can survive at least until the next election.

The reason I decided to start writing was a piece in BC Business entitled  “How TransLink might fix its broken business model” which is nearly a month old now but its author, Frances Bula chose to tweet it again to-day, which caught my  attention. Basically the article looks at the turn around in Atlanta, and speculates about a similar approach here.

My comment is under the article, and this post is designed to enlarge upon it. Quoting myself

The problem in Vancouver is not management. It is governance. The present model is unaccountable and unrepresentative. It was imposed by a provincial government that has clearly demonstrated that it has absolutely no interest in seeing it work.

The province has always had a policy that transit is different to other types of public service, and needs a unique approach. It interferes continually but, at the same time, refuses to fund transit properly while spending far too much on road expansion. A referendum is required for any new funding mechanism, but is never required for any highway project – or indeed any other type of provincial spending/funding decisions.

And Jordan Bateman will always be only too happy to torpedo any proposals that might actually work to improve the situation as that would rob this one trick pony of his audience.

A new CEO is not going to be able to change the governance. Only the province has the ability to do that. This government never admits to any of its mistakes. Only a change in Victoria as complete as the one just seen in Ottawa is going to make any difference.

So one day there will be a different provincial government that decides that it is time to reform Translink. Here is what they will need to think about:

The current arrangement has been cobbled together to suit the BC Liberals of the day. It makes no sense now to continue with it, and the easiest point to start might be to unpick what they did by simply repealing their legislation, and go back to the former GVTA. Except that was not exactly popular either, and for very good reason. In its first iteration it was a new body run by some but, not all, of the Mayors with some acknowledgement of the varying sizes of the municipalities. This method of indirect representation is similar to that of Metro Vancouver, responsible for waste disposal and water delivery, regional parks and planning, but there all the Mayors get a seat at the table but with weighted votes.

Translink was supposed to have been a transportation agency – with responsibility for some bridges and the Major Road Network (MRN), but this was really only provincial downloading of responsibilities that would have happened anyway. One of the worst decisions, in terms of its financial impact on Translink, was to replace the Albion Ferry with the tolled Golden Ears Bridge, which has created a huge drain on the agency’s revenues as traffic has never come up to expectations, and revenue risk was not transferred to the P3 – which pretty much vitiates the reason for using that method of funding. Apart from that the MRN seems to have worked well except for one long running argument over a bridge between New Westminster and Coquitlam. On the other hand the ill conceived North Fraser Perimeter Road was soundly defeated and has yet to re-emerge. Though it almost certainly will if the Ministry engineers get their way – as they usually do in the Long Run.

I have long argued that indirect elections are a recipe for discontent. Mayors are not elected on regional issues, and tend to adopt a stance that is defensive of their turf before any regional consideration. But no matter how much you might dislike what your Mayor says over regional issues, they are not the deciding factor come election day. We need representative and responsible government and you do not get that by holding infrequent, contentious non binding plebiscites.

The governing body has to be an advocate of better transit, because this region has historically been underserved for most of its existence, and is the only feasible way for a region of this size to function effectively. Transit is not only vital to the economy, it is also essential to tackle our most pressing environmental and social issues – and those include affordable housing. Where you chose to live determines how much you travel and the concept of affordability has to include costs of housing AND transportation if it is to be meaningful.

And while the province will never make any concessions over the needs of longer distance travel and transport, nor will the federal government in terms of ports and airports. Both levels of government have effectively abandoned their responsibilities with respect to housing but that is not sustainable and will inevitably have to change. And while technological changes may well have some dramatic impacts on how we use the transportation system they are unlikely to reduce demand for movement of people and goods overall.

It is also obvious that you should not plan just for transport as though it was not intimately enmeshed with land use. Sadly, we continue to behave as though the two subjects were unrelated – even if we give the idea of integration at least lip service if not substantive commitment. By and large, when new transit lines are planned it would be much better to get them up and running before the people arrive, if you do not want them to get used to driving everywhere first, which is what has been happening.

