Wednesday, February 14, 2007

David Suzuki cares

Though Canadian Prophet David Suzuki is not formally regarded as a politician, he is certainly no friend of the average consumer:

On Monday, the activist, author and former television personality David Suzuki fulminated about oil and gas companies in general. "They're making windfall profits," he charged. "Take that money and use it for green energy, rapid transit and all sorts of other good stuff." He advocated "taxing the hell" out of carbon-based fuels and using the revenue (assuming any revenue would be left after consumers balked at Mr. Suzuki's new high prices) to engineer more environmentally conscious behaviours in the public and to subsidize research into alternative fuel sources and public transportation.
The future is "too terrifying to discuss. Let's just say, we need to act now". Translation: If research funds provided by voluntary donors fail to meet the desired goals of self-proclaimed soothsayers, the use of force to obtain those goals is justified in the name of the public good:
Last week, speaking before the Ottawa Economics Association, Jack Layton, the NDP leader, promised that an NDP government would "take away" money from oil companies and give it to what he called the "clean-tech" sector to develop "alternative energy, recycling and the production of new (environmentally friendly) materials."
C/P: Dust my Broom


Candace said...

What's Jack gonna do when he finds out that the nasty oil companies probably own, at least partially, the green tech companies? (I'm just guessing, too lazy to google)

That should make his head spin ;-)

Chris Rickett said...

Sorry what's wrong with tax shifting? Because that's essentially what Suzuki is talking about.

Let's stop taxing good things like income and at the same time ensure that all the negative externalities of a certian product (ie. oil) are internalized into the cost of consumption.

It's called creating a level-playing field and ensuring corporations aren't recieving defacto government subsidies by externalizing their costs onto society.

I'm not advocating taking away from one sector to give to another. I think renewable energy and green technologies could easily be affordable and competitive if a level playing field was created.

Michael Westcott said...

It *isn't* about create a level playing field.

It's about trying to affect social change through taxation. That's really what we're talking about here; that's what Suzuki wants. The message we're getting is that in spite of a silly shift in the polls to ill-defined environmental concerns, the public still isn't actually buying into to the underlying changes that Suzuki and his ilk are trying to force on us.

So, he's trying to hold us for ransom with our own money. It's appalling, stupid and possibly one of the clearest examples of how the left thinks in terms of bribery, coercion and force to reach their political ends.

Anonymous said...

its a great idea, unless you are one of the hundreds of thousands who lose their job - think auto industry, steel, glass suppliers AND you are ok with lower levels of government $ form taxation form oil & gas causing a drop in publicly funded services.

You decide which schools to close and hospitals to not build.

Honey Pot said...

Good luck getting around Ottawa's snowy winter streets in your chauffeur-pedalled rickshaw, Mr. Layton.
-national post

I love this line.

I can just see them all pulling up to Parliament hill in their rickshaw's, pulling two large turnips out of their back pockets to tip their coolie's.

Honey Pot said...

Anon, it has nothing to do with jobs, it has to do with SAVING the ENVIRONMENT. You can't expect prophets like Taliban Jack, and Father Suzuki to worry about little things like the economy when the end of the world is nigh. Get on your knees and pray for forgiveness to Father Suzuki, and his alter boy Taliban Jack , or you will be first in line to be made into soylent green.

Anonymous said...

I can see now all the plastics that
make daily living so much better
disappearing before my eyes.
The pharmaceutical companies should
love this, cutting back on research
because one of the main properties
is oil based ingredients is no longer
available. Meds anyone?
Honey Pot, as to the turnips used as
tips, not to worry dear, without
fertilizers, they will be quite small.
And those driven back to living off of
the land fires allowed either.

Chris Rickett said...

Anonymous said...
its a great idea, unless you are one of the hundreds of thousands who lose their job - think auto industry, steel, glass suppliers AND you are ok with lower levels of government $ form taxation form oil & gas causing a drop in publicly funded services.

You decide which schools to close and hospitals to not build.

The idea that subsidizing the oil and gas industry, automakers, etc, all because they create jobs is interesting. That kind of logic could then be extended to any government intervention, according to anons rationale.

Let's create a level-playing field, spawn new innovation and environmental concerns will be addressed based on consumer choice, rather than distorted government intervention.

Mike said...

I have to admit that my head starts to spin when I consider the idea of calculating the ca$h values of "negative externalities".

For example, who would have to foot the bill for the negative externalities of public education? Should ratepayers be dinged once to fund the schools, and then dinged again to pay for the schoolboard's negative externalities of producing illiterate, directionless philistines?

But where it really gets into infinite regress is when you try to figure out a method of calculating the negative externalities of the board that determines the value of negative externalities. Living in as much ignorance as the rest of us, even the most non-corrupt of their decisions will have unintended harmful consequences -- negative externalities -- on the well-being and livelihoods of everyone else. Who would pay for those externalities, and who would levy them, and on whose behalf, and who would they then have to pay?

I thought we were just going to stop giving companies money.

chris rickett said...

Mike when it comes to education, typically, the societal benefit is seen to be greater than the marginal benefit. Meaning that somesort of government intervention may be required to bring the market into equilibrium.

Just imagine if there was no free public education at all - I'm sure our streets would be much safer and we would all be better off. Sometimes there is a place for government, but ensuring profits for polluting companies isn't one of those areas I would argue.

Of course, both negative and positive externalities are hard to quantify. However, as an example, we do know there are healthcare costs associated with air pollution. We know air pollution is caused by various factors, such as transportation and energy choices. In many cases we even know the energy breakdown for each consumer sector. And, there are many studies illustrating the costs air pollution puts on society.

With these numbers, it isn't hard to start to put a roadmap together on what the cost of a negative externality is in regards to a transportation or energy choice.

At the very least, it gives a market feedback (something that is missing when the government simply picks up the tab for the healthcare costs) which provides an incentive for innovation in products and services.

And, after all, I would hope that everyone does think society can adapt - but nobody adapts if there isn't a feedback pushing you in that direction.

Why change your extraction methods in the oilsands when the government pays the environmental and healthcare costs, and then hands out cold hard cash to top up your bottom line?

Without market feedbacks, we won't move forward.

So first, let's stop subsidizing certain industries with cold hard cash from the taxpayer's wallet. And secondly, let's start quantifying negative externalities that are caused by pollution, and make polluters/consumers pay for their own problems instead of taxpayers. After all, both in essence are simply handing money to companies.

Who is going to collect and who is going to pay?

Consumers are the ones who are going to pay - but instead of it being indirectly and unfairly through their income taxes, it would be directly through consumption taxes levied based on the level of negative externalities.

Who is going to collect?

Depends I supposed. Could be through the government, could be through new markets created, or probably both.

Some suggest, such as the Green Party, that you shift taxes - the government would still collect taxes, but taxes would be based on consumption (the more negative externalities your consumption cost, the more you pay at the point of purchase), while income taxes would be phased out. Essentially taxing bad things, instead of good things.

Either way, it comes down to trying to see the direct connection between your choice and its consequences, rather than hiding the consequences and subsidizing a handful of politically connected industries.