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Posts tagged ‘Business’

How big are fossil fuel subsidies?

The short answer is “too big”.

I found this report (via Political Irony), from, of all places, the International Monetary Fund, discussing the size of the gravy train subsidies given to fossil fuel industries. Among its findings:

  • Almost $5 trillion is spent in such subsidies. This is about 6.5% of global gross domestic product.
  • Coal gets the most subsidies. This finding is new to me. It is also the most disturbing, as coal is one of the worst fossil fuels in terms of pollution and global warming.
  • A substantial part of these subsidies are indirect, as in not properly charging for externalities.
  • Eliminating these subsidies would have enormous benefits, including increased government revenue, less pollution, and millions of fewer deaths
  • Global coordination is not necessary, as a country “going it alone” by eliminating subsidies will still reap benefits.

With the above benefits, it is obviously a great idea to end these subsidies now. Energy companies do not need these subsidies. Indeed, the same way those who are doing just fine don’t need an unpaid cheer squad, those who are doing just fine don’t need coddling from the government either.

Why a carbon tax is good

I found a really good article on why BC’s carbon tax is the way to go (links removed and emphasis added):

If the goal was to reduce global warming pollution, then the B.C. carbon tax totally works. Since its passage, gasoline use in British Columbia has plummeted, declining seven times as much as might be expected from an equivalent rise in the market price of gas, according to a recent study by two researchers at the University of Ottawa. That’s apparently because the tax hasn’t just had an economic effect: It has also helped change the culture of energy use in B.C. “I think it really increased the awareness about climate change and the need for carbon reduction, just because it was a daily, weekly thing that you saw,” says Merran Smith, the head of Clean Energy Canada. “It made climate action real to people.”

It also saved many of them a lot of money. Sure, the tax may cost you if you drive your car a great deal, or if you have high home gas heating costs. But it also gives you the opportunity to save a lot of money if you change your habits, for instance by driving less or buying a more fuel-efficient vehicle. That’s because the tax is designed to be “revenue neutral” — the money it raises goes right back to citizens in the form of tax breaks. Overall, the tax has brought in some $5 billion in revenue so far, and more than $3 billion has then been returned in the form of business tax cuts, along with over $1 billion in personal tax breaks, and nearly $1 billion in low-income tax credits (to protect those for whom rising fuel costs could mean the greatest economic hardship). According to the B.C. Ministry of Finance, for individuals who earn up to $122,000, income tax rates in the province are now Canada’s lowest.

We out to be taxing things we want to discourage (besides carbon, this ought to include things like fast food and sugar, and financial transactions like high–frequency trading) and reducing or eliminating taxes on things we want to encourage (like high–density living and transit use).

And a big thumbs down to Oklahoma for taxing solar energy.

A few scattered thoughts

I really wish I knew of a way to have comments numbered both by order posted and by nested thread. For example, if Alice posts a comment, it would be #1. Bret posts a response, and this is #1.1. Carol posts another response. Her comment is #1.2. Lastly, Alice responds to both, and those comments are #1.1.1 and #1.2.1. This makes it easier to refer to comments, while preventing them from incrementing if someone makes a nested comment further abode. This is kind of like software version numbers.


I just learnt that my local public library subscribes to a service that allows me to legally download three songs per week. To my annoyance, songs which I have been wanted to get a copy of for years aren’t available on it yet. But would me using this be a good idea? After all it costs the public library money, and since that is in part supported by public tax dollars, this service is not free in that sense.

Since I think people should pay (for the most part) when they use or get other people’s creative works, it seems to me that musical piracy is almost a sign of market failure. Rather than trying to get everyone to pay the same price, different prices should be offered to different people. This way, they can get sales from both those willing to pay a lot and those willing to pay a little. Books do this, with prices ranging from hardcover territory all the way down to free at a library or Project Gutenberg. Other industries involving art and creative works should do the same. I can almost guarantee that they will get good PR.


My knowledge of HTML is getting good use with all these horizontal rules!


I could swear that the amount of spam comments I am getting is skyrocketing. And yet, when I look at my stats, I’m only on pace to get about as many as the last few months. I am also quite a ways behind my spam “record” (if that’s the right word). Maybe I’m just more aware of this menace or something.


