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Ottawa should end war on plastics for sake of the environment

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4 minute read

From the Fraser Institute

By Kenneth P. Green

Here’s the shocker: Meng shows that for 15 out of the 16 uses, plastic products incur fewer GHG emissions than their alternatives…

For example, when you swap plastic grocery bags for paper, you get 80 per cent higher GHG emissions. Substituting plastic furniture for wood—50 per cent higher GHG emissions. Substitute plastic-based carpeting with wool—80 per cent higher GHG emissions.

It’s been known for years that efforts to ban plastic products—and encourage people to use alternatives such as paper, metal or glass—can backfire. By banning plastic waste and plastic products, governments lead consumers to switch to substitutes, but those substitutes, mainly bulkier and heavier paper-based products, mean more waste to manage.

Now a new study by Fanran Meng of the University of Sheffield drives the point home—plastic substitutes are not inherently better for the environment. Meng uses comprehensive life-cycle analysis to understand how plastic substitutes increase or decrease greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by assessing the GHG emissions of 16 uses of plastics in five major plastic-using sectors: packaging, building and construction, automotive, textiles and consumer durables. These plastics, according to Meng, account for about 90 per cent of global plastic volume.

Here’s the shocker: Meng shows that for 15 out of the 16 uses, plastic products incur fewer GHG emissions than their alternatives. Read that again. When considering 90 per cent of global plastic use, alternatives to plastic lead to greater GHG emissions than the plastic products they displace. For example, when you swap plastic grocery bags for paper, you get 80 per cent higher GHG emissions. Substituting plastic furniture for wood—50 per cent higher GHG emissions. Substitute plastic-based carpeting with wool—80 per cent higher GHG emissions.

A few substitutions were GHG neutral, such as swapping plastic drinking cups and milk containers with paper alternatives. But overall, in the 13 uses where a plastic product has lower emissions than its non-plastic alternatives, the GHG emission impact is between 10 per cent and 90 per cent lower than the next-best alternatives.

Meng concludes that “Across most applications, simply switching from plastics to currently available non-plastic alternatives is not a viable solution for reducing GHG emissions. Therefore, care should be taken when formulating policies or interventions to reduce plastic demand that they result in the removal of the plastics from use rather than a switch to an alternative material” adding that “applying material substitution strategies to plastics never really makes sense.” Instead, Meng suggests that policies encouraging re-use of plastic products would more effectively reduce GHG emissions associated with plastics, which, globally, are responsible for 4.5 per cent of global emissions.

The Meng study should drive the last nail into the coffin of the war on plastics. This study shows that encouraging substitutes for plastic—a key element of the Trudeau government’s climate plan—will lead to higher GHG emissions than sticking with plastics, making it more difficult to achieve the government’s goal of making Canada a “net-zero” emitter of GHG by 2050.

Clearly, the Trudeau government should end its misguided campaign against plastic products, “single use” or otherwise. According to the evidence, plastic bans and substitution policies not only deprive Canadians of products they value (and in many cases, products that protect human health), they are bad for the environment and bad for the climate. The government should encourage Canadians to reuse their plastic products rather than replace them.

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Automotive

US EV Industry Shifts Back Into Reality Gear

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From the Daily Caller News Foundation

By DAVID BLACKMON

 

At the start of each year, I write a piece in which I make a set of predictions about what will happen in the energy space during the coming 12 months. One prediction I made in this year’s story focused on the likelihood of a big fallout in America’s EV manufacturing industry.

Citing Fisker and Rivian as examples, I questioned whether any of the pure-play electric vehicle companies based in the United States had the ability to compete with Tesla in that market.

I took some heat from viewers that same week after I predicted on a podcast that every one of the U.S. pure-play EV makers besides Tesla would be either in bankruptcy or teetering on the brink by the end of 2024. As things are turning out, my only regret there is that I did not predict they would all be in that state by the middle of 2024 instead of the end of the year.

