Photo: Why is the government cheating on its diet?

Fossil fuel subsidies are at odds with the federal government's stated goal of cutting carbon.

By Ryan Kadowaki, Climate Change Program Coordinator

If you told a friend about your new diet and she responded by giving you a coupon for some discounted fast food, you would probably question whether she really wanted you to succeed. This is not unlike what the federal government is doing with its subsidization of the fossil fuel industry.

Although no formal strategy exists to reach Canada's stated emission reduction target of 17 per cent between now and 2020, the government has stated repeatedly in recent weeks that it has a plan. How the continued subsidization of oil, coal, and gas producers, whose products are making Canada carbon-heavy, fits into this vision is a mystery. Why is the government making the super-value menu cheaper when Canada should really be turning up the speed on the carbon-reduction treadmill?

The Government of Canada is giving the fossil fuel sector $1.4 billion dollars per year in subsidies, $840 million of which is in the form of special tax breaks. Phasing out these subsidies would provide a number of benefits. First, analysis by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) shows that carbon pollution from the tar sands would be 12 per cent lower if the industry were not subsidized and expanding at such a rapid rate. This would also help level the playing field of Canada's energy market. Canada has not embarked on the transition to cleaner energy sources as quickly as many other nations. The price of fossil fuels has been kept artificially low, by subsidies and the fact that industry is not accountable for its carbon emissions or contributions to air pollution. Delaying the expansion of clean technology by favouring the intensification of finite resource extraction is not a sustainable long-term strategy. The Obama administration has just announced that it will seek to repeal US$46.2 billion in subsidies for oil, natural gas and coal companies in the next 10 years, in order to increase government funding of renewable energy spending. As we emerge from a recession and politicians everywhere stress the importance of fiscal responsibility, we could surely find a more productive way of spending this money, at the very least to fund public services that don't endanger our environment and health.

As we near the release of the federal government's 2011 budget, the David Suzuki Foundation and our coalition partners under the Climate Action Network believe it's time to put an end to special tax breaks to oil, coal, and gas companies. We have created this slick oil subsidies counter to show how much money has been given away since Prime Minister Harper agreed with other G20 leaders to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies at a 2009 meeting.

Send a letter to the Prime Minister and your MP to let them know you're tired of seeing the government propping up the fossil fuel industry and cheating on its carbon-reduction diet.

February 22, 2011

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Mar 01, 2011
12:14 PM

I never did understand how it is that we don’t have money for schools and hospitals, but we can afford to hand cash to support industrial activities that are against the common good.

Feb 22, 2011
1:21 PM

I never understand how it is that we don’t have money for schools and hospitals, but we can afford to hand cash to support industrial activities that are against the common good.

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