This minority Parliament must get started on the Green New Deal we need

The history of Petro-Canada’s creation in the 1970s offers inspiration for our current political moment

Image result for ricochet: This minority Parliament must get started on the Green New Deal we need

After the votes were counted, Trudeau had fallen from a majority to minority parliament while trouble was brewing in Alberta.

This might sound like a few days ago, but it was actually 1972. And while the situation was different, what happened under that Trudeau minority government offers a lesson on how our minority Parliament can deliver on a Green New Deal for Canada — a transformative plan to tackle both growing economic inequality and the climate crisis at once — and how the NDP and Green parties can help make it happen.

Flashback to 1973: the Liberals held 109 seats, the Tories 107, and the NDP 31 (out of a then-total 264 seats in the House of Commons). Since the Progressive Conservative opposition of the day was itching for another chance to go to the electorate, the NDP knew that Pierre Trudeau needed their votes and so they dug in their heels and demanded that the Liberals support an NDP motion calling for the creation of a national oil company.

Petro-Canada is an example of how Liberal minority parliaments, pushed by the NDP, have passed major progressive legislation.

It worked. Thanks to a wave of rising economic nationalism — not dissimilar in scale to the current rise in public opinion around climate action — the Liberals supported the motion, and after the Liberals won a majority government again in 1974, Petro-Canada was founded by an act of Parliament. On Jan. 1, 1976, against the wishes of an already powerful oil lobby based in Calgary, the Crown energy company started operations.

Knowing what we know now — Exxon Mobil first learned about the fact that digging up and burning CO2 could wreck our planet back in 1977 — using the powers of our federal government to drill for more oil wasn’t the best call. And had the NDP retained the balance of power when Petro-Canada was formed, its story might have looked a lot different. Nevertheless, Petro-Canada is an example of how Liberal minority parliaments, pushed by the NDP, have passed major progressive legislation. We also have this kind of balance of power to thank for universal healthcare, the Canada Pension Plan, the 40-hour work week and increases to the minimum wage.

In 2019, this kind of balance of power could help us rise to tackle the climate crisis. But, that requires nothing less than taking control of our energy economy and turning it hard towards 100 per cent renewable energy.

The same factories that built planes, trains, and automobiles could build the electric public transit infrastructure we need to make free transit a reality all across the country.

Imagine if, like in 1973, the current NDP (with the support of climate-friendly parties like the Bloc and the Greens) drew a line in the sand and made their support for the Liberals’ first budget contingent on a big, bold first step towards the transition. A step like founding Renewable Canada, a massive publicly-owned Crown utility tasked with rapidly expanding the renewable energy industry. Its mandate could be based on the 57 recommendations that policy experts outlined in a 2015 report explaining how Canada could get to 100 per cent renewables. And, as they did with Petro Canada, they could open the head office in downtown Calgary, with a fossil fuel worker transition centre on the ground floor as a concrete expression of a clear promise that this new energy economy won’t leave workers or communities behind.

And that’s just one idea. The government could also found a “No-Crown” corporation, run by First Nations, that had the money and mandate to end boil water advisories and transition the 86 per cent of remote communities currently dependent on diesel power for their electricity to renewables. And we could nationalize faltering auto plants and train manufacturers in central Canada. And we could start to approach getting people moving on rail with the same fervour as moving oil by rail. The same factories that built planes, trains, and automobiles could build the electric public transit infrastructure we need to make free transit a reality all across the country.

Climate change is too complicated to solve with one Crown corporation. And while the NDP, Greens, Bloc, and Liberals promised bolder climate action, none of their election platforms actually met the scale of the climate crisis. Even the NDP, who continue taking steps towards embracing a fulsome Green New Deal, put out a platform that fell short of the economic transformation we need.

Part of that is that this challenge is bigger than what we faced in the 1970s, and frankly bigger than any government has faced since. But that doesn’t mean Parliament can’t take big steps, and even leaps, to transform our economy. We’ve done it before, whether by passing big progressive legislation under previous minority governments, or during World War II, when Canada founded 28 new Crown corporations to dramatically overhaul our economy.

People, especially youth, are ready for and demanding solutions of this scale. The lesson from Petro-Canada can give us a roadmap for one way to get started, and to get started fast.

This Parliament could put Canada to work on a Green New Deal. It’s just a question of whether we’re willing to dream, and demand, big enough ideas.  SOURCE

B.C. First Nations should require full clean-up costs up-front for mines: new study

While other jurisdictions like Quebec and Alaska require mines to post full remediation costs as a condition of approval, B.C. rules allow environmental liabilities from mining projects — which are often on Indigenous lands — to fall to the taxpayer

Colin Arisman Tulsequah Chief
The abandoned Tulsequah Chief mine site is situated just meters from the Tulsequah, a tributary of the salmon-rich Taku River. For six decades B.C. has failed to address acid mine drainage at the mine site. Photo: Colin Arisman / The Narwhal

The First Nations Energy and Mining Council has added its voice to increasingly insistent calls for B.C. to toughen up mining rules and make polluters pay.

