Don’t do as I don’t say, do as I don’t do


In my other piece this week, I discover to my shock and horror that Stephen Harper also has a risky scheme to tax everything — or half of everything at any rate.

It’s the Conservatives’ own green plan, the one they don’t talk about much these days. Nut grafs:

But if the question is which plan is economically “riskier” … the answer is clear: the Conservatives’. We know how much the Liberal plan will cost. We’ve no idea what the price of the Conservative plan will be. Well, we can guess: the government forecasts the market price of emissions credits in 2010 at about $25 a tonne, rising to $65 a tonne by 2018 — not far off the cost of the Liberal carbon tax…

The only way the Conservative plan could cost less than the Liberal plan is if it reduced emissions less. As indeed is the plan: while the Liberals also target 20 per cent reductions in emissions by 2020, that’s from 1990 levels, the original Kyoto reference point. The Tory reductions are measured against 2006 levels — 22 per cent higher than the 1990 benchmark…

Moreover, there is virtually no chance of meeting even the more relaxed Tory timetable… Simulations by Simon Fraser University’s Mark Jaccard… suggest current government policy would result in reductions of about 120 Mt by 2020 from projected levels, i.e. from the levels to which they would otherwise have risen. But in absolute terms, emissions “are unlikely to fall below current levels,” meaning we’re on track to overshoot our target by something like 200 Mt…

In sum, the Conservative plan is just as costly as the Liberals’… twice as complicated… and probably half as effective.



Don’t do as I don’t say, do as I don’t do

  1. Maybe: the current Liberals are too honourable to point out weaknesses in other parties. Oh, wait, they’ll yell “liar!” every other sentence, so scratch that.

    Maybe: the current Liberals are too politically dumb to point out the Tory plan has costs.

    Maybe: the current Liberals noted that “Oh yeah? Well your plan sucks as much as ours does!” didn’t pass the focus groups.

    Maybe: the current Liberals noted that “Oh yeah? Well your plan sounds exactly like what we did for years: talk talk talk and do nothing!” didn’t pass the focus groups.

    Maybe: a large number of Canadians want there to be talk talk talk and nothing actually done, so they’re quite happy the CPC doesn’t make their cap-and-trade plan chapter one of their campaign platform (insert invisible ink joke here), and the Liberals haven’t figured out how to expose the Tory hypocrisy on CO2 without turning it into a net benefit in the eyes of the electorate.

    Maybe: I should stop and go have supper.

  2. “…and probably half as effective.”

    Effective being a relative term here, a really really relative term.

    Remember what Dion named his dog – Kyoto.

    Professor Lomborg of Denmark (See this week’s Times of London article by him, an excerpt which follows) states:

    “It is a well-rehearsed point that the Kyoto Protocol was a terribly inefficient, hugely costly way to do virtually no good. Even if every industrialised country, including the United States, had accepted the protocol, and everyone had lived up to its requirements for the entire century, it would have had virtually no impact, even a hundred years from now. It would reduce the global temperature increase by an immeasurable 0.15C by the year 2100. The cost of implementing Kyoto, taking the average figure from the various top macroeconomic models, would have been almost £100 billion annually for the rest of the century.”

    Yet we’ll hear Duceppe rail about the importance of Kyoto tonight as he did last night. Strangely, Mr. Dion appears to have sent Kyoto to the kennel, although he railed about Kyoto when he was first leader and threatened to take the government down on it until Harper called his bluff. Why is that? Why doesn’t he talk about Kyoto anymore.

    Mr. Coyne your analysis is like discussing how many angels can dance on the head of pin in the grand scheme of things.

    Lomborg says, and I agree “[w]e need to do the right thing – and invest in discovering and developing new low-carbon technology.”

  3. So what’s Harper railing about? The Gang of Four? High cost of sweaters? Not the economy, apparently. He has no plan for that. I’ve notice neither CON coolaid slurper happens to want to discuss the Harper do-nothing, cost-a-lot plan. I guess their motto is: ‘To Hell In A Handbasket, With a Smile!’