So, given that Metro Vancouver seems to work acceptably, why would you not just put Translink under its command? I think that is a temptingly straightforward solution but not one that satisfies the need to improve accountability. Much better I think to reform both at the same time and hold direct elections for regional government – with a Mayor for Metro. This is the solution that was adopted in London. Mrs Thatcher abolished the Greater London Council, but then balked at privatising and deregulating London Transport. It was the proverbial dog’s breakfast and did not last for long after she was deposed. The Greater London Authority and its directly elected Mayor now runs Transport for London – and some related issues that have been downloaded including taxis (which used to be run by the Home Office). Much of the transit service is contracted out, but there is a single integrated fare system, and some of the local train services have been transferred from the national rail system to the Overground.

The huge issue that I have not so far dealt with is the need for much more investment in transit as well as increasing need for revenue support – if only because the use of gas tax revenues has been a victim of the system’s very success at getting people out of their cars. Property tax is not going to be accepted, and the province needs to become much more responsive to the needs of people to get around without a car. This applies as much outside Vancouver as within it. It is absolutely baffling why the province refuses to set up a transit service along Highway 16 (“The Highway of Tears“) between Prince George, Terrace and Prince Rupert. That has to be part of the solution to terrible loss of life due to aboriginal women being forced to hitchhike as the only way to get to essential services. Victoria’s need for rail based transit could not be more obvious, nor so long obviously ignored. Restoring trains on the E&N is only a start.

So yes there is going to have to be more provincial money for transit, and the roads budget is the place to start. We simply cannot afford more freeways and gigantic bridges. We also need to raise money fairly and equitably. Income tax and corporation tax are the obvious places to start, and the odious fees and charges levied without reference to ability to pay have to be abolished. So much less reliance on BC Hydro, ICBC as revenue sources, no more MSP and a thoroughgoing reform of BC Ferries to make it once again a public service and not a pretend corporation. The wealthy can readily afford to pay more tax. There has to be an end to all the corporate welfare, especially subsidies and outright give-aways of natural resources. There will still need to be fossil fuels, but levying reasonable royalties (cf Norway) has to be central to public finance. Carbon tax has worked, to some extent, but the “revenue neutral” mantra has to be abandoned.  We have to switch away to renewable energy sources at a much faster rate, and a lot of carbon is going to have to stay in the ground. At the same time, we have to recognize that far too many people are currently living a hand to mouth existence, and cannot absorb more levies fees and tax increases. We have to be more socially responsible, but this also will often mean better ways of doing things. It is cheaper to house people than it is to cope with the costs of homelessness. The war on drugs is unwinnable, but recreational substance use can be a useful source of revenue – and self medication.

The idea that we can reform Translink by tinkering with its PR and “business model” (whatever that means) is delusional. And like any interdependent ecosystem, we cannot just pull on one or two strings and expect the web to stay intact.  But we can also readily identify where the current policies have not worked and cannot be made to work better just by getting tougher. Most of the knee jerk right wing responses are ill informed and unsupported by any credible data. Better policies are in place elsewhere and we can find better examples than the one we have been so blindly following. And none of this is a stand alone issue. It is long past time for some joined up thinking.


From the Globe and Mail Friday November 20

One change Mr. Fassbender said he’s not going to consider at all is another reorganization of how TransLink is governed. When the agency was first created, 12 mayors sat on a board that directed TransLink. The province changed that in 2007 to have the board composed of non-political appointees.

Mr. Fassbender emphasized that everyone needs to stay focused on what’s really important, not squabbles over how much TransLink’s CEO is paid or what the governance of TransLink looks like. “It’s important that we keep our eye on the goal – an integrated, working transportation system.”


Written by Stephen Rees

November 18, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Old growth logging vs the carbon tax

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There is a Canadian Press story this morning which got covered by the CBC, where it caught my attention.

One year of logging old-growth forests in southwestern British Columbia blows away a year of carbon reductions accomplished by initiatives like the carbon tax.

That’s the finding of a Sierra Club report released today, entitled Carbon at Risk: B.C.’s Unprotected Old-growth Rainforest.

That’s the top of the CP/CBC story – and you can find the same thing elsewhere. In fact I think you should. For a start, missing from the CBC story is any substantive content that they have added – and, even worse in my opinion but common to most news web sites, there isn’t a link to the report. For a better example go to Huffington Post  which has the same CP story but at much greater length, and with an interesting back and forth between Rick Jeffery, Coast Forest Products Association president and Sierra Club spokesman Jens Wieting.  But also no link to the report.

