Les
Canadien(ne)s
ont besoin de
plus d’options
en matière de
transports,
pas de
l’essence à
bas prix

Les
Canadien(ne)s
ont besoin de 
lus d'options en
matière de
transports, pas
de l'essence à
bas prix. Les
Canadiens (nes)
haïssent les prix
d'essence élevés
pensant ne pas
avoir de choix; ils
/elles soupçonnent
rapidement que les
compagnies
pétrolières sont
celles qui en
profitent. 

Suzuki examine
les options de
transports au
Canada, les
tendances et les
solutions
alternatives qui
nous sont
disponibles et il
déclare que le prix
de l'essence est en
fait au-dessous
de sa valeur. 

"Nous devrions
faire pression
pour une meilleure
législation en
efficacité
énergétique, un
meilleur système
de transport en
commun, un
meilleur
aménagement de
l'expansion urbaine
et plus de
véhicules
économiques."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

===========

"Instead of
calling for
reduced fuel taxes, which
will only reduce
prices by a few
cents per litre,
we should be
fighting for
improved energy
efficiency
legislation,
better public
transit and
urban growth
management,
and more
fuel-efficient
vehicles."

===========

                      

Canadians need more transportation options,
not cheap gas

   David Suzuki
  
David Suzuki Foundation
   Globe and Mail, September 12, 2000

 

veryone's complaining about high gasoline prices and who can blame them? After all, we're paying 40 per cent more for gasoline now than we were just over a year ago and any time we get hit with a price increase like that, we'll be annoyed.


(photo: C. McMillan)

But when gas prices rise, people seem to get especially enraged. Why?

I think there are two reasons. 
First, Canadians are quick to suspect they are being gouged either by oil companies, the government or both - neither of whom they particularly care for. But I think the second reason is more salient: Canadians hate high gas prices because they don't think they have a choice. They see gasoline as a necessary staple like bread or milk. So every time the price of gas goes up, there's a little bit less left in our pockets for other necessities.

It seems that we have two choices. If we want to save money, we can either burn less gasoline or cut the cost of gasoline by reducing taxes (getting OPEC or the oil companies to drop their prices is not likely an option). The next question then becomes: Are we paying too much for gas in Canada?

Consider the cost of two products sold by the litre - gasoline and bottled water. Many Canadians will gladly pay $2 for a bottle of water that was simply collected at a natural spring, filtered, bottled and delivered to the store. But we are outraged at the thought of paying 80 cents for a litre of gasoline, which started as crude oil, requiring extensive exploration and test drilling to find and a pumping infrastructure to extract (processes which emit pollution and greenhouse gases). Then it has to be transported to a refinery for processing (more pollution), and finally delivered to market as gasoline. Only then do we buy and burn it, usually in inefficient engines, creating pollution yet again.

Fossil fuels such as gasoline are integral to our current economy. They are used to transport people and goods, generate electricity, heat our homes and cook our food. But fossil fuels are also non-renewable; when we burn them, there's that much less for future generations. And burning them causes air and water pollution, climate change and contributes to other problems like urban sprawl, gridlock traffic and car accidents. These impacts are very costly. For example, according to federal government statistics, up to 16,000 Canadians die prematurely each year from air pollution.

"...fossil fuels are also
non-renewable; when we
burn them, there's that much
less for future generations.
And burning them causes
air and water pollution,
climate change and
contributes to other
problems like urban sprawl, gridlock traffic and
car accidents."


So when you consider these increased costs to society, gasoline is actually under-priced. Indeed, in many European nations gasoline costs twice what it does here and the tax revenue generated is used to improve public transportation and encourage energy efficiency. Canada, meanwhile, is the only country in the developed world that does not provide meaningful federal funding for public transit.

There are now more than 18 million vehicles in Canada and according to the World Bank, in the next 10 years the world's total will reach one billion. If these vehicles continue to guzzle gas, we will deplete our oil reserves much more quickly, oil prices will continue to skyrocket due to increasing demand, and our air, water and soils will suffer from greater pollution.

That's the trend in Canada, where some 300,000 more vehicles will roll onto our streets this year. According to a study by Vancouver's Translink, more families are buying second and even third vehicles, which has increased traffic volume in the city by eight per cent in the past four years, while the area's population has risen by just four per cent.

To make matters worse, half of these vehicles are inefficient SUVs, pickup trucks and mini-vans that take up more road space, further increasing traffic congestion and air pollution. Building bigger roads helps, but not for long. In the end it simply encourages more cars, which quickly leads to more congestion.

It's a vicious cycle. We only have to look south of the border to many American cities for a glimpse of our future: vast freeways, sprawling suburbs and even greater reliance on the automobile. This will hit us right in the pocketbook because oil prices are expected too increase in the long term and health care costs will continue to rise.

SMdoc.jpg (84335 bytes)
== Author: David Suzuki ==

Instead of calling for reduced fuel taxes, which will only reduce prices by a few cents per litre, we should be fighting for improved energy efficiency legislation, better public transit and urban growth management, and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Outdated federal fuel efficiency regulations have not kept pace with new technology and loopholes allow passenger vehicles like SUVs and mini-vans to be classified as "light trucks," which means they can burn more fuel and pollute more. The proliferation of these vehicles means that we get an average of 13 per cent less mileage from our new vehicle fleet than we did a decade ago.

Consumers do have some options. My family just bought our first brand new car in 30 years. It's a gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle that more than doubles fuel efficiency and reduces some pollutants by as much as 90 per cent. If we drive the average annual distance (which we won't) of 20,000 kms, it will cost us just $600 for gasoline. By comparison, driving the same distance in an average SUV would cost $2,600 and generate more than four times the pollutants.

But it's not just in transportation where we have to use our fossil fuels more efficiently. In the coming weeks, the world will focus on the Olympics in Sydney, Australia for what have been dubbed the "Green Games." Although they will not entirely live up to that name, the Games will showcase the kinds of energy-efficient technologies that we will need in the near future to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels - and ultimately save money.

The Athletes' Village, for example, is a model of efficiency, designed from the ground up to incorporate natural lighting, heating and cooling. And electricity and hot water both come from solar power. The Sydney Games are also the first "car-free" Olympics, meaning no vast parking lots will be paved to accommodate spectators. Instead, they will be encouraged to get to the events by foot, bicycle or the expanded public transit system, which will be left as a legacy of the Games.

Reducing our reliance on automobiles, reducing fuel consumption and increasing energy efficiency are essential to a healthy, sustainable future. The lessons we can learn from the Olympics in Sydney and from new technologies like hybrid vehicles and soon, fuel cells, is that these changes do not mean a reduced standard of living. Instead, they will free us from being chained to an increasingly expensive, polluted, fossil-fuel dominated future and provide us with cleaner choices that will leave Canada as a society better off.