As the Harper conservative (if not practically neocon) minority government keeps backtracking and spinning on the Kyoto Accord while standing against reducing (let alone getting rid of) tax breaks to oil producing companies, and with coal, gas plants and tar sand operations in Alberta now being the worst greehouse emitters of the country, it looks as if Canada's earned reputation as a world-leader on the environment question is gradually going down the drain.
But we are not quite yet from going all the way of the Bush administration and its love for, to paraphrase former Vice-president Al Gore, "Big Oil, Big Energy and Big Corporations".
Now, I am all for a free market-based economy. Competition drives initiative and creativity, leading to better (or new) products as well as to better (or new) services, and henceforth to a better and greater choice for consummers. This in turn will usually translate well into job creation or maintenance, along with better salaries. And this in turn will usually translate into better individual spending powers and higher standards of living.
However, trusting in corporations to "do the right thing" with regards to the welfare of society and/or the environment is pure nonsense. The reality is that companies live by one thing and one thing only: the bottom line. Hence, companies will do anything, regardless of whether they initially had good intentions or not, to keep profits not only high but also to increase them as well. In other words, companies will cheat, lie or steal, even go as far as to use spying, sabbotage and violence, as means to protect and increase their profit margins. This is simply the nature of the beast.
Therefore, just like societies need laws to place clear definitions of what is acceptable, non-criminal conduct for their citizens, so must there also be laws to place clear definitions of what is acceptable, non-criminal conduct for companies.
Some call these "regulations". I call these necessities, just like criminal laws for the citizenry. After all, laws serve to maintain the welfare, peace and prosperity of society overall.
That is where comes the recent consideration from Québec's government to levy a "carbon tax" on oil and gas companies to help fight global warming. Carbon taxes are also being discussed elsewhere and at large. There is even talk of imposing a tax on gas-guzzling SUVs and cut the sales tax on hybrid vehicles.
Of course, Big Oil and Big Auto are against such initiatives. Their peddlers have even gone as far as to propose "voluntary measures", pure nonesense which keeps perpetuating the myth that companies will do the right thing only if we allow them to volunteer to do it. Talk about forgeting everything about human nature and the nature of the corporate beast.
Case in point: the current disinformation ads being run on tv's everywhere by Big Oil companies and their lackeys in their sad attempt to spin global warming, especially in light of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth movie and the belated ressurgence in environmental concerns.
Another case in point: paid-for lackeys of Big Oil going on news programs or writing articles to, as always, not only keep denying global warming but also to attack those warning against it - including the overwhelming majority of scientists having demonstrated its reality (see examples here and here).
The fact is that what we are witnessing is what we witnessed already of the saga of tobacco smoking and tobacco companies. This is all history now: disinformation about the dangers of tobacco smoking and outright lying about said dangers by Big Tobacco and their shills, then overwhelming scientific evidence which eventually became undisputable (after all, reality is reality, however one might not like it or fool himself into not accepting!), then taxes on cigarettes and related tobacco products which gradually contributed in decreasing the numbers of smokers, then laws against ads for tobacco products, bans against smoking in public places, and so on.
So, all I can say is: here we go again.
And if we remain standfast and especially vigilant of our politicians and medias, the battle to turn the tide on our destruction of the environment will ultimately prevail.
Just like society did against Big Tobacco.
We will not only change our own attitudes and awareness for the better, we will make laws to curb the nature of the beast of Big Oil and Big Auto. This in turn will facilitate and accelerate the implementation of better technologies and products that do not contribute anymore to pollution and global warming.
Societies need the Rule of Law for their continued peace, welfare and prosperity - all the while remaining modern, democratic societies with free market-based economies.
And to live on a safer and healthier planet at that.
(entry originally posted 17/06/06)
(Google caches of the original posts - in English and in French)