In fact I actually talked to Jens Wieting myself this morning. First of all I did not even know that there is more than one Sierra Club – but I guessed that Sierra Club Canada was probably the source. Wrong, it’s actually the Sierra Club BC. Their web page is actually much more active and has the press release – but that doesn’t link to the report either. Jens sent it to me by email, but you can download it from the publications section. Its a six page pdf but worth a look.

I am not at all an expert in this field, but I have some connection to it. I would have had a job at the Forests Ministry had not the BCGEU “bumping” practices snatched it away from me. I did do quite a bit of research before the interview – and he who did the bumping didn’t have to – so I have been a bit more aware of the issues since.  I have been in BC’s old-growth forests – there’s small patches on the North Shore, but more impressive are Cathedral Grove and Meare’s Island.

The old growth

Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve

Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove

Hug a tree

Meare’s Island

The latter was the famous site of the Clayoquot Sound protests. And I was also caught by a carbon offset scam which took my money so it could cut down old growth then plant new trees using the same justification that Rick Jeffery trots out. And which has been pretty much debunked. I do feel that the Sierra Club are a bit more reliable here as their report actually is backed by research and data, with useful links. That really is the point I am trying to make here. When you hear something on the radio or tv these days, they will often say “go to our web site for more information” but mostly it isn’t there. But there is Google. We watch tv news now with our tablets at hand. And when you read this

“They don’t want us to log,” said Jeffery. “That is the raison d’etre of the environmental groups. For them to tell you anything else is an outright lie.”

It is a matter of a moment to determine (by going to the report) that what they are calling for is

Increased conservation of the remaining old growth temperate rainforest, phasing out logging of old-growth and transitioning logging fully to second growth is urgent from a climate adaptation and mitigation perspective.


Improved forest management, in particular longer rotation, eliminating waste and selective logging, is equally important to reduce carbon loss. Forestry can be an important sector of the low carbon economy of the future, but not without increased forest conservation and improved forest management.

Perhaps if Jeffery had stuck to what he knows about – what his members are doing or proposing to do – and providing some source material to back that up, he might have some credibility. But by first claiming that he knows what the Sierra Club wants – and then calling them liars for their much more nuanced approach – it is not an end to logging that they are calling for – he discredits himself and his employers.  Of course if you are a business you want to maximize your return on investment – that’s what business does. But businesses that want to be around for a while, that do not want to be treated as social pariahs and have some understanding of the concept of sustainability, rather than simple greed for short term profits – do better in the long run.

“They’re basically telling you that once you cut that old-growth tree, that carbon all gets released into the environment,” said Jeffery. “It goes to other uses. It gets recycled. It goes into buildings and it gets stored.”

No they’re not. What they are actually saying is that clear cutting releases a lot but not all the carbon – and the report uses the rather generous assumption that about a quarter of the carbon is stored.  And there is a picture of slash burning to illustrate what actually happens in the woods when they cut the trees down.

There is a also in the CP story as printed by HuffPo some policy issues with quotes from BC Ministers – again something the CBC misses altogether. But rather than get into that, I do think that what is being demonstrated is that the BC carbon tax is an increasingly flimsy pretence at doing something about greenhouse gas emissions, that is more than offset by all the other activities of the present administration. Perhaps it is indeed the right way to do accounting, to log the burning of our exported coal, oil and natural gas against the nations that burn it. But if we weren’t subsidizing the extraction processing and transport of these fossil fuels, they would cost a great deal more, would be less attractive and those nations would look to other sources of energy. Renewables would be much more attractive to them.

The whole world would be better off if we left more of the oil, gas and coal in the ground. We would also be much better off if we stopped logging old growth forests (especially by actually being honest about how much carbon is released when they are cut and how poorly second growth compares at carbon sequestration). And when we do cut down the trees, we do a great deal more than simply ship off the raw logs elsewhere.

Campaign misinformation has set back climate change debate

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Something I missed on Friday was brought to my attention thanks to the ever useful BCEN LW list (hat tip to the indefatigable Bill Henderson).

