Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Jim Harris Green With Embarassment

Green Party Excels at Warm & Fuzzy Feelings, But Still Naive

Jim Harris is a man on a mission. His mission? Convince one million Canadian voters to cast their ballot in support of his party on January 23.

In order to do this, he’ll have to do a number of things. Among them, he’ll have to convince Canadians that his party is not set to embark on a reactionary anti-business crusade.

So on that note, one of his party’s major platform points concerns the oilfield. First off, the Green party wants to ensure that oil prices “reflect their true costs to society through new regulations that force polluters to pay for damages and remediation costs.” Little is said about the value of these resources to society (after all, people in Canada have to heat their homes), but that’s neither here nor there of the current topic.

The Green Party plan, essentially, is to shift the majority of the taxes charged on the production of oil to periods earlier in the production process. The idea, allegedly, is that this will encourage oil companies to become more environmentally-conscious in order to offset the costs of these additional costs.

Jim Harris should have remembered the first rule of economic regulation: never attempt to regulate an industry you obviously don’t understand.

If Jim Harris understood anything about the Canadian energy industry, he would understand that almost all the oil companies operating with Canadian currently exceed the environmental standards the Canadian government has placed on their operation. In other words, these companies already exert more effort toward protecting the environment than the law requires. And while many of the leftist drones that tend to support parties like Harris’ would argue that this is only because the standards are too lax, it underscores an important fact about Canada’s oil industry: environmental protection is a prominent item on their agenda.

Furthermore, Harris’ logic is entirely defunct. Because environmental protection programs cost money, shifting taxes to points earlier in the production of oil will only result in companies cutting back these programs to bear-minimum expenditure in order to recover the profits a Green party government would cut into. If this didn’t happen, basic economics dictates only one other outcome: an increase in energy prices. Harris has neither defied popular conceptions of his party, or even put forth a workable energy policy.

There is only one word for what the Green Party has committed with all this: blunder.
This is one foolish idea that will overshadow an energy policy that is mostly filled with wise ideas. Beginning Canada’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is a necessary process that must begin as soon as possible. While the renewable energy technologies to completely meet Canada’s needs don’t yet exist, a proactive government would invest in the research and development necessary to produce them: an idea the Green Party obviously understands.

Corporate welfare is something that has been allowed to remain rampant in Canada for far too long. The Green Party’s plan to end subsidies to all non-renewable energy industries is certainly a step in the right direction. After all, with the profits energy companies are earning annually, it doesn’t seem like they need an awful lot of help.

Perhaps even best of all is the Green Party’s unique community-outward (as opposed to state-inward) approach to nation-building. The Green Party’s plan to work with individual cities and towns to build sustainable communities is a breath of fresh air in a country where far too many politicians believe that the bulk of the government’s power must always lie with the state.

Unfortunately, the Green Party’s energy policy also falls flat on one other matter: it doesn’t seem to understand even the concept of money, or how much energy development costs.

The Green Party’s proposition that $1.5 billion (split between the provinces) is going to be sufficient to build 10,000 MW of renewable energy.

The Green Party is certainly a group that deserves to have success in Canada – and eventually, it will. Sadly, for now it’s going to have to go back to the drawing board and get a grip on a little thing we like to call “reality”.

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