Posted By LORRIE GOLDSTEIN
There was a a definite “Alice in Wonderland” quality to Premier Dalton McGuinty’s announcement last week that Ontario is moving ahead with a cap-and-trade carbon market, ostensibly to fight global warming.
We still don’t know, for example, what the “cap” on total greenhouse gas emissions will be, to what sectors of the economy the cap-and-trade market will apply and whether the government will give away carbon credits to industry for free, or auction them off.
To claim you’re introducing a cap-and-trade market without answering those basic questions is nonsense.
Environment Minister John Gerretsen’s statement in the Legislature about cap-and-trade was a study in bafflegab.
Nowhere did it come close to explaining what a cap-and-trade market is — essentially a stock market in which the stock is a “carbon credit,” allowing the bearer to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide.
Nor did he explain that by imposing a new charge on industry for emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the ultimate effect will be to take billions of dollars out of the pockets of ordinary Ontarians, one of the dumbest things you can do in a province that is already suffering from a deep recession.
Indeed, some of the answers politicians gave under media questioning caused me to doubt whether they even understand what a cap-and-trade market is.
The Canadian Press, for example, reported McGuinty “dodged questions about whether Ontario’s worst polluters — its coal-fired (power) generation plants –will be forced to bear extra costs under the system, which could be passed on to taxpayers.”
Huh? The answer to that is of course they will and of course those costs will be passed on to taxpayers in the form of higher electricity prices, unless
McGuinty plans to exempt these plants from cap-and-trade, which would turn the entire exercise into a complete farce.
Meanwhile, interim Progressive Conservative Leader Bob Runciman said he was worried cap-and-trade will choke Ontario’s already reeling manufacturing sector with more government regulation and hike costs to consumers through a “cap-and-tax” program.
Arguing “the devil’s in the details,” Runciman seemed to be implying you could, in theory, devise a cap-and-trade program that doesn’t raise costs for industry and, ultimately, the consumer.
In reality, you can’t. Once you impose a new charge on emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere on industry, there is no free lunch. Someone has to pay and inevitably that someone will be the public.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath criticized McGuinty for not moving faster on cap-and-trade, adding “let’s get something happening and let’s get it happening sooner rather than later.”
Does she not understand that if Ontario moves in advance of the Canadian and U. S. governments on cap-and-trade, it will be imposing a new burden on the province’s already reeling manufacturing sector, resulting in the loss of more jobs?
How can the NDP stand up in the Legislature day after day complaining about job losses and then urge the government to rush headlong into a policy that will make them even worse?
The government’s information package touted “tree planting” as a legitimate “carbon offset” project by which companies can earn the right to emit more carbon dioxide if they invest in environmentally responsible projects.
But tree planting has been widely discredited as an effective carbon offset because of the huge number of trees that have to be planted to offset emissions, the length of time it takes for trees to absorb carbon dioxide and the fact that when trees die they release their stored carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.
The bottom line is the only thing a cap-and-trade market does — just like a carbon tax — is raise the price of burning fossil fuels for energy, which means raising the price of almost everything we buy, given that we use fossil fuels to generate electricity, grow food, manufacture goods, heat our homes and provide transportation.
It’s time for our politicians to come clean with the public about that.