A newly released study, conducted for the council, recommends the province change rules to ensure mining companies post sufficient funds up-front to pay for cleanup and remediation of mining sites and the report recommends that, if the government will not act, First Nations should do it for them.

“If the British Columbia provincial government does not implement the … recommendations, Indigenous nations should require in-full and up-front financial assurance as a condition of their consent to mining projects,” the study says.

Alternatively, First Nations could negotiate full clean-up costs as part of impact and benefits agreements with mining companies, suggests economist Jason Dion, lead author of the report.

The demand is buoyed by B.C.’s commitment to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the study says that requiring stringent financial assurances before mining projects can go ahead on Indigenous lands “would be fully in line with their rights as articulated in the UN Declaration.”

Robert Phillips, a member of the First Nations Mining and Energy Council, said government reaction to the report will indicate its commitment to UNDRIP.

“By accepting our recommendations, the B.C. government will be demonstrating that it is genuinely committed to not only mining reform, but also the spirit and principles of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act that is being passed by the Legislature,” Phillips said.

Another recently released report, from the B.C. Mining Law Reform Network is recommending that Indigenous-led groups should be given a larger role in overseeing mining projects approved on their lands.

Taxpayers on the hook for mine clean-up costs

Although mining companies are supposed to be liable for the costs of mine remediation in B.C., in reality, taxpayers are left on the hook for expensive clean-up of sites if a mining company goes broke because the province does not insist on up-front bonds in the form of cash or securities.

Instead, pledges or guarantees based on the value of minerals are often accepted when the provincial Chief Inspector of Mines decides on the form of financial assurance.

That leaves B.C. taxpayers on the hook, with Auditor General Carol Bellringer estimating in her 2016 report that there is a $1.43 billion gap between the total cleanup liability of $2.79 billion and $1.36 billion held in financial assurance. Another report by the watchdog group MiningWatch Canada estimated the figure to be closer to $3 billion.

The expense of cleaning up mining messes, such as acid mine drainage, can be staggering.  MORE

 

Here’s a way for governments to buy positive outcomes

Some of the toughest social problems can be solved through community-driven outcomes contracts – C-DOCs – which provide incentive for innovation.

Image result for policy options: Here's a way for governments to buy positive outcomes

Can a little-known practice called “outcomes purchasing” generate solutions to social, economic and environmental challenges? We believe the answer is yes. Through a form of outcomes purchasing we call community-driven outcomes contracts (C-DOCs), governments, communities, investors and the charitable sector can collaborate in transforming seemingly intractable problems into opportunities for inclusive growth. Moreover, the soon-to-be-launched $755-million federal Social Finance Fund presents Canada’s social sector with a powerful new tool for financing such work.

First, let’s consider the status quo. Governments provide grants and contracts to social-purpose organizations (social enterprises, nonprofits and charities) to deliver programs that are closely tracked on the basis of activities or outputs: how many homeless people sheltered, how many people enrolled in addictions treatment programs and so on. However, short-term fixes that alleviate suffering do little to address the conditions that create such problems. At worst, they foster dependency.

In contrast, C-DOCs set targets that social-purpose organizations are then funded to deliver. They provide an incentive to innovate: to iteratively test, evaluate, adapt and scale evidence-based approaches. Whether the issue is homelessness, chronic disease or greenhouse gas emissions, providing financing in a way that rewards results can accelerate systemic shifts.

C-DOCs are similar to social impact bonds (SIBs), in that investors provide upfront capital to a social-purpose organization to implement a new approach to a problem. If successful, an outcomes purchaser — usually a government — pays back the investors. However, C-DOCs have several important differences from SIBs. First, community priorities inform and drive the projects, and thus accountability is not just to investors and outcomes buyers but also to community stakeholders. Second, C-DOCs might include, and indeed require, a community engagement and development phase supported by grants, as well as the seconding of technical expertise to social-purpose coalitions.

Let’s look at two examples in which our organizations are involved.

Jobs + renewable energy = economic reconciliation

Winnipeg-based Aki Energy is an Indigenous-led social enterprise founded in 2013 to build relationships with First Nations and train community members to do geothermal installations. Aki replaces expensive, noisy and polluting diesel generators in First Nations communities with geothermal systems that meet community heating and air-conditioning needs, lower utility bills, reduce GHG emissions and create good jobs in the process. Aki has installed systems in over 400 homes and community buildings in the northern Manitoba communities of Peguis, Fisher River, Sagkeeng and Long Plain First Nations. Originally, it worked with Manitoba Hydro’s Pay-As-You-Save program, receiving $20,000 in upfront capital investment for each installation, recouped through a long-term charge on utility bills — thus benefiting communities, taxpayers and the environment.