This week, Fisker filed for bankruptcy, becoming the latest in a series of casualties in the growing falling-out in the EV sector. As The New York Times noted in its story on the matter, Fisker was one of a number of pure-play EV makers who were able to raise billions in startup funds from investors who got caught up in the EV frenzy during 2020 and 2021.

Several of those firms, like ProterraArrival, and Lordstown Motors already preceded Fisker down the bankruptcy path. Others, like Rivian, are right on the verge of taking the same plunge.

Lucid makes just one model, a luxury sedan, and is struggling to find buyers. It boasted about setting a new delivery “record” in the first quarter of this year, but a closer search reveals that was for only 1,967 units. The carmaker followed that announcement with another in May that it would lay off 400 employees in an apparent effort to conserve cash.

Oof.

EV truck maker Nikola, meanwhile, saw its stock price hit a record low this week amid ongoing softening in the US EV market. At the close of June 20 trading, Nikola’s price had dropped to just 33 cents per share. The stock collapse comes months after the company had delivered its first hydrogen fuel cell heavy truck during Q1, but that amounted to sales of just 42 units.

These and other pure-play EV makers are not in any way serious competition for Tesla.

Note also that Tesla is having major struggles of its own as the pace of EV adoption growth slows to a snail’s pace. The company laid off 10% of its workforce in May amid the ongoing slowing of the EV market. Tesla’s rollout of its radically designed Cybertruck has been plagued by recalls, technical issues and customer complaints, and the company’s overall Q1 2024 sales numbers fell dramatically from both Q4’s numbers and year-over-year.

But its decade-long head start on the competition, vertical integration of supply chains and diversification into other ventures give Tesla advantages these other pure-play EV companies do not and cannot enjoy. It remains uniquely situated among its peer group to survive the market contraction.

Traditional automakers like Ford and GM have been able to placate investors about their stunning losses in EV ventures (Ford somehow managed to lose $132,000 per unit sold in Q1 2024) by offsetting them against major profits from their traditional gas and diesel-powered car divisions. But even those companies have invoked an array of strategic shifts over the past six months in which they have delayed or cancelled planned new investments in their EV dreams.

What we are seeing here is a rapid shifting back to reality in the US auto industry. EVs always have been, are today, and will remain a niche product that can fill specific needs for a limited segment of our population, mainly the wealthy. The reason why the traditional, gas-and-diesel-powered auto segments at companies like Ford and GM remain wildly profitable is because that is where the real auto market remains.

No amount of Soviet-style central planning, industrial policy and command-and-control edicts and regulations coming down from Washington, D.C., are going to change that reality.

David Blackmon is an energy writer and consultant based in Texas. He spent 40 years in the oil and gas business, where he specialized in public policy and communications.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Featured image screenshot: (Screen Capture/PBS NewsHour)

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Automotive

Government subsidies cost more than EV capital investments

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From the Canadian Taxpayers Federation

Author: Franco Terrazzano

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is calling for an end to corporate welfare following today’s Parliamentary Budget Officer report showing government subsidies are 14 per cent more than the capital investments corporations are making in the electric-vehicle supply chain.

“Putting taxpayers on the hook for more money than these corporations are spending to build their own factories is an awful deal for ordinary Canadians,” said Franco Terrazzano, CTF Federal Director. “Taxpayers are being taken to the cleaners with this EV corporate welfare.”

The PBO released a report regarding recent government subsidies for EV factories.

“For the $46.1 billion in investments (capital expenses) across the EV supply chain, PBO estimates total corresponding government support (for capital and operating expenses) to be up to $52.5 billion, which is $6.3 billion (14 per cent) higher than announced investments,” according to the PBO report.

Of the $52.5 billion in taxpayer subsidies, the PBO estimates $31.4 billion is coming from the federal government and $21.1 billion is coming from provincial governments.

“These lopsided numbers show that these corporate handouts are nothing more than a vanity project for politicians,” said Jay Goldberg, CTF Ontario Director. “If these politicians want to grow the economy, they should cut taxes and red tape rather than make bad bets with taxpayers’ money.”

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