The Economist recently emailed us a chance to “Make sense of the climate-change crisis”. To which we reacted that it was high time someone did, but they didn’t seem likely candidates. Even though on their website it says “Our climate-change hub contains coverage of the people and policies shaping the world’s response to the climate crisis. Now you can enjoy an immersive experience of our award-winning journalism with 50% off an annual digital subscription.” Immersive. It’s the new curated. But here’s an item from that immersive, award-winning enjoyable experience you’ll want to miss, beyond the self-satisfied marketing rhetoric: “Expensive energy is baked into Britain’s future/ It’s not cheap being green”. Gosh. Without you we never would have known. Unless we looked at our own energy bills.
Oddly, the Economist story started with Britain shuttering a nuclear plant. Since we did not sign up for their upper crust “distinctively distilled analysis” and (sigh) “curated topical opinion” as well as “Audio version & podcasts—immersive listening” (so that’s what it was, and not just the old-style vulgar listening) we don’t know how shutting down nukes is meant to be “green”. But when we say it’s an item you’ll want to miss, we don’t mean that it was likely to be inaccurate in its general thrust that “Expensive energy is baked into Britain’s future”. Rather, we mean you’ll want to miss the expensive energy.
So may Britons. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a one-man wrecking crew especially of his own career, faces ruin over parties at #10 Downing Street. But he has laboured mightily to undermine his own foundations with his sudden bizarre enthusiasm for a green agenda that has brought increasing pain for considerable pain, with rising bills and flickering lights.
Canadians might also wish to pass on crushing energy bills. Most people have been happy to tell pollsters yes, they want something done about the climate emergency, though they have generally added that they are not willing to pay any significant sum for it personally. A story on Politico, under the not even slightly lurid, dragon-chasing headline “The world is on fire and our leaders are failing, poll finds”, says that “Consumers in 13 countries on five continents surveyed say companies should share more of the costs of combating climate change, including paying higher taxes. Fossil fuel companies, in particular, face the most skeptics.”
How they will feel when those higher taxes tare passed on in the prices of products is another question. As we stagger out of the COVID recession into whatever dang thing is next, Canadians as well as others are going to find that a major problem is energy costs soaring because governments made them do it on purpose. And governments may find, again, that the populace is not so docile as they assumed or so willing to be lectured by their betters in unison. If so we’d ask what Plan B is but it would be too depressing.
It is a habit of governments to carom from crisis to crisis uttering platitudes. And the Canadian one, which has suddenly discovered that closing the border over COVID protests is economically disastrous after doing so over COVID for years, is also on the verge of discovering that hiking carbon taxes makes energy expensive in ways crippling to a weak economy and infuriating to hard-pressed citizens. Of course it says it has everything under control.
Everything being under the control of government is precisely what brought truckers onto the streets. One of the stock responses to protests over Covid mandates is that our hospital system is pressed to the limit and unable to manage the occasional wave of cases. So there’s something quintessentially government-like about a hoo-hah press release from Natural Resources Canada announcing an injection of funds to install EV chargers in Ontario Hospitals. “Today, Adam van Koeverden, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health and to the Minister of Sport, on behalf of the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, announced a $165,000 investment in Halton Healthcare to install a total of 36 EV chargers at hospitals in Oakville, Milton and Georgetown, Ontario.” 36 EV chargers at three hospitals won’t change the weather. Or the shortage of nurses.
As Parker Gallant recently noted, very slightly over half of Canadian households use natural gas for heating. And the next great leap upward in carbon taxes, from CAD$40 to $50/tonne on April 1 of this year, will hit them hard. He calculates that whatever methane contributes to warming, it accounted for 45.7% of his own natural gas bill, and in under two months will reach 57.2%. Of course the coming of warmer weather, a blight on our existence in all other ways no doubt, will reduce the “sticker shock” on that particular component of our lives in the short run. But he calculates that over the next 12 months it will raise total natural gas heating bills by $1.816 billion. (Manufacturing will face a very similar whammy.) And what about gasoline, already north of $1.50/litre in Ottawa?
The usual suspects insist that of course such hardships are an illusion. Former British PM Theresa May, having flubbed that job, just scolded Australians for not wrecking their economies fast enough. “The MP for the UK constituency of Maidenhead branded as ‘absolutely wrong’ the recurring argument that countries must choose between tackling climate change or continuing to grow the economy. ‘You can do well by your economy and deal with climate. It just means you have to do business in a different way,’ Ms May told the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry lunch, where she spoke for an undisclosed fee.”
You see it’s just your imagination that you’re paying far more for energy, having less of it, and suffering as a result. All the clever people, like retired and wannabe Conservative Prime Ministers, keep telling us we just need to do business “in a different way” although what that way looks like we are still waiting to find out. Or maybe the empty arm-waving really amounts to what we always suspected: even Bloomberg is having more trouble, announcing unhappily “The Great Climate Backslide: How governments are backtracking worldwide” and explicitly linking it to “harsh economic realities.” Then again what do they know? After all, the U.S. military has set a 2050 Net Zero target with all-electric non-tactical vehicles by 2035. The Secretary of the Army says “The time to address climate change is now. … I challenge our Army to examine climate threats, prioritize resources, and take swift action.” And in case you were wondering what to find when you examine them, the Secretary of Defence provided a crib sheet: “We face all kinds of threats in our line of work, but few of them truly deserve to be called existential. The climate crisis does. … Climate change is making the world more unsafe and we need to act.” Unlike China invading Taiwan or Russia Ukraine, which are kind of routine little things. See, “The Army’s strategy comes after President Joe Biden’s December executive order exempted the military from the federal government’s 2050 net-zero commitments. That order left an enormous gap, as the military accounts for a bulk of the federal government’s planet-heating emissions.” Planet-heating. Boo.