Canada’s government wants us to pay for our GHG emissions … and everybody else’s, too

From today’s Financial Post, another look at Canada’s emissions, and again, wondering why our government portrays us as the environmental bad guys?

Early in my banking career in a discussion about statistics I was told an old joke that rang true enough that it stayed with me. The story goes like this: An interview for a job opening attracted a mathematician, a statistician and an economist. The employer asks them each to calculate the answer to two plus two. The mathematician says four. The statistician, after studying it for an hour, declared the answer to be somewhere between three and five. And several hours later, the economist raises his hand to ask: What answer would you prefer?

The joke explains why it’s so interesting to examine economic data presented in isolation of other related data. For example: the popular manner to present data related to GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions is via “per capita” output, but a better measure would calculate GHG emissions against the economic output of the country. The reason is that the impact on emissions is affected by a country’s population density, its climate and its trade (especially exports) all of which have an effect on GHG emissions.

As one example, the new NAFTA (or USMCA) is a trade deal between Canada, with a population density of four people per square mile; Mexico, with 57 people per square mile; and the U.S., with 92 people per square mile. Obviously, density per square mile will have a direct impact on GHG emissions, and the ability to get products to business and consumer markets, be they imported or exported or produced locally. Similarly, each country’s climate will impact GHG emissions. Canada is much colder than either Mexico or the U.S. It’s why Canadians who can afford it head south in the winter, while the rest of us stay home and try to stay warm by generating GHG emissions.

Canada’s GDP in 2017 was $1.653 trillion and our international trade saw us export $549.6 billion or 33.2 per cent of our GDP. We imported $573.6 billion, leaving us with a trade deficit of $24 billion. Our largest exports were “energy products,” totaling $94.8 billion, mainly crude oil and crude bitumen.

Natural Resources Canada notes of Canada’s crude oil production: “GHG emissions per barrel of oil produced in the oilsands have fallen 29 per cent since 2000” and “Canada is the fourth largest producer and fourth largest exporter of oil in the world.” It also notes that the oilsands emit about 60 megatonnes of GHGs per year. That’s 8.5 per cent of Canada’s total emissions and 0.13 per cent of annual global emissions. Eighty per cent of the emissions in a barrel of Canadian oil are emitted by the end user — almost all of it outside of Canada.

Now, if one examines GHG emissions of Middle Eastern oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, one finds they emit more GHGs “per capita” than Canada — and way more GHG emissions per $1,000 of GDP.

In 2017 Canada exported $444.9 billion to its biggest markets: NAFTA and China (comprising 81 per cent of all Canadian exports). Those exports generated GHG emissions of 301 kilograms per $1,000 of GDP, totaling approximately 133,915 kilotons.

Our imports from the U.S., Mexico and China amounted to $414.5 billion and represented about 181,386 kilotons of GHG emissions produced in those three countries. So, despite importing $30.4 billion less from the U.S., Mexico and China, the GHGs that those countries produced to make goods imported by Canada was around 47,471 kilotons higher than the GHGs Canada produced to export goods to those three countries — exports of which oil made up the largest share, and exports that were actually worth more in total value than the higher-emitting imports.

Despite this, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of the Environment Catherine McKenna want to hit all Canadians with a carbon tax. In effect, they want us to pay for our trading partners’ emissions as well as our own. But if we really wanted to contribute to a global reduction in GHGs, perhaps the better way would be to build a pipeline or two in order to get our low-emission crude to foreign markets. That would generate good jobs and tax revenue for Canada while reducing global emissions. Who knows? It might even help balance the federal balance the federal budget.

Parker Gallant is a retired bank executive.



Outrageous: Ontario’s electricity CO 2 reductions cost

January 16, 2017

Ontario Premier Wynne: not to be outdone  (Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Ontario Premier Wynne: not to be outdone

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on October 3, 2016 he would put a price on carbon starting in 2018, if the provinces have not put one in place. He also announced the price would start at $10 a ton and rise to $50 per ton by 2022.  As Ontario residents may already know, as of January 1, 2017 the Premier Wynne-led government already moved in that direction imposing a “cap and trade” tax they claim will burden us with a cost of $13 per month via a tax on gasoline and one on our home heating source of natural gas.

This new tax comes on top of one ratepayers in this province should already be aware of as we have been paying for carbon reduction for some time via our electricity bills.

A website providing the Ontario Energy Report states at the bottom it “was first produced in Q3 2014” and uses IESO as its data source.  The quarterly reports contain lots of information; however, they are generally not available until the end of the quarter following the one being reported on.  The reports provide: generation achieved from the TX (transmission connected) market and details on the capacity of both TX and DX (local distributor connected) sectors.  The report is also specific in terms of both exports of surplus electricity and imports and their respective destinations (exports) or sources (imports).  Contained in the 16 pages are many charts and graphs providing information on other facts such as the average hourly electricity price (HOEP), the Global Adjustment (GA) by ratepayer class (A and B), conservation initiatives, etc.

The report also has a graph specific to CO2 emissions from Ontario’s electricity sector starting in 2007 and identifies, by year, the Megatonne (MT) emissions.   If one looks at 2009, which is the year the Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) was passed, total emissions were 16 MT. In 2015 emissions had dropped to 7 MT.  The 7 MT in 2015 were flat measured against 2014’s emissions and, based on results available for the first three quarters of 2016, it appears set to a level that will be around 5.5 MT!  The drop of 10.5 MT since 2009 suggests the Ontario electricity sector reduced CO2 emissions by 10,5 million tons.

How much have Ontario electricity customers paid?

Ontario ratepayers should suspect the foregoing results have been achieved via our electricity bills as they have climbed at multiples of inflation to accommodate renewable energy in the form of wind, solar, biomass, etc.   So, how much have we have paid, and continue to pay, for that achievement, and what does that translate to on a cost per ton basis?

That question can be answered in part by the Ontario Auditor General (Bonnie Lysyk) report of late 2015. That report noted ratepayers paid $37 billion more than necessary from 2006 to 2014 for contracts negotiated by the Ontario Power Authority, and they will pay another $137 billion more by 2032 to satisfy those and other contract obligations through to their expiries.

That brings the cost to $170 billion.

The AG’s report noted wind and solar contracts were estimated to have been paid $9.2 billion over the actual market value, due to prices that failed to reflect the drop in a competitive environment.

So, using the $170 billion to calculate the cost per ton to reduce the 10.5 million tons of CO2 emissions, it appears ratepayers are paying about $16,000 per ton.   Using only the $9.2 billion (wind and solar) the cost per ton of reducing CO2 emissions comes in at over $835 per ton.  The latter cost does not account for the intermittent and unreliable nature of wind and solar which requires back-up from gas plants and easily doubles the costs, raising the emission reduction cost to over $1,600 per ton.

What the ratepayers of Ontario have been paying to reduce emissions in the electricity sector makes the Prime Minister’s upcoming carbon tax of $10 a ton in 2018 and $50 per ton by 2022 look like chump change!

If he really is intent on driving the Canadian economy into the ground, he needs to take a lesson from Ontario’s Premier Wynne and her predecessor, Premier McGuinty.