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‘Net-zero’ targets neither feasible nor realistic

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From the Fraser Institute

By Vaclav Smil and Elmira Aliakbari

Canada and other developed countries have committed to achieving “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2050. Yet here at the midway point between the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first international treaty to set binding targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, and the looming deadline of 2050, recent findings cast doubt on the feasibility of this ambitious transition.

According to a new study published by the Fraser Institute, despite international agreements, significant government spending and regulations, and some technological progress, the world’s dependence on fossil fuels has been steadily and significantly increasing over the past three decades. By 2023, global fossil fuel consumption was 55 per cent higher than in 1997. The share of fossil fuels in global energy consumption has only slightly decreased, dropping from nearly 86 per cent in 1997 to approximately 82 per cent in 2022.

Viewed through a historical lens, this sluggish pace of change is not surprising. The first global energy transition, from traditional biomass fuels (wood, charcoal, straw) to fossil fuels, started more than two centuries ago and unfolded gradually. Coal only surpassed global wood consumption in 1900; crude oil surpassed coal only in the mid-1960s; and natural gas has yet to surpass crude oil. Even today, this transition remains incomplete, as billions of people still rely on traditional biomass energy for cooking and heating.

The scale of the energy transition ahead is daunting. The 19th-century transition from wood to coal and hydrocarbons replaced about 1.5 billion tons of wood, equivalent to 30 exajoules. But the current transition will require at least 400 exajoules of new non-carbon energies by 2050. To put this in a Canadian perspective, generating this amount of clean energy worldwide would require the equivalent of about 22,000 projects the size of British Columbia’s Site C or Newfoundland and Labrador’s Muskrat Falls.

Advocates for today’s mandated energy transition often overlook the complexity of energy transitions and their many challenges. Critical industries such as cement, primary iron, plastics and ammonia still rely heavily on fossil fuels, with no viable alternatives readily available for large-scale adoption.

The energy transition also imposes unprecedented demands for minerals vital for renewable energy technologies, such as copper and lithium, which require substantial time to mine and develop. According to the International Energy Agency, the widespread adoption of electric vehicles by 2040 will require more than 40 times more lithium and up to 25 times more cobalt, nickel and graphite than the world was producing in 2020. Assuming such scale is even possible, there are serious questions about whether mineral and metal production can expand nearly quickly enough to meet the 2050 deadline.

Transitioning to a net-zero carbon footprint also requires a massive overhaul of existing energy infrastructure, as well as development of new systems and technologies, all of which will be very costly. High-income countries (including Canada) would need to allocate between 20 and 25 per cent of their annual incomes (broadly measured as GDP) to the transition. That would create significant economic challenges for citizens in terms of living standards.

A final problem is that achieving decarbonization by 2050 hinges on extensive and sustained global cooperation, a difficult task given the conflicting political, strategic and economic interests of different countries. In 2024 it’s not easy to imagine how the major countries can coordinate their decarbonization efforts. The European Union and the United States are already reducing emissions. But China and India are still increasing their coal combustion and have decades of emissions growth ahead of them, while Russia’s economic stability depends on exporting fossil fuels. And low-income African countries are expanding their fossil fuel consumption to build infrastructure and lift their living standards to alleviate poverty.

After two centuries of rising global carbon emissions, the goal of zero carbon by 2050 faces significant economic, political and practical obstacles. Severing modern civilization’s reliance on fossil fuels may be a desirable long-term goal but it simply cannot be accomplished either rapidly or inexpensively.

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It’s Time To Abandon Reckless EV Mandates

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From Canadians for Affordable Energy

Dan McTeague

Written By Dan McTeague

Already, billions of tax dollars have been handed out in subsidies to companies that have no accountability to the Canadian taxpayer. This experiment in societal re-engineering will disproportionately harm Canadian workers and families, especially those who live in rural communities.

And it will surely fail

Canada is not nearly ready for the wholesale adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).

That was the message of the letter I sent to every member of Parliament recently, urging them to drop the “Electric Vehicle Availability Standard” introduced by the Trudeau government late last year. That’s the policy that mandates that all new vehicles sold in Canada must be electric by 2035. There is no way, considering the economic, technological and infrastructural realities of our country — and our world — where this is possible.

Stubbornly attempting to achieve this goal would do serious damage to our economy, leaving Canadian taxpayers on the hook for generations to come. Already, billions of tax dollars have been handed out in subsidies to companies that have no accountability to the Canadian taxpayer. This experiment in societal re-engineering will disproportionately harm Canadian workers and families, especially those who live in rural communities.

And it will surely fail. In my letter I highlight a few of the central reasons why staying the course on EV mandates by 2035 is extremely reckless. Right off the bat, the technology is simply not there for electric vehicles to be a reliable source of transportation in Canada’s climate. The batteries cannot hold their charge in frigid temperatures. Forcing Canadians to rely on vehicles that can’t handle our winters is irresponsible and dangerous.

