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Ottawa’s cap-and-trade plan long on costs, light on environmental benefits


5 minute read

From the Fraser Institute

By Kenneth P. Green

” the Trudeau government’s new plan would reduce an already unmeasurable climate benefit to one even less measurable “

On Thursday, the Trudeau government unveiled its plan to cap greenhouse gas emissions from Canada’s oil and gas sector. The plan calls for a “cap-and-trade” system rather than a mandatory hard cap on emissions.

A previous plan would have required the oil and gas sector to reduce emissions by 42 per cent (from 2019 levels) by 2030. The new plan calls for a 35 per cent to 38 per cent cut (again, compared to 2019 levels by 2030). So the government has somewhat softened the target. However, the slight change is unlikely to improve the cost/benefit analysis for the sector or affected provinces.

As noted in a study published earlier this year, the Trudeau government’s previous plan would have resulted in at least $45 billion in revenue losses for the oil and gas sector in 2030 alone, which would imply a significant drop resource royalties and tax revenue for governments. And costs would ripple farther out from the oil and gas sector, into the plastics and petrochemical sectors, imposing more costs and threatening the employment of many Canadian workers in those sectors.

Crucially, according to the study, this economic gain would come with little or no environmental benefit. While the reductions would be large when only considering Canada’s oil and gas sector, the impact on climate change, which is a matter of global GHG concentrations, would be virtually nonexistent. The government’s previous plan called for Canada to reduce GHG emissions by 187 megatonnes in 2030, which would equate to four-tenths of one per cent of global emissions and likely have no impact on the trajectory of the climate in any detectable manner and hence offer equally undetectable environmental, health and safety benefits. In other words, the Trudeau government’s new plan would reduce an already unmeasurable climate benefit to one even less measurable.

And now, there are serious questions if the new plan will deliver even the miniscule climate benefit mentioned above. Under a cap-and-trade scheme, companies can trade in emission offsets if they’re unable to reduce emissions via their own technological processes, and to avoid cutting oil and gas production. But emission offset schemes are deeply dodgy.

As noted in a Guardian investigation of Verra, the world’s leading offset market—basically, organizations that reduce carbon in the atmosphere by tree-planting and other initiatives—more than 90 per cent of Verra’s rainforest offset credits (among the most commonly used by companies) are likely “phantom credits” and do not represent genuine carbon reductions. And as reported in the ultra-green Grist, rainforest credits are not the only bogus game in town. “In reality… the market for these offsets is ‘riddled with fraud,’ with offset projects too often failing to deliver their promised emission reductions.”

Canada’s domestic carbon offset market may be more robust than in other countries, but there’s no guarantee. If a significant share of Canada’s offsets prove to be as bogus as the international norm, GHG reductions from the oil and gas sector might be smaller still.

The Trudeau government’s new GHG cap on the oil and gas sector is a moderate improvement over the previous plan. The cap is a bit less stringent, and therefore might be easier to attain. And the use of cap-and-trade rather than a hard cap will give the oil and gas industry more flexibility, and more importantly, allow it to avoid curtailing production to satisfy the cap. But the plan still fails a critical cost/benefit analysis. It remains quite high in potential costs for Canada’s oil and gas sector, particularly in provinces which produce the most oil and gas, yet will deliver environmental benefits that are too small to measure.

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A CNN report that hasn’t been published yet. Interview with Alex Epstein of Energy Talking Points

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A CNN reporter interviews me about my political work

A behind-the-scenes look at my work with candidates and elected officials

In mid-February, a CNN reporter who had been following Ron DeSantis’s primary campaign, and had heard the campaign refer positively to my work, reached out to me to learn more about the behind-the-scenes work I do with candidates and elected officials.

I thought readers of this newsletter would enjoy learning more about this work—which, as you will see, is non-partisan, non-exclusive, and principled: my team and I will advise any major politician or candidate who asks, and will only deliver messaging and policy ideas we believe are pro-freedom and pro-human.