Getting economists to agree on anything is unusual. It takes hours to get them to agree on where to go for lunch, let alone climate change policy. And most politicians love the idea that all their economists should have a hand cut off to stop them qualifying every recommnedation with “… but on the other hand …”

So the near universal dismay at the tactics adopted by the NDP and the Conservatives on the issue of the carbon tax is worth remark.

Gordon Campbell started the ball rolling – and to emphasize its revenue neutrality he sent a $100 cheque to every “man woman and child in BC” to offset the impact of the new carbon tax on energy costs. Only later did he realise that he would have to give it back to municipalities too – and he has yet to give it back to BC Transit or Translink. But all that did is make everyone cynical. And of course we heard a lot from those who were convinced it would cost them a lot more than $100. And the timing was off, because of a sudden brief spike in oil prices which happened to coincide with the announcement.

Stephane Dion stole the Green’s policy – becuase they had published their platform long before anyone else – but also ran into credibility problems. Probably not his fault either – but we all have long memories of earlier Liberal Red Books, and the rather dismal failings of the Chretien and Martin governments that just seemed to be a paler shade of blue, not green (or red, come to that).

Nancy Olewiler, a professor of economics at Simon Fraser University, was one of 230 economists at Canadian universities who signed an open letter advocating putting a price on carbon. The economists favoured a carbon tax because it provides more certainty on the price of polluting and is less complicated and costly to implement than cap and trade.

Reducing emissions will inevitably cost money and part of that cost has to be passed on to consumers, to encourage the use of cleaner fuels and energy, Olewiler said.

“If a cap and trade system is to work effectively to reduce emissions, it would have the same impact as a carbon tax,” Olewiler said.

And if 230 economists all say it, I think governments had better listen. 350ppm is not an easy target to hit but it is a far more realistic one than Kyoto – and now much more urgent. Business as usual is not a sustainable option, and as with any fundamental change we cannot expect it to be entirely comfortable, although of course there have to be safety nets for the vulnerable. Unfortunately we seem to have used up all our fiscal headroom in making sure the enormously wealthy are taken care of first. Which is like reserving all the lifeboats for the first class passengers.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 20, 2008 at 11:21 am

Posted in greenhouse gas reduction

Tagged with

Can we change in time?

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I have found that the BCEN Landwatch list serve is an endless source of leads, discussions and debate about a wide variety of issues, some of which finds its way on here. As noted I spent part of Sunday at the BCEN conference, and naturally the most important issue cropped up there too. And it is not the rerun of the Wall Street crash, but the fact that human life on this planet is now seriously threatened by global warming. All of the former predictions were indeed wrong. It is all happening much faster than anticipated. We will now see an ice free North Pole in a matter of years – not the next century. The loss of the polar ice cap means less reflection of sunlight and more heat absorbed by the oceans. So the sea level rise and ice melt is speeding up and at the same time frozen methane in the deep ocean has begun to bubble up to the surface. And methane is twenty times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Up until recently most of the discussion of greenhouse gas reduction has been in terms of what percentage of reduction is needed over some baseline year. But what scientists are now saying is that we have to look at the cumulative effect. Because the greenhouse gases once emitted tend to accumulate, because we have been busy destroying the natural processes that used to absorb CO2. So attention is now focused on what concentration in the atmosphere is “acceptable”. Or in other words, if we going to avoid a catastrophic warming (4 to 5 degrees C) and just get a mildly disastrous one ( 2 degrees C)  what concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere should we aim for and how fast do we need to move?

Bill Henderson kicked off this exchange, and, as so often is the case, when Pamela Zevitt responded I heard myself say “I wish I had written that”. So I asked her if I could reproduce it here. She insisted on rewriting it a bit (to make the context clearer) and I am including Bill’s original post too.

From: Bill Henderson

Sent: Saturday, September 27, 2008 1:44 PM
To: landwatch
Subject: [BCEN LW:] Fwd: [bcenvirowatch] Greenhouse gas emissions shock scientists, LAT, 20080927
“Most of the targets out there put us on track for [atmospheric  concentrations of carbon dioxide] of 700ppm, which equates to a  [temperature] rise of about four degrees,” said Bruce Duguid, head of  investor engagement at the Carbon Trust. “These targets are much  better than the business as usual scenarios that would result in  concentrations of 1,000ppm, but they are still nowhere near enough.”