Electric vehicles’ cost is another issue. Right now, the EV market relies heavily on government subsidies. These subsidies can’t last forever. But without them EVs are prohibitively expensive. Even with them, the costs of maintaining an EV are high. Replacing a damaged battery, for example, can cost upwards of $20,000. Mandating that people buy vehicles they can’t afford to either purchase in the first place or maintain if they do buy them is political malpractice.

A fact long ignored by decision-makers in Ottawa is that our electrical grid isn’t ready for the excess demand that would come with widespread EV adoption. These mandates, paired with the government’s goal of fully decarbonizing the grid by 2035, put us on a collision course with the reality of unreliable power. A grid powered, not by reliable fossil fuels, but by spotty wind and solar energy would be further burdened with millions of cars relying exclusively on electricity.

Beyond the electricity itself, the EV mandates will require additional transmission and distribution capacity. But there are no signs any plan is in place to expand our transmission capacity to meet the 2035 target.

The sheer number of new charging stations required by wholesale adoption of EVs will strain our distribution networks. Natural Resources Canada projections show that Canada will need between 442,000 and 469,000 public charging ports by 2035. At the moment, we have roughly 28,000. And that doesn’t include the private charging stations people will need to install at home. Closing that gap in such a tight time frame is almost certainly impossible.

All of those considerations aside, at a fundamental level the government’s push for electric vehicles encroaches on the operation of the free market, all in the name of emissions reductions. The Canadian economy is founded on the market principle that the consumer drives the economy (no pun intended). Thousands of times over, it has been shown that if there is enough demand for a product, supply soon follows. In the case of EVs, however, the federal government is operating under the assumption that if you somehow create a supply, that will inspire a demand.

This hasn’t worked in any of the countries where it’s been attempted, which is why nations around the world have started to tap the brakes on EV mandates. Decision-makers in Ottawa need to follow suit and abandon these reckless and costly mandates. Let the market decide when EVs are ready for prime time. In other words, let Canadians decide.

Dan McTeague is President of Canadians for Affordable Energy

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Many Gen Z and millennial Canadians don’t believe in EV corporate welfare

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From the Fraser Institute

By Tegan Hill and Jake Fuss

The Parliamentary Budget Officer recently estimated federal government support for EV initiatives will cost Canadian taxpayers $31.4 billion, which represents roughly $1,043 per tax filer.

According to a new Leger poll, a significant percentage of Gen Z and millennial Canadians don’t believe that billions of dollars in government subsidies to build electric vehicle (EV) plants—including $5 billion to Honda, $13.2 billion to Volkswagen and $15 billion to Stellantis—will benefit them. And based on a large body of research, they’re right.

The poll, which surveyed Canadians aged 18 to 39 who are eligible to vote, found that only 32 per cent of respondents believe these subsidies (a.k.a. corporate welfare) will be of “significant benefit to your generation” while 28 per cent disagree and 25 per cent are on the fence.

Unfortunately, this type of taxpayer-funded corporate welfare isn’t new. The federal government spent an estimated $84.6 billion (adjusted for inflation) on business subsidies from 2007 to 2019, the last pre-COVID year of data. Over the same period, provincial and local governments spent another $302.9 billion on business subsidies for their favoured firms and industries. And these figures exclude other forms of government support such as loan guarantees, direct investments and regulatory privileges, so the actual cost of corporate welfare during this period was much higher.

The Trudeau government has shown a particular proclivity for corporate welfare. According to a recent study, federal subsidies have increased by 140 per cent from 2014/15 to 2023/24. But again, the money used to fund these subsidies isn’t free—its funded by taxpayers. The Parliamentary Budget Officer recently estimated federal government support for EV initiatives will cost Canadian taxpayers $31.4 billion, which represents roughly $1,043 per tax filer.

And Canadians are right to be skeptical. Despite what the Trudeau or provincial governments claim, there’s little to no evidence that corporate welfare creates jobs (on net) or produces widespread economic benefits.

Instead, by giving money to select firms, the government simply shifts jobs and investment away from other firms and industries—which are likely more productive, as they don’t require government funding to be economically viable—to the government’s preferred industries and firms, circumventing the preferences of consumers and investors. If Honda, Volkswagen and Stellantis are unwilling to build their EV battery plants in Canada without corporate welfare, that sends a strong signal that those projects make little economic sense.

Finally, higher taxes (or lower government spending in other areas) ultimately fund corporate welfare. And higher taxes depress economic activity—the higher the rates, the more economic activity is discouraged.

Unfortunately, the Trudeau government believes it knows better than investors and entrepreneurs, so it continues to use taxpayer money to allocate scarce resources—including labour—to their favoured projects and industries. And since politicians spend other people’s money, they have little incentive to be careful investors.

Canadians, including young Canadians, are right to be skeptical of corporate welfare. As the evidence suggests, there’s little reason to think it will lead to any economic benefit for them.

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