All things environmental

Musings about the environment and all it touches, from education to city planning

Oil, gas, and governance

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Trans-Alaska Pipeline - Atigun Pass

A few bits of news yesterday generated comments on Facebook, which made me wonder about how exactly governments make decisions on energy policy in general, and hydrocarbons in particular.

Tzeporah Berman made a couple of comments that are well worth repeating. She posted a story from the Mike De Souza at the Toronto Star that has since gone viral (at least in environmental circles). The basic tenet is that the federal government tried to cover up the problem of an on-going spill in the oil sands and make the story go away. Comments Berman:

It is sad, scandalous and disturbing to see our government treating this ongoing oil spill as a PR problem to be covered up. Remember when we thought Environment Canada was actually there to regulate industry and protect the environment and our health? Is transparency too much to ask?

Four hours later, she posted this article from the Post, with the following comment:

In a lot of ways this is an unbelievable story that gives a window into the world of oil politics. Here is a Conservative Party insider who has been an advisor to Harper and now CEO of Hill and Knowlton saying that Harper is simply designing policies that the oil and gas industry ask for, “All politicians do is respond to the pressure they are put under”.

At about the same time, someone from the Green Energy Futures group posted this comment regarding a Calgary Herald article:

I’ve wondered for a long time whether the biggest problem for solar energy is that it is NOT taxed… and so the government doesn’t see any revenue from it. Coal, oil, methane and bitumen (COMB) are taxed and so when the government puts in its incentive programmes, (such as the newly announced one here) the govt does not see the incentives as subsidies, but rather sees them as “investments” where there is a return on investment… the govt in effect is in the business of being a business (contrary to what right wing politics likes to think). Any support for solar though then starts to rob the govt of its income from COMB, effectively having a negative ROI!
What do you think about this? Should the government tax solar energy? Should the government continue to provide incentives for COMB?

Mmmh…I think Green Energy Futures is on to something. Our governments are addicted to fossil fuel revenues, and anything that leads to a reduction in fossil fuel use cuts into their finances. Yet we know we need to de-carbonize our economy, or eventually perish from climate-driven catastrophes. How do we cut the addiction?  Or, another way to ask this, what do we expect from our government?  Should they act as a business?  And if not, how does that mindset changes?


Written by enviropaul

July 30, 2014 at 6:38 pm

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