I’ve spent the past couple of days writing an op-ed trying to tie the Church of Business guys responsible for the present financial meltdown to our failure over several decades to even begin emission-reduction. (Plus: It’s not just toxic securities – it’s melamine in milk, GM genes from who knows where in all our crops, cattle eating dead cattle, water in plastic bottles, chemicals in our kids gonads, etc., etc.)

I’ve also been reading HOT AIR by Simpson, Jaccard and Rivers, a good read on emission reduction politics in Canada. Funny thing though, even though this book is less than 2 years old there is no mention whatever of  the tipping point, abrupt climate change (CC), latent feedback, irreversible CC danger – these well meaning, very smart, very informed authors stay completely within gradual CC – temperature increase and local problems throughout Canada’s differing regions is the danger. Therefore their prescription is a gradual implementation of emissions mitigation with finance instruments which will not disturb business as usual (BAU). They even use the thin edge of the wedge metaphor – after dissing Stern in favour of Nordhaus. What you end up with is the BC CC mitigation program.

But surely by now Jaccard and Campbell as well as May, Layton, Dion and even Harper have moved to understanding CC as an immediate danger,  that we are close to going over a melting Arctic tipping point to a CC  that isn’t mitigatable and which promises to destroy our civilization. So why are we still arguing about $10 dollar carbon taxes and  pretending to make reductions were not going to as GHG emissions continue to rise, and not only in the developing world making products for us, but still in Canada too? How powerful is the BAU frame that our leaders self-edit about this most important emergency situation?

What sort of leadership is this? Are you content that the powers that be are aiming to stay under 700 ppm instead of 350 ppm?

To which Pamela responded

RE: Tax shifting and the immediacy of Climate Change action:

Lets not focus too much on why one piece of the solution puzzle doesn’t give us the action oriented answer we want.

Having had the opportunity to meet and discuss the issues of tax shifting with with Mark Jaccard one of the architects behind Climate Change and economic policy shifting in BC I would say that yes, I think he and others working on the issue understand the immanency and urgency of taking action. The problem is people keep fixating on tax shifting or other paradigms that are directed at affecting social behaviour change and then ask why those who suggest such solutions don’t seem to recognize we may not be able to wait for the “social marketplace” to sort things out. We see the world set to burn long before we see the positive outcomes of those shifts. But I see the work of Mark and others as being the best use of skills that can create essential analytical tools to model and predict change to social and human capital behaviour (whether some think it useful or not to do so).  Just as I as a conservation biologist and many of my colleagues work to influence land use policy or species legislation to force decision makers to stop putting humanity at the center of the universe. Mitigation while not necessarily the immediate action needed in some cases, is still a valuable if implicit means to raise alarm bells on how the complexities of earth’s systems are about to crash.  Those that choose to work at influencing policy choose to do so because it is an (albeit indirect) route that many politicians buy in to. I don’t chain myself to trees, even though I have very deep core beliefs about their value because I know it is not how I will be able to protect them most effectively.

I think every leader on the planet who has half a brain cell is a little troubled, some hopefully down right scared and certainly most must be aware of the worst case scenarios about climate change. But no matter how much we ask ourselves how it is that they don’t see what is happening, why they don’t have the necessary epiphany many of us have had and extinguish their apathy and sycophantic worship of the GDP, I don’t see them actually being the leaders of change. Globally, human society is stuck in a rut of growth, consumerism, waste and denial, and if that is what the masses demand then that is what the politicians provide (at least as far as mass societal gratification goes). As a biologist I have theories about why this is happening, even though it makes no sense for a species to behave this way. All I can say is that I think we are seeing a very bizarre result of several factors coming together including population growth, technology and cause and effect related to our abstraction and disconnectedness with the natural world. Topped off with a drive to maximize survival of the individual. Our intelligence while allowing us to flourish past normal checks and balances most other species deal with has put us out of synch and that has caused a whole lot of rippling feedbacks, and not good ones.

Still, if the pattern of our species ebb and flow on this planet has shown anything we are not necessarily beyond redemption (yet). We need to be working holistically from all fronts. Policy that hopes to change human consumption driven behaviour will be part of many potential solutions that will most likely include catastrophically painful sacrifices and a huge paradigm shift to a deep ecology based life. Regardless of whether we feel one course of action today to be ineffectual or inadequate to affect tomorrow, my feeling is that we will still most definitely be ‘hooped’ if our species cannot start to think collectively outside its myopic self gratifying monkey brain.

Pamela Zevit Coquitlam BC.

For what it is worth, Bill Rees has a somewhat similar conclusion. He is convinced we will come up with a solution. In fact he says there are two possible routes. The first one is an extension of what we are doing now – fighting for the resources (currently oil). The second one is that we in the developed world start a bargaining process which means we voluntarily surrender some of resources to India and China, but are smart enough to find ways to be more efficient that our fundamental needs and much of our desirable lifestyle is not lost, while they can the  catch up to us. But note that it starts with us setting a good example – not doing the current dance about we won’t cut until the Chinese do.

I hope he is right that we will not do the first – but obviously that means a change in political leadership. If the neoconservatives are re-elected here and in the US, I would expect the warlike stance to continue. Which is to say we continue to behave like chimps.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 30, 2008 at 7:00 am

B.C. green cheques may buy trolley bus

with 10 comments

Nanaimo Daily News

I must admit I was a bit startled by the idea of trolleybuses in Nanaimo – especially when it is said that “$200,000 [is] required to establish the service”.

Of course it is not a “trolleybus” but one of the fake SF type trolley bodies on a small bus – just like the so called “Vancouver Trolley”

It is one thing when green pressure groups and political parties start asking you for $100 – it is quite another when a municipal government does so. I also take more than a little umbrage at the Premier signing the letter that heads the cheque – and the little pamphlet that also tels me how to spend my money that they are giving back to me, to offset the carbon tax I will be paying.

We have NOT got $100 extra each. We have had some of our income tax returned to us so we can pay our carbon tax. All the rest is spin.

And from a government that includes highway widening in its greenhouse gas reduction plan on the utterly bogus premise that widening roads reduces traffic congestion.  All these so called “green alternatives” are trivial in comparison. Gordon Campbell knows that “you cannot build your way out of congestion” – that is a direct quote of what he has said more than once.

And if you really want me to reduce my power consumption – how about a law which trumps silly strata title rules like “no washing lines” and “no solar panels”?

Written by Stephen Rees

June 27, 2008 at 11:42 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Opposition to the Carbon Tax

with 10 comments

Following up on that piece about Carol James, she seems to be reacting to polling data. The Province this morning has the figures from the latest Ipsos Reid poll which shows that while people hate the gas tax that has yet to be translated into hating the Liberals. Which is very strange indeed.

By the way, when I started looking for the link (the story was posted to a mailing list without one) my new Firefox 3 browser helpfully reminded me that I was going to pass along this opinion piece which – even more oddly – came out of the Montreal Gazette reecently. It is fairly typical of Alan Ferguson

The trouble with the tunnel-visioned eco-idealists advising the premier is that they can’t see outside the narrow confines of their own obsession.

There is nothing much narrow about the concern that, at the present rate of progress, humanity seems likely to be massively reduced on this planet, if not wiped out altogether. For the other species we have been decimating this may actually be a bit of a relief. Like I have said before, the planet will still be here a thousand years from now. The future for us seems a great deal worse. The new ecology will work as well or better. We won’t be here to see it. This is obviously a new defintion of “eco-idealism” that had not previously occurred to me.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 18, 2008 at 10:55 am

Posted in greenhouse gas reduction

Tagged with

‘Axe the gas tax,’ says B.C. NDP leader

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Populism? The recent increase in gas prices has been much greater than the new carbon tax will be – and no-one is getting any money back from that except the the oil exporting countries and the producers.

Carol James has decided to listen to people who are grumbling about gas prices – by attacking a shift from other sources of tax to one based on carbon use. Now I cannot say i like the Liberal plan very much, and I do not like the way that it exempts the biggest CO2 emitters. But consumers needed to be given an incentive to change their behaviour and now the market has given them a much bigger one than the tax will.