(I am keeping the identity of the reporter anonymous, and I am further protecting the person by paraphrasing their questions in my own words so that no specific phrases are attributable to them. Note also that CNN has not yet published my comments.)

CNN Reporter

What kinds of opportunities do you think exist for a Republican president in terms of energy and environmental policy?

Alex Epstein

I do a lot of advising of people in politics, and it actually has no partisan affiliation. So I’ll advise anyone from any party and I never support any candidate. I’ve advised multiple of the presidential candidates and I would advise Biden if he asked me (he hasn’t asked me for any advice yet).

My interest is in pushing what I call energy freedom policies—which we could get into the details of—which I think would be very good for the country.

CNN Reporter

What are energy freedom policies, and how do you go about advising policymakers to put them into practice?

Alex Epstein

The basic idea of energy freedom is that the key to both energy abundance and everything that comes with it, including prosperity here and around the world—but also coming up with long term alternatives to fossil fuels—is ultimately to be free to produce and use every form of energy.

I believe there’s a near term imperative to have as much energy as possible. I don’t think we should be restricting fossil fuel use. But I also think there’s a lot of things we can do to get out of the way of alternative forms of energy. So I’m personally agnostic in terms of what form of energy wins; I just want the most cost-effective thing to win.

For example, in the realm of alternatives, what we really need are alternatives that can be globally cost-competitive, such that China, India, etc., will voluntarily adopt them, versus the current state of affairs where China has 300-plus new coal plants in the pipeline designed to last 40-plus years because that’s the cheapest thing.

So that’s the broad idea. I can send you some links on this, but I’ve broken it down into five key policy areas. And then there are a lot of detailed policies within that. But the broad frame—and again, I can send you documents—but “Liberate responsible domestic development” is one of them. And so, that basically means: allow America to build things quickly. Right now, China can build a subway station in nine hours. We can’t build a yoga studio in nine months. So basically, getting all of the anti-development stuff out of the way. And again, this is energy agnostic. It’s not just for fossil fuels, but a lot of the changes apply to fossil fuels.

Number two is: “End preferences for unreliable electricity.” I think there are a lot of bad policies that favor unreliable electricity, so solar and wind without really accompanying battery storage or other backup. And so I advocate a suite of policies that I think would allow all forms of energy to compete to provide reliable electricity.

The third one is: “Reforming environmental quality standards to incorporate cost-benefit analysis.” Most people don’t know this, but right now, EPA is literally not allowed to consider the cost of its policies. And I think that just violates basic rules, and it guarantees that we do things that are bad for our economy and for health, because wealth is health. And if you can’t consider the cost of your policies, and you can only consider the benefits, then you’re always going to tend toward more anti-industry stuff. So there’s a suite of reforms there.

Number four is: “Address CO2 emissions long term by liberating innovation not punishing America.” So I sort of indicated this before, but I don’t believe in short term restrictions on fossil fuels. I think basically anything we do to restrict ourselves just harms America, and doesn’t do anything to make low carbon alternatives cost-competitive. So I think all the action should be in things like liberating nuclear, liberating deep geothermal, and a lot of this is in the “Liberating responsible domestic development.” If you make that a lot easier, you make it easier to do these other things, these alternatives.

And then the fifth one is kind of a specification on the fourth, but it’s “Decriminalize nuclear,” because I think nuclear energy is the most persecuted form of energy. It has a really tragic history where it used to be cost-effective and now it’s not, because of irrational regulations that have made it 10 times more expensive and yet have added zero safety benefit. They’ve in fact harmed our safety in many ways by depriving us of clean, safe nuclear energy. And so I think there’s a whole suite of reforms necessary for that.

So those are the broad areas and then in each area, you know, my team and I are hard at work detailing, “Hey, what are the key reforms?” And one thing just to note is that I don’t hold any political office, I never will, I don’t lobby for anyone, I don’t endorse anyone, I set up everything so I’m quite independent.