However, in 2016, Aki Energy hit a roadblock. Federal bureaucrats weren’t convinced that Pay-As-You-Save was the right program for the delivery of large-scale energy transformation on reserves, and they halted their involvement. After unsuccessful efforts to challenge this ruling, Aki co-founder Shaun Loney and Ian Bird, president of Community Foundations of Canada (CFC), worked with the McConnell Foundation and Raven Indigenous Capital Partners to develop the community-driven outcomes contract that now helps finance Aki’s operations.

By definition, a C-DOC must meet needs that have been prioritized by communities. In this instance, those needs are skills training and job creation, lower utility costs, reduced dependency on social assistance — and the completion of geothermal installations. Raven Capital is an Indigenous social finance intermediary focused on revitalizing Indigenous economies. Several foundations and the communities themselves are providing upfront investment, and CFC is the initial outcomes buyer, with additional purchasers set to come onstream via a larger outcomes fund.

Healthy food + social enterprise = reduced incidence of diabetes

Food insecurity is an acute problem for many Indigenous people in Canada’s North. By several measures, Nutrition North Canada — the freight subsidy program intended to reduce the cost of food in northern communities  is not working. One result is runaway rates of type 2 diabetes, afflicting 17 percent of on-reserve First Nations individuals versus just 5 percent of the general population. An Ontario study showed that caring for one person with diabetes entails $10,000 in extra health spending annually without considering expenses like air transport and medical support, which are higher in remote communities.

In the Manitoba community of Garden Hill (population 2,600), diabetes treatments cost $2.6 million annually and the Nutrition North subsidy is nearly $1 million. To qualify, food must be flown in from the south — locally raised food gets no support. It’s a system designed for poor outcomes: expensive and (often) unhealthy food, erosion of the local food economy, escalating rates of diabetes and burgeoning health care costs. Outcomes purchasing is designed to tackle this sort of wicked problem.

Part of the solution is to revive the local food economy. With support from a consortium of foundations and provincial agencies, Aki Energy’s sister enterprise, Aki Foods, worked with elders and other leaders to create the Meechim Project. Employing local residents, it has established a farm with a poultry operation, an orchard and an irrigated vegetable garden. It sells healthy food at prices lower than those at the freight-subsidized monopoly retailer.

Raven Capital is working with First Nations communities, foundations, governments and private sector participants from Manitoba and PEI to design C-DOCs that will finance improved health and employment outcomes in Garden Hill and similar locations. 

Governance for outcomes

The federal government’s new $755-million Social Finance Fund gives Canada a powerful tool with which to co-invest public capital in systemic social innovation. We believe C-DOCs can deepen the fund’s reach and impact. With additional capacity building and R&D support, communities and a diverse range of social-purpose coalitions will soon have access to repayable capital to address a wide range of challenges.

Governments are key outcomes buyers and can send important signals to markets, including through the use of C-DOCs. But when it comes to collective challenges like mitigating and adapting to climate change or advancing economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, governments cannot act alone. Corporations have important roles, too — through social procurement and investment in outcomes-focused social enterprises. Trustees of foundations, university and hospital endowments, public pension funds and Indigenous trusts must accept that in our current circumstances, the exercise of fiduciary duty entails more than maximizing financial returns. It means investing in sustainability, equity and social cohesion, and resilience. This in turn requires improved facility with behavioural economics, evidence-based policy-making and smart metrics.

C-DOCs cannot solve problems by themselves, but in the hands of leaders in all sectors — public, private and community — they can help to accelerate societal transition at multiple scales at this critical time. SOURCE

As electric vehicles age, here’s how the batteries are finding a second life

With EV sales projected to hit 130 million by 2030, the industry faces a potential battery waste problem


Reusing and recycling the batteries in electric vehicles further reduces the carbon footprint of the cars, touted as a key solution to climate change. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In his pursuit to completely get off fossil fuels, David Elderton has switched anything with a motor — from his car to his chainsaws — over to battery power.

Even the three-bedroom home he shares with his partner on B.C.’s Salt Spring Island is powered, in part, by a battery from a wrecked Tesla Model S he bought last year; it charges via solar panels mounted on his shed.

The size of two large coolers side by side, he says the battery can keep the lights on for up to five days with conservative power use, and about a day when almost everything is running.

Elderton is part of a community of do-it-yourself electricians offering the batteries from totalled or end-of-life electric vehicles a second life.

“It’s a good feeling not to be buying gas anymore,” he told Day 6.


David Elderton has fitted his woodshed with an array of solar panels, which charge the Tesla battery he has connected to his house. They also feed electricity back into British Columbia’s electrical grid. (David Elderton)

A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature found while the electric vehicle “revolution” is crucial to a greener future, it presents a battery waste management problem that should be quickly addressed.

The authors estimate the one million electric vehicles (EV) sold in 2017 carry a collective 250,000 tonnes — or 500,000 cubic metres — of battery.

With the International Energy Agency forecasting more than 130 million electric vehicles on roadways worldwide by 2030, manufacturers and startups are looking ahead to keep EV batteries from the landfill through second-life use and recycling.