But perhaps she could also turn this to the issue of social justice, as consumption taxes – as opposed to income taxes – and not as progressive. In other words, they hit the poor harder than the rich. And the way most tax changes have worked in recent years the rich have done exceedingly well whereas the poor are getting poorer.  They may call it “neoconservatism” but it looks just like the old fashioned conservatism that gave us the dirty thirties – and gave birth to the party that eventually became the NDP.

Campbell has not only stolen the Green’s clothes, he has managed to drive a wedge between the two opposition parties. By splitting the anti-Liberal vote he greatly improves his chances of a third term.

But she has also shown herself to be as short sighted as the other conventional politicians. It may now be too late to do anything effective about climate change. We have prevaricated too long. Kyoto wasn’t being implemented and was not enough. Any new agreement looks like being too little too late. But the cost of the coming changes in sea levels will far exceed any imagined impact on the economy.

I wonder which planet Carol is planning on moving to.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 17, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Predictions – not if I can avoid them

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I was called early this morning by News 1130 who wanted me to talk about the carbon tax and how people would react. I pointed out that the recent oil price increase was much more dramatic than any impact of the new carbon tax, and would have a much more dramatic effect. The point really is that the carbon tax revenues go to government, which could use them to run energy efficiency programs or invest in transit. But the profits from high oil prices just go to the oil producers who are not doing very much to help cope with high energy costs.

So that got us into the rate at which oil prices will climb. And at that point I did my schtick about the crystal ball being taken back to Canadian Tire. Yes it will get to $200 a barrel, but no-one can forecast when. The expectation of higher energy costs has already started to affect people’s behavior – vehicle miles travelled have started dropping in the US, more people are riding their bikes or transit, and that holiday in Cabo San Lucas looks less doable when the budget is stretched. Will people move from the suburbs? Well some will, but condos in Kits are already unaffordable for many. And anyway, in a mulitiple earner, whose commute is the most imporatant?

Just talking off the cuff, with no resources to hand (I was putting up a rail in my son’s closet at the time) I managed to burble on quite a bit. But I am not sure I want to sit here listening to the constant yammering of news radio just to check that what i said made sense. Let me know if you listen.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 17, 2008 at 9:32 am

Posted in energy

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Today’s Sun Stories

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There are a number of things reported today that fit the brief of this blog. But most do not require much commentary. I have already updated the recent post on truckers as another crackdown, this time in Vancouver, reveals more neglect and danger to us all.

Carol James has an opinion piece on the carbon tax.

there’s a right way and a wrong way to price carbon. The right way is to listen to the people affected, address their concerns and take action. The wrong way is to work in secrecy, ride roughshod over concerns, and lash out when people dare to complain.

But that’s what they do on everything else. The one exception appeared to be health. (And by the way have you tried to watch tv news at 6pm here lately? The CBC is of course given over to hockey, and Campbell is all over Global and their fund raising drive for Children’s hospital. I am quite sure there are some advanced western countries that manage to build an adequate hospital system without resorting to fund raising telethons.)

Kevin Falcon thinks he cannot tell BC Ferries to roll back the huge pay increase for their Board members. Vaughan Palmer disagrees

Spirit of Vancouver Island Active Pass BC 2007_0909_0755

Spirit of Vancouver Island Active Pass BC 2007.09.09 07:55

Ecodensity is going to get affordable housing added. Well they had better get a move on as the landlords in Vancouver seem to be intent on pulling the same trick that worked so well in Richmond. (A long running story in our local press last year was of an apartment building on Gilbert Road, opposite the hospital, where tenants were evicted and harassed for the same purpose, and there were several successful appeals to the provincial regulator. So far as I can tell these local freebies don’t have on line archives)

2600 block W4th Ave
A one bedroom apartment in this condo building on West 4th listed yesterday for over $450k. A good example of higher density mixed use development but not exactly affordable. But the coffee is really good in Cornerstone: regular cappuccino $3

And Translink police are going to be added to the Taser enquiry. Of course: they are armed now, and they use their arms, so it is absolutely proper that they be made accountable for their use. The copper they use as a PR flack did not handle this one well. Or at all.

UPDATE 2:06PM There is a much better account in the Globe and Mail

and (4:20pm) more criticism on CBC

Written by Stephen Rees

April 16, 2008 at 11:13 am