So what I try to do is just say what I think is right, and then persuade people as much as possible. And fortunately a lot of people listen to me, but I have no power over anything officially—but that also allows me to just say what I think is right. So, I’m not under the illusion that everyone is going to do exactly what I think, but they do listen.

And then to your question about what’s happened: I’ve only been working with politicians since really 2020, and we’ve done it through a vehicle called Energy Talking Points—which, everyone can see the messaging at—and we have only recently in the last 6 to 12 months started getting into policy advice.

We have some policy stuff in the works with a few different offices, and certainly we’ve advised multiple Presidential candidates on policy ideas, but I don’t think we’ve yet seen these energy freedom policies pursued, really put forward, to the extent we’ll see it in the next year or two. Whereas we have seen, I think, quite a bit of my messaging being used.

CNN Reporter

Why has the nuclear energy space become so toxic in recent years?

Alex Epstein

If you look at where nuclear was at its peak, it’s arguably in the late 60’s when you’re really getting cost-competitive with coal. But, you know, safer and cleaner than coal—and I’m a big advocate of coal. I mean, I’m a big advocate of anything that can produce additional cost-effective energy. But I think nuclear was in the realm of out-competing coal back then.

And it has a lot of inherent advantages. It’s very dense. The fuel supply is abundant, the fuel is cheap, safer to mine obviously, doesn’t emit anything harmful in the air. But it was demonized as a unique safety threat, whereas I think in reality—and I talked about this in my book Fossil Future and on—I think it’s actually uniquely safe.

And we’re doing a lot of work on this in terms of our nuclear policies that we’re working on. But I think the green movement, which is very tied to the anti-fossil-fuel movement, really demonized it to the point where people equated nuclear power with nuclear bombs, thought of it as uniquely dangerous and then set up a whole regulatory infrastructure including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where the whole focus was on making nuclear infinitely safe beyond any fearmonger’s imagination, versus making it available.

And so they thought, in practice, the best way to make it safe was to make it non-existent. And that’s why since the NRC came into existence in 1975, we didn’t have one new nuclear plant go from conception to completion until last year. And those plants were many times over budget in Georgia.

So I think it’s a 50 year plus problem and when I talk to any politician, what I just tell them is, “You have to be willing to consider fundamental reforms of the NRC and perhaps replacing it with something else, because the status quo is so bad.” Often politicians just like saying that they like things, or kind of tinkering at the margins, saying, “Hey, we’ll give it some funding,” or you know, “We’ll invest in this research,” and I think you have to fundamentally stop treating nuclear as a uniquely dangerous form of energy.

There’s a whole bunch of things that need to be done, but I’m glad people are talking about it more positively. But the policy, we’re in a policy catastrophe with it. I don’t believe any significant progress will be made until we radically change the policy.

CNN Reporter

Have you spoken to DeSantis personally?

Alex Epstein

So, without going into much detail, since most of this stuff is confidential, I have spoken to him before, and I’ve spoken to his team before. And I would say that what you see publicly is reflected privately in the sense of: he and they are very detail-oriented, particularly in terms of implementation.

They’re very interested in: How do you actually get these things to work? And I think that’s something that is very good and it’s something that I try to become better at myself. I mean, there are plenty of things that I disagree with Ron DeSantis about, but I respect that detail-orientation, and I think it explains the ability to get things done in practice.

CNN Reporter

What candidates did you advise this cycle?

Alex Epstein

I won’t say specifically, but a lot of them I either talk to—I always tried to talk to the individual or the team, and that happened in many of the cases. I mean in general we, this project I call Energy Talking Points, we advise something like at this point over 200 major offices. Last year I probably advised 75-plus major politicians. So, I talk to a lot of people to various degrees, and again, I don’t do anything for them except offer them messaging and policy—but I think we do quite a good job with that and I think that’s why they listen. Or, sometimes they listen; definitely not always.