Research shows that while an electric vehicle will produce fewer carbon emissions compared to a fossil fuel-powered car over its lifetime, building them is energy intensive.

Manufacturing one electric vehicle battery is equivalent to about one year of emissions from a fossil fuel-powered car, according to Olivier Trescases, who heads the University of Toronto’s Electric Vehicle Research Centre.


Based on the typical driver’s annual driving distance, the battery in an electric vehicle could see a 20 per cent reduction after about 150,000 km. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Reusing and recycling the batteries further reduces the carbon footprint of the personal vehicles, he said, which are touted as a key solution to climate change.

“There’s a cycle that’s envisioned and it’s already starting to happen.”

A second life

Like a cellphone battery, electric vehicle batteries lose capacity as they are charged and discharged. That means less range and more frequent charging — but not that it’s necessarily ready for the dump.

“Once the battery degrades to, let’s say 20 per cent below its nominal capacity, then you can actually use it, repurpose it for stationary applications,” said Trescases. “Then finally [move to] recycling and repurposing.”

This year, Nissan began powering streetlights in Japan and a stadium in the Netherlands with customers’ used batteries. In 2015, General Motors took on a similar project at their data centre in Michigan.

A computer monitors the voltage and health of Elderton’s second-life battery project. Fully charged, the battery holds about 20 kilowatt hours of electricity. (David Elderton)

A computer monitors the voltage and health of Elderton’s second-life battery project. Fully charged, the battery holds about 20 kilowatt hours of electricity. (David Elderton)

But DIY builders have used the older batteries in their homes as makeshift powerwalls.

“There [are] people who are trying to save money on their power bill. There are people who are living off-grid, whether it be in a house or a cabin or maybe an RV,” Elderton said.

“I think there’s just something about batteries that is fascinating and people like to play around with them.”

Particularly crafty do-it-yourselfers have even fitted sailboats and classic cars with electric motors for a silent ride.

Repurposing an electric vehicle battery at home can be risky. The battery packs hold a lot of energy, and when damaged, lithium-ion batteries can explode.


(Ben Shannon/CBC)

But researchers suggest that second-life solutions are preferable to direct recycling.

Given how valuable batteries could be for stationary storage, Trescases suggests that, in the future, electric vehicles batteries could be built with repurposing in mind as a standard feature.

“What makes that the most compelling is when you design the battery from the get-go to actually make a seamless transition from the first life in the car to second life in stationary,” he said.

According to Jessika Trancik, an energy systems researcher at MIT, second-life solutions and recycling of the battery packs could also be a key element in eliminating one of the main barriers to EV adoption: Sticker shock.

“Finding either a way to capture the value in the metals in the battery through recycling or … finding valuable second-life applications can reduce the upfront cost of electric vehicles,” she said.

As electric vehicles age, here’s how the batteries are finding a second life  A study published in the journal Nature finds that while the EV “revolution” is crucial to a greener future, it presents a battery waste management problem. Manufacturers, startups — and everyday Canadians — are already looking ahead. 9:24

Recycling companies emerge

Established companies and startups are already gearing up for what they say is an oncoming onslaught of spent batteries from the first commercially available electric vehicles, which are expected to reach end of life by 2025.

According to Kunal Phalpher, chief commercial officer for Li-Cycle, a battery recycling startup in Mississauga, Ont., vehicle manufacturers want to do the right thing when it comes to disposing batteries.

“I would say that it’s really more rare that the battery ends up in the wrong place from the EV space than say portable electronics,” he said, pointing to e-waste from devices like cellphones and laptops that may end up forgotten in a drawer or thrown in the garbage.


In Canada, charging an EV emits less carbon dioxide than burning a tank of gas because electricity is generated mostly by carbon-free sources. ‘Simply by switching to an electric vehicle, you can reduce your greenhouse gas emissions from driving by 40 per cent or more,’ said Jessika Trancik. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A handful of Canadian companies, including Li-Cycle, say they have developed processes that can mine the valuable — and finite — materials that might otherwise remain locked in depleted lithium-ion batteries.

“The process that we’ve been developing is able to produce raw material — very pure, so battery-grade material — that we can ship back directly for people that are producing batteries,” said Samuel Fournier, head of business development at Montreal-based Lithion Recycling.

Both Li-Cycle and Lithion use a process called hydrometallurgy; after the batteries are mechanically dismantled, solvents are used to separate the essential minerals and metals.

Li-Cycle says their process can recover 80 to 100 per cent of materials, and Lithion claims 95 per cent.


(Ben Shannon/CBC)

Currently, battery recycling often takes place in China and South Korea and, as this week’s Nature study notes, stockpiling or shipping batteries has its own set of environmental concerns.

Fournier says Lithion hopes to open small-scale plants that will be able to recycle batteries locally, reducing the need for shipping and cutting down on carbon emissions.

“We treat this a bit as urban mining,” he said, adding their first pilot plant is expected to open in Montreal early next year.

