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The Tar Island facility at the Athabaska oil sands north of Fort McMurray, Alta. (KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
The Tar Island facility at the Athabaska oil sands north of Fort McMurray, Alta. (KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Should taxes on petroleum products be higher? Fort McMoney players say ‘yes’ Add to ...

As part of the documentary game Fort McMoney, users get to help shape the future of Fort McMurray and Alberta’s oil sands. They do this by voting in surveys and weekly referendums. The results of these votes will affect a virtual version of Fort McMurray, letting users see the consequences of their decisions.

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This past week, the referendum question was: Should taxes on petroleum products be higher?

Voting has closed and the results are in: 78 per cent voted 'yes' (with 653 571 votes), and 22 per cent voted 'no' (185 438 votes).

Globe and Mail columnists Margaret Wente and Eric Reguly weighed in on the debate. Here’s what they had to say.

Mr. Reguly in Rome arguing 'yes':

"Taxes are never popular, never vote winners. But there is a way to make carbon taxes - taxes on petroleum products - both fair and effective. Taxes do effect consumer behaviour. Make a tax high enough and the product being bought becomes less popular. People buy less of it, or find a substitute. Petroleum is no exception. In Europe, where I live, gasoline is roughly twice the price as it is in Canada. No surprise that cars are much smaller, more fuel efficient and therefore emit less carbon dioxide. Two-cylinder cars (like the Fiat 500) are making a comeback and high efficiency diesel engines are more common than gasoline ones. But you say taxes hurt the poor more than the rich. True, so the way to counter the uneven playing field is to make any carbon tax revenue neutral. You pay more at the pump and less to the taxman for overall income. The British Columbia carbon tax is a global model in this regard. Introduced in 2008, it is revenue neutral and effective. Fuel consumption and carbon emissions per capital have fallen by double digit rates since then. I wrote a column on this in September for the Globe and Mail."

Ms. Wente in Toronto arguing 'no':

"A lot of people on this site seem to think that raising the price of fossil fuels will encourage people to switch to renewables. But that's not as easy as it sounds. Renewables form only a small percentage of energy supply and that won't change for decades. We don't yet have the technologies to scale them up, and once we do, developing the infrastructure will also take time. And switching to renewables can actually INCREASE the need for fossil fuels. Wind power, for examples, is only an intermittent source of energy. So wherever you have wind, you need a backup supply of reliable power - like coal. Germany's renewable energy drive is actually boosting carbon emissions (See: New York Times, Germany's Effort at Clean Energy Proves Complex.)"

What do you think? Leave a comment here or go play the game and get involved.

The referendum question for this week is: Should oil be nationalized?

To have your say go to tgam.ca/fortmcmoney on a computer, start playing the game and click on “debate”.

Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeBusiness

 
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