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You're going to pay a lot for that fuel

10 Mar 2021 | OP ED Watch

Bloomberg says hey, let’s raise carbon prices 600%. Or rather, Wood Mackenzie Ltd. does and Bloomberg goes yeah, man. That way people will have to stop using fossil fuels. Thanks for letting that cat out of the bag.

As we have said repeatedly, it’s just common sense that if the climate crisis is as bad as the Michael Manns and Katherine Hayhoes and Justin Trudeaus and Joe Bidens of this world say, then almost any price is worth paying to stop it. The point isn’t that $160/tonne is too high a cost for saving the planet. It’s that we’ve repeatedly been told we can go green on the cheap, or even make money, for PR rather than scientific or economic reasons, but as time runs short to take really effective action or throw in the towel, it’s becoming clear that on this point at least we were misled.

Funnily enough this Wood Mackenzie recommendation is pretty tame. It’s for just $160/tonne rather than $22 which it figures was the global average last year. Whereas it has been suggested that really in Canada we’re going to need $210/tonne (the “Ecofiscal commission”) or $170 (the Trudeau administration once the 2019 election was behind them) or $289 (the Parliamentary Budget Officer on the explicit scenario that big industrial emitters and household bills are exempted), because, um, we’re a cold country and even in what will doubtless be billed as the hottest year ever when and if summer arrives, we’re still freezing our hardy ears off in March.

Being really cold might strike some people as a disaster, especially those unused to and unprepared for it. But “according to an analysis published in the journal Nature Climate Change” we need to cut fossil fuels by the COVID-induced 7% not just once but every single year through the 2020s to avoid what Bloomberg calls “increasingly dire environmental consequences”. So we’ll actually be better off freezing in the dark than whatever man. But here we get back to the don’t worry, be happy story about how getting rid of oil is easy and fun.

The article says for instance that hydrogen is cool. But here Eric Worrall makes a vital point: “previous energy revolutions were rapid and voluntary. For example, when cheaper, more convenient kerosene replaced whale oil after kerosene hit the market in the 1860s, the whaling industry collapsed in a little over a decade, as people flocked to the better option. One day economists will unravel the mystery of why renewable energy is having such an uphill battle replacing fossil fuel, despite multiple claims that renewables are the cheapest option.”

Sarcasm can be a difficult concept. But real economists won’t find it hard because both they and those claiming renewables are cheapest are still using fossil fuels. And, in many cases, denouncing nuclear, the one real way we might get off petroleum. If alternatives worked reliably and efficiently, we wouldn’t need those carbon taxes to switch. Nobody put a tax on hay. And if they don’t, those carbon taxes are really going to hurt.

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