By using recycled materials, Phalpher says automakers will be able to significantly reduce their carbon emissions.

“People are looking at … the CO2 footprint of the complete life cycle of the car,” he said. “Having recycled raw material in their supply chain will significantly benefit them.” SOURCE

The pressing need to learn from Indigenous elders

CBC Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the North examined how the role of elders is evolving in today’s society


A generations-long legacy of colonialism has left many young Inuit struggling to connect with their culture. But in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, a group of grandmothers is fighting to link their people’s past to their future. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Elders are storytellers, teachers, protectors, healers and pivotal members of Indigenous communities in Canada.

Many grew up speaking an Indigenous language, learning ceremony and living off the land. Several are also survivors of residential school or the Sixties Scoop.

As the current generation of elders ages — some particularly respected elders have died in recent years — some people worry about the knowledge lost and the voids left in their communities.

While the essentials of elders’ roles haven’t changed, the world they’re living in today presents a new set of challenges.

Much of the younger Indigenous population across the country is growing up separate from their culture and language, often in urban settings. This disconnect, exacerbated by the intergenerational effects of colonization, has ignited an urgent movement to maintain Indigenous culture.

CBC Saskatchewan, CBC Manitoba and CBC North embarked on a months-long project to speak with elders, elders-in-training and youth from across their vast territories to learn how these knowledge keepers view their role today — and why they’re more critical than ever before.

Margaret Leishman is an elder living in Kakisa, N.W.T. She describes in her own words what being an elder means to her.

In high demand

The role of the elder has expanded beyond Indigenous communities and what some would consider traditional. This emotional and physical work can be taxing. With that comes the risk of burnout.

Elder J. Archie Weenie, who lives in Regina, is approached for help daily. He doesn’t say no.

Youth is the priority

A common thread across the conversations with elders was the importance of connecting with youth and how it is proving increasingly difficult.

One grandfather lamented how time with elders is being replaced by screen time.

You must have that drive within yourself — to replace screens with trees, headphones with drums.– Joachim Bonnetrouge, elder from Fort Providence, N.W.T.

For instance, a legacy of colonialism has left many young Inuit struggling to retain their culture. In Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, a group of grandmothers is fighting to change that at Annana’s Camp.

In Cambridge Bay, as with everywhere, fewer and fewer kids are growing up learning Indigenous languages.

That’s why a group of Cree elders on Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation in Manitoba is attempting to create a syllabic dictionary.

“They need to be educated in their language and their culture,” said Elvis Thomas, from Nisichawayasihk. “Unfortunately for us, it’s been dominated by the British and French versions, but we’re beginning to make inroads, and the language and culture program is part of that.” MORE

Taking a Different Approach to Fighting Climate Change

The research of Narasimha Rao, a Yale professor, shows that reducing inequality could improve our ability to mitigate some of the worst effects on the environment.

Narasimha Rao, a professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, specializes in energy systems analysis.
Narasimha Rao, a professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, specializes in energy systems analysis.Credit…Monica Jorge for The New York Times

When policymakers, financiers and scientists describe the world decades from now, in the throes of climatic changes that we now only model, they emphasize what might be lost. They discuss the threats to gross domestic product, the havoc wrought by natural disasters or the runaway greenhouse gas emissions released by emerging national economies.

To Narasimha Rao, a professor at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies specializing in energy systems analysis, that is a false choice, one that sacrifices justice on the altar of economic growth.

So far, the global economy has not been able to fully decouple growth in G.D.P. from growth in greenhouse gas emissions. That relationship portends doom for a planet trying to keep emissions in check in order to avoid global catastrophe and also for emerging economies — mainly in the global south — working to lift millions out of poverty, and to achieve the levels of growth and success that the United States and much of the West have experienced.

But through his research, Mr. Rao, who also has appointments at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria and the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment in India, has found that we don’t need to choose. Instead, he has developed the Decent Living Energy Project, an assessment of both the energy needs in select emerging economies and the climate impacts of providing everyone in those same economies with a basic living standard. This standard would largely be defined by access to adequate nutrition, safe homes with sanitation and basic amenities such as refrigeration, mobility, education and basic health care.
“The dominant discourse in climate change and energy transitions equates well-being to G.D.P., and we need tomove beyond that.”

Mr. Rao, in rear, conducted a survey of energy use in a school in Uttar Pradesh in India in 2014.

His research shows that reducing inequality — within countries and between them — would improve our ability to mitigate some of the worst effects of climate change, and provide for a more stable climate future. Fundamentally, for Mr. Rao, climate change, at its most essential, is a justice issue.

The following conversation has been edited and condensed. MORE

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Visionaries

Flood of Oil Is Coming, Complicating Efforts to Fight Global Warming

A Norwegian oil platform in the North Sea. Norway’s production has declined for two decades, but its development of the Johan Sverdrup deepwater field should reverse the trend.
Credit: Nerijus Adomaitis/Reuters

HOUSTON — A surge of oil production is coming, whether the world needs it or not.

