Monday, January 22, 2007

On both sides of the border, oil subsidies under threat

As Environment Minister Baird muses aloud about how those pesky Liberals like Stephane Dion subsidised the tarsands and he can't figure out why, the U.S. House of Representatives votes 264-163, including 36 Republicans voting with the majority Democrats, to repeal US$14bn of oil subsidies and other financial benefits. (NYT, rego required)

Garth Turner fires back at Baird, pointing out some interesting issues:
  • Dion was not involved in the programme Baird mentioned
  • the programme began when oil was at $21/bbl, not $50 as it has been recently
  • tarsands get more financial benefits than conventional oil and gas - in fact the same incentives as renewables
Turner goes on:
what we don’t need is an environment minister who has started his mandate lying about who did what, when, instead of what he’s going to do, now.
Indeed. However, it would have been good to see the Martin government think aloud about these subsidies when they had the chance. From when Martin took power in December 2003, the price of a barrel of oil gained from about $33 to $55 the following October. Even with the political uncertainty the U.S. fuel use in its Iraq operations and the effect of war and sabotage on the oil fields were unlikely to depress the price very far and Martin had only one Alberta seat to lose, and they lost it anyway. His minority props the NDP and BQ would have supported the rollback. This lost opportunity has the hallmarks of the dithering over the board of AHRC.

But then without the federally assisted boom in Alberta they would have had to do something about the unemployment situation in Newfoundland and the rest of Atlantic Canada. Instead they simply watched them move west to Fort MacMurray, burning greenhouse gases on their commute to and from their families on the Rock.
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