  4. Lomborg is a political scientist, not an environmental scientist. Here is one of many, many critiques of his work:

    “Dr. Peter Raven, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2002 said of Lomborg: “…he’s not an environmental scientist and he doesn’t understand the fields that he’s talking about so in that case, if you have a point to make and you want to get to that point, which is: everything’s fine, everybody’s wrong, there is no environmental problem, you just keep making that point. It’s like a school exercise or a debating society, which really doesn’t take into account the facts.”

  5. I’m trusting that Harper is lying about his environmental plan.

    I want no plan, or a terribly ineffective plan that changes nothing.

    If it really were a choice between cap-and-trade and a carbon tax, I’d take the carbon tax as the lesser evil.

  6. I hope you’re not suggesting, Andrew, that Harper is not a leader. Because he is, you know. He is so too a leader.

    That plagiarism thing was also part of a grand strategy. Make Canada famous worldwide. Everybody now knows that (a) we are a country, and (b) we have elections.

    Like I said. Leadership.

  7. There’s a first – someone who wants a politician to be lying.

  8. “There’s a first – someone who wants a politician to be lying.”

    Nonsense. Happens tonnes of times — we all have voted for politicians who have platform planks (when they have platforms :p) we don’t agree with.

  9. Thanks for the analysis. Mr. Harper can feint and delay for a while but at some point we’re going to be dealing with a cap&trade and/or tax regime.
    So let’s just do it.

  10. Andrew,

    while I have much to disagree with on your post

    (effective implies that AGW exists when in fact all the empirical evidence shows otherwise, such as the drop in the earth’s temp over the last ten years including the greatest single year drop in modern history of .7c this year as measured by all four tracking institions including NASA’s Goddard Institute),

    perhaps your gravest error, and one which explains why you are in journalism and not finance or economics,

    is the notion that a carbon tax, which will cause the price of virtually every good and service in Canada to increase (as fuel is a near universal cost input), and which will correspondingly have cascading layers of deleterious economic consequences as a result,

    is “less costly”.

    I suggest you don’t make this point on the next “At Issue Panel”,

    I actually like your stuff when on the panel, like I used to like all your stuff prior to your becoming a Dionista.

    So many passengers have gone down with the SS Dion. Your near the bottom, Andrew, but somehow I see At Issue as the proverbial life preserver.

    Swim to the top Andrew.

    Swim like you’ve never swam before.

  11. Harper just needs to be called on it.

    If he pushes his “Turning the corner” plan as an alternative, he has to admit that his plan will cost more money and will lead to nothing consequential.

    If he doesn’t, then he admits that addressing climate change is not his priority, and the CPC plan is just bunk and a ruse.

    I guess this is considered “strategy” in some corners…


  12. “So let’s just do it.”

    We have more important things to discuss than the environment. Only Lizzie May wants to talk about it now. Dion was taken to the woodshed by the Liberal backroom boys and was told to shut his mouth about the Green Shift. Being that the Libs are polling under 25% and mutiny and revolt simmering he had to comply. He’s a lame duck leader.

    Maybe Dion can do an academic paper on cap and trade vs. the carbon tax.

  13. Is it just my imagination or is Austin So starting to imitate the great Kody’s two line space formatting.

    Imitation is the best form of flattery. Kody you’ve got yourself a convert.

  14. Man…that was just *low*…


  15. It’s too much, it’s just too much. Coyne and Well’s excellent savaging of Harper, the debates on in MERE MINUTES, and the american debates…

    It’s.. well, if I’m a political junkie, then I’ve finally caught up with the Dragon.

  16. Apologies for the overlap with Paul’s comment board.

    Andrew, I’m pretty sure you’re wrong to say that the Tory plan is both as costly and less effective than the Liberal plan. It is only one of these things. I suspect the Tory plan that includes costs for emissions *above* a target will not cost as much as the Liberal plan which taxes all fuel consumption. You do write this as “as costly per tonne of emission reduced” but that really doesn’t work as a criticism – is there any plan that could make reductions cheaper to achieve? Whether you regulate the reduction, levy a tax or charge for exceeding the cap, the cost of a reduction is constant.

