rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Now is exactly the right time to regulate oil and gas

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Photo: Dustin Quasar/flickr

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Harper declared that, given oil prices plummeting to $60-70 a barrel, now would be a "crazy" time to introduce regulations on the oil and gas sector.

This comes after promising nine years ago that the federal government would bring in new GHG regulations on the oil and gas sector (but failing to do so), and after committing at the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009 that Canada would reduce its GHG emissions by 17 per cent by 2020, a target that Environment Canada now says the government has no plan to meet.

In fact, with the price of oil so low, now would be a terrific time to introduce new carbon reduction measures.

For example, it's an ideal time to introduce a federal carbon tax. When B.C. introduced its carbon tax, oil was at $150 (ouch!). But with oil at $65, consumers are well placed to handle the introduction of a carbon tax (provided of course that we also introduce an offsetting carbon tax credit for low and modest income households, as modelled in this CCPA report by Marc Lee).

Indeed, from a climate perspective, the downside of low oil prices is that consumers may be less inclined to change their behaviors and burn less gas, and a carbon tax, provided it was high enough, could mitigate that.

The timing would also be ideal for governments who are panicked about what the drop in oil prices means for reduced public revenues (as oil royalties are linked to price, and a reduction in production activity reduces other tax revenues as well). Because a carbon tax is linked to the consumption of oil, which is unlikely to slow given the low price, a carbon tax could help buttress government revenues.

Most importantly though, the drop in oil prices represents a welcome moment to rethink the path we are on. It's a reminder that linking our economic fate to volatile commodity prices is always a roller-coaster (didn't Albertans learn that lesson decades ago?). Sound economic management ought to be about moving us away from such dependence, and certainly isn't about panicking and rolling over on climate commitments when the oil bubble starts to burst. We've been given a chance -- a pause in the gold rush -- to move away from mindless fossil fuel expansion. That's not crazy -- that's good sense.

Now is precisely when we should be capturing what income we can from this sector (via a carbon tax and/or other taxes and royalties), and using those revenues to expedite the transition towards a new low-carbon economy; using those revenues to fund green jobs and green infrastructure. And those taxation options should be complemented by other regulatory measures to cap carbon emissions within a defined carbon budget, to further accelerate the transition.

Photo: Dustin Quasar/flickr

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.