I have hardly any online accounts. I’m not on Twitter. I have never used eBay or Amazon. I’m not on Facebook, MySpace, or any other social networking site. I don’t have a Wikipedia account. I’ve never uploaded anything to YouTube, Flickr, or any such photo– or video–sharing website. For the most part my online accounts are WordPress, Blogspot, e–mail, and those online accounts which come with something outside of the internet. I only shop in brick–and–mortar stores and do all my banking offline. Maybe I’m just old–fashioned, but I like it that way. I intend to keep it that way for as long as possible.

A nickel saved is a nickel earned

Yesterday’s federal budget included a plan to gradually phase out the penny. It’s one of the few parts of the budget I agree with.

I won’t rehash the arguments I made when a Senate committee first recommended getting rid of the penny. To summarize, consumers will gain a small benefit, psychological pricing techniques will likely result in price ending with 99 cents becoming  a price ending with 95 cents, and the Royal Canadian Mint will no longer lose money by making it.

Getting rid of the penny is a good idea.

War on Christmas ends

Today, a national association of brick–and–mortar and online retails declared victory in the War on Christmas. A press release was issued to mark the occasion:

Today is a great day in the history of capitalism, business, and the United States. Retailers decades long effort to redefine Christmas have been successful. What once was a religious holiday has successfully transformed into a commercialized and consumerized glorified shopping spree. And no wingnut can really complain, as Christmas was the bastardized descendant of the Roman festival of Saturnalia and various winter solstice observances. A careful reading of the Bible reveals evidence that implies that Jesus was probably born in late summer or early autumn. Therefore, our victory in the War on Christmas in no way is an attack on any religion.

The press release gave special thanks one group:

We would like to give special thanks to our moles in the National Association of Perennially Pissed off Wingnuts for distracting them from our real objective. Everyone knows that the phrase “Happy Holidays” merely began as a shortening of “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” However, our agents, by reminding wingnuts that the phrase “Happy Holidays” could also apply to Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other winter holidays, and by making wingnuts think it was a politically correct attack on Christianity, allowed us to distract our enemies with an irrelevant diversion, therefore allowing us to focus on our real objective.

On self-checkouts

Whenever I go to the supermarket, I see an increasing number of self–checkout counters, those ones with no cashier. They are a symbol of how the company eliminated someone’s job. I never use them and I urge all my readers to never use them either. Being a cashier isn’t a particularly high–end or glamorous means of employment, but at least when you go through a checkout with a cashier, you’re supporting someone having a job.

With all this in mind, I feel that a recent move by supermarkets to pull back on self–checkout counters is a positive development.

Hat tip.

The myth of regulations being bad for business

A common campaign promise is to “deregulate”; that is, reduce the number of regulations businesses must comply. While sometimes, deregulation does indeed help all businesses, in general this is an oversimplification focusing on the mere number of regulations. The real attention should not be on the number of regulations, and not on merely adding or removing regulation for their own sakes, but rather on intelligent regulation.

The complete antithesis of intelligent regulation is taking place in Wisconsin (no surprise) and show how the wrong sorts of regulation mean there will be nothin’ but good times ahead for big bidness in that state.

One example (h/t Think Progress) is a new law that will make it harder for small breweries to distribute their own product. In other words, they cannot handle their own distribution, and instead must hire a third–party to do it.

The previous regulation is an excellent example of rent–seeking, where a company gains profits by manipulating the business environment, rather than adding value. A wholesale distributor is a drop in the keg for a big beer baron company, but not for a microbrewery. The regulation in question increases the cost and difficulty of doing business for microbreweries, therefore hindering their ability to compete. The end result is that big beer barons are protected from competition, therefore meaning that they can stay profitable by simply having no (or less) competition rather than by, you know, brewing better beer. Clearly, businesses have no problem with regulation if it discourages competition and protects their monopolies.

The other regulation concerns a law that prevents libraries and universities from using a co–op broadband service called WiscNet. The law claws back stimulus money used to implement WiscNet, and if universities and libraries want broadband they will have to use commercial services. This is rent–seeking at its most blatant, as it is cheaper to use WiscNet. So much for “fiscal responsibility”.

For people who blow such much oxygen ranting about the evils of “socialism,” conservatives sure hate the free market.

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