    If the costs are the same because of the supply-demand relationship you mention in the article, that also implies that the reductions are the same. Which would mean you’re arguing that the Tory plan is stronger on environmental grounds (because a cap and trade system sets clear targets) – but could be more costly if the Liberals have underpriced carbon.

    Ultimately, though, it seems the difference between the plans is in the transition period to full cap and trade (unless the Tories would implement tradeable intensity credits, which seems conceptually difficult).

  17. cap and trade is a useless strategy as any economist worth his salt will tell you. it’s the equivalent of saying “i’ll continue to take a big, fat, stinky dump on your floor, and then you buy it off me so that i can do it again, as long as you promise never to take a dump on my floor.”
    the carbon tax is likewise useless unless the revenues from it go toward promoting renewable energy and replacing the internal combustion engine in cars with a more environmentally conscious technology. hell, it’s worth it just to get out of paying high gas prices.

  18. I think the real problem is like Adam said the fact that Dion’s Greenshift was made too complicated and doesn’t do a lot to invest in renewable and low-carbon energy.

    The point Lomborg was making was that instead of investing in mitigating the effects of CO2 we should take that money and invest in clean technology, thereby reaching a point where the dirty technologies are uncompetitive and will be replaced.

    I think that argument is naive in terms of the fact that it is very hard to displace technologies that have the infrastructure etc already in place.

    It also puts a lot of faith in technology. If you think there are easy technological solutions you’re not paying attention

  19. What do you mean, “less effective” ?

    Less effective at significantly reducing the standard of living and centralizing control of what’s left of the economy in the hands of the sitting PM and federal cabinet?

  20. Just so everyone knows, kody is referring to the Oregon Petition. The Oregon petition was circulated in the 1990s along with a “research review”. The idea was that a person would read this review, form an opinion that global warming is a fraud and sign the petition. I believe it was Frederick Seitz that sent out the review and the petition. The review is not a typical scientific document, in that it is biased and only gives mention on reasons not to believe global warming. Sietz made the review appear as though it was endorsed by the National Academy of Science. NAS issued a response which included the statement “The NAS Council would like to make it clear that this petition has nothing to do with the National Academy of Sciences and that the manuscript was not published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or in any other peer-reviewed journal.”

    kody makes reference to temperature readings that back up the refute to global warming, this comes directly from the Oregon petition. The readings at the time did show slight cooling, but now these same readings show significant warming. Furthermore, the “research review” referred to satellite data, and not the much more extensive surface data. Hardly “all empirical data.”

    Finally, consider the merit behind the petition. It is held in high regard by those that refute AGW because they say 17,000 scientists signed the petition and therefore there are a lot of scientists disagree with AGW. To qualify for signing the petition, a person needed an academic degree. That’s it. Not a degree in science. Not a degree in science that is related to climate change. Furthermore, it didn’t require that the person have any practical experience in the field.

    “Scientific American took a random sample of 30 of the 1,400 signatories claiming to hold a Ph.D. in a climate-related science. Of the 26 we were able to identify in various databases, 11 said they still agreed with the petition—one was an active climate researcher, two others had relevant expertise, and eight signed based on an informal evaluation. Six said they would not sign the petition today, three did not remember any such petition, one had died, and five did not answer repeated messages. Crudely extrapolating, the petition supporters include a core of about 200 climate researchers‐a respectable number, though rather a small fraction of the climatological community.”

    If you don’t want to believe in AGW, then get a hold of the “research review” and pat yourself on the back for “finding the truth.” Meanwhile the real scientists, along with the majority of Canadians, will take the science for what it is and hopefully do our best to fight global warming.

  21. Regardless if a person believes that AGW is real and dangerous or not, there is no way that you are going to convince me that spewing tons of pollution into the air is anything but ultimately disastrous. Government policies are needed to address this issue, and the sooner the better. It is extremely important.

