Tag Archives: gas prices

A proposal for the tuition debate

Gasoline prices

  • Colombia: $1.91
  • Tokyo: $1.83
  • Sydney: $1.50
  • Yellowknife: $1.49
  • Johannesburg: $1.40
  • London: $2.14
  • Stockholm: $2.18
  • Amsterdam: $2.37
  • Montreal: $1.39

Source: Globe and Mail, 2011

I don’t take a strong position for or against the tuition battle in Quebec. I think the issue is far more complex than either side is willing to admit. But the argument that Quebec students should shut up because their tuition is the lowest in Canada just bugs me, because it implies that accessibility to education should be just good enough, relative to other places. (And, of course, there are plenty of places in the world where tuition is a lot less than Quebec.)

So I propose a deal: Left-wing commie students will stop complaining about the cost of their tuition when right-wing redneck drivers stop complaining about gas prices.

It won’t happen, of course. People love to complain about the cost they have to pay for things.

Gas company critics are hypocrites

Think the Quebec government isn’t doing enough with its time to pass meaningless laws that don’t change anything?

Well, I give you Bill 41: “An Act to foster transparency in the sale of gasoline and diesel fuel.” This bill will do two things:

  1. Force gas companies to justify increases to gas prices at the pump
  2. Force gas companies to display the minimum gas price calculated by the Quebec Energy Board at the pump.

This will accomplish two things:

  1. Waste a lot of time
  2. Waste a lot of money

It’s a stupid solution to a stupid problem. You see, Quebecers (and most North Americans) hate the sky-high gas prices they see at the pump every day when they fill up their car to go to work. They reject the idea of supply and demand and want the government to do something about it. Change the laws of economics I guess.

But they also care about the environment and want the government to step in to do something about that too.

News flash folks: the No. 1 deterrent to carbon-emitting wasteful motor vehicle use is high gas prices. It’s fair, it’s self-regulating and it’s transparent.

Yes, it’s a bummer for suburban soccer moms who use their gas-guzzling minivans to bring kids to school. And it sucks for the transportation industry, which will increase the price on goods (and especially fruits and vegetables). But it’s still the best method available.

The ADQ has quickly panned on the idea (not because they don’t pander to the lowest common denominator, but because they can easily criticize a plan without offering any better solutions). If they can convince the PQ, that’ll put an end to the bill.

Greener doesn’t mean green

Meanwhile, a think tank has argued that a federal “freebate” program, which offers economic incentive for people to buy less-polluting cars, needs to be extended to pickup trucks.

This program isn’t as obviously stupid as the Quebec gas plan, but it’s based on a faulty assumption: That the economic incentive will cause people to buy vehicle X who would otherwise buy gas-guzzling vehicle Y. That may be true for some people, but others will probably choose to buy a cheap hybrid car they can afford instead of not buying a car at all. That will have a net negative impact on the environment.

The problem is that while many of these cars are better for the environment than their non-hybrid, fully-gasoline powered cousins, they are not good for the environment compared to public transit, biking, walking and other methods of getting around.

If you’re interested in a zero-emissions car, you can look at Zenn Motor Company, which builds zero-emission, no-noise cars in Quebec. But their cars weren’t even legal in Canada until this month.

These are the kinds of vehicles that have to be promoted, not Toyota’s slightly-less-emissions hybrid car or a bus that runs on 3% biodiesel.