CNN Reporter

What have you learned since you’ve entered the space of politicians who shape policy?

Alex Epstein

From my perspective, as somebody who considers himself more pro-freedom than both major political parties, I’ve been surprised at how open people are to more radical ideas if those ideas are explained in detail and have accompanying persuasive arguments.

One thing I try to do when I advise people is give them solutions, not just vague advice. So if I’m giving policy, give very specific guidance, give guidance on how to talk about it. And this is also true about messaging.

For example, one thing you saw—this is not me revealing anything because it was public—both Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy, I can send you an article I wrote about this, but they talked about, you know, the 98% decline in climate-related disaster deaths. So this was at least mentioned by DeSantis in his energy speech in Midland, and Vivek mentioned it many, many times, sometimes mentioning my name and my book, Fossil Future.

And I think this is a really important point for people to understand: that empirically, we’re safer than ever from climate disasters. And I think people should think about why that is and what the implications are for the future.

I was impressed that leading politicians are willing to talk about that. And my experience with people like that is they’ll ask for references. At least some of them. And I was happy to see that the media felt the need to respond.

So we saw—I’ll send you this article—but we saw Reuters responded to it, the New York Times responded to it, PolitiFact responded to it. And none of them could answer the basic fact—they tried to sort of explain their way around it—but none of them refuted the basic fact. And I just thought, okay, I like that people are willing to say and do more pro-freedom and more principled things if somebody really helps them with the details. That was my hope when I started getting into politics and I am seeing that bear out to a significant extent.

CNN Reporter

Have you changed your approach over the years as you’ve watched the public react to your talking points?

Alex Epstein

I’ve been working on these issues for 17 years, so a lot of this stuff, I test it out in different kinds of ways—which is not the same, I mean, I’m not running millions of dollars worth of polls and stuff. But I test it out in front of different audiences. I see how people respond on social media.

I think people are open to a lot, so my own interest is what’s right and do the best job you can of persuading people of it. And there’ll be plenty of people who try to compromise that and dampen it. I don’t need to be the one to do it. I just try to make sure for everything I say, I can make, I think, a case that would persuade a reasonable person who was inclined to disagree with me but wasn’t dead-set on disagreeing with me.

If I have trouble doing that and I think the thing is right, then I try to get better at arguing for it. I don’t just give up. And just as a personal policy, I don’t ever advocate anything I don’t agree with, and I will never help a politician with something I don’t agree with. So for example, as I said, I’m not partisan, but if Republicans want to pass an import carbon tax, I will definitely not help them with that and I’ll publicly argue against them.

CNN Reporter

I noticed Elon Musk receiving some pushback from surprised conservatives, when he posted that the best way to address climate change is with a carbon tax.

Alex Epstein

Well, that’s been his position for a long time. I don’t think it really makes any sense. But what’s interesting I think about him—and I don’t actually attribute this to him taking over Twitter—he has dramatically moderated his hostility toward fossil fuels and his belief in climate catastrophe.

So he has some hostility now, and to some extent, his very rosy claims about solar and batteries, although those have been moderated the least; maybe there are commercial reasons for that. But he’s kind of, you know, if you look at when the Powerwall came out, he’s just like—and this is almost a direct quote—“burning fossil fuels and putting stuff into the atmosphere is the worst idea ever” and “the planet is on fire.” That’s what it looks like.

And it’s just kind of—and then we have this Powerwall and a million things he said about the Powerwall that didn’t come remotely true and would obviously not come remotely true if one knew anything at the time. But now his position [on climate] is sort of, “Yeah, you know, it’s not going to be a problem for a while, but it may be a problem eventually.” And he loves to say, “If I could push a button and get rid of oil and gas, I wouldn’t push the button, and in fact, we need more oil and gas in the US, short-term.”

So he’s become more moderated.

