Fossil Fuel Industry and ‘Negotiators’ Celebrate Another Victory

IMG_3749

By Kaleigh McGregor-Bales

Today Canadian ‘negotiators’, sponsored by the fossil fuel industry, toasted to victory at COP 17. Working together, the fossil fuel industry and Canadian government successfully obstructed progress yet again –solidifying growing profits and expanding Tar Sands development.
The Canadian government and the fossil fuel industry have a very cozy relationship. This is seen through the loading of government positions with oil executives and lobbyists; the deregulation and subsidy of Tar Sands development; and the international and domestic lobby to weaken import regulations and science surrounding the world’s dirtiest and most inefficient source of fossil fuels.

Economy vs. Environment
The current government keeps telling us that we have to choose between the economy and the environment. They keep telling us that if we choose the environment the Canadian economy will collapse, Canadians will lose their jobs and we will pay through the roof for heat and electricity.

It turns out that our economy would actually do better AND more jobs would be created if Canada invested in a green energy economy instead of the fossil fuel industry. Yet, the Government of Canada subsidizes the fossil fuel industry $1.4 billion a year, financing the growth of the very rich and powerful fossil fuel industry.

What are Subsidies?
A subsidy is any government action that lowers the cost of production for the producer, raises the price received  by producers or lowers the price paid by consumers. It can take the form of tax credits or exemptions, loans or government spending on infrastructure that supports an industry.

Subsidies are used as a tool to assist an industry that provides a public good or beneficial externalities. In other situations they are used to help the poor. They can also be used to spur economic growth or investment in a country. The fossil fuel industry meets none of these criteria.

The fossil fuel industry produces devastating externalities.
Externalities are effects arising from the production and/or consumption of goods and services that are not reflected in the price producers or consumers pay. For example, air pollution costs billions of dollars every year in hospital bills and worker absenteeism, both negative externalities that Canadians pay for, not the fossil fuel industry. Climate change is the biggest externality of the fossil fuel industry and the people who pay the price are those who did the least to cause the problem.

The fossil fuel industry is rich, students are not.
Fossil fuel companies with Tar Sands investments have combined revenues of 1.2 trillion dollars. 1.1 trillion of that goes to foreign owned companies. The money that Canada spends subsidizing this multi-trillion dollar industry could pay off 2/3 of the student loans taken out this year. The $1.4 billion spent on subsidies could also be invested in the emerging renewable energy sector OR it could be used to help meet Canada’s international obligation for climate change financing.

The fossil fuel industry is hurting the Canadian economy.
The opportunities in the green market are rapidly growing, but Canada is not investing in this sector, which means Canadians are losing out on job opportunities as manufacturing contracts go to other countries. Canada continues to invest in the oil and gas industry, a sector of employment that will be phased out in 10-20 years.

Then why is Canada doing this?
I hate to break it to those of you who think we live in a perfect democracy where our leaders represent our best interests. We have a broken democratic system where the people elected do not represent the people who vote. Big business has become so powerful that they exert way more power t on government decision making than regular Canadians.

I hate to break it to those of you who think we live in a perfect democracy where our leaders represent our best interests. We have a broken democratic system where the people elected do not represent the people who vote. Big business has become so powerful that they exert way more power t on government decision making than regular Canadians.

So why do people still think that the government is acting in our best interest?
We learn in school that the government is democratically elected, that every good citizen’s role is to vote on election day, and that the winner will make decisions that are best for the majority of Canadians. We learn in school that Canada is a generous country. We learn that Canada has strong social assistance programs to protect its citizens and gives aid money to people around the world in need.

Because of our education and understanding of Canadian politics we find it so hard to believe that the government is making that decisions that are actively detrimental to the Canadian economy and to those who are most vulnerable in our society. We find it impossible to believe that a leader who claims his main goal is economic recovery and job creation is ignoring the road to prosperous future. We find it hard to believe that Canada is spending its money on rich oil companies instead of on social programs and assistance to people in need in Canada and around the world.

Believe it!
And join in to create the solutions we want. The fossil fuel industry has used their money and cozy relationship with the government to weaken climate policy. But there is nothing more powerful than people collectively standing up, and working on our own terms to build the future we want.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: