Monday, 2 May 2011

bin Laden is dead... but what about gas prices?

Greenwire reported today that even as Americans celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden, they complained about high gas prices. The hoped-for connection, one supposes, is that with an important figure at the head of terrorism dead, a more secure world could more securely produce and transport oil.

Of course that's false. The price of oil, which did not abate Monday, depends on many, many factors other than whether one old man, important or not, is alive or not. Strange how a globally-traded commodity that is beholden to so many economic factors is almost always at the top of political emotional intensity meters.

Which brings me to today's Canadian federal elections. Indications are that Jack Layton and the New Democratic Party will move into second place as the party with the second-most seats in the House of Commons. This will not be a good thing for Canada. George Hoberg blogged last week about the role of climate policy in the election, lamenting the small role that it has played, but ever more discouraging, the really lousy conversation that is taking place. What a strange argument between Jack Layton and Stephen Harper -- Harper, the conservative, the libertarian, promising to reduce emissions through  costly, inefficient, command-and-control ("sector-by-sector") regulation, and Layton, the old-fashioned liberal, promising reductions through a cap-and-trade program! Let's be blunt: both are simply lying.

Of the two, I am more offended by Layton's claim that a cap-and-trade program that reduces emissions will not raise gasoline prices. Why? First, because this is an argument that could only be slipped past people who aren't paying attention or just engaging in wishful thinking. Do we really expect people and firms to reduce consumption without a price signal? There is no serious controversy that we need a price on carbon. Layton's economic falsehood is that the price can just be isolated to the evil barons of industry; this is sophomoric and silly, as most undergraduate students of economics could tell you that costs are often passed up and down the supply chain.. It seems particularly reprehensible for someone who hopes to be Prime Minister to make an emotional but inaccurate appeal, exploiting those Canadians most vulnerable to his demagoguery to gain their vote. Second, he is inculcating in Canadians a belief that climate change is someone else's fault and someone else's responsibility. Literally, nothing could be further from the truth. Of all environmental problems, climate change is everybody's responsibility, very prominently Canadians, which have the ninth-largest per capita carbon footprint, almost double that of the UK's and almost three times that of France.

On the Facebook page of U.S. Senator Lindsay Graham, someone wrote: "Now that he is dead! [sic] Can we get some substantial relief at the Gas pump?"  This is what it's come to. This is the kind of voter that Jack Layton would appeal to (if he were Canadian), and this is what Canadians will be like if Jack Layton ever gets the chance to lead Canada.

No comments:

Post a Comment