Saturday, March 29, 2014

Here's Why B.C.'s Carbon Tax Is Super Popular -- and Effective

Gasoline Pump Label in Metro Vancouver (Credit: Steven Godfrey) Click to enlarge.
A carbon tax is just what it sounds like:  The B.C. government levies a fee, currently 30 Canadian dollars, for every metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions resulting from the burning of various fuels, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and, of course, coal.  That amount is then included in the price you pay at the pump -- for gasoline, it's 6.67 cents per liter (about 25 cents per gallon) -- or on your home heating bill, or wherever else the tax applies.  (Most monetary amounts in this piece will be in Canadian dollars, which are currently worth about 89 American cents.)

If the goal was to reduce global warming pollution, then the B.C. carbon tax totally works. Since its passage, gasoline use in British Columbia has plummeted, declining seven times as much as might be expected from an equivalent rise in the market price of gas, according to a recent study by two researchers at the University of Ottawa.  That's apparently because the tax hasn't just had an economic effect:  It has also helped change the culture of energy use in B.C.  "I think it really increased the awareness about climate change and the need for carbon reduction, just because it was a daily, weekly thing that you saw," says Merran Smith, the head of Clean Energy Canada.  "It made climate action real to people."

It also saved many of them a lot of money.  Sure, the tax may cost you if you drive your car a great deal, or if you have high home gas heating costs.  But it also gives you the opportunity to save a lot of money if you change your habits, for instance by driving less or buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle.  That's because the tax is designed to be "revenue neutral" -- the money it raises goes right back to citizens in the form of tax breaks.

Here's Why B.C.'s Carbon Tax Is Super Popular -- and Effective

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