The flood of crude will arrive even as concerns about climate change are growing and worldwide oil demand is slowing. And it is not coming from the usual producers, but from Brazil, Canada, Norway and Guyana — countries that are either not known for oil or whose production has been lackluster in recent years.

This looming new supply may be a key reason Saudi Arabia’s giant oil producer, Aramco, pushed ahead on Sunday with plans for what could be the world’s largest initial stock offering ever.

Together, the four countries stand to add nearly a million barrels a day to the market in 2020 and nearly a million more in 2021, on top of the current world crude output of 80 million barrels a day. That boost in production, along with global efforts to lower emissions, will almost certainly push oil prices down.

Lower prices could prove damaging for Aramco and many other oil companies, reducing profits and limiting new exploration and drilling, while also reshaping the politics of the nations that rely on oil income.

Canada, Norway, Brazil and Guyana are all relatively stable at a time of turbulence for traditional producers like Venezuela and Libya and tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Their oil riches should undercut efforts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Russia to support prices with cuts in production and give American and other Western policymakers an added cushion in case there are renewed attacks on oil tankers or processing facilities in the Persian Gulf.

Daniel Yergin, the energy historian who wrote “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Power and Money,” compared the impact of the new production to the advent of the shale oil boom in Texas and North Dakota a decade ago.

“Since all four of these countries are largely insulated from traditional geopolitical turmoil, they will add to global energy security,” Mr. Yergin said. But he also predicted that as with shale, the incremental supply gain, combined with a sluggish world economy, could drive prices lower. MORE

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Bill Gates, I Implore You to Connect Some Dots

Bloomberg, Dimon and Gates call liberal tax ideas unfair. But excessive wealth is the real threat.


Credit…CJ Gunther/EPA, via Shutterstock

The billionaire class has begun unloading on Elizabeth Warren. A few days ago, Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan Chase — at just $1.6 billion in net worth, a comparative piker — said Senator Warren “vilifies successful people.” Then Bill Gates ($107 billion), in an onstage interview with The Times’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, mused about what his tax bill might be in a Warren presidency and left the door open to voting for Donald Trump should Democrats nominate Ms. Warren. And then Michael Bloomberg ($52 billion), who had previously criticized Ms. Warren as anti-corporate, signaled his intention to jump into the race, obviously out of concern at her rise.

I’m not expert enough to judge the wisdom of Senator Warren’s proposed wealth tax. I know that there are questions about its constitutionality and that several European nations tried a similar approach and found it unworkable (though four countries still have it). I don’t get why the candidates aren’t simply proposing to increase marginal income tax rates on dollars earned above some very high figure. That seems a lot more straightforward to me.

So this column is not a brief for Ms. Warren’s wealth tax or for her candidacy — I don’t have a preferred candidate. Instead, I want to make a simple plea to the country’s billionaires: Multibillion-dollar fortunes are often called excessive and decadent. But here’s something they’re rarely called but ought to be: anti-democratic. These fortunes will destroy our democracy.

Why “anti-democratic”? Why would it matter to our democracy whether Jeff Bezos is worth $113 billion (his current figure) or $13 billion?

This is carnage, plain and simple. No democratic society can let that keep happening and expect to stay a democracy. It will produce a middle and working classes with no sense of security, and when people have no sense that the system is providing them with basic security, they’ll make some odd and desperate choices.

This is obviously not hypothetical. It’s happening. It’s what gave us Mr. Trump (well, that plus the campaign lies). It’s what made Britons vote Leave (well, that plus the campaign lies). It’s what has sparked protests from France to Chile to Lebanon, and it’s what is making the Chinese model — no democracy, but plenty of security — more attractive to a number of developing countries around the world than the American model. Our billionaires ought to ponder this.

I imagine that Mr. Gates is repulsed by Mr. Trump on some level, and at the end of the day probably couldn’t vote for him. But if I could meet Mr. Gates, I’d ask him: Sir, do you not see the link between your vast fortune and the ascendance of Donald Trump? If not, I implore you to connect some dots. Wealth has shifted to the top. It has been taken away from the middle class. That makes people anxious. Anxiety opens the door to demagogues. It’s not complicated.

We need changes in our laws and institutional structures that will alter what economists call pretax distribution. This is a point made by the economist Dean Baker — that income inequality is less a result of tax policy than laws and regulations that have made the rich richer before taxes are even imposed. These changes have to do with

And yes, we do need to tax rich people more. In my lifetime, the top marginal tax rate has gone (roughly speaking) from 91 percent to 77 percent to 50 percent to 35 percent to today’s 37 percent. That’s too low. I’m not with Bernie Sanders, who says there should be no billionaires. That’s too punitive. But I do think Mr. Bezos could get by on $15 billion or so.

Billionaires will protest that they’d rather give it away than trust the government with it. I applaud their generosity. But even someone as rich as Michael Dell, who went on a rather infamous riff along these lines at Davos, could not build a nationwide high-speed rail system, clean the country’s air and water (and keep them clean), create a network of free opioid clinics across the country or give towns that have been hollowed out by the global economy a second chance. Only government can do those things. MORE

Climate Change: If Canada Was Sweden

Image result for greta thunberg climate strike sweden
Greta Thunberg with her “school strike for the climate” sign. Photo: AP Photo/Francois Mori

When Greta Thunberg began her Friday climate strikes on August 20, 2018, she promised to continue her weekly protests until Sweden reduced carbon emissions in line its Paris Agreement commitments. Since then, her legendary rise to become the world’s leading environmental activist has propelled millions to call for more ambitious action on the global climate emergency. In Canada, a million of us hit the streets on September 27 crying out for aggressive climate policy that matches the scope and severity of the climate crisis we are facing.

If Canada Was Sweden

There are many similarities between Canada and Sweden. Geographically, both countries are located in the northerly part of the northern hemisphere. Both have small populations living largely in urban centres but also widely scattered in rural areas. Both have a large living space per capita. So how do both countries compare on climate policy and emissions reduction? Barry Saxifrage provides some answers in his recent piece in the National Observer.

Annual GHG Emissions

Ten years ago, Canada signed the Copenhagen Accord pledging to reduce its GHG emissions by 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. We will miss that goal by a country mile. We’re actually 20% above our target.

The main culprit killing any hope for reducing emissions on a national scale is Alberta which shows an alarming increase of 58%. Alberta makes up 11.6% of Canada’s population but it produces a whopping 37.5% of our GHG emissions. By comparison, Ontario is the most populous province with 38.3% of the population but only 23.3% of Canada’s GHGs.

The Saxifrage chart (above right) compares the three provinces recently visited by Greta—B.C., Quebec and Alberta—to Sweden which has scaled down its pollution by 26% during the same time frame.

“Sweden’s efforts show that it is clearly possible for wealthy northerners to achieve the kinds of pollution reductions we promised – and a whole lot more. Heck, the U.K. has managed to pull off a 41 per cent reduction since 1990,” writes Saxifrage.

Emissions Per Person

This Saxifrage chart shows climate pollution per person for Sweden and the same three provinces.

The Swedes again come out on top in a comparison of tonnes of CO² per person with Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.

  • Global average – 6.2 tCO²
  • Sweden -5.2 tCO²
  • Quebec – 9.4 tCO²
  • B.C. – 12.9 tCO²
  • Alberta – 64.1 tCO²

Alberta is 10 times higher than the global average and 12 times higher than Sweden. The oil and gas sector dwarfs every other sector of the province’s economy.

Under the Paris Accord, Canada has committed to a 30 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 (compared to 2005 levels). By refusing to do its share of the heavy lifting, Alberta single-handedly  threatens to kill all of Canada’s climate goals.

In a previous piece, Saxifrage shows how our national carbon budget is “being eaten up by climate pollution from Alberta’s oilsands industry.”

The emissions gap between Swedes and Canadians is sure to widen as the Kenney government in Alberta doubles down on the unrelenting expansion of oilsands production. Similarly British Columbians face the grim prospect of more pollution resulting from the further development of LNG projects.

Driving

Many people reading this subtite will think immediately that comparing the driving and flying habits of Swedes and Canadians is an unfair comparison. We have much greater distances to travel. But Saxifrage takes this into account by comparing the amount of pollution per kilometre for the average passenger vehicle.

Our average Canadian vehicle dumps 206 grams of CO² per kilometre into the atmosphere. This converts to 4,850 kilometres of driving for each ton of emissions.

Swedish cars fare much better. They produce 139 grams per kilometre and can drive 7,200 kilometres for each ton they emit—50% better than their Canadian counterpart.

The climate impacts of driving and transportation in general are increasingly under the microscope as we struggle to remain within the global carbon budget. Using more efficient travelling modes—buses, rail, EVs, car pooling—will stretch our distance travelled per tonne of CO².

Not Climate-Perfect

As Greta has indicated quite openly, Sweden is not climate-perfect. There is much room for improvement. On flying alone, Swedes pollute three times more than the global average. In comparison, Canadians are at 4.6 times the global average.

The latest environmental movement sweeping Europe and Scandinavia is flygskam, an anti-flying movement that started in Sweden.  Flygskam translates to ‘flying shame’. And Greta’s decision to stop flying is shining the light on this trend. “I’ve decided to stop flying because I want to practice as I preach, to create opinion and to lower my own emissions. One person who stops flying will not make a difference. But if a large number of people do then it will. It sends a message that we are in a crisis and have to change our behaviour,” says Greta Thunberg. SOURCE

The climate impacts of driving and transportation in general are increasingly under the microscope as we struggle to remain within the global carbon budget. Using more efficient travelling modes—buses, rail, EVs, car pooling—will stretch our distance travelled per tonne of CO².

