Alberta’s carbon tax cut helping to fuel love for big trucks

Click to play video: 'Canadian driving habits far from green'
Canadian driving habits far from green
WATCH: Canadian driving habits are anything but green, and experts predict that our behavior won't change without significant tax hikes at the pumps – May 30, 2019

It was Jason Kenney’s biggest campaign promise, and on Thursday, Alberta’s new premier kept his word: the carbon tax has been scrapped.

Although a levy remains for large industrial emitters, consumers no longer have to pay carbon tax on gas at the pumps or fossil-fuelled heating. The change strips away a 6.73-cent-per-litre tax on fuel.

In Calgary on Thursday, gas stations were posting prices between $1.06 and $1.08, a drop from the $1.15 price that had been posted the day before.

“People are feeling relieved, a little loose and ready to spend a lot more money on trucks,” said Greg Eagleson, general sales manager at Advantage Ford, a truck dealership in Calgary.

The fact that Alberta drivers love trucks is perhaps no surprise — the night Kenney claimed his election victory, he even arrived in one — but Albertans are certainly not alone. Right across the country, Canadians are choosing more gas-guzzling large vehicles, according to Blake Shaffer, an energy economist at the University of Calgary.

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READ MORE: Alberta provincial carbon tax dead, as provincial tax looms  

“People are tending towards larger cars in Canada, and as my study showed, it happens to be that we have the largest cars and the most fuel-consuming cars in the world,” Shaffer said.

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A recent report from the International Energy Agency found Canadians are driving the least fuel-efficient vehicles in the world and are emitting the most CO2 per kilometre driven. Shaffer says it comes down to what we pay at the pumps.

“We certainly like to complain when (prices) go up — I do, too — but on a global scale, prices are cheap,” he said.

WATCH: ‘I don’t think I could go back’ — Why this Calgary driver has chosen an electric car

Click to play video: '‘I don’t think I could go back’ Why this Calgary driver has chosen an electric car'
‘I don’t think I could go back’ Why this Calgary driver has chosen an electric car

Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna says Ottawa will move quickly to impose the federal carbon tax on Alberta. When that happens, Albertans will see a $4.42 tax slapped back on the pumps, putting them $2.33 cents ahead of where they started.

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For Greg Genge, the price of gasoline is no longer a thought. The Calgary man is bucking the trend, choosing to drive an electric vehicle he plugs in instead of fuelling up.

“I didn’t necessarily buy this car because it was green, I bought it because it was very fast,” Genge said.

READ MORE: Evidence of human role in global warming hits strongest statistical benchmark — study

Genge pays about $25 a month in electricity costs to keep his electric vehicle powered up. He’s never had a problem with his vehicle, but Genge says he finds himself defending his car to skeptics almost every day.

“They’re always asking me negative things about the car, which is really interesting. They ask me about running out of power, where do I charge and what do I do in the winter. It’s like they’re trying to find some kind of fault with the electric car,” he said.

Getting people into more electric vehicles and out of large gas guzzlers is an important step towards achieving greenhouse gas emission targets. It’s why the federal government is now offering a $5,000 subsidy to anyone who purchases an electric vehicle. In provinces like British Columbia, consumers are entitled to even more.

“I think in B.C., it is a strongly compelling argument to switch to an (electric vehicle). With a $1.70 gas and a $10,000 rebate, I calculated the payback of switching is only about two years,” Shaffer said. “With just the federal rebate, the payback takes about eight years, and without rebates, it pushes out to something closer to 15 years.”


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