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Twice in the past week, national affairs columnist Jeffrey Simpson has written about the thorny politics surrounding emissions policy.

Saturday, he wrote that the federal government was going on the offensive ahead of the global climate-change talks at Cancun, Mexico, because it had no effective way to counter its environmental critics. "Canada also would be right to do something serious itself before lecturing others, since Canada has the worst record in the advanced industrialized world," he concluded.

Wednesday, Mr. Simpson explored the public-relations strategy employed by Canada's forestry industry, seeing lessons for oil and gas companies. If by taking control of their emissions they "got ahead of public opinion and governments, it would mute the critics, prepare a sensible path to the future, and stop the industry from playing defence," he wrote.

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Mr. Simpson joined readers online Wednesday to respond to questions. A sampling of the discussion is below; click below that to read the entire transcript. Mobile readers can follow the discussion here.

Reader question: Do you agree with Jeff Rubin that the immanence of sharply higher oil prices will reduce emissions because of reduced consumption?

Answer from Jeffrey Simpson: I do not agree that sharply higher oil prices are imminent. I think Mr. Rubin is incorrect, respect him as I do. If a carbon tax were imposed, then over time the retail price would rise, but I do not think the peak oil theorists are correct.

Reader question: Hi Mr. Simpson. I think one of the things that turns people off the environmentalist rhetoric is the assumption that most energy use is frivolous. However, contrary to what is often depicted, most personal car use does not involve driving a Sequoia to Wal-Mart to buy video games, and most energy consumption has to do with being productive and staying warm. I am skeptical that most environmentalists have a good grasp on just how energy is used, and this seems to encourage targets on their part that are unmanageable for most people.

Answer from Jeffrey Simpson: Nobody who has studied the matter for a nanosecond would agree that most energy use is frivolous, and I know few in the environmental world who would say anything like that. What used to separate me from some of the early environmentalists was the assumption that we should all put on sandals and move to Saturna Island and grow out own food or catch our own fish. This Aracadian view has almost completely disappeared from the environmental movement, which is instead engaged in much more practical questions involving nitty-gritty issues such as internalizing externalities, using economic measures and the like.





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