Not Climate-Perfect

As Greta has indicated quite openly, Sweden is not climate-perfect. There is much room for improvement. On flying alone, Swedes pollute three times more than the global average. In comparison, Canadians are at 4.6 times the global average.

The latest environmental movement sweeping Europe and Scandinavia is flygskam, an anti-flying movement that started in Sweden.  Flygskam translates to ‘flying shame’. And Greta’s decision to stop flying is shining the light on this trend. “I’ve decided to stop flying because I want to practice as I preach, to create opinion and to lower my own emissions. One person who stops flying will not make a difference. But if a large number of people do then it will. It sends a message that we are in a crisis and have to change our behaviour,” says Greta Thunberg.

The Billionaires Are Getting Nervous

Bill Gates and others warn that higher taxes would lead to lower growth. They have their facts backward.

By 

The editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.

Bill Gates in New York on Wednesday.
Credit…Calla Kessler/The New York Times

When Bill Gates founded Microsoft in 1975, the top marginal tax rate on personal income was 70 percent, tax rates on capital gains and corporate income were significantly higher than at present, and the estate tax was a much more formidable levy. None of that dissuaded Mr. Gates from pouring himself into his business, nor discouraged his investors from pouring in their money.

Yet he is now the latest affluent American to warn that Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan for much higher taxes on the rich would be bad not just for the wealthy but for the rest of America, too.

Mr. Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, suggested on Wednesday that a big tax increase would result in less economic growth. “I do think if you tax too much you do risk the capital formation, innovation, U.S. as the desirable place to do innovative companies — I do think you risk that,” he said.

Other perturbed plutocrats have made the same point with less finesse. The billionaire investor Leon Cooperman was downright crude when he declared that Ms. Warren was wrecking the American dream. Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, complained on CNBC that Ms. Warren “uses some pretty harsh words” about the rich. He added, “Some would say vilifies successful people.”

Let’s get a few things straight.

The wealthiest Americans are paying a much smaller share of income in taxes than they did a half-century ago. In 1961, Americans with the highest incomes paid an average of 51.5 percent of that income in federal, state and local taxes. In 2011, Americans with the highest incomes paid just 33.2 percent of their income in taxes, according to a study by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman published last year. Data for the last few years is not yet available but would most likely show a relatively similar tax burden.

The federal government needs a lot more money. Decades of episodic tax cuts have left the government deeply in debt: The Treasury is on pace to borrow more than $1 trillion during the current fiscal year to meet its obligations. The government will need still more money for critical investments in infrastructure, education and the social safety net.

This is not an endorsement of the particulars of Ms. Warren’s tax plan. There is plenty of room to debate how much money the government needs, and how best to raise that money. The specific proposals by Ms. Warren and one of her rivals, Senator Bernie Sanders, to impose a new federal tax on wealth are innovations that require careful consideration.

But a necessary part of the solution is to collect more from those Americans who have the most.

And there is little evidence to justify Mr. Gates’s concern that tax increases of the magnitude proposed by Ms. Warren and other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination would meaningfully discourage innovation, investment or economic growth.

The available evidence strongly suggests that taxation exerts a minor influence on innovation. Experts have an imperfect understanding of what drives innovation, but taxation isn’t in the same weight class as factors including education, research and a consistent legal system.

Congress has slashed taxation three times in the past four decades, each time for the stated purpose of spurring innovation, investment and growth. Each time, the purported benefits failed to materialize. President Trump initiated the most recent experiment in 2017. The International Monetary Fund concluded this year that it had not worked.

Moreover, while higher tax rates may weigh modestly against innovation and investment, that calculus is incomplete. It ignores the question of what the government does with the additional money. It also ignores the possibility that higher taxes could result in more innovation.

A study of American patent holders found that innovators tend to come from wealthy families, to grow up in communities of innovators and to receive high-quality educations in math and science. Mr. Gates, one of the most successful entrepreneurs in American history, fits the profile: He grew up in an affluent family and received the best education money could buy.

The implication of that study, and related research, is that public investment, funded by taxation, could give more kids the kinds of advantages enjoyed by the young Mr. Gates.

There is no doubt that it is theoretically possible to raise taxes to prohibitive heights: If people had to pay a tax of 100 percent of the next dollar they earned, they would be likely to call it a day.

But the alarm bells are out of all proportion with Ms. Warren’s plan. Describing his concerns on Wednesday, Mr. Gates at one point suggested he might be asked to pay $100 billion.

The Warren campaign calculates that under Ms. Warren’s plan, Mr. Gates would owe $6.379 billion in taxes next year. Notably, that is less than Mr. Gates earned from his investments last year. Even under Ms. Warren’s plan, there’s a good chance Mr. Gates would get richer.

To his credit, Mr. Gates has said that he thinks the wealthy should pay higher taxes. But that’s not how he behaved on Wednesday. He can demonstrate that he’s serious about tax increases by setting aside the hyperbole and engaging in principled and factual debate about the details. SOURCE