    I’ve read a few analysis and articles on the various models proposed to reduce greenhouse gases and it appears that the best method would be use both a carbon tax and a cap and trade system. Both claim to be revenue neutral do they not? I believe it is generally accepted that an efficient cap and trade program takes a long time to implement, in which case it would make sense to start with a carbon tax.

  22. because fuel consumption can and will increase under the Conservative regime it WILL cost more than the Green Shift.

    count on it

    the oil companies are.

  23. “Lomborg is a political scientist, not an environmental scientist. Here is one of many, many critiques of his work:”

    Al Gore is a politician, not an environmental scientist. Here is one of the many, many critics of his ‘work”: Me!

  24. I don’t think Gore claims to be an expert. He’s a salesman or advocate.

  25. Andrew,

    I haven’t been following your thoughts for quite some time. Perhaps Kody has and is less surprised than I am about what seems to be such a shift in attitude.

    Of course, you have the right, like anyone else, to support the party or candidate of your choice, but I have noticed such a bias creep in. That I find so un-Coyne-ish.

    I don’t know if you listened to the leaders talking about carbon emmission reductions, but it is Harper he says over and over again that real costs are involved in reducing emmissions. Not just target setting is important, but the realistic delivery of such set targets. The delivery is done within a complete economic framework, and it will cost us, as a nation. Harper is clear on that. He said so last night again. Whereas Dion says over and over again that the Green Shift will increase economic prosperity. Emphasis on neutral and so forth.

    I find the Green Shift to pretend that the cost to the average citizen will be minimized, if not neutralized, by the tax shift. Such promise is dangerous because for the fact that there are REAL costs associated with any CO2 emmission reduction program. As Kody puts it: “is the notion that a carbon tax, which will cause the price of virtually every good and service in Canada to increase (as fuel is a near universal cost input), and which will correspondingly have cascading layers of deleterious economic consequences as a result,”

    Indeed, indeed! Harper says this out loud, but Dion seems to pretend that the average person will be shielded. That is false. The Liberal leader should tell all, and not hide the last part of his Green Shift in which he clearly indicates that tariffs or some sort of protection must be included if necessary.

    In order for Dion’s economic picture to come out as rosy as he paints, he needs to include this last part of the Green Shift. The tax neutrality is one thing, and could be believable, could perhaps be doable, but for it to be positive for the national economy, the international trade needs to be tackled likewise.

    I am not certain why you would not have taken this into consideration. Perhaps you don’t want to go there, because it might turn you off on the Green Shift. The Shift-Shaft has its reasons. You mention that the Green Shift ‘flirts’ with the notion of ‘tariffs’ , and you dismiss it as a foolish notion. You leave it at that, but it is an important part of the Green Shift for it to be in completed form.

    I think Harper is in the understanding that tariffs are not an option, and indirectly his party had tried to tackle the international aspect of any environmental program implementation with what they had tried to do in Bali, namely to include countries such as China and India right from the onset. Strange that such inclusion was perceived as wrong. Now the Liberal Green Shift asks for the very same thing, albeit in a much more underhanded and complicated way.

    It is in fact the Liberal Party trying to come back to Bali in an indirect way. Talk about ‘hidden agendas”!

  26. “I don’t think Gore claims to be an expert. He’s a salesman or advocate.”

    Yet, if Mr.Gore’s ‘opinion’ is believed by so many, than why could Mr.Lomborg not be ‘weighed in’ equally? Has it all just become a matter of salesmanship? That would be interesting, but befitting the times perhaps.

  27. Someone please explain to me how $15B less in one set of taxes and $15B more of another adds up to an additional expense.

  28. Geiseric, I would explain it to you but apparently it is extremely complicated and people can’t understand it. At least, that is what the msm says.

  29. Were you surprised, Mr. Coyne, that in the debates Harper gave up on the idea of a common securities regulator?

  30. Interesting that there is no mention of the emissions regulations (or their potential impact for that matter) in the CPC platform released today.

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