Tax incentives should shift to alternative energy: report

By Mike DeSouza, Postmedia News, November 22, 2012.

The federal government could create 18,000 jobs if it removed existing tax incentives for oil and gas companies, and invested the money instead in industries that reduce pollution, says a new report to be released Thursday by an alliance of labour and environmental groups.

The analysis immediately prompted an industry spokesman to respond by noting that oil and gas companies were responsible for hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs through private sector investments, while contributing billions of dollars to government coffers in tax revenues and royalty payments.

The industry's main lobby group, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, also said that subsidies for alternative forms of energy would not be economically responsible.

But the 30-page report - called More Bang for our Buck - based its estimates on previously published studies about the economic benefits of investments in energy efficiency, home retrofits, and emerging energy sectors such as wind and solar power.

It also quoted Alberta government statistics to make the case that existing tax incentives, estimated to be worth about $1.3-billion per year and described in internal federal government correspondence as subsidies, are responsible for up to about 2,900 jobs in the fossil fuel industry.

"Canada will continue to produce and use oil for some time to come, and that will have some economic benefits," said the report, co-signed by labour groups such as the United Steelworkers as well as environmental groups such as the Alberta-based Pembina Institute and Toronto-based Environmental Defence.

"But it's the wrong direction if we hope to tap into a growing share of the jobs and opportunity of the global transition towards renewable energy."

The estimates from the report include both direct and indirect jobs created by investments.

Scientific evidence published in peer-reviewed journals demonstrates that human activity is contributing to the planet's warming climate, mainly through land-use changes and the consumption of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal that produce heat-trapping pollution.