Photo: (not part of original article) bread lines of the great depression – coming again?
03-16-2009 NIGEL HANNAFORD
If you want to know what an economy that pumps out less carbon dioxide is like, look at Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. Factories closed, growing numbers of jobless, people driving less because they have nowhere to go, government deficits.
As it happens, it’s the U.S. debt crisis that’s done it to us. When the air comes out of the tires of your biggest trading, look out.
However, it’s also what a well-meaning climate-change lobby felt was pain worth risking for the sake of the planet, when it recommended a regimen of emission caps and/or carbon taxes to reduce C02 emissions in Canada.
How do you like it so far?
Not so much, at this desk.
This is not the whole story as it doesn’t include coal and natural gas, but there are some provocative specifics in a recent Statistics Canada document. The Supply and Disposition of Refined Petroleum Products in Canada, was published in November 2008, coincidentally a good month to review because it’s both the latest month for which figures are available and also the month when Canadians watching the American meltdown first noticed they might have a problem of their own. For, it was in November 2008 that retail fell off a cliff – especially car sales – joblessness started to climb, and the federal government was forced to revisit its economic forecasts. No more chat about balanced budgets, and so forth.
So, what do these numbers show?
Well, in Canada as a whole, domestic sales of all refined petroleum products were down five per cent in November 2008, over November 2007.
Refined petroleum products is a statistical category that includes gasoline, diesel, butane, petro-chemical feedstocks, asphalt, av-gas and a number of other things too numerous to detail. It’s not a perfect marker for industrial activity, because some industry runs off nuclear and hydro power, especially in central Canada. However, it’s good enough to indicate a trend: If there is less diesel being used, for example, there are probably less trucks on the road, because there is less reason for them to be there.
So, for Ontario and Quebec, it’s not good news that its fuel use is down slightly more than the national average in November, at 5.5 and 5.6 per cent reductions year over year respectively.
And it is especially not good news for Alberta, which is down more than seven per cent.
Ontario and Quebec are down because their manufacturing industries are in trouble.
But, what’s Alberta’s excuse? In some ways it would be a relief to spot some dramatic decline in a line item, thereby isolating the problem. Unfortunately though, the decline is across the board, suggesting a general slowing of the Alberta economy. Ouch.
All this is good news however, if you are part of the super-active climate-change lobby promoting the idea that human activity is generating so much carbon dioxide that the atmosphere is warming. (With the likely consequence of polar melting, rising sea levels and the widespread distress caused by human dislocation, etc.) A rough and dirty calculation of Canada using 445,000 cubic metres of various refined petroleum products less in November 2008, over 2007, is a reduction in CO2 emissions of 1.6 million tonnes. Annualize that kind of a reduction in fuel use and you’re looking at something like 20 million tonnes less C02 in 2009, if the recession doesn’t turn.
However, don’t cheer too quickly. In 2006, (Environment Canada’s most recent published figures,) Canadian emissions were 721 million tonnes of greenhouse gas equivalent. Take this hard-won 20 million tonnes of CO2 off the total, and it’s still just over 700 million tonnes. Meanwhile Al Gore’s true believers want to take it all the way down to Canada’s Kyoto target of 558.4 Mt.
We have a long way to go, then.
Point: If this is what an economy producing 20 million tonnes less of CO2 looks like, how prosperous will one be that contracts enough to shed a further 141.6 Mt.?
Happily governments of both parties have quietly acknowledged the suicidal nature of CO2 restrictions that actually produce significantly less CO2, (as opposed to simply making business pay carbon levies for the privilege of carrying on business-as-usual.) They have also acknowledged in their budgetary allocations, that so-called green industries are no compensation. One has to manufacture an awful lot of windmills to nudge the gross domestic product.
For that at least we can be thankful. The pity of it all however, is that when the history books of 2109 are published, their writers will express amazement that men ever thought their capacity to initiate climate change was greater than the natural forces that in the last 30,000 years first covered this continent with ice two kilometres thick, saw it recede, and allowed sea levels to fluctuate 100 metres.
If this recession does nothing else, it should bring home to all Canadians the supreme importance of not letting alarmists have their way with the economy.
This is what it would be like.