Thursday, August 30, 2007

Self-sufficiency will make us poorer

Self-sufficiency is an old fashioned, discredited idea usually championed by advocates of protectionist governments meddling in economic affairs. Yet the British Columbia Liberal government insists the path to a clean environment is for the province to become self sufficient in its energy needs.

What we need is energy security, and we get that through trade. And Premier Campbell knows this: his government's new trade agreement with Alberta, called the Trade, Investment, and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), is expected to add almost $5-billion to GDP and create some 80,000 new jobs.

Is this all about "doing something" about global warming? If so, it won't work. According to the auditor- general's office, the former federal Liberal government spent over $6-billion on climate change programs, and saw carbon dioxide emissions increase by nearly 33 per cent above Kyoto Protocol targets. Meaningful greenhouse gas reductions will come with economic efficiency, which will drive technological advancements -- not by taxing energy and providing government handouts to businesses. Premier Campbell is instead proposing Canada, or at least one important part of it, become poorer to reduce emissions.

B.C.'s misguided energy self-sufficiency policy will mean higher costs for energy, higher taxes to pay for subsidies to business, and, if fully enacted, less energy security in the future. Energy security should be the province's goal, just as it is with trade. This can be achieved through promoting trade and increasing the economic wealth of the citizens of B.C., not by picking favoured business at taxpayers' expense. So-called energy self-sufficiency will not provide the province with a secure, reliable supply of affordable energy.

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