But yeah, carbon tax, that’s a standard thing that a lot of people believe in, so anyone who’s surprised with that just hasn’t followed him at all. And he’s not actually—whatever one thinks of the change in his views—he’s not like a standard conservative. He never was a standard liberal or a standard conservative, I don’t think.

CNN Reporter

Thank you for your time.

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Trudeau accused of lacking leadership after refusing to meet with premiers about carbon tax

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From LifeSiteNews

By Anthony Murdoch

Ontario Premier Doug Ford called the prime minister’s answer ‘snarky.’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s refusal to meet with five Canadian premiers, who have demanded a meeting with him to discuss the ever-escalating carbon tax that shot up 23 percent on April 1, shows he lacks any true “leadership,” quipped Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.

Last Thursday during an interview with the CBC’s Matt Galloway for an episode that aired-on April 4, Trudeau said he already “had” a meeting with the premiers in 2016 and will “continue to talk with premiers” about the carbon tax but will not meet with them soon.

Moe said Trudeau’s refusal to meet with the premiers is “not leadership.”

“Premiers have respectfully asked the Prime Minister for a meeting to discuss the carbon tax. Here is the snarky answer that we got,” Moe wrote Monday on X, with a link to a CBC report regarding Trudeau dismissing a full-out meeting with the premiers.

“That’s not leadership,” he added.

Shortly after the Trudeau government raised the carbon tax by 23 percent on April 1, the premiers of AlbertaSaskatchewanOntario,  and New Brunswick all wrote letters to Trudeau asking him to convene an emergency first ministers meeting, to discuss the carbon tax’s detrimental effect on Canadians finances.

The first premier to write to Trudeau was Newfoundland and Labrador’s Andrew Furey, who wrote to him before April 1 demanding a meeting.

Last Thursday, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith in her letter to Trudeau wrote, “Albertans and Canadians are facing a cost-of-living crisis not seen in decades.”

“In March, natural gas was selling at less than $1.80 a gigajoule. Now that the carbon tax has increased to $4.09 per gigajoule, the tax alone is more than double what it costs Albertans to heat their homes. This is not just reckless, it is immoral and inhumane,” she wrote.

Last Friday at a press conference, Ford said, “Taxing people doesn’t reduce emissions, and that’s what they’re doing. They’re hurting the economy. They’re hurting people. Unacceptable.”

Protests against Trudeau have been increasing in recent months due to the unpopularity of higher carbon taxes as well as other governmental policies.

LifeSiteNews reported last week that protesters let Trudeau know their true feelings about his tanking in the polls by heckling him with loud drum beats and screams during a press conference.

On April 1, Canada’s carbon tax, which was introduced by the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2019, increased from $65 to $85 per tonne despite seven of 10 provincial premiers objecting to the increase and 70% of Canadians saying they are against it.

Trudeau has remained adamant that he will not pause the hikes.

As it stands, Canadians living in provinces under the federal carbon pricing scheme pay $65 per tonne, but the Trudeau government wants to increase this to $170 per tonne by 2030.

Recent polls show that the scandal-plagued government has sent the Liberals into a nosedive with no end in sight. Per a recent LifeSiteNews report, according to polls, in a Canadian federal election held today, Conservatives under leader Pierre Poilievre would win a majority in the House of Commons over Trudeau’s Liberals.

Trudeau’s government is trying to force net-zero regulations on all Canadian provinces, notably on electricity generation, as early as 2035. The provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are adamantly opposed to Trudeau’s 2035 goals.

The Trudeau government’s current environmental goals, which are in lockstep with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, include phasing out coal-fired power plants, reducing fertilizer usage, and curbing natural gas use over the coming decades.

The reduction and eventual elimination of the use of so-called “fossil fuels” and a transition to unreliable “green” energy has been pushed by the World Economic Forum (WEF) – the globalist group behind the socialist “Great Reset” agenda in which Trudeau and